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Plan developed by department’s Diversity Integration Group (DIG) engages student-athletes, staff

With issues of race relations and social justice rising to the forefront of national and international consciousness, Northern Illinois University Athletics has enacted an aggressive social justice education plan for student-athletes, coaches and staff based on information, conversation and action.
Developed under the leadership of Associate Vice-President and Director of Athletics Sean T. Frazier and Senior Associate Athletic Director Courtney Vinson, who leads the department’s Diversity Integration Group (DIG), the plan has already brought together – virtually – African American student-athletes, a focus group of student-athlete leaders and an all-staff virtual “town hall” of NIU Athletics coaches and staff on the topics of social justice and race relations.
“We have been moving forward in the diversity and inclusion conversation for a long time as both an institution and as an athletic department,” Frazier said. “It is extremely important as we continue to demonstrate our leadership in this area that we make statements that are backed up with action.”
Future sessions include a virtual meeting of all student-athletes led by NIU professors and individual team counseling sessions on the topic of race relations. The plan is available to view online (PDF).

Inspired by the initial conversations, NIU student-athletes devised and created a video with the theme of #StartTheConversation that was released on social media this week. The focus group continues to meet to discuss future courses of action.
Frazier, whose career includes a history of work on issues of diversity and race relations, recognizes the importance of today’s date to publicly announce this plan while looking forward to working with internal Huskie athletic groups, as well as the many experts and resources available on NIU’s campus and beyond, to advance understanding and cooperation.
“The announcement of this plan on ‘Juneteenth’ – a holiday for me and for many celebrated on the 19th of June to commemorate the emancipation of enslaved people in the United States – is intentional,” said Frazier. “Although we have made significant strides in championing these complex issues of diversity, inclusion and equity there is so much more hard work to do.”
NIU Athletics maintains a close relationship with the university’s Office of Academic Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (ADEI) and will continue to work with that office to train and educate staff. The Huskies will create “safe spaces” for African American student-athletes. Additional members, including current student-athletes, will be invited to join DIG.
The Huskies’ social justice and race relations plan seeks to create educational opportunities, support dialogue and encourage voting by NIU student-athletes, coaches and staff.
Vinson has been encouraged by the commitment she has seen from NIU student-athletes toward this effort.
“The most exciting part about doing this critically important work is seeing our student-athletes’ eyes light up when they realize they have the ability to affect change in a positive way,” said Vinson. “Our student-athlete population represents all races and ethnicities. To watch them come together as they find and use their voices to fight against systemic racism, oppression and police brutality; it makes me hopeful that the dream Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had in 1963 will happen in my lifetime.”  
NIU is one of two Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) universities whose athletic director, head football coach and head men’s basketball coach are African American. Volleyball coach Ray Gooden is one of just 30 African Americans to lead a Division I women’s volleyball program. In 2016, NIU received the NCAA and Minority Opportunities Athletic Association (MOAA) Diversity and Inclusion Award, which recognized and celebrated the initiatives, policies and practices of NIU Athletics in embracing diversity and inclusion
Date posted: June 24, 2020 | Author: | Comments Off on NIU Athletics activates social justice education plan

Categories: Faculty & Staff Homepage Sports Students Uncategorized

When COVID sent us to a virtual environment in the spring, did your laptop require a gazillion updates? Did you struggle to access the internet at home? Did you write an entire class assignment on your phone?

Tell us about it.


The NIU Division of Information Technology and the University Libraries want to know. To learn lessons from a difficult spring semester, the Division of Information Technology and the University Libraries created a Qualtrics survey they would like all students, faculty and staff to complete.

Fred Barnhart, Dean of NIU Libraries said they hope to discover as much as they can about how technology worked and didn’t work when attempting to learn, teach and work in a virtual environment.

“We want to learn as much as we can from the spring so that we can better prepare for the future,” Barnhart said.

Barnhart, along with Matt Parks and a small group of university stakeholders, have been meeting to discuss lessons learned from spring’s semester.

“We know that many students had technology needs and that staff and faculty also experienced issues. We hope that by conducting a survey we’ll be able to benchmark for the future,” Barnhart said.

The online survey is anonymous and should only take a few minutes.

“This is your opportunity to speak up. We want people to tell us how we can improve,” he added. The survey deadline is July 10.

Date posted: June 24, 2020 | Author: | Comments Off on Survey provides opportunity for spring semester technology feedback

Categories: Faculty & Staff Homepage Students Uncategorized

With economists speculating a recession looming due to the COVID-19 pandemic, resourceful companies are looking for ways to do more with less now more than ever before. Whether it’s trying to produce more with fewer staff, managing profit in the midst of increasing costs, or meeting an increased demand for product, NIU’s enthusiastic senior-level engineering students can be the answer to these very problems by sponsoring a senior design team.

Senior Design is a two-semester course at the College of Engineering and Engineering Technology (CEET) where a team of interdisciplinary engineering students applies what they have learned throughout their education as engineering majors. They form teams that develop prototypes for the creation or enhancement of a product, system, process, automation, algorithm, or smart technology, etc.  At the program’s conclusion, the company sponsor retains the intellectual property and prototype that the team creates.

“We combine our expertise in engineering fields to improve productivity and profitability while providing our students with real-world learning experiences and preparing them for the engineering workforce,” said Donald Peterson, Ph.D., dean of CEET.

In the fall, teams select their projects and meet with their sponsor to gain a thorough understanding of the challenge, define and structure the project, and develop a formal project proposal with a budget and a timeline. Throughout the entire program, the teams meet regularly with their sponsor until the prototype/project is completed and then handed over to their sponsors.

“What surprised me most about the senior design challenge is that instead of getting a high-level research project back, we actually got a real work output that we were able to put into production,” said Carl Modesette, director of product engineering at UniCarriers Americas, Corp. of Marengo, Il., who has sponsored teams for the past several years. “Companies that get involved with NIU’s Senior Design Program stand to benefit in many ways.”

Wondering what those benefits might be? Here are five reasons how companies can benefit from sponsoring a senior design team in 2020-2021:

  1. Discover solutions to problems without using additional resources.

Sponsor companies get access to a team that includes a mix of engineering disciplines including mechanical, electrical, biomedical, and mechatronics engineers; engineering technology engineers or industrial and systems engineers. Each team is assigned a faculty advisor and a teaching assisting to direct the students. Throughout the process, the team uses NIU’s state of the-art-labs to work on the challenge.

In one example, Wahl Clipper Corporation of Sterling, Ill., sponsored a team in 2019. The team was led by David Todd, lead electronics engineer and Matt Bowers, electronics engineering manager for Wahl. The company manufactures hair clippers, trimmers, and shavers for consumers and professional barbers and stylists.

When asked about the benefits of senior design, Bowers said there are many, with the greatest being finding a solution to a challenge without dedicating resources.

“We wanted to understand how our products are used so we can engineer better products,” said Bowers.

Their challenge to the team was to find a way to efficiently collect information while the products are in use. The team developed hardware and software that sends data to an app on the user’s smartphone such as the temperature of the clipper, length of time used and the number of times it is turned on.

2. Increase efficiencies in daily operations.

A team of industrial and systems engineering students was sponsored by Nobelus located in Schaumburg Ill. The team improved product output by streamlining the company’s production processes. The team proposed several process improvements and facility layout changes to increase throughput. A capacity analysis tool was also developed to analyze “what-if” scenarios.

Chief Operating Officer Kurt Paquin of Nobelus said, “they were able to uncover and analyze key processes for us. This was something we were not staffed to do.”

The Nobelus team, in addition to the process improvements mentioned earlier also created a defect form to identify and seek refunds from suppliers for poor quality raw material, which was implement before the project was concluded and led to immediate savings for the company.

“The team was a tremendous help,” said Paquin. “The team helped us increase output significantly.”

3. Scout out fresh new talent.

Sponsor companies work closely with their teams in weekly or bi-monthly meetings and get to know their team members’ abilities and work ethics well.

All three of the students on the 2019 team sponsored by Collins Aerospace of Rockford were hired by the company after graduation. The company sponsored a project team whose task was to find a more efficient way to track items on the aerospace manufacturer’s shop floor. The system they developed can accurately locate hundreds of items within feet of their actual position as they move through the flow in the plant.

“NIU is a great pipeline for employees,” said Chris Griffiths, executive director of program development for Collins Aerospace. “The quality of the students from NIU always continues to impress. As an alumnus of NIU, class of 1994, I have seen the investment in the CEET, which improves the quality of education of the students and prepares them for future success.”

Wahl Clipper recruited two engineers from the 2020 team, and in 2019 recruited an engineer who was continuing to NIU’s graduate school. The student held an internship with Wahl during his senior year and was the Wahl liaison for the 2020 team.

Like UniCarriers Americas, Collins Aerospace and Wahl Clipper have also sponsored teams for several consecutive years.

4. Save money and enjoy a great return on investment.

Sponsor companies find that the program offers a significant return on investment. With a minimal sponsorship investment of $10,000, the sponsor gets the solution to a challenge that could potentially be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to the organization.

For example, in 2020 an engineering technology team devised a system to detect leaks in fluid pump components for MTH Pumps in Plano, Ill. The company’s existing system of testing took an operator between 15-20 minutes to set up and complete and relied on operator observation and potential errors. The team developed a scalable, modular solution that takes only 20 seconds to set up and proved to be more reliable because it uses air pressure sensors instead of human observation.

“Our system is safer, more accurate and faster,” said team member and engineering technology major Jacob Bostick. “We estimate it to cost half of what the current system costs.”

5. Help shape next-generation engineers.

By giving new engineers a chance to work on a real-world problem, students learn what it will be like to work on a project team for an employer. They gain comprehensive experience that reflects all aspects of engineering design and industry practice, including how professionals communicate ideas, how intellectual property impacts day-to-day engineering operations, and how ethics influences engineering decisions, explained Peterson.

“They hit the ground running at their employers,” he said. “Industry professionals who involve themselves in the Senior Design Program have the chance to truly engage students in a meaningful experience by bringing together the concepts of practical application and ultimately culminates in a solution for the company.”

“Nobelus gave us free rein to choose a direction which was a real challenge, and in the end, it was so rewarding,” said team member Patrick Wasilewski.

The options are limitless.

CEET is now accepting project proposals for the 2021 Senior Design class. Peterson indicated that the college will work with the company to find a challenge that will be mutually beneficial to the company and the students.

“NIU is a hidden gem in northern Illinois. I would encourage local industries to get involved with the CEET program at NIU,” said Collins Aerospace’s Griffiths.

Companies that are interested in learning more about the Senior Design sponsorship program can visit or contact Donald Peterson directly at [email protected] or 815-753-2256.

Date posted: June 24, 2020 | Author: | Comments Off on Companies encouraged to sponsor CEET Senior Design teams

Categories: Community Faculty & Staff Homepage Students Uncategorized

For the past five years, Vernese Edghill-Walden has led the strategic efforts to make the NIU campus and community a more diverse and inclusive place for all to live, learn and work.

Vernese Edghill-Walden was given a new title of vice president for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and chief diversity officer.

In recognition of her success, the NIU Board of Trustees voted June 18 to reappoint Edghill-Walden with a new title of vice president for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and chief diversity officer. Currently, she holds the positions of senior associate vice president and chief diversity officer.

The change will take effect July 1 and comes on the heels of Edghill-Walden’s appointment as the interim chief human resource officer for the next year.

NIU President Dr. Lisa C. Freeman credits Edghill-Walden for “a transformative effect on the climate and culture of the university.”

“With her leadership, our university has made substantial progress towards cultivating equity; building an inclusive community; and promoting education, awareness and action,” Freeman said. “In fact, her portfolio of responsibilities has expanded significantly over time as a direct result of her success at driving change and her ability to inspire collaboration among students, faculty, staff and alumni.”

Edghill-Walden’s accomplishments on campus include creating the Office of Academic Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, which merged existing offices focused on diversity initiatives, equal opportunity and outreach into a more cohesive and synergistic force for supporting students of color, the LGBTQIA and undocumented students and for increasing social justice education for faculty, staff and students.

She also raised the visibility of cultural centers, instituted implicit bias training for hiring committees and expanded social justice education from about 500 individuals four years ago to more than 3,000 faculty staff and students this past year. Under her leadership, a new Human Diversity requirement for all students also was created.

Her collaboration with other universities and nonprofits around the state to address academic equity and equity gaps has also elevated NIU’s profile as an institution committed to closing equity gaps. “Not because we have found all of the solutions, but because we have been willing to ask hard questions and address the issue,” Edghill-Walden said.

Those accomplishments and others have created a solid foundation to build upon, she said, but the most important work lies ahead.

“If we are going to move forward as an institution, we need to be able to continue to answer difficult questions and address inequities and not shy aware from addressing race, gender, gender identity, immigration status or disabilities.” she said. “We have developed ally educational programs that support undocumented students and LGBTQ awareness, but we need to develop additional training on race.

Other goals include addressing issues that were brought into sharp relief by the COVID-19 pandemic, including food insecurity, health insecurity and disparity, and technology disparities among students of color. “The pandemic has been a huge lens into poverty. Now we need to translate that awareness into ways that we can better serve those students,” she said.

Edghill-Walden hopes that her leadership of Human Resources Services will allow her to extend efforts to create a more inclusive community to faculty and staff.

“There are many opportunities to make our institution more inclusive, not just for our students but as a workplace for employees. That work begins with a prospective employee’s first impression of NIU, and I think there are exciting opportunities for ADEI and HRS to tell a story that helps us attract and retain a more diverse workforce,” she said.

The importance of creating an inclusive and equitable culture has been amplified by the Black Lives Matter protests of recent weeks, she said. In addition to the local and national protests, the Supreme Court decision that protects the LGBTQIA community from workplace discrimination and the decision to keep DACA further support NIU’s effort to be an institution committed to inclusion.

“It’s an exciting time,” Edghill-Walden said. “We are at a moment, as an institution and as a country, where if each of us do our own work, we can make substantive change and dismantle systems of oppression. It would be huge.”

President Freeman said she looks forward to working with Edghill-Walden to make that goal a reality.

“I am delighted that Vernese will be remaining at NIU as the vice president for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, encouraging our community to model learning, growth and shared responsibility as we move forward together to eradicate systemic racism and dismantle structures that perpetuate inequity,” Freeman said.

Edghill-Walden’s prior academic and professional experience prepared her well for success at NIU.

From 2007 to 2015, she served the City Colleges of Chicago in positions of increasing responsibility, advancing from associate director of Research and Evaluation to executive director of Academic Development to associate vice chancellor for General Education and Academic Affairs to provost and chief academic officer.

She earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Bucknell University in 1987, a master’s degree in higher education administration from the University of Delaware in 1992 and a Ph.D. in sociology from Howard University in 2007.

Date posted: June 24, 2020 | Author: | Comments Off on Edghill-Walden promoted to VP for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Categories: Centerpiece Community Faculty & Staff Prospective Students Students Uncategorized


Since 1983, Kweli has led the effort in assisting Chicago’s inner-city youth to navigate the college admissions process, and Talented 10th uses college students to mentor high school students.

Kweli Kwaza’s goal is simple—to push Chicago’s inner-city youth beyond their imaginations.  

Kwaza, ’87, is the founder and executive director of the Talented 10th college prep and career mentoring organization in Chicago, and the NIU Alumni Association is honoring his work this year with the F.R. Geigle Service Award. 

Since 1983, Kweli has led the effort in assisting inner-city youth to navigate the college admissions process, and Talented 10th uses college students to mentor high school students. It is estimated that over 3,500 students have graduated from Northern Illinois University since the birth of the Talented 10th.  

The work is personal to Kweli who was one of seven siblings raised by a single mother in Chicago in the 1960s.  As a boy, he admired Black Panther leaders who taught him at the local youth center. 
“They taught us we could be young men and future leaders. For me, they adequately filled the gap of the father when I was at an impressionable age,” Kwaza said.  
As a teenager, Kwaza became involved with the Project Upward Bound Program at Northwestern University in Evanston, forging his mother’s name so he could attend. One spring break, one of the counselors in the program invited him to visit NIU. 
“That is when I got my ‘ah-ha’ moment,” Kwaza remembered. “I sat in on a class and I understood the professor and knew I could do the work. That was the moment I decided that I was going to go to college at NIU.” 
At that point, though, Kwaza was a senior in high school and had never prepared for college.  
“The only thing I was ready to do was to go to prison or the grave because of my gang activity,” he said. “I never imagined going to college. In fact, I didn’t even imagine life beyond 19.” 
As a high school senior, Kweli had a 14 ACT score and a 2.3 GPA at a poor-performing school. The Assistant Director of the Upward Bound Program made a phone call to NIU’s C.H.A.N.C.E. program, and the rest is history.  
“I believe in our youth today because somebody believed in me, even though every indication said, ‘No, don’t let this one in.’ NIU gave me a chance in spite of myself.” 
Kwaza has also founded Club 21 out of the need for neighbors to participate in reducing crime and beautifying neighborhoods in Chicago’s 21st Ward. Club 21 also serves as a platform for the Talented 10th college students to perform community service. To date, 321 Block Clubs are participating in Club 21.  
Five years ago, Kwaza started the Young Inventors Program for 4th to 8th-grade students. The young Inventors benefit from doing hands-on S.T.E.M. projects, but the true goal of the program is to develop leadership skills.  

“A long time ago, I learned that I could not have much impact on our youth unless I am also working with parents and siblings, too,” Kwaza said. “So, we teach the parents how to raise their leaders and encourage their sibling to join our program.” 

With so much to be proud of, Kwaza’s favorite thing is coming back to the NIU campus. When he comes to NIU for a prospective student tour, he is bombarded with college students who feel an obligation to participate as college mentors because they were once in our program. This kind of “pay it forward” mentality has made a lasting impact on the students who participate in the Talented 10th and changes their lives in the process. Kwaza meets graduates of his program everywhere he goes. 

“One of my favorite things is when a new college graduate calls me to help them find a job or a past student calls me to give their child the NIU/Talented 10th experience,” he said. “The other day I had to negotiate using space at Kennedy King College with one of our past NIU mentors who is now the dean of students there.”  
Kwaza, himself, has gone on to great personal success, having earned his B.A. in political science from NIU, his master’s in social work from University of Chicago, and he is pursuing his doctorate degree from National Louis University in community psychology. He practices what he preaches, continually trying to improve himself and the world around him. 
“I believe in the (students), and I appreciate the attention and respect I’m given,” he said. “I only ask them to give back to the community, not only in the future but right now. This service award encourages me to be more energized and focused when it comes to uplifting our community. I only wish that it could open more doors at NIU for black students.” 

Date posted: June 22, 2020 | Author: | Comments Off on Kweli Kwaza, ’87, receives Geigle Service Award for inner-city youth Outreach   

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Art student Erin Crawford worked with Team 8 created rendering for the mobility walker the team designed.

Erin Crawford helped design the covers for Team 8 that designed a Robotic Mobility Walker along with electrical engineering and mechanical engineering students Colin Frank, Kyle Matthews, Joshua Keene, and Jayce Berggren.

Hal Brynteson worked with electrical engineering students Nick Roark, Mark Lanman, and Edward Lukas of Team 42 that took on the project Integration of an NAO Robot with an Autonomous Mobile Platform.

Art student Daniel Ortiz helped Team 16 with an aesthetic rendering for their prototype of a guiding device for the blind.

Daniel Ortiz helped mechanical and electrical engineering students Karen Gonzalez, Devon Daubert, Marko Kuljanin, and Jacob Mrozek with Team 16’s  ROV3R – Robotic Guiding Device for People Who Are Blind.

Andrew Elston worked on Team 30’s design of a Robotic Exoskeleton for Neuromuscular Rehabilitation and Exercise (Fourth Generation) with electrical engineering and mechanical engineering students Nicole Hoffmann, Aletta Johnson, Moises Reynoso Jr.

The Senior Design program offers engineering seniors a chance to apply what they learned in the classroom to a real-world problem presented by a sponsor.

“This collaboration between the School of Art and Design and CEET is a great example of how we can leverage the talent of our students and faculty to create new opportunities for learning and making.  We’re all excited about taking this to the next level,” said Dean Paul Kassel, Dean of the College of Visual & Performing Arts.

“The experience the art and engineering students gain reflects real-world aspects of design and industry practice, including how interdisciplinary professionals communicate ideas and how they develop intellectual property that can impact day-to-day industry operations and peoples’ lives,” said Dean Donald Peterson, Ph.D. of CEET.

Date posted: June 22, 2020 | Author: | Comments Off on Engineers team up with artists in 2020 Senior Design

Categories: Arts Faculty & Staff Homepage Prospective Students Students Uncategorized

Nearly 75 NIU sales students from the Department of Marketing found themselves competing in a RNMKRS Dell Technology Virtual Sales Competition in the spring 2020 semester, just as life turned itself upside down around the world. Bryant University hosted the event, drawing 1,600 students from more than 40 universities from New England to Florida to Illinois to Texas to California.

This first-ever virtual, mobile selling skills competition was developed by the RNMKRS Faculty Alliance of leading educators, Dell Technologies training executives and developers from 3 countries. RNMKRS originally launched the event in Fall 2019. It was so well received it now runs in both the fall and spring semesters.  

The competition is as far removed from a typical TEAMS meeting as you can get. Instead of interacting virtually with others, the students engaged in the sales process with a client made up entirely of 0s and 1s.  And while artificial intelligence the likes of BB8 in Star Wars is cute without question, the majority of the sales students had no idea what they would encounter when they communicated with a piece of interactive code. They had no idea what, if any, language barriers might pop up, how many loops of reasoning might be unspooled, or what other issues might arise.  

“The students had first-hand exposure to virtual selling and to thinking on their feet,” said the NIU Dean’s Distinguished Professor of Sales Rob Peterson. “They were forced to adapt on the spot in order to engage in problem solving with artificial intelligence. And they did great! It was a fun day for NIU. Four of our students placed in the top 25.” 

The four NIU students are Sean Duffy who placed 4th, Paulina Ramirez who placed 15th, Jorie Pelafas who placed 23rd and Christoph Koeninger who placed 25th.  Along with their major programs, all four students were in the process of earning their sales certificate from the NIU Professional Sales Center. 

“The RNMKR sales competition platform is an outstanding outlet to develop and test your sales skills,” Duffy said. “Each competitor is instructed to study the Dell Rugged Laptop line and uncover the specific features that the customer is looking for. This competition really emphasizes your ability to listen, respond, and empathize.” 

Students use the voice technology on their phones to have fully contextual conversations with the customer bot as they try to win his trust and educate him on their product line of laptop computers. The customer bot listens, adapts and responds as the students go through the sales call.

“During these difficult times, RNMKRS came through with an exciting and challenging experience that I’m glad I was part of,” Ramirez added. “Participating in the professional selling program at Northern Illinois University helped me develop the needed sales skills and mentality to make this an experience I could learn from.”  

RNMKRS is an industry group that focuses on improving sales and communications by leveraging technology. The overall goal of their Virtual Sales Competition is to help students learn how to communicate more effectively – particularly in the face of the unknown. RNMKRS founders believeffective communication requires practice…a contention Peterson wholeheartedly agrees with.  

Along with the distinction of holding a named professorship in the NIU College of Business, Peterson was among the group of original advisors to RNMKRS when they developed this event. He has also won a number of awards from a variety of industry associations, among them outstanding teaching awards from the American Marketing Association, the Marketing Management Association, and the University Sales Center Alliance to name a few. 

The NIU Professional Sales Center in the Department of Marketing in the College of Business continues to earn top accolades on a national level for its activities in and out of the classroom. Some of these include the program’s Sales on Wheels initiative which brings students face to face with C-suite executives in their corporate headquarters, the program’s Sales Advisory Board with membership that includes top sales professionals from a number of industries and companies around the country, as well as the many conferences and competitions — like the RNMKRS Virtual Sales Competition – where NIU sales professors and students continue to make an impact, virtually and in reality. 

Date posted: June 22, 2020 | Author: | Comments Off on NIU Sales, RNMKRS and something like BB8

Categories: Business Faculty & Staff Homepage Students

 This past month, the NIU Center for Economic Education and Econ Illinois virtually honored the regional and state winners of their annual economics poster contest. 

“Although we missed seeing all the students, families and teachers in person, we were glad to be able to celebrate the winners online by sharing their posters on our website and Facebook page,” says Judith Dymond, Ed.D., coordinator of the NIU Center for Economic Education. 

The annual contest offers a chance for students in grades 1 through 8 to learn about basic economic and financial concepts from Econ Illinois’ standards-based curriculum and then demonstrate their understanding of a concept of their choice through an original drawing. Drawings are then entered into one of five regional competitions throughout the state, and the regional winners advance to the state competition. 

Tammy Batson, Ph. D., director of the NIU Center for Economic Educationsays, “The poster contest is a great way to get students thinking creatively about their interactions with the economy. It is fun and builds economic and financial literacy that will impact their ability to make financial decisions in the future.” 

This year’s state winners are Kaushik Saravanan (grade 3), Kerri Gaur (grade 4) and Sahana Kuttalingam (grade 5) from Fry Elementary in District 204, and Addison Guskey (grade 5) from Robert Clow Elementary in District 204. 

Their posters explored the concepts of saving and spending, incentives and consumer choices, capital and natural resources, and specialization and trade. 

Fry Elementary also boasted 15 regional winners and 4 state honorable mentions, and Robert Clow Elementary captured three regional top spots, as did Wredling Middle School in District 303. Springfield Ball Charter School had one regional winner. 

Teacher Erin Mongelli of Fry Elementary says, “I love participating in the poster contest because some of my quieter, artistic students really get a moment to shine.” 

“There are so many concepts in this contest that the students are exposed to everyday without knowing or understanding,” she continues. “The curriculum and contest help the students better understand the complex world of economics at an early age! Being able to express themselves through art is a key to truly understanding and sharing their knowledge with others.” 

Helene Caliva, gifted education specialist at Clow Elementary School, says, “I look forward to the poster contest each year because it gives my students a unique opportunity to demonstrate via free-hand drawing an economic concept.”

She continues, “To me, what makes this special is that a student at the elementary school level is able to demonstrate their understanding of terms only high school and college students used to study in the past. It shows us, ‘They got it!’ Every year, I am impressed with how they can illustrate these concepts.” 

Liz Dolan, social studies teacher and team leader at Wredling Middle School, says she has had her students participate in the Economics Poster Contest for the past three years. 

The Economic Concepts PosterContest challenges students to use their imagination and creativity and weaves easily into our social studies curriculum,” she saysI look forward to the postercontest each year because it’s important for me to infuse art into the curriculum. Art plays an important role in human development. 

She continues, “When you draw something, it evokes emotions and instills a sense of novelty, which both have been shown through brain research to enhance learning and increase the retention of information. The Economics Concept PosterContest also provides an authentic audience for the students work, so I see them put more effort into their understanding of the material and their drawings. 

To view the winning posters, visit more about the Northern Illinois University Center for Economic Education at 

Date posted: June 22, 2020 | Author: | Comments Off on NIU Center for Economic Education celebrates state economic poster contest winners

Categories: Community Faculty & Staff Homepage Uncategorized

For Allison Gladfelter, working with NIU students is a privilege that continually leaves her impressed and amazed. 

“Our students are truly inspiring,” shares Gladfelter. “It is a joy to teach and advise them as they begin their journeys as future clinicians and leaders. No doubt about it, our students are what I love most about working at NIU!” 

Allison Gladfelter, assistant professor of speech-language pathology, donates to NIU to help students overcome burdens they may experience while pursuing their education.

Gladfelter is an assistant professor of speech-language pathology in the School of Allied Health and Communicative Disorders.  She has been at NIU since the Fall of 2014 and serves in a variety of roles, including teaching students studying communicative disorders and speech-language pathology, serving as faculty advisor for the Communicative Disorders Student Association, and conducting research.

“My primary area of research explores how children with autism learn new words and how their language and motor systems interact during tasks of learning,” shares Gladfelter.  “I love sparking a passion for research in students, especially those who have gone on to publish or present their work.  I’ve had the pleasure of mentoring over 25 students as their theses or dissertation advisor, honors capstone mentor, independent study mentor, Research Rookie or SROP mentor, and for the first time this summer, as their discussion facilitator for a bi-weekly research discussion group.”

Gladfelter also serves as Deputy Director for NIU’s Center for the Interdisciplinary Study of Language and Literacy which helps the NIU community engage in meaningful conversations and collaborations to tackle important challenges our society faces.  And if that’s not enough, Gladfelter is a founder and facilitator for the NIU Autism Caregiver Group. 

Her deep commitment to NIU students and the campus community has compelled Gladfelter to make donations through the NIU Foundation.

“I donate because I profoundly care about our students. Donating is an easy way for me to help alleviate a burden that many students carry as they pursue their studies at NIU,” shares Gladfelter. “I can’t think of a better way to show our students how much we truly care about them.” 

Move NIU Forward during Huskies United June 24-25

You can join Gladfelter in moving NIU forward June 24-25 by making a gift during the NIU Foundation’s Huskies United event.  Huskies United will begin at 4:25 p.m. on June 24 and will run for 1,895 minutes, a nod to the university’s founding year. The campaign will focus on raising support for the university’s strategic funding priorities including emergency student funds, diversity, equity and inclusion, scholarships, and research, artistry and innovation.     

You can also help spread the word about Huskies Uninted as an NIU Social Media Ambassador.  Sign up at

For more information about Huskies United, visit the website at or email [email protected]


Date posted: June 22, 2020 | Author: | Comments Off on Moving NIU forward: Why Allison Gladfelter gives back

Categories: CHHSnews Faculty & Staff Health and Human Sciences Homepage Students

Prof. Yolanda KingYolanda M. King has been named the new Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at the NIU College of Law. She replaces Professor Marc Falkoff, who served in the position for four years.

“We are extremely fortunate to have Associate Dean King step into this important role for the law school,” said Interim Dean Laurel Rigertas.

Associate Dean King teaches Property and various intellectual property-related courses, such as Copyright Law, Entertainment Law, Intellectual Property, and Trademark Law.  Her scholarly interests include the copyrightability of tattoos, the enforcement of tattoo copyrights, right of publicity protection for dance movements and celebrities’ tattoos, and music licensing.

She continues to be a trailblazer in the legal profession, especially in her area of expertise, intellectual property, an area of the law where women of color are significantly underrepresented. After receiving her law degree from Harvard, she practiced IP at two prominent Chicago law firms before joining the NIU Law faculty in 2010. She continues to write extensively in this area and presents at legal conferences around the country, and she serves as Of Counsel at Chicago-based law firm Advitam IP.

“I am excited about this new opportunity to serve the College of Law,” said Associate Dean King. “I look forward to working with its faculty, staff, and students as well as participating in new initiatives across campus.”

In 2019, Associate Dean King was the driving force to creating and launching the Legal Education, Access, and Recognition (LEARN) Program at NIU, a unique and innovative program to help decrease barriers to law school for historically underrepresented students. During her role as chair of the law school admissions committee, she saw a number of historically underrepresented students’ applications that were denied admission largely due to a low Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) score. This experience motivated her to work with Clinical Associate Professor Wendy Vaughn and secure a $125,000 grant from to AccessLex Institute in order to create the LEARN program. Twenty-five participants were chosen for the inaugural program which began in June 2019.

Associate Dean King has held numerous leadership roles during her tenure. At the College of Law, she had been the Interim Assistant Dean for Student Affairs since 2017. She has served as Director of Faculty Development and chair of the Admissions, Appointments, and Dean Review Committees as well as the Faculty Working Group on Diversity and Equity. She is faculty advisor to the American Bar Association Law Student Division’s Regional Client Counseling Competition, Black Law Students Association, and Sports and Entertainment Law Society. At the University, she has served on numerous committees, task forces, and as a board member of Athletics and Campus Child Care.

In addition, she is a member of several organizations including the Intellectual Property Law Association of Chicago, International Trademark Association, and The Association of American Law Schools – Intellectual Property Section.

For her dedication and leadership, Associate Dean King has been honored with the Deacon Davis Diversity Award from the NIU Presidential Commission on the Status of Minorities (2017), Outstanding Professor of the Year Award from the NIU Law Alumni Council (2012), Alumni Hall of Fame Inductee from Pike High School (2012), and the Corporate Woman of Achievement Award from the National Association of Women Business Owners (2009).

Associate Dean King earned her J.D. from Harvard Law School and B.A. in Journalism, with Highest Distinction, from Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.

Date posted: June 17, 2020 | Author: | Comments Off on Yolanda King named Associate Dean at NIU Law

Categories: Faculty & Staff Homepage Uncategorized

Joseph Flynn
Joseph Flynn

Joe Flynn heard the news without any sense of surprise.

“It came out in late April that there was a disproportionate representation of African Americans and Latinos who have been contracting and, most importantly, dying from the virus,” says Flynn, an associate professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction.

“When I saw that headline, my first reaction was, ‘Of course. Of course that’s how it’s going to be. Obviously,’ ” he adds. “It’s just another example of how this history of systemic and institutional racism has shaped these contexts.”

Helping educators and their students to understand and combat that “how” drives Flynn and James Cohen, also an associate professor in the department.

Together with former NIU College of Education colleague Mike Manderino, they have presented three editions of the Social Justice Summer Camp. Year Four would have taken place this month if not for COVID-19.

But the pandemic will not stop the three from maintaining the momentum they ignited in 2017.

A series of podcasts will debut in July, first with exclusive access for DeKalb Community Unit School District 428 and Elgin U-46 and later made available across the internet.

“It was essential. We had to come up with something,” Flynn says. “If we cancel, we’re going to lose steam, and we don’t want to go an entire year without anyone hearing from the Social Justice Summer Camp at NIU.”

Flynn, Cohen and Manderino will record the introductory podcast to set the stage; each then will record his own podcast on topics of race, undocumented immigrants and literacy, respectively.

James Cohen
James Cohen

Previously booked keynote speakers for the face-to-face summer camp also will contribute podcasts as will College of Education faculty members Daryl DugasKaty Jaekel and Melanie Koss, along with Sandy Lopez, coordinator for Undocumented Student Support at the NIU Office of Academic Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, among others.

Topics will include the school-to-prison pipeline; the intersection of race, gender, socioeconomic status and belief systems; LGBTQ students; policies regarding English Language Learners; the multiculturalism of young adult literature; and more.

Campers from the first three years also are being asked to provide 30- to 45-second reflections on their experiences – their “aha!” moments, their epiphanies – for use during the podcast series.

“The topics are meaningful and interesting, and the people we’ve invited are very passionate about their respective topics,” Cohen says. “They’re going to deliver the information in an interesting way.”

“I have no doubt that the guests will all have amazing things to say,” Flynn adds. “Some will be fiery and feisty. Some will be thoughtful and contemplative. Some will be really practically oriented. Some will be larger explorations of theory.”

Meanwhile, podcasting offers multiple benefits.

“It’s an opportunity to not only honor our partnerships with these districts that have been so instrumental in helping the camp grow,” Flynn says, “but at the same time, we do also have to balance that with the need to continue to grow, so the podcasts can become a great advertising or recruitment tool to expand the profile of the camp and hopefully help it to get bigger.”

Reaching and perhaps changing the hearts and souls of educators is just as crucial this summer as in the past three years – if not even more urgent.

COVID-19. Ahmaud Arbery. George Floyd.

“Social justice, at the end of the day, is about working to bring about equitable relations,” Flynn says, “so that everyone in the community has the ability to grow and receive the services and the supports they need in that process, as well as ameliorating past wrongs.”

Looking critically at 400 years of history since Europeans first arrived in the Americas can provide a foundation for comprehending current events, the professors say, by revealing the racism inherent in everything from housing to health.

It explains why some people think that African Americans and Latinos are falling victim to COVID-19 in greater numbers, they say, because of four centuries of believing that those populations are inferior – four centuries of “white folks and non-white folks being pitted against each other” through both law and social practices.

Africans brought to North America as slaves once outnumbered whites in some places in the South – Charleston, South Carolina, for example – which, Cohen says, caused great concern for white people.

Those fears resulted in increasingly restrictive and dehumanizing laws

“A common belief is that all they had to do was have several successful rebellions across the South, and the whole structure of society would crumble,” he says. “But the plantation owners and colonial lawmakers were strategic and conniving, and constantly pitted people against each other. Despite several rebellions indeed occurring, society did not change. Instead, it became more severe in its treatment of Africans and later African Americans.

Social Justice Summer Camp 3.0 in 2019

Flynn and Cohen cite the 1676 Bacon’s Rebellion, led by Nathaniel Bacon, a white former indentured servant.

Frustrated with the actions of colonial Virginia elites, Bacon assembled a rebellion of former indentured servants, poor whites, free Africans and enslaved Africans – arguably, the professors say, the first interracial and interclass rebellion in the North American British colonies that would become the United States.

Although the rebellion did not last long, it prompted lawmakers to begin approving policies that restricted the rights of blacks across the board and further cemented a racial hierarchy in the colonies.

On the other hand, white participants either were given light sentences or exonerated.

Centuries later, Flynn and Cohen say, those attitudes remain and manifest themselves through “real and serious” race oppression, language oppression, economic oppression and beyond.

That strategy of divide-and-conquer has been used since then to significant effect, they add, citing the presidential campaigns of Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush, and attributing those examples to White House recordings and the recollections of campaign strategist Lee Atwater.

Cohen and Flynn agree that President Trump has, unfortunately, also employed these strategies to great consequence.

“Throughout the history of the United States, nearly every single policy can be looked at through the lens of race,” Cohen says.

“If you peel back the onion one layer – you don’t even have to peel back two layers, just one – and you look at the policies that have been put in place for the last 400 years, you can’t not see how we are living the direct results of those last 400 years,” he adds. “You can’t not see it because they lead to each other and they compound each other.”

Mike Manderino
Mike Manderino

During the current coronavirus, reports that children from low-income schools and households lacked the technology for successful distance learning were not unexpected. Some schools are wealthier than others, Cohen says, and the virus simply “exacerbates the inequities that already exist.”

Adults from oppressed communities also are suffering from the pandemic for more dire reasons.

“They are in the service industry a lot more than others, due to the history of systemic racism,” Cohen says, “and since they’re in the service industry, they’re being confronted with people who are ill, and then they get ill themselves, and then they bring it home and give it to their families, and on and on and on.”

If everyone truly is “in this together,” as the TV commercials insist now, maybe some good will come from the situation.

“My hope,” Flynn says, “is that this shakes policymakers and community members, especially those outside of these highly affected communities, into doing something different or at least changing the conversation from being about what people don’t do to being about what impedes people’s ability to do something.”

Can it happen? Both would like to think so.

The United States is seeing “a burgeoning number of politicians at the local, state and federal levels who are far more critical and much more comfortable with exercising their voices,” Flynn says, as well as “more and more people out there who are frustrated.”

Much depends on whether those voices do reach into legislative bodies, whether in government or in schools.

Ariel Owens
Social Justice Summer Camp 3.0 in 2019

“We need to have policy makers and curriculum planners who are critical enough to think about how these historical and current realities are shaping the life chances of people,” Flynn says. “If we honestly don’t give a damn, then just be up front about it and say, ‘You know what, there are the haves and have-nots,’ and just call it a day. But we can’t really do that because of the very values that we say, as a nation, we uphold.”

He calls himself neither optimistic nor pessimistic.

“I am hopeful – you can never lose hope – but I am trying to balance my hope with the recognition of this history of efforts toward justice being thwarted in some way, shape or form,” he says. “Either policies get watered down in the policymaking process, or policies get rejected after a new administration or new regime comes in.”

Flynn can envision a path forward.

“Probably the most important thing that’s going to have to happen is that the interests of rural America, particularly white, working-class rural America, are going to have to start seeing how their interests and needs are very, very similar to those in urban America,” he says.

“Once those two groups can begin to see how their fates have been linked and manipulated for 400 years, I think that can provide the basis for a sea change in the ways in which we interact with each other and the ways we think about each other’s politics,” he adds.

“Will it happen within the next election? No. Will it happen over the next 20 years? Probably, because people are getting sick of things in all directions, and I think when people finally get to that feeling of, ‘Oh, we are all being manipulated and pitted against each other,’ and start letting their defenses down, perhaps then people can understand.”

Date posted: June 17, 2020 | Author: | Comments Off on Social Justice Summer Camp 4.0 turns to podcasts to continue vital momentum

Categories: Community Education Faculty & Staff Homepage Parents Uncategorized

There’s a lot more to urban wildlife than squirrels, geese and raccoons. American toads, blue-spotted salamanders, red foxes and coyotes all make their homes in urban or suburban areas, including DeKalb and the Chicago suburbs.  

Find out more about how scientists study these animals and how humans and pets can safely coexist with them at the next Northern Illinois University Online STEM Café with John Vanek, Ph.D. Candidate in the NIU Department of Biological Sciences. The café will take place online via Adobe Connect on June 24, 2020 at 6 p.m. 

For log-in details and to register for this free two-hour event, visit 

John Vanek is a doctoral candidate in Biolgoical Sciences and will urban wildlife ecology and conservation during an upcoming STEM Café.

John Vanek is a wildlife biologist and urban ecologist. He has a B.S. in Wildlife Science from the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, an M.S. in Biology and is currently a doctoral candidate in Biological Sciences at Northern Illinois University. His doctoral research focuses on the ecology and conservation of urban wildlife in the suburbs of Chicago. 

For the STEM Café, Vanek plans to discuss urban wildlife ecology and conservation, especially species that are common in urban areas and those secretive species that thrive in urban areas but that few know about (such as coyotes).  

He’ll share ways to coexist with backyard wildlife, how to attract backyard wildlife that is wanted and how to dissuade unwanted backyard wildlife. Vanek will also share photos that he has taken during his research and will discuss how scientists use motion triggered cameras to study urban wildlife. 

Vanek says the audience might be surprised to learn that coyotes are not the big bad wolf and that they are much smaller than most people think. 

Wildlife science is about balancing the needs of humans and wildlife,” Vanek concludes. 
To register for this free, 2-hour event, go to You’ll receive a link to the event in your confirmation email. Click the link to join the meeting by 5:50 p.m. The online room opens at 5:30 p.m., and the presentation begins promptly at 6 p.m. On a computer, the Chrome browser works best, and you will be asked to download the Adobe Connect app. For tablets and mobile phones, go to your app store and download the Adobe Connect mobile app before attending. You’ll be able to listen to the speakers and have a chance to type in your questions. 

This STEM Café is sponsored by NIU STEAM, in the Northern Illinois University Division of Outreach, Engagement and Regional Development, in partnership with the DeKalb Citizens’ Environmental Commission. 

For more information, contact Judith Dymond, Ed.D., at 815-753-4751 or email [email protected]Learn more about NIU STEM Cafés at 

Date posted: June 17, 2020 | Author: | Comments Off on June 24 NIU Online STEM Café explores backyard wildlife 

Categories: Community Faculty & Staff Homepage Liberal Arts and Sciences Students Uncategorized