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While many are focused on the start of a new decade, the campus of Northern Illinois University is kicking off of a year-long celebration commemorating the 125th Anniversary of the founding of what is today Northern Illinois University.

The observance will provide insights into the past while also informing the future says NIU President Dr. Lisa C. Freeman.

“You cannot chart a course for the future without understanding the past,” Dr. Freeman said. “So, we are going to use this anniversary as an opportunity to not only look back and reflect but also to embrace our present and to inform our path forward.”

The festivities will kick-off with an all-university celebration, 3 until 5 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 30 on the lower level of the Holmes Student Center. The event will feature brief remarks and historical displays.

The remainder of the year will be filled with celebrations, performances, lectures and other events. Highlights will include

In addition, there will be proclamations, receptions at the university conference centers around the region, and a week of events in Chicago. A complete list of the planned events can be found on the all-university calendar.

“We tried to create an itinerary that includes something for everyone,” said Matt Streb, chief of staff to President Freeman. Streb, along with Reggie Bustinza, executive director of the NIU Alumni Association, co-chairs the committee that put together the anniversary commemoration.

The university also will be publishing a chronological list of the 125 Key Moments in NIU history. A new list of highlights will be released each month on a website, which will debut in mid-January. The site will provide stories describing the significance of each moment and will use illustrations, photos and videos to help illuminate their importance.

“The committee tried to select events that inarguably shaped our history,” said Melanie Magara, who led the project. “The final list features events that are both institutionally significant and which reflect personal accomplishments. I think people will find it interesting, and they will learn things they probably never knew about NIU.”

An oral history featuring insights from 27 people – alumni, administrators, faculty and others –also has been compiled. The project was part of a class dedicated to teaching students how to compile an oral history, taught by Associate Professor of History Amanda Littauer. “Everyone interviewed had something interesting and important to contribute to our understanding of NIU and our history,” she said.

The results of those efforts will be posted online early this spring and will be searchable by topic and keywords, allowing individuals to explore both the recordings and their transcripts in depth.

Students in the Department of Geography, working under the direction of Professor Phil Carpenter, are also working to create an interactive map that will illustrate how the university footprint has grown and changed over the last century and a quarter. The map will be shared online this spring.

“We are excited about those projects that incorporate current students into helping us commemorate this anniversary,” Streb said. “As an institution founded to educate the next generation of leaders, it only seems fitting to utilize their skills in the commemoration of this milestone.”

Date posted: January 6, 2020 | Author: | Comments Off on Celebrating our amazing history

Categories: Alumni Centerpiece Community Events Faculty & Staff Parents Students

You could say Professor Elizabeth Gaillard has had her eye on this for decades.

She spent years of toiling away in the lab determined to help detect and find a cure for leading causes of blindness. Years of patents and research funding sought and granted, of published papers in top journals, of students mentored and relied upon for their talent, ingenuity and ambition. From undergraduates to Ph.D. students, Huskies contributed to novel research while gaining vital interdisciplinary skills.

It’s all culminated in Dr. Gaillard’s latest venture—Therome Innovation Partners, a startup company designed to distribute a new drug-delivery system for those suffering from age-related macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy. Both can lead to blindness. Both require regular injections to the eye.

Dr. Gaillard’s new system would deliver a time-released drug, reducing the frequency of the painful shots from monthly to once every 12 months or so. The shots slow down the loss of sight. It’s such a simple act, but so meaningful to those suffering.

“Anything that can be done to improve their vision, even a little bit, is a huge improvement in the quality of life for them,” said Dr. Gaillard, who has become one of the leading researchers of macular degeneration in her nearly 23 years as a professor and distinguished research professor in the Departments of Chemistry and Biochemistry and Biological Sciences at NIU.

Both the chemistry behind the project and the story of its fruition are inspiring and represent the widespread innovation continually at work at NIU.


Dr. Gaillard’s Therome Innovation Partners already has patented technology on biomarkers for ocular inflammation and potent antioxidant drugs in its portfolio.

Her journey to creating the startup has involved colleagues as well as professors and students in the Colleges of Engineering and Business, the Northern Illinois Research Foundation (NIRF), the Medical Laboratory Sciences and the Division of Research and Innovation Partnerships, to name a few.

“With the creation of Therome Innovation Partners, Dr. Gaillard’s passion for ocular therapeutics and diagnostics will allow her to transform her research from basic research and development into real-world products that have the potential to diagnose and treat millions of people suffering from a variety of diseases,” said Karinne Bredberg, ’14, M.P.A. ’19, assistant director for Commercialization and Innovation for NIU’s Division of Research and Innovation Partnerships.

Along with the time-released drug delivery technology, Dr. Gaillard has developed a methodology and database to diagnose diabetes and prediabetes several years earlier than blood tests. She’d like to see the product accessible in places like drugstores, similar to blood pressure machines. With patents pending on both creations, they’re among a slew of inventions earning NIU widespread recognition.

In the past 20 years—the typical lifespan of a patent—the University has been issued about 100 patents in the United States and worldwide.

Also in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Distinguished Teaching and Research Professor Emeritus Dr. Chhiu-Tsu Lin has multiple patents in nanocoating technologies. He created his own startup, ChemNOVA Technologies, Inc., in 1999. Two “molecular fan” patents licensed to ChemNOVA are used to keep hot technology, such as CPUs, computers and cellphones, cool.

Professor Emeritus Dr. Sen-Maw Kuo and Dr. Lichuan Liu, an associate professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering, invented a wireless active-noise control system that enables newborns in incubators to hear their mothers’ voices while reducing harmful noises and maintaining communication of infant cries, coos and breathing signals. The technology is licensed to a startup in San Antonio, Texas, for commercialization in hospitals.

The leap from the lab to the market isn’t simple, though. That’s where collaboration comes into play.

“Faculty at NIU are great researchers, striving to create innovative solutions to everyday problems through research, teaching and engagement, but creating a startup also involves skills in business that researchers in the life sciences may not particularly have,” Bredberg said.

“By leveraging the expertise of others, Dr. Gaillard is able to fill those business and prototyping gaps. Additionally, the collaborations between other colleges provides the students involved real-world, hands-on experiences.”

(L-R) Caroline Machado, Michael Vega, Elizabeth Gaillard


Dr. Gaillard teamed up with business students this past spring after a talk she gave as part of the NIRF, a nonprofit organization that promotes scientific research at NIU.

A foundation member, College of Business Dean Balaji Rajagopalan suggested she work with students in the college’s Experiential Learning Center (ELC). The center brings together teams of six to eight students every semester from a variety of majors within the college to work on real-world business issues.

Of the eight teams lined up this fall, teams will work with McDonald’s, the YWCA of Metropolitan Chicago and other businesses and corporations.

“The projects these students work on put them in front of the entrepreneurs, the CEOs, partners, board of directors, CIOs, anybody in the chief suites of these organizations we work with,” said Jason Gorham, the director of business consulting in the College of Business who heads up the ELC.

The students created a company logo and website, studied potential investors and found ways for Dr. Gaillard to pitch her products.

The experience has inspired team member Sai Krishna Bharath Nanduri of India, who is pursuing a master’s degree in Information Technology, to become a consultant.

“I never really thought I would work well with a group of strangers,” he said. “I ended up having five great friends. Then I realized I wanted to do this the rest of my life—working in teams and solving problems.”


As business students sharpened Dr. Gaillard’s marketing plan, engineering students furthered her efforts to better diagnose diabetes.

She already had the technology to use fluorescence scanning for non-invasive diagnosis, but needed an instrument to put it to work. Once again, NIRF came in handy.

An NIRF board member, College of Engineering and Engineering Technology Dean Donald Peterson approached Dr. Gaillard at a meeting about his senior design students. Teams of senior-level students tackle projects from businesses and industries as part of a year-long required capstone experience, the pinnacle of their undergraduate education.

“It’s pretty exciting,” she said. “The thought of something you do in the lab, very fundamental research, to have it actually be of value and help society in some way is enormously fulfilling.”

-Dr. Elizabeth Gaillard

Peterson knew of seniors interested in biomedical engineering, but who were unable to major in it because it wasn’t offered during their initial years at NIU. The college launched the biomedical engineering degree program this fall.

Dr. Gaillard’s project allowed team member Kristen O’Connor, ’19, of Hometown, Illinois, who graduated this past spring with a degree in electrical engineering, to take her interest in biomedical engineering to another level in a meaningful way.

“This would greatly increase the amount of screenings people get for diabetes,” said O’Connor, who started a job as an electrical engineer at John Deere this past summer.

The machine O’Connor and her teammates created sends pulses of light into the eye at the press of a button. Diabetes can be detected based on the eye’s reaction to the fluorescent patterns.

Time and financial limitations prevented the team from completely finishing the product, but Dr. Gaillard intends to pitch it again.

“What they took on was an extremely challenging project,” Dean Peterson said of the engineering team. “They carried the baton significantly down the track for, hopefully, the next team to carry on.”


Dr. Gaillard ’s research revolves around a long-standing fascination with the biochemistry of eye disease, particularly age-related conditions.

Now the number of people living with macular degeneration, currently estimated at 11 million people in the United States, is expected to reach 196 million worldwide by 2020. It is the leading cause of severe vision loss in adults ages 60 and older in industrialized nations.

Diabetic retinopathy has become a force of its own, developing in anyone with type 1 or type 2 diabetes, with more than 3 million cases diagnosed a year in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate more than 1 out of 3 American adults have prediabetes. Of those, 90 percent don’t know they have it.

Available drug treatments help prevent the growth of poorly developed blood vessels in the retina that cause swelling and inflammation, leading to damaged eyesight.

Eye drops are washed away through blinking and tearing, leaving behind little medication to travel to the back of the eye. Pills and intravenous medication won’t reach either.

“The only choice left is direct injection,” Dr. Gaillard said. “The problem with that is people can’t stand the thought of it. Plus, you’re creating a puncture wound in your eye and increasing the chance for bacterial infection. The fewer the injections, the better”, she said.

Her gradual drug delivery method encapsulates drugs in a liposome, a sort of sac of molecules. The key has been finding just the right therapeutic formulation.

To do so, Dr. Gaillard has worked with NIU’s Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee to test the dosage on rabbits.

“Being able to do those rabbit studies was huge for us because, otherwise, the industry would look at the work we did and say, ‘You did it in the lab, how do we know it’s even viable in a living system?’” she said.

It all comes down to restoring mobility and independence to those suffering. Even a slight improvement can have a dramatic impact.

“It’s pretty exciting,” she said. “The thought of something you do in the lab, very fundamental research, to have it actually be of value and help society in some way is enormously fulfilling.”

This article originally was originally published by the NIU Alumni Association.

Date posted: December 16, 2019 | Author: | Comments Off on Professor’s fight against leading cause of blindness inspires campus-wide collaboration

Categories: CHHSnews Faculty & Staff Homepage Students

Laura Ruth Johnson
Laura Ruth Johnson

Some of the world’s greatest wisdom is stored only in the minds of people who’ve inherited this information from the generations that have come before them.

However, much traditional research overlooks this grassroots knowledge and expertise in favor of “scientific” knowledge gathered through empirical methods.

Fortunately, a growing group of universities and researchers, in the United States and across the world, are recognizing the importance of grassroots and local knowledge in addressing pressing issues and concerns.

For example, the Rukai, an indigenous people of Taiwan, possess grassroots-level knowledge about marine life in Gushan, including how best to protect the local waterways as well as time-tested fishing practices that are responsible and successful. Their understanding – their beliefs – of the earth can inform and possibly advance climate change research.

This was one of the projects that Laura Ruth Johnson, an associate professor in the NIU Department of Educational Technology, Research and Assessment and author of “Community-based Qualitative Research: Approaches for Education and the Social Sciences,” sought to learn about during a recent three-week research and teaching sabbatical at National Sun Yat-sen University in Kaohsiung, Taiwan.

To this end, she interviewed a faculty member and student involved in a collaborative project with the Rukai that has made important inroads with the community, enough so that a major museum exhibition will open next year to highlight their marine knowledge.

Laura Ruth Johnson at National Sun Yat-sen University in Kaohsiung, Taiwan

Laura Ruth Johnson (right) with Chuang Hsueh-Hua, director of the Institute for Education of National Sun Yat-sen University in Kaohsiung, Taiwan.

But despite the strong relationships developed with this group, they remain guarded, perhaps an instinctive reaction to the ostracism and discrimination they’ve experienced throughout their history.

“This faculty member has been developing these relationships over many years,” Johnson says. “She’s been willing to show that she’s interested in their knowledge – and that she’s humble.”

Johnson did not visit the Rukai with her new associate, who continues to nurture the relationship: “That would be intrusive. Marginalized communities long exploited by universities are rightfully distrustful of outsiders. These relationships take years to build, and are constantly negotiated.”

However, she will return to NIU from her sabbatical with different ways to better integrate students into community-based research, ideas on forging stronger university-community bonds, plans to write a book that combines those two concepts and thoughts about having her earlier book translated into Chinese.

“I’m interested in looking at models of community-based research as well as what we can learn from these models regarding what students and communities learn and gain from this form of research.”

Long known for her own research work in Chicago’s Humboldt Park community, where she examines community engagement, mentorship and advocacy among pregnant and parenting youth, and includes NIU students in the process, Johnson led three qualitative research workshops and delivered one keynote address in Taiwan.

She also talked to students and faculty about their work, and met with associates of the university’s Social Engagement Center (SEC).

The SEC encourages National Sun Yat-sen faculty to include community-based research in their scholarly agenda, although it’s a challenge: “Like many universities, they still have a very narrow view of what counts for tenure,” Johnson says. “It’s very quantitative-based.”

National Sun Yat-sen students, however, take great advantage of SEC opportunities for experiential learning off campus. Community and civic engagement are also a recent focus of Taiwan’s national K-12 curriculum.

“It gave me different ideas about how to get students involved in community research projects, and in sustained ways,” Johnson says.

“For example, the SEC has funding for students to work with local elders who build boats used for fishing. There are no blueprints – it’s just all in their heads,” she adds, “and one of the projects has these students interviewing the elders about it while engineering students are working with elders to draw blueprints.”

Kaohsiung Harbor
Kaohsiung Harbor

Other students are learning the history of the communities surrounding Kaohsiung and leading guided tours for members of the university community, she says.

Those interactions and discussions continue to inform how she regards and might promote the value of the work she practices and teaches to future researchers.

“Some of National Sun Yat-sen’s innovative and creative dissemination efforts, such as art exhibits and installations, and the focus on supporting existing community spaces and assisting in the creation of new ones, helped me think a bit more about how to share findings from community-engaged studies,” she says.

And with her even clearer vision that “universities need to be involved in recovering or documenting the knowledge of elders and repairing often fraught and inequitable relationships with communities,” Johnson plans now to advocate for more resources for formalizing relationships in the NIU community that could produce similar outcomes and lead to more engaged scholarship.

She also is looking forward to a return trip to Puerto Rico to observe the current status or results of Chicago-borne projects to help support community-based efforts to rebuild areas ravaged by Hurricane Maria.

Paichi-Pat Shein (right) is the researcher making valuable connections with the Rukai.
Date posted: December 16, 2019 | Author: | Comments Off on Laura Ruth Johnson travels to Taiwan to see community research in action

Categories: Faculty & Staff Global Homepage Students

For Ina Murphy, a summer job in the Wisconsin Dells changed the course of her life in many unexpected and exciting ways.

Ina and Wyatt Murphy

Ina and Wyatt Murphy

Ina grew up in Moldova, in eastern Europe, where her love of animation got an unlikely start. Part of the legacy of the years her native country was part of the Soviet Union, her access to cartoons and animated films were those that had been dubbed into Russian. She wanted to study art and animation in college, but it didn’t seem like a realistic plan in her native country.

“In Moldova, you can’t find a career path to a good job in the arts,” she said. “But economics wasn’t really my thing. I had studied all sorts of art before–ceramics, painting, drawing, art history–but it’s so hard to find a job in the arts there, and the ones you can are very underpaid, and, I needed something that seemed like there was a future in it.”

So, she attended a university in Romania and somewhat begrudgingly majored in economics, finance and banking. Her summers were spent, of all places, in Wisconsin, as part of her university’s work and travel program.  In 2013, she was working at a t-shirt store in the Wisconsin Dells when she met a tourist from Ottawa, Ill. named Wyatt Murphy.

To say they hit it off would be an understatement, as they were married later that year, and began attending Illinois Valley Community College together.

At IVCC, Ina was finally free to pursue her love of art, and after earning their associate degrees, both Ina and Wyatt transferred to NIU. Ina will complete her bachelor’s degree in December, and Wyatt will graduate in May with his bachelor’s in nutrition and dietetics.

“I picked NIU because of the awesome animation program we have here,” Ina said of the School of Art and Design’s renowned Time Arts program.  “I like everything about animation. I like that I put so many hours into it and then see my outcome. I like the process 3D animation. Sometimes it can be stressful, but I love to see the creation. It’s art and movement, and I love it. I enjoy the technical part of it, too.  It doesn’t matter how good of an artist you are, if you don’t know all of those key points, or how to use the software correctly, your art isn’t going to turn out the way you want it to.”

Ina has been a mainstay on the Dean’s List during her years at NIU, and has earned several scholarships, including the O’Malley-Pugh Scholarship, the Cora Miner Art Scholarship and the NIU Transfer Merit Scholarship.

Her mastery of the art and technology that combine in 3D animation is so advanced that she occasionally is brought back to classes she’s completed to give demonstrations to students on innovative ways she’s found to use the software.

“Ina is a wonderful person who is a joy to have in class,” said Todd Buck, Assistant Director of the NIU School of Art and Design, Professor and Illustration Area Coordinator. ” She gave a demo to the class on how to take a model from ZBrush (a digital sculpting tool for 3D modeling, texturing and painting) and rig it in Maya (a 3D modeling software). She’s always positive and inquisitive and eager to learn.”

Ina said she was excited to give that demonstration.  “The software allows you to add rigging, basically bones and skeleton, to your object or character,” she said.  “I knew that class had created some really nice characters, and that they all wanted to be able to make their characters move.”

She’s not done with NIU, yet.  Ina will return in January to begin work towards her Master in Fine Arts in Time Arts. She will also be working in the NIU Digital Convergence Lab, where one of her projects will be a 3D modeling project in artifact hunting for the Center for Burma Studies, and she’ll be be working in the NIU photography lab. She will also help conduct NIU’s video game design camps.

Her long term goal is to work as a video game character creator, and with that in mind plans to study more programming to add to her already impressive art and animation skills.

Here are some brief examples of Ina’s digital animation work:

Date posted: December 16, 2019 | Author: | Comments Off on Ina Murphy’s long, interesting route from Moldova to the School of Art and Design

Categories: Arts Faculty & Staff Homepage Students Uncategorized

Rates for tuition, room and board and fees approved for the 2020-2021 academic year reflect Northern Illinois University’s commitment to keeping a college education affordable, said President Dr. Lisa C. Freeman.

The new rates, based upon recommendations from Dr. Freeman, froze tuition at the same level for the sixth straight year, froze room and board at the same level for the fourth straight year and cut student fees for the second straight year.

The net impact is that the typical undergraduate student enrolling at NIU in the fall of 2020 will pay only about $54 more per year than a comparable student who enrolled in fall of 2015.

“As an institution, we are committed to access, affordability and eliminating barriers that stand between students and a college degree,” Dr. Freeman said. “We are acutely aware that for many students and families, every dollar counts, so we work very hard at managing the costs within our control.”

Dr. Freeman noted that NIU has sustained its commitment to affordability through some very difficult financial times. “Our ability to hold the line on costs is a testament to the dedication of our staff and administration, who have worked tirelessly to reduce costs and find efficiencies, without sacrificing the excellence of an NIU education,” she said.

The details of the tuition and fees approved are as follows:


As they have since the 2015-2016 academic year, new undergraduate students will pay $348.84 per credit hour for the first 11 hours of courses. Those who take 12 or more hours will have their tuition capped at $4,732.80 per semester, creating an incentive to take heavier course loads and graduate on an accelerated timeline. Base tuition costs (excluding differentials) for the Graduate School and College of Law also remained unchanged for the fifth straight year.


The board approved a 3.2 percent reduction in student fees for all students, which translates to $3.67 less per credit hour – or about $88 a year less for a student taking 12 or more hours of classes.

The decrease in year-over-year costs was made possible largely due to strategic partnerships forged by the university in recent years. Combining NIU’s Huskie Line buses with services provided by the City of DeKalb and TransVAC to create a regional transportation network enabled the university to reduce the Transportation Access Charge by $3.03 per credit hour. Similarly, a partnership with Northwestern Medicine to run the Student Health Services clinic yielded a $1.08 per credit hour reduction in the Health and Wellness charge.

Fees have decreased by about $25 per credit hour compared to 2015-2016.

Room and Board

The board also voted to leave average room and board rates unchanged for the fourth straight year at $5,440 per semester for the average double occupancy room. Those costs have increased by only $102 since the 2015-16 academic year.

The new housing rates do not pertain to the New Hall and Northern View Apartment complexes on campus. Those facilities are operated as a public-private partnership, and rates are set by an outside agency.

Date posted: December 12, 2019 | Author: | Comments Off on Tuition to hold steady for sixth straight year

Categories: Alumni Centerpiece Community Faculty & Staff Parents Prospective Students Students Uncategorized

Two university offices are merging in order to better serve incoming students.

The Office of Orientation and Family Connections is merging with the Office of First and Second Year Experience and will now be known as the Office of Orientation and First Year Programs.

“Part of the goal in bringing these two offices together is to ensure that we have alignment from the point at which a student goes through orientation through the end of their first year,” said Renique Kersh, associate vice provost for Student Engagement and Success. “This change will allow us to make sure that we are providing intentional support for our students and setting them up to succeed.”

The first year of college is an important one, and a key time for students to get acclimated with the university and its resources. The Office of Orientation and First Year Programs is designed to help Huskies make connections, get comfortable on campus and start to think of NIU as home.

“What we know is that a lot of universities find great success when their students transition well,” Kersh said. “This is a great opportunity for us to front-load support for students and make sure that they are connected to peers and staff and faculty who really care about them and can be a resource for them.”

The new office is a direct result of the university’s Strategic Enrollment Plan and the mission to focus on key priorities for students during their first year.

Jenna Pracht, acting director of the Office of Orientation and First Year Programs

“The merge of these two departments provides an opportunity to create more consistency and flow in our messaging and expectations for new students at NIU, beginning at the point of admission, through orientation and into the first year,” said Jenna Pracht, acting director, Office of Orientation and First Year Programs.

A student’s first NIU experience begins with orientation and continues with programs designed specifically for incoming students. From Welcome Days to courses like UNIV 101, there are many resources available to help new students as they transition to life at NIU.

“This is all part of our reimagining the first year experience to better match the priorities that we have identified,” Kersh said. “We are being thoughtful in how we introduce and transition students to the university we are setting them up for success.”

Pracht said the Office of Orientation and First Year Programs will spearhead campus-wide efforts to engage first year students and provide a clear pathway for students to follow during their time at NIU.

“By aligning services for our first year students we hope to reduce redundancies and create stronger connections between units across campus,” Pracht said. “This change will lead to a more coordinated approach in supporting first year students.”

Go to Office of Orientation and First Year Programs to learn more.

Date posted: December 12, 2019 | Author: | Comments Off on New office launched to support incoming Huskies

Categories: Centerpiece Faculty & Staff Prospective Students Students

NIU chemistry and biochemistry professor Tao Xu presented his research team’s work on clean energy technologies during the Energy & Environment Innovation Showcase, held Monday, Dec. 9, in Washington, D.C.

Recognized internationally for his work, Xu’s nanotechnology research pursues basic science understanding of charge and atom transfer processes at the interfaces of various energy systems, including solar cells, catalysts and sensors.

NIU professor Tao Xu (left) presented his research this week in Washington, D.C., at the invitation of Congressman Adam Kinzinger.

The showcase was attended by members of Congress and their staffs, as well representatives from federal agencies. From Illinois, Xu discussed his team’s research with Congressman John Shimkus (IL-15) and Congressman Adam Kinzinger, (IL-16), as well as representatives of Congresswoman Robin Kelly (IL-2), Congressman Bobby Rush (IL-1) and Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (IL-9).

Xu, whose research is funded by the National Science Foundation, participated in the event at the invitation of Kinzinger. The NIU professor was one of just 16 presenters, with others representing institutions such as the U.S. Army, private research labs and technology companies, and Texas A&M and Western Michigan universities.

The U.S. House Republicans Energy & Commerce Committee staged the showcase to highlight the importance of investing in the development and deployment of breakthrough technologies to reduce emissions, power the economy of tomorrow, and provide greater value to American consumers.

“It’s very prestigious for Dr. Xu to have been invited to present his work at this event,” said Anna Quider, assistant vice president for Federal Relations at NIU. “It’s also a reminder that the research we do at NIU is being used to inform federal policy.”


Date posted: December 11, 2019 | Author: | Comments Off on NIU’s Tao Xu participates in D.C. innovation showcase

Categories: Faculty & Staff Homepage Research Students

Middle and high school students in the Hoffman Estates area can now practice competitive video gaming and increase their computer literacy, thanks to a new partnership between NIU Esports and the Hoffman Estates Youth Commission.

The two organizations have enlisted Hoffman Estates native Evan Reeves to offer a free after school program introducing students to competition play and computer coding using the game Overwatch. In this eight-week program students will also learn about career paths in gaming and esports from industry guest speakers.

Reeves says he is excited to bring this program to students because of the sense of belonging that comes from being part of a team.

“I really hope that this program is able to show students that, even if you’re not necessarily into traditional sports, like football, basketball or baseball, there are still activities to do with a group of friends to compete and have a place where you belong,” he says.

In the program, students will form teams and participate in scrimmages under the guidance of a coach and with support from the NIU Overwatch team. Reeves says that by engaging in this competitive play, students will gain many of the same skills and character traits promoted by traditional sports.

“Teamwork, communication, dedication, ethics – these all apply to the burgeoning field of esports, or competitive video gaming, which is accessible to people who may not be able to play a traditional sport,” Reeves says. “This is a way to be part of a team and still experience all the same positives and all the same skills you see in team sports, but in a setting where some students might be more comfortable.”

In addition, students will have a chance to increase their computer literacy by practicing basic computer coding within the Overwatch game.

“One of the nice things about Overwatch is that they’ve added what is basically a script editor that allows you to go in and change different variables and characteristics of how the game works, which allows you to create different game modes,” Reeves says.

Students will get to see firsthand how computer coding influences the world of the game, and they’ll be able to use their coding skills to set up practice drills.

Reeves, who works as a quality assurance technician for the Illinois Department of Transportation, says he uses computer coding skills both in his job and in his avocation as an event manager.

“Having a background in coding is beneficial for everyone,” he says. “Whether you’re working on websites in HTML or interacting with a database, it’s just a life skill that is becoming applicable no matter what job you have.”

Reeves says Overwatch is a game that appeals to a wide audience, and he hopes it will help to encourage a diverse group of students to try esports.

“Overwatch has a very broad appeal across a number of age groups and genders because it’s not an ultra-realistic military game that focuses on violence,” he says. “Overwatch really feels like a comic book or anime. It has very developed characters with very pronounced personalities, and there are a plethora of characters that each touch on different backgrounds. You have characters that are straight, you have characters in the LGBTQ community, you have characters of different nationalities from around the world. There’s a different character that everyone can find to resonate with.”

The program is free, with room for 12 students to register for the first session. If more than 12 students sign up, participants will be chosen by lottery. The meetings take place on Tuesdays, January 16 through March 3, from 5 to 7 p.m. at NIU Hoffman Estates, 5555 Trillium Blvd., Hoffman Estates, IL. Register now at

To register, visit With questions, contact Evan Reeves at [email protected].

Date posted: December 11, 2019 | Author: | Comments Off on New esports afterschool program fosters healthy competition and computer literacy

Categories: Community Faculty & Staff Homepage Students

NIU’s on-campus Child Development and Family Center (CDFC) truly is a win-win for everyone involved. Faculty and students who are also parents have convenient, award-winning child care, and students in the Human Development and Family Sciences program have the opportunity for experiential learning and in-class observation.

Recognizing the center’s importance, both the Illinois State Board of Education and the U.S. Department of Education have awarded NIU more than $2 million to expand services over the next four years.

The Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE) awarded the CDFC $1.6 million to increase full-day preschool services. The funds are part of the Preschool for All Expansion (PFA-E) program that increases access to full-day early childhood education and comprehensive services to eligible 4 year olds. The grant provides funding for 40 preschoolers.

The CDFC also received $1 million for the Child Care Access Means Parents in School (CCAMPIS) program, funded by the U.S. Department of Education. Paid over a four-year period, the CCAMPIS program is intended to support NIU student-parents who need child care assistance in order to remain in school and graduate with a college degree. The program provides support for up to 100 percent of the cost of child care for students with young children.

Along with access to affordable, high-quality child care, participants receive additional support through the CDFC coordinator, Dahlia Roman, ‘99.

“Because of our facility, parents might not have to work four jobs. They may be able to process stressors and work on identifying personal goals that will enable them to be successful,” Roman said.The CDFC serves as a child care lab for NIU students studying early childhood development and family sciences. Students observe at the center, and some work as paid part-time staff.

“We have organizations that actively recruit our graduates because of the training they receive here,” Pavkov said.

This article was original published by the NIU Alumni Association.

Date posted: December 11, 2019 | Author: | Comments Off on Improving chances for parents and their children

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Daryl Dugas
Daryl Dugas

Talking about race is never easy.

Secondary teaching candidates in NIU’s EPS 450: Classroom Management course, however, are growing more comfortable in conducting such discussions in respectful, productive ways – something their professor hopes will “change the conversation.”

Daryl Dugas, an assistant professor in the Department of Leadership, Educational Psychology and Foundations, led his students this past spring through a unit on Culturally Responsive Classroom Management helping them to not only recognize their own racial biases but to share openly what they discover about themselves.

“A lot of people have these conversations about race and equity, but they just go nowhere or backfire because people retreat to their own corners or get quiet. People are worried about offending people, or about being called racist,” Dugas says.

“And then on the flip side, people can say insensitive or hurtful things, and they don’t know they’re being hurtful,” he adds, “and then people just get angry at each other and no real sharing can happen.”

Self-awareness is the key, he says, especially for teachers hoping to make a positive difference or to disrupt the “school-to-prison pipeline” caused by disparate punishment of black and Latinx students who then are more likely to receive out-of-school suspensions and, subsequently, more likely to be arrested.

Daliha Orozco, Devin Connor, Daryl Dugas and Greg Johnson
Daliha Orozco, Devin Connor, Daryl Dugas and Greg Johnson

“This is really challenging because when most teachers, both college professors and also K-12 teachers learn about bias and racism, their response is ‘I want to be the solution to bias. I want to be the solution to racism,’ ” Dugas says.

“The real challenge is to recognize and accept one’s own biases. My approach is to help students see in a safe way, ‘Oh, I contribute to this in some ways, either willingly or unwillingly, wittingly or unwittingly, even if I’m not trying to. I participate in racism because everyone has biases.’ ”

He makes his point through telling honest stories of the biases he’s identified in himself.

“I give examples of, ‘This is a bias I recognize that I have, in an unsanitized way. I share this is something I’m not particularly proud of, but it’s there,’ ” he says. “That leads to students being able to open up and share their own biases.”

To spur candid and supportive dialogue, Dugas allows students to write their biases on sticky notes that then are shared anonymously so students can recognize how common racial biases are, and that having them does not make you a bad person.

As students open up and allow themselves to become vulnerable, he says, the conversation begins to change.

“The important part is not to be ashamed, or to feel guilty, but to recognize it – to recognize these voices when they arise – and then you’re less likely to act on them,” he says, “whereas if you feel that the object is to get rid of the voices, just get them out of you, they don’t actually go away. They just sink into your unconscious and can sneak out in unexpected and unpredictable ways.”

As part of this unit, students also discuss examples of racial and ethnic bias from the news, particularly incidents where police have been called to confront people of color for doing nothing at all, an issue that has led to the creation of the hashtag #LivingWhileBlack.

Rather than simply wondering of the white people in those incidents “how could they do those terrible things,” Dugas says he encourages students to ponder how they themselves could end up “doing the same sort of thing” – and to “understand that the way to avoid this is not by being ashamed of and burying bias, but rather by being as honest and open with yourself about your biases as you can.”

“It’s a really powerful experience,” he says. “My students had a positive response.”

Three of those Huskies – Devin Connor, Greg Johnson and Daliha Orozco, all future high school social studies teachers enrolled in the NIU College of Liberal Arts and Sciences – recently joined Dugas in taking the exploration of these issues one step further.

The quartet conducted a panel discussion Nov. 12 at the Critical Questions in Education Symposium, hosted by the Academy for Educational Studies at the Ambassador Hotel in Chicago.

Organized to explore contemporary issues at the intersection of education, culture, and society, the symposium draws teacher-educators and school administrators from across the country. About 20 attended the NIU panel, “White Fragility vs. White Vulnerability: Radical Self-Disclosure by a White Teacher-Educator as a Path Toward Culturally Responsive Classroom Management.”

Dugas provided an overview of the process; the students then shared their experiences in the course and the impact it has had on their teaching practice. An open discussion with the audience followed.

“It was received really well. It stuck a nerve, and people appreciated it. Several thanked us,” Dugas says. “We could tell from the questions that people are nervous to initiate these discussions, and they found our talk helpful.”

Johnson, a post-baccalaureate student in the History/Social Studies Licensure Program, was honored to represent NIU at the conference.

“Our presentation can be summed as Socrates once said, ‘Know thyself.’ This statement is about more than just self-reflection. ‘Knowing thyself’ is essential to success in almost any endeavor,” he says. “Understanding our own bias and values and considering them in a thoughtful and constructive way is important for good instruction.”

Connor, a fifth-year psychology major minoring in history and earning her secondary school teaching licensure, was grateful for the “amazing” opportunity to speak to teacher-educators in a conference setting.

“I am passionate about the white fragility/white vulnerability discussion because, as prospective teachers, we need to learn to create equity in the classroom,” Connor says, “and this new way of approaching systematic racism can help improve many students’ experience in and after high school.”

“It is important for all future teachers to identify their biases as they are going to be working with students from different backgrounds than their own,” Orozco adds. “I had an amazing time presenting at this conference. It was great to see this lesson come full circle, and to hopefully inspire other educators of preservice teachers to explore these same ideas with their future students as well.”

The experience benefited the students in many ways beyond the experience of attending and presenting at a professional conference, Dugas says.

During their preparation, they were challenged to ponder questions about race and equity, create their individual presentations, workshop these as a group, and respond effectively to feedback. They also got the experience of applying for NIU’s Undergraduate Student Engagement Travel Grant, which funded their participation in the conference.

But mostly, Dugas says, their greatest growth has come from continuing to deepen their understanding of race and racism beyond the initial classroom discussion.

“These are challenging topics,” he says, “and the more experience you have talking about these things, the easier it gets to do it, which I think is super-important.”

Date posted: December 11, 2019 | Author: | Comments Off on Ed Psych students join Daryl Dugas for presentation on ‘white fragility’

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Christopher Hennessy is a partner at Cozen O’Connor.  He earned his degree in communications from NIU in 1991.

By the time Christopher Hennessy, ’91, was a teenager in Park Ridge, Illinois, he already knew what his dream job would be.

“In the most simplistic and honest way, I liked arguing,” he recalled with a laugh. “Before I ever went to college, I knew that I liked arguing, and the naïve side of me thought, ‘What job could I do where I get to argue all day?  I could be a lawyer!’  But honestly, I just felt that I wanted to use my voice and my persuasion to help others.’” 

With that singular focus, Hennessy plotted a thoughtful, deliberate course. He understood the way to a career in law would not be a sprint to the finish. Knowing he would eventually end up in law school and be an attorney, he eyed a different route for his undergraduate degree. He enrolled in Northern Illinois University’s Department of Communications because he was looking to strengthen a core set of skills.

“Communication, public speaking, speech writing, persuasion—these were all the things I wanted to learn,” he said. “I never wanted to be a transactional lawyer. I always wanted to be a courtroom lawyer, or a litigation attorney, because I wanted to be in front of a judge, in front of a jury, to persuade people and advocate for my clients. I knew NIU would be the best path for me.”

Hennessy noted that NIU’s extremely diverse community and ground-up work ethic taught him about getting to know people and working with people from all walks of life.

“Juries aren’t filled with lawyers, so I didn’t want to only be surrounded by fellow lawyers,” he said. “A lot of the time, you just have to be able to talk to people. And if you can’t talk to people, you can’t persuade people. I think my undergraduate education was fantastic because it made that part easier.”

Like many Huskies, Hennessy worked through college, paying his own way through jobs and student loans. After graduation, he continued working so that he could save up and have the luxury of focusing solely on law school. In 1993, he enrolled at The John Marshall Law School in Chicago.

After his second year of law school, Hennessy was lucky enough to land a summer clerk job with the City of Chicago Law Department. Due to Illinois Supreme Court Rule 711, a student who has successfully completed half of the credit hours needed for graduation may obtain a license to practice law under the supervision of a licensed attorney. This provision gave Hennessy his first opportunity to argue a case—when he was still just a student.

“I handled a hearing on behalf of the Chicago Police Department and got to defend their decision not to hire the plaintiff,” Hennessy remembered. “It was exactly what I’d always wanted to do, and I had friends who were at private law firms that same summer who weren’t able to handle litigation, go to court, or handle depositions. I got to do all those things!  It was an amazing opportunity.”


As president of the CARA board of directors, Hennessy helps other people train for marathons.  He began running long distances in 2011, after taking an interest in the Chicago Marathon.

Hennessy eventually transitioned into private practice, and began working for Chicago law firm Meckler Bulger & Tilson LLP in 2005. In this role, he learned many different areas of the law, including construction, employment, and injury defense law, and he rose in the ranks, being appointed partner in the organization. In 2015, Meckler Bulger & Tilson merged with law firm Cozen O’Connor, and that took the work Hennessy had already been doing and brought it a national platform.

“These days, I’m working for an even broader range of clients in other places, with national clients who need help everywhere,” he said. “Looking at the types of cases on my desk right now, I’m defending an architect in a wrongful death case, handling a contract dispute, and a construction defect case at a school. Every case is different, and I love the work I do.”

And while Hennessy is pleased by the arc his professional life has taken, he is also very passionate about using his skills to give back.

“My wife and I preach the benefits of service to our two teenage daughters all the time,” he said. “One of the things I love about Cozen O’Connor is their dedication to pro bono service, giving of your time professionally as a lawyer. It’s fantastic, it’s a huge commitment of the firm, and it’s something they encourage and find opportunities for us to do.”

In particular, Cozen O’Connor has found success advocating for people in some very challenging contexts, like for individuals who are applying for asylum in the United States.

“I have two cases right now where people are in the middle of the asylum process,” Hennessy said. “There is a significant contrast in success rates for individuals who try to navigate the asylum process without an attorney and those who have access to a lawyer. In these instances, I feel like my contribution can make such a difference. My presence really does matter.”

Hennessy noted that it is important to him that he gives his time in a more personal way, too. For the past two years, he has served as the President of the Board of Directors for the Chicago Area Runners Association (CARA).

Hennessy only began running long distances in 2011, after taking an interest in the Chicago Marathon.

“I saw all the different kinds of people taking on the marathon as a challenge,” he said. “Young, old, life-long runners and people who looked like they’d only just begun running. I thought, ‘I could do that.”

When Hennessy happened upon CARA’s website, he joined the association and ran his first marathon within a year. The organization—a network of fellow runners who connected with and counted on one another—made the difference for him, and he knew he wanted to be a part of that power. Almost immediately, he began looking to join the organization’s board.

“Not being alone is massive when you’re training for a marathon,” he said. “If you’re feeling lousy or tired but you know you’re meeting friends who are depending on you to run in the morning, you get out of bed and you go.”

Hennessy believes that the same principles drive all he does, from his work at Cozen O’Connor to his role at CARA.

“Like with running, you can run alone or you can run with other people,” he reflected. “I choose to run with other people. I choose to go through life alongside other people because, to me, the fulfillment I get in seeing somebody accomplish their goal is almost more valuable than accomplishing it myself.”

Date posted: December 9, 2019 | Author: | Comments Off on Christopher Hennessy, ’91, goes the distance to serve others

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(L-R) Allison Urbaszewski, ‘19, and Professor Colleen Boraca enter the Hesed House.

“Kathy” is a single mom who found herself in a situation she never imagined. Because of various mental and physical illnesses, she could no longer work. Despite having a college degree, she and her two children ended up living in Aurora at Hesed House, the second-largest homeless shelter in Illinois, when the Social Security Administration continued to deny her disability case. Kathy talked with her medical provider about her stressful situation, and he handed her a referral to the NIU College of Law Health Advocacy Clinic.

Founded in 2013, the NIU Law Health Advocacy Clinic is a medical-legal partnership (MLP) between the College of Law, Aunt Martha’s Health and Outreach Center and Hesed House. MLPs directly integrate legal services into health-care settings where medical professionals, case managers, social workers and lawyers work together to solve legal issues impacting health.

Under supervision, law students spend 8-16 hours per week at Hesed House and gain hands-on experiences to better prepare them for practice. Most of all, they learn the important role legal professionals play in helping those facing poverty. Also playing a vital role at Hesed House is its Executive Director Ryan Dowd, who earned a joint law degree and master’s degree in public administration from NIU in 2003.

(L-R): Hesed House Executive Director Ryan Dowd, ‘03, Allison Urbaszewski, ‘19, and Professor Colleen Boraca discuss legal strategies to help better advocate on behalf of their clients.

“It is a really exciting partnership, and not just because I’m an alumnus. It not only serves the legal needs of homeless individuals, but it also prepares the next generation for a career of service,” Dowd said. “Does it get any better than that?”

In the end, the Health Advocacy Clinic made a significant impact in Kathy’s Social Security case. Students worked collaboratively and extensively with her case manager, mental health counselor and physician to help ensure that she had the strongest evidence supporting her case. Students wrote a prehearing brief and represented Kathy at an administrative law hearing. The judge granted her case and Kathy was awarded monthly benefits and more than $12,000 in retroactive payments. As a result, she and her family will not be returning to Hesed House.

The Health Advocacy Clinic adds to the list of incredible experiential learning opportunities offered by the NIU College of Law. The Civil Justice ClinicCriminal Defense Clinic and Prisoners’ Rights Project located in Rockford, Illinois, are also all a part of the law school’s history of public service and drive its mission to provide hands-on experience for students to advocate on behalf of real clients.

This article was originally published in Northern Now.

Date posted: December 9, 2019 | Author: | Comments Off on NIU Law Health Advocacy Clinic prepares next generation for careers of service

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