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An upcoming Unity Walk aims to bring people together to better understand one another and our own implicit bias.

University students, faculty and staff are invited to walk together with members of the DeKalb community in the fifth annual event beginning at 5 p.m. Sept. 20 in the MLK Commons. Remarks will begin at 5:15 p.m., followed by the walk at 5:45 p.m. and refreshments and a round table discussion themed around implicit bias at 6:30 p.m. in the Holmes Student Center.

“The event has gained momentum over the years, and we want to continue to make it encompassing for all,” said NIU Police Deputy Chief Darren Mitchell.

The NIU Police Department hosts the event along with DeKalb Police and campus and community leaders.

“We want to have an event that basically brings people together to show there are more similarities in all of us than differences, give people a chance to see one another face-to-face, speak with one another, laugh with one another, dialogue with one another,” Mitchell said. “Spend some time with someone you otherwise wouldn’t get to know in your community and open up and build bridges.”

Following the same route as last year, the walk will leave from MLK Commons and go up Normal Drive to Lucinda through Greenbriar and back to MLK Commons.

Those involved in planning the event this year grew to include leaders from DeKalb High School and Kishwaukee Community College, said Kelly Wesener Michael, associate vice president for Student Affairs and Dean of Students.

“I’m honored to be part of this important event and thrilled to see it evolve into a tradition over the past five years,” Wesener Michael said. “We look forward to welcoming everyone to our campus as we stand together in unity and celebrate the diversity of our communities.”

The event began five years ago following protests in Missouri over the death of Michael Brown, a resident of Ferguson, Mo. Brown was killed by a police officer, resulting in national news.

NIU Police Chief Tom Phillips, along with DeKalb Police Chief Gene Lowery and New Hope Baptist Church Pastor Joseph Mitchell created a Unity March to bring the university and DeKalb communities together.

It’s still about bringing people together, but a “walk” better describes the intention, Mitchell said. As opposed to voicing concerns or protesting, it’s about communicating, learning about one another and breaking down barriers.

“The walk has enabled students and community members to engage in conversation while they walk and even after with the discussions that we’ve had,” said Vernese Edghill-Walden, chief diversity officer at NIU.

“In previous years, the post-walk discussions have given us tools on how we can better engage or communicate with each other, and we hope to do the same this year.”

Date posted: September 3, 2018 | Author: | Comments Off on Community to come together for fifth annual Unity Walk

Categories: Alumni Centerpiece Community Events Faculty & Staff Students

The U.S. Department of Education has awarded NIU’s Center for Southeast Asian Studies (CSEAS) nearly $2.5 million over the next four years to continue promoting the study and research of Southeast Asian languages and countries. This is the sixth time CSEAS has received such funding.

Eric Jones

“NIU has long been a recognized leader in the field of Southeast Asian studies. Being given the Title VI designation and funding allows us to continue that distinguished tradition,” said CSEAS Acting Director Eric Jones.

Title VI is a provision of the 1965 Higher Education Act funding centers for area studies, which serve as vital national resources for world regional knowledge and foreign language training. National Resource Centers (NRCs) provide high-caliber area studies content training and research while Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) centers deliver specialized language training.

“Since its founding in 1963, CSEAS has been built around a desire to understand the region, engage its peoples and environments, and share those insights with the campus, national and global community,” Jones said. Under the direction of Director Emeritus Clark Neher, it successfully applied for its first Title VI grant in 1997.

Undergraduate and graduate students benefit from the federal funding. The center’s academic-year FLAS fellowships are competitive awards that provide monthly stipends and tuition-fee waivers to NIU students learning Southeast Asian languages on campus. This year, the center is awarding 15 FLAS fellowships to nine graduate students and six undergraduate students in fields from anthropology and biology to law and political science. The center also offers summer FLAS grants, which cover tuition and a stipend for travel and expenses for students to study Southeast Asian languages abroad. This past summer 14 NIU students traveled to Cambodia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand for immersion language study.

As NIU’s only comprehensive NRC, CSEAS stands out as a flagship program with significant institutional resources. The successful 2018 proposal, Teach Southeast Asia, combines the center’s long tradition of excellence in research and teaching about Southeast Asia with the closely overlapping priorities of the Department of Education.

“We look forward to new initiatives with NIU’s College of Education, among other grant projects, to further these goals,” Jones said.

Teaming up with the College of Education’s successful Educate Global program, CSEAS will send pre-service K-8 teachers to intern and teach English in Southeast Asian classrooms. Using its extensive government and education networks in the region, CSEAS will locate host schools and cooperating teachers. NRC funding will send three pre-service K-8 teachers and a COE faculty member to oversee instruction for one month in a school in Southeast Asia for three years of the grant.

As an interdisciplinary center, CSEAS is affiliated with more than 18 departments on campus and includes 28 faculty and staff associates on its center council. It offers an undergraduate minor and a graduate certificate in Southeast Asian studies.

Other Title VI Southeast Asia centers in the U.S. include Cornell University, University of California-Berkeley, University of California-Los Angeles, University of Michigan, University of Washington and University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Date posted: August 29, 2018 | Author: | Comments Off on Center for Southeast Asian Studies receives federal funding

Categories: Faculty & Staff Homepage Students

“I’m a First-Gen College Student” will bring together first-generation students, faculty, staff and recent alumni with Welcome Events from 4 to 6 p.m. Sept. 4 and from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sept. 5 at Founders Memorial Library.

To help launch the program, we’re telling just some of the many first-generation stories here at NIU.


Maybell Romero

Maybell Romero

Maybell Romero almost didn’t make it through her first year of college.

At the age of 17, she’d moved from Long Beach, California, to Ithaca, New York, to attend Cornell University, with plans to become a doctor or lawyer.

“I’d looked around and saw what was going on in the neighborhood and came to realize that, first off, education was the one way I could get out of there,” said Romero, an assistant professor of law at NIU, “and if I wanted to do some sort of service for my community and make places like this better I needed to go to school.”

Romero’s mother, who’d immigrated from Costa Rica as a teenager, had wanted her daughter to go to college, but expected her to stay close to home.

She’d raised Romero and her two sisters as a strict single mother, cleaning houses and working in factories to support her family. All along, she’d emphasized the importance of education.

Wanting distance from the neighborhood she grew up in, Romero secretly applied to Cornell and earned enough grants, scholarships and loans to make the move on her own. It would take her mother several months before she’d even speak to her again.

Romero felt alone, isolated, surrounded by what seemed like “a different universe” of people. “They were overwhelming white and well-to-do,” she remembered.

That first New York snow almost did her in. It had snowed overnight, and she had a 7:45 a.m. calculus class.

“It was painful. I had never had a winter ever in my life. Going outside and breathing in the air, it was beautiful, but it hurt because it was so cold,” Romero remembered. “I didn’t have the right clothes, and I wasn’t prepared… I just started to cry. ‘What am I doing? This is awful.’”

But she was stubborn and refused to give in.

“There’s no growth in that,” she told herself. “Good things aren’t always easy.”

After that first year, she got to know people, realized, “Everyone had difficulties, hard experiences in life.”

She went on to earn her Bachelor of Arts degree in 2003 and a Doctor of Law Degree from the University of California, Berkeley School of Law in 2006. During a decade of practice in Utah, she worked as both a state’s attorney and defense attorney, where she also handled child welfare and civil litigations matters.

She later became a visiting professor at the J.Reuben Clark Law School at Brigham Young University before joining the NIU law faculty in 2017.

Romero considers herself lucky to have been given the resources she needed in high school to pursue college and to have the encouragement of at least one teacher. The teacher told her, “I think you’re bored,” and challenged her with advanced studies.

“If there hadn’t been that one teacher, everything would have turned out differently,” she said.

Today, she hopes to be there for others, especially first-generation students.

“They’ve got to know they’re not alone,” she said. “They’re going to perhaps feel awkward and overwhelmed. What they should realize is it’s not just them. Lots of other people are out there in the same boat. Even if you don’t think they might be, they are.

“A lot of your professors are in the same boat as well. Chat with them during office hours. The resources are out there. They might not always be in your face, but they’re there.”


Enjoy food, music and giveaways and hear stories about the personal experiences of those who were the first in their families to attend four-year colleges at Welcome Events on Sept. 4 and 5 at Founders Memorial Library.

Learn about the resources available here, including the Breaking Barriers bi-weekly support group for first-generation college students, the Mentoring Valuable Peers program, future career events, supportive and accessible NIU policies, financial aid and scholarship information and more.

Are you a first-generation faculty or staff member? Drop in to a Welcome Event and take home a laminated “I am a first gen college graduate” door decoration to put in your office. Let first-generation college students know they’re not alone and support is available.

Date posted: August 29, 2018 | Author: | Comments Off on A first-generation college student: Maybell Romero

Categories: Faculty & Staff First-Generation Homepage Prospective Students Students

Traveling across the country to shine a light on unconscious bias, the Check Your Blind Spots mobile bus tour will stop at NIU.

A multimedia experience designed to help people recognize, acknowledge and minimize potential blind spots–unconscious biases that can narrow your vision and potentially influence your behaviors–the bus event will be from noon to 5 p.m. Sept. 10 in the MLK Commons.

Huskies are invited to walk through the bus, watch a series of 2- to 3-minute videos, take part in activities and reflect on real-world experiences. Hosted by the Office of Academic Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, the event also will include food and refreshments.

NIU is one of 100 stops on the bus tour, launched this fall by CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion–a group of more than 450 CEOs and 12 million employees pledged to advance diversity and inclusion within the workplace. As a lead signatory, PwC invested $10 million to create the educational tour for the current and future workforce.

PwC has a strong relationship with the NIU College of Business, which helped draw the tour to NIU, said Vernese Edghill-Walden, chief diversity officer at NIU.

Upon hearing about the tour, she eagerly pursued it for NIU.

“It’s been a great opportunity to partner with PwC, given the work that NIU has been doing around diversity, equity and inclusion and social justice education. This opportunity seemed like the natural next step for us to be involved with the national campaign to address implicit bias,” Edghill-Walden said. “We look forward to continuing our work around implicit bias throughout the year.”

Upon launching the tour, Tim Ryan, US chairman and senior partner of PwC and chair of the steering committee for the CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion, said it will help organizations build inclusive environments.

“We’re seeing unconscious bias education become an increasingly critical tool for diversity and inclusion strategies, but not all companies are equally equipped to roll out the training,” he said.

Event organizer Tamara Boston, a graduate research assistant with Academic Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, had a sneak peek at some of the videos featured in the mobile bus.

“The excitement from Vernese was contagious,” she said. “I was blown away from the first video.

“I thought about how I make snap decisions. Essentially, that’s what your implicit biases are. It’s all about how we have 40 million pieces of information, but we only use 40 to make a snap decision. We make a decision based on that 40 in an unconscious way. It’s to make us conscious of how we make decisions and maybe check ourselves on this.”

The theme will carry through to the Sept. 20 Unity Walk. Participants are encouraged to gather at 5 p.m. at the MLK Commons for remarks, followed by the walk at 5:45 p.m. and refreshments and a round table discussion at 6:30 p.m.

“We’ll create a challenge for participants to think about what you do before you do it,” Boston said, “and to take action. It’s a combination of awareness and action.”

Date posted: August 29, 2018 | Author: | Comments Off on Check Your Blind Spots mobile bus tour heading to campus

Categories: Centerpiece Community Events Faculty & Staff Students

History Professor Anne Hanley has a new book out that sheds light on the history of state finances and economic development in Brazil.

Hanley will deliver a talk on the book—titled The Public Good and the Brazilian State: Municipal Finance and Public Services in São Paulo, 1822-1930(University of Chicago Press)— during a reception from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. on Friday, September 7, at The Thurgood Marshall Gallery in Swen Parson Hall.

Who and what a government taxes, and how the government spends the money collected, are questions of primary concern to governments large and small, national and local. When public revenues pay for high-quality infrastructure and social services, citizens thrive and crises are averted. When public revenues are inadequate to provide those goods, inequality thrives and communities can verge into unrest—as evidenced by the riots during Greece’s financial meltdown and by the needless loss of life in Haiti’s collapse in the wake of the earthquake.

In The Public Good and the Brazilian State, Anne G. Hanley assembles an economic history of public revenues as they developed in 19th-century Brazil. Specifically, she investigates the financial life of the municipality to understand how the local state organized and prioritized the provision of public services, what revenues paid for those services, and what happened when the revenues collected failed to satisfy local needs. This deeply researched book offers valuable insights for anyone seeking to better understand how municipal finance informs histories of inequality and underdevelopment.

More information on the book is at https://press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/P/bo2784749

Date posted: August 29, 2018 | Author: | Comments Off on Professor Anne Hanley publishes new book

Categories: Accolades

James Cohen, Michael Manderino, Joseph Flynn and David Stovall
James Cohen, Michael Manderino, Joseph Flynn and David Stovall

Participants in last summer’s debut of NIU’s Social Justice Summer Campgave James CohenJoseph Flynnand Michael Manderino a clear directive as they departed for home.

Please, please do this again.

And so they did, even if they had planned to wait until 2019.

Year 2, held in June, went on to top its predecessor with livelier discussions and powerful speakers.

“Our campers had high expectations of us, and I think we met those expectations,” says Cohen, an associate professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction. “I wasn’t going to bed until midnight; Mike and Joe were going to bed a two o’clock in the morning. The teachers still wanted to talk. They were that hungry. It was quite remarkable.”

“I thought the camp this year was fabulous. It was a step beyond our inaugural year,” adds Flynn, also an associate professor in Curriculum and Instruction and associate director of Academic Affairs at the NIU Center for Black Studies.

“We had approximately 90 participants, up from 56 last year. The profile of the camp grew. Demand for the camp grew greatly, and there was even more demand for a third camp,” says Flynn, who first proposed the concept. “That alone made it wildly successful in our eyes.”

Like last year, teachers and other staff members came from DeKalb Community Unit School District 428 and Elgin School District U-46 for a candid and nonjudgmental exploration of multiculturalism, privilege, identity, oppression and more.

J.Q. Adams
J.Q. Adams

J.Q. Adams, Professor Emeritus at Western Illinois University, also returned for his second year as a keynote speaker.

New presenters this year included Fanshen Cox DiGiovanni, an award-winning playwright, actor, producer and educator who opened the camp with her one-woman show, “One Drop of Love,” an autobiographical sketch on her life as a biracial woman. “The performance was so beautiful,” Cohen says, “so powerful.”

David Stovall, professor of Educational Policy Studies and African-American Studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago, also made his camp debut.

Movies in the camp’s popular film series – the cause of those wee-hours conversations and open doors in New Hall rooms – included “Baltimore Rising” and “King in the Wilderness,” a 2018 documentary about the last three years of Martin Luther King Jr.’s life.

“After I screened ‘Baltimore Rising,’ about the uprising in Baltimore after the killing of Freddie Gray, we sat around for another hour just talking about officer-involved shootings and the Black Lives Matter movement vs. All Lives Matter,” Flynn says. “We were teasing out those dynamics and what they mean for us as a society, for us as educators and teachers and for us as individuals as well.”

The current U.S. political climate behooves the professors to continue offering the camp, Cohen says.

“Racism and discrimination have risen to such a level that teachers are hungry to understand this and to learn how to counteract it in their classrooms,” he says.

“After the election a year-and-a-half ago, students would come to their teachers crying, saying, ‘Are my parents going to be deported?’ or ‘Am I going to be deported?’ ” he adds.

“Whenever I ask teachers while I’m working in the schools, or teaching master’s-level coursework, ‘How many students came to you?’ – every single one of them raises their hand. Every single one. It’s instilled a lot of fear in culturally and linguistically diverse students, and we need to counteract all of this hate and misinformation spreading.”

Marcus Croom presenting “Developing Racial Literacies: Discussing the Consequential Social Practice View of Race.”
Marcus Croom presenting “Developing Racial Literacies: Discussing the Consequential Social Practice View of Race.”

Jennie Hueber, director of curriculum and instruction for District 428, believes that the NIU camp complements the ongoing effort in DeKalb to write a district diversity plan.

“The camp is just a way for us to really immerse ourselves in social justice, and it fits quite well with the work we’re doing here,” Hueber says.

“We talked about culturally responsive teaching, culturally responsive pedagogy, respecting and honoring a student’s humanity, no matter where they’re from or what they bring to the table,” she says. “There were moments when I felt very uncomfortable as a white, privileged woman, but that’s OK – it’s from that that I’m growing.”

DeKalb teachers returned to their classrooms energized, revitalized and equipped with more “funds of knowledge” and free resources to teach concepts of tolerance, she adds.

“We are embedding social justice standards within our curriculum and content,” Hueber says. “We are changing the anchor text that our students read so that they are more reflective of our diverse student population.”

Monthly activities will continue the conversation, she adds, on topics such as implicit bias: “How is implicit bias impacting decisions you make, how you interact with your students and how you interact with your students’ families?”

Such choices will create ripples and waves beyond District 428, she adds.

“Why push, and do the right thing?” she asks. “It’s because of our students and their needs that we need to be doing this. A school community is just a microcosm of our DeKalb community, of our state, of our country.”

James Cohen, Violet Tafari, Michael Manderino, Fanshen Cox DiGiovanni, Joseph Flynn
James Cohen, Violet Tafari, Michael Manderino,
Fanshen Cox DiGiovanni, Joseph Flynn

Ron Raglin, assistant superintendent for Educational Support Programs and Alignment in U-46, calls issues of social justice and equity “kind of in my DNA.”

Growing up in “a gang-infested, drug-infested neighborhood on the South Side,” Raglin triumphed over his surroundings with the support of an afterschool program that complemented the efforts of his parents.

“Unfortunately, many youth are not as fortunate. They don’t have a support structure that teaches them how to keep things together in spite of systemic, structural and intentional racism that ‘haunts you by day and hurries you by night,’ ” he says.

“We as adults have to do better. We have to be willing to step into the ‘gaps’ on behalf of students, and to advocate for equity and social justice,” he adds. “The NIU Social Justice Summer Camp exposes and examines, enlightens and enlists and equips and empowers the participants to provide the needed bridges for the ‘chasms’ that show up in students’ lives, especially students of color.”

He and Cohen, who have known each other for years, have conducted large social justice trainings at Bartlett and Streamwood high schools for hundreds of teachers. Raglin, Cohen and Flynn also stage year-round sessions throughout the Elgin district.

Proximity and affordability make the NIU camp a must-attend event, he says.

“I’m a big proponent of indigenous leadership and institutions that are grounded in the local, anthropological realities of people. It is both impractical and unwise to get on a plane with 47 other U-46 community members to go somewhere else in the country for training,” Raglin says.

“The Social Justice Summer Camp helps ground us historically in equity and social justice so that people cannot deny it. Here it was – and here it is. How do we respond to it? What do we want to happen? I’ve never had this level of authentic, transparent conversation,” he adds. “I can’t tell you how fired up the U-46 delegation is as we come into a new school year. A concrete example is that our Call to EQUITY Committee has mushroomed to 50-plus participants and counting.”

Joseph Flynn
Joseph Flynn

Coming to DeKalb also helps them to begin narrowing the achievement gap by first working to close “the opportunity gap.”

Forty-two percent of African-American students in U-46, for example, are in special education; by contrast, only 11 percent are in Advanced Placement classes.

“This is not a unique dilemma to just School District U-46,” Raglin says. “The NIU Social Justice Summer Camp pushes us beyond the social level to the deeper issues surrounding educational inequities that show up in disproportionality in enrollment of students of color in Advanced Placement, gifted, AVID, magnet programs, international baccalaureate, etc. This is where we find the stubborn realities of race and privilege.”

But teachers must accept that all cultures and ethnicities are gifted, Raglin adds, and need to aim for what he calls the “go” lane rather than “no,” “slow” or “flow lanes.” People in the “go” lane are very conscious of inequity and are trying to do something about it, he says.

“I say, ‘Hey, folks, here are the numbers. Here are the methods I use. Now, what are we going to do? What’s going to be our action?’ Our students only have one shot at this, and there is a fierce urgency right now,” Raglin says.

NIU’s camp also supports U-46 teachers in self-reflection, he says.

Teachers, like administrators and professors at the college level, don’t necessarily live in the same ZIP codes as students of color – and their experiences around people of color are limited, he says.

“As a result,” he says, “blind spots show up in classrooms at all levels around issues from race and ethnicity to sexual orientation and socioeconomic status. And many admit that they had ‘never thought about this.’ ”

Having taught Asian students during his 15 years teaching at the high school level in California, “it was a breath of fresh air to hear they myth about Asian students,” Raglin adds. “We’re grounded in the history of Asian students – the pressure on Asian students, Asians getting favorable treatment, Asians being held up as the model minority – whereas some are suffering in silence. They don’t want to be a doctor or an engineer. They just want to go paint.”

Revelations such as those are exactly why NIU provides the camp and will continue to do so as the professors leave just as energized and optimistic as the campers they’re working to reach.

“It shows me that this society will improve, that not everybody is close-minded, that not everybody is myopic,” Cohen says. “It gives me hope that the future can be multilingual and multicultural and multiethnic and open, and not just tolerant but accepting.”

“It’s not necessarily about giving teachers a binder full of lessons on social justice. It’s about gaining a little more knowledge and perspective, and it’s about seeing different problems, and even old problems, in different ways,” Flynn says. “It’s about knowing that there is a growing community of like-minded educators, and knowing that education is the space our community must use to understand what it means to be a democratic citizen in this great republic.”

Date posted: August 27, 2018 | Author: | Comments Off on Social Justice Summer Camp 2.0 pushes educators to confront issues of diversity

Categories: Faculty & Staff Homepage Students

How much work do members of the NIU Supermileage team put in?

“An excessive amount,” joked team president Josh Helsper, of St. Charles. “It’s a part-time job for me.”

The NIU Supermileage Team won second overall with its best-ever combined score, as well as the Endurance Award for the second year in a row and the fuel mileage prediction award at the SAE Supermileage Competition. Source: Northern Illinois University

A successful one, at that. The team recently earned its highest placement yet at the Society of Automotive Engineers Supermileage Competition in Marshall, Mich.

The competition pits teams of engineering students against one another. The students design, build and drive single-occupant, ultra fuel-efficient vehicles to compete for best design, highest fuel economy and greatest vehicle endurance.

The NIU team won second overall with its best-ever combined score, as well as the Endurance Award for the second year in a row and the fuel mileage prediction award at the June event. The NIU vehicle recorded an astounding 1,888 miles per gallon–a new team record.

Competing in the event since 2010, the team has placed in the top three nearly every year.

This summer’s 39th annual competition drew teams from 19 universities from throughout the world, including Penn State, Harvard, Texas A&M, Michigan Technological University and the University of Massachusetts.

“They’re up against other big-name schools, and here comes NIU,” said Donald Peterson, dean of the NIU College of Engineering and Engineering Technology.

NIU Supermileage Team member Lauren Bangert of Dunlap, Ill., tests out the driver’s seat of the vehicle. Source: Northern Illinois University

“Here’s a group of engineering students who are coming from a mid-tier engineering college and consistently come out on top over other top-tier universities. We can’t be prouder of those students. I think they are the epitome of what we graduate. Resourceful, practical, with a get-it-done attitude.”

With about 12 active members, the NIU team has had a solid core since its beginning, said Helsper, who begins his senior year this fall as a mechanical engineering major with an emphasis in sustainability. Helsper joined the team his freshman year to take on a unique challenge.

“It’s not something you see every day. It’s not a race car. It’s not an airplane. It really kind of piqued my curiosity with all of the extreme things that can go into it,” he said. “It’s on the far end of the spectrum of engineering and really taking it to the limit. I like trying to be as creative as I can be and really pushing the envelope a little bit.”

Each year, the team looks to recruit new members to improve on last year’s car.

“It’s like replacing boards on a ship,” Helsper said. “Eventually, it’s not the same ship. But no matter what, it still has the same shape and the same goal.”

What goal? First place, of course.

“I think it’s going to take a lot of grit and a lot of pretty crazy ideas, but I think we can get there,” Helsper said.

Team advisor Dave Schroeder, a professor of technology at NIU, said the team’s victories demonstrate the talent and abilities of NIU’s students.

“It also represents one of the great opportunities for our students to participate in hands-on engineering projects that build the technical and interpersonal skills that will help them in their careers,” he said.

Helsper has no doubt his efforts with the Supermileage Team helped him earn internships at Fermilab in Batavia.

But, he emphasized, it was a team effort.

“Dedication is everything,” he said. “That’s really what has helped us through, the dedication of people working on it, the willingness to forgo smaller pleasures like watching TV during the semester and putting that time into something that could make a difference in your life.”

Date posted: August 27, 2018 | Author: | Comments Off on ‘Here comes NIU’: Supermileage Team a force to be reckoned with

Categories: Centerpiece Faculty & Staff Students

“I’m a First-Gen College Student” will bring together first-generation students, faculty, staff and recent alumni with Welcome Events from 4 to 6 p.m. Sept. 4 and from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sept. 5 at Founders Memorial Library.

To help launch the program, we’re telling just some of the many first-generation stories here at NIU.


Mandy Wescott

Mandy Wescott

“Everyone seems so together.”

Mandy Wescott couldn’t escape that thought when she went to college as the first in her family.

“I slipped into the trap of judging my insides by everyone else’s outsides,” she remembered. She told herself, “Maybe I shouldn’t be here.”

It’s a familiar thought for many first-generation college students, a group expected to represent about half of the incoming freshmen at NIU. They often have a sort of imposter syndrome, this feeling of not quite belonging.

Wescott, along with other staff, faculty and students who were the first in their families to go to college, are sharing their stories to encourage first-generation students to seek them out, along with the many resources available to them at NIU.

“I was in my 30s when I went to college,” said Wescott, a program advisor in the College of Engineering and Engineering Technology. “Imagine someone who’s 18 feeling that, with everything that goes into being 18.

“Everybody’s lost. If you’ve never been in that situation, you’re doubly lost. We see you and hear you. Tell me what’s going on. Let me help you.”

Being the first in your family to attend college is something to be proud of, Wescott stresses.

Wescott’s path to Northern Illinois University–even to college in general–wasn’t typical or expected where she grew up in Grimsby, England.

Her parents worked hard in the blue-collar fishing town. Her father served in the military before working as a factory engineer, while her mother worked part-time on a food production line. An only child and an early and avid reader, Wescott grew up loving books.

“Going to college just wasn’t on anybody’s radar,” she said. “To be honest, at that point, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do except I knew I wanted to join the military. I didn’t want to work in a factory or store. There’s nothing wrong with that. I just didn’t want to, so I joined the military as a way of expanding my world.”

Wescott served 12 years in the Royal Air Force. Upon returning home, she worked in publishing for awhile, but education beckoned. Thanks to grants, a student loan and odd jobs cleaning houses and making pizza, coffee, whatever it took, she afforded a degree in English Literature from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland in 2001.

“Once I started along the education path, my parents were firmly in my corner,” she said. “They were fiercely proud.”

Still drawn to university life, Wescott came to the United State to study American Literature at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, earning her master’s degree there in 2003. As a graduate assistant, she taught a few literature and composition classes.

She then taught for awhile as an adjunct professor at the College of DuPage before becoming a success specialist at NIU in 2012. She recently landed her current position, where she enjoys working directly with students, many of whom are first-generation.

“Don’t be afraid to tell people you’re a first-generation college student,” she tells them. “It’s not a negative mark. It’s a great thing, and people want to help you succeed.”

They often feel added pressures. Many juggle family responsibilities with college. They feel like they should be working to support their families.

“They see their family making a lot of sacrifices or being really stressed out by the financing and paperwork and how the billing works,” Wescott said. “They feel the weight: ‘I’ve got to get through in four years because it’s a lot of money.’”

Wescott assures them it’s worth the investment, to take their time, be open-minded and enjoy the experience.

View your first-generation perspective as a strength, she tells them. You’ll have a lot to offer as a future mentor. You’re an asset at NIU.

“We’re richer for having them here,” she said.


Enjoy food, music and giveaways and hear stories about the personal experiences of those who were the first in their families to attend four-year colleges at Welcome Events on Sept. 4 and 5 at Founders Memorial Library.

Learn about the resources available here, including the Breaking Barriers bi-weekly support group for first-generation college students, the Mentoring Valuable Peers program, future career events, supportive and accessible NIU policies, financial aid and scholarship information and more.

Are you a first-generation faculty or staff member? Drop in to a Welcome Event and take home a laminated “I am a first gen college graduate” door decoration to put in your office. Let first-generation college students know they’re not alone and support is available.

Date posted: August 27, 2018 | Author: | Comments Off on A first-generation college student: Mandy Wescott

Categories: Engineering and Engineering Technology Faculty & Staff First-Generation Homepage Prospective Students Students

Pillow? Check.

Laundry hamper? Check.

Move-in app? Check.

Move-in Day went digital this fall as NIU Housing and Residential Services became one of the first housing programs nationally to fully implement an online mobile check-in app. The app allowed students to quickly check-in using their phones.

More than 95 percent of students overall checked in using the app, with 97 percent of new students–both freshmen and transfer students–and 91 percent of returning students taking advantage of it. In a post-check-in survey, more than 98 percent of respondents said they were satisfied with the check-in process.

“Not only is it creating great efficiency in terms of what they used to do on paper, it’s meeting students where they live–in a digital environment,” said Dan Pedersen, senior director of Housing and Residential Services. “It’s a fairly sophisticated and cutting-edge app for our students.”

Diana Kazimierski of Des Plaines, a junior studying chemistry, checked in from home the morning before she moved in.

When she arrived at Gilbert Hall, “They handed me my key, and I was ready to go,” she said. “It’s convenient, simple, and everything else was pretty easy, especially with Team NIU helping.”

Housing and Residential Services worked with the Disability Resource Center to ensure those without the ability to use an online application would have the resources they need to check-in.

Curt Grimes, application developer in Housing and Residential Services, first developed the app last year to test it out with about 30 percent of students. Because of the app’s success, Housing and Residential Services amped up the marketing this year.

Once on campus, students simply showed their check-in receipts on their phones, skipped the check-in line and picked up their room keys.

“I imagine some people checked in while they were waiting in their cars to unload,” said Grimes, who designed the app similar to those offered for early flight check-ins.

“The app itself is really a modification of our existing room sign-up system,” he said. “It kind of just evolved naturally.”

Jenna Merritt of Spring Grove, a junior studying nursing, checked in while getting a ride to campus.

“It’s a lot more convenient, a lot faster,” she said.

The new technology not only saves students’ time, it cuts back on the amount staff manpower and equipment needed, with fewer check-in computer systems having to be set up inside residence halls.

It also saves paper, with sustainability coming out a winner. Staff no longer need to print out at least five different forms, such as the student handbook and residence hall contract, for students to sign.

They sign them through the app.

“One of our goals for years has been to streamline the check-in process, to make it as seamless as possible and take away some of the stress that goes along with new beginnings,” said Tim Trottier, assistant director of Housing and Residential Services. “In a perfect world, we would have curbside check-in. People could get out of their cars and go right to their rooms and get settled.”

 

Date posted: August 27, 2018 | Author: | Comments Off on Move-in Day went mobile with new phone app

Categories: Faculty & Staff Homepage Students

Mary Beth Henning and Sadie Filipski
Mary Beth Henning and Sadie Filipski

When Sadie Filipski heard an offer to assist in research that she knew would impact her eventual career as an elementary school teacher, she volunteered immediately.

“Going into something so relatable to what I’m going to be doing was so exciting,” says Filipski, a senior Elementary Education major. “I wanted to jump at the opportunity to have knowledge about something so applicable to where I’m going in my future, and I was so happy to have this opportunity to be a part of something so new in my field.”

The topic: new financial literacy standards in Illinois mandated in 2016. The professor: Mary Beth Henning, a member of the faculty of the Department of Curriculum and Instruction and one of the state task force members who wrote the social science standards.

Henning and colleague Tom Lucey, a professor in the School of Teaching and Learning at Illinois State University, had collected survey data over the last 18 months from 126 pre-service licensure candidates on their perceptions of the new standards.

“Sadie had the chance to help me analyze all of those surveys,” Henning says. “She’s an amazing student. She was so enthusiastic about financial literacy and about helping elementary students to better understand money management.”

Filipski was one of three College of Education students who participated in the Summer Research Opportunities Program, which gives NIU undergraduates the opportunity to conduct paid, faculty-mentored, research during the summer months.

Jack King, Myiesha Hunt and Carol Walther
Jack King, Myiesha Hunt and Carol Walther

Myiesha Hunt (Early Childhood Education) and Marvin Payton Jr. (Kinesiology) joined her Aug. 10 in presenting their work at the Summer Research Symposium, held in the Duke Ellington Ballroom of the Holmes Student Center.

NIU’s Office of Student Engagement and Experiential Learning sponsored the event, which showcased undergraduates who have participated in faculty-mentored research, artistry or other engaged learning projects.

Hunt worked with NIU Sociology faculty Carol Walther and Jack King on a community project involving law enforcement and mental health services.

Payton, meanwhile, conducted water tests of the Kishwaukee River throughout DeKalb County with Department of Geology and Environmental Geosciences graduate student Surya Freeman.

“I tested the quality of DeKalb water in the East Lagoon, other streams and rivers on campus and around DeKalb County,” says Payton, a sophomore.

“We tested onsite for temperature, pH and electric connectivity, and we brought back samples to the lab to test for nitrogen, phosphates and other things,” he adds. “We found out that some sites are very high in nitrates and phosphates that come from farming.”

Marvin Payton
Marvin Payton

Learning the standards of research should boost his career potential, he says. “This is nowhere near my field,” he says, “but I’ve been always been interested in research, and this gives me a lab presence.”

Filipski also is walking away with a deeper understanding of the research process.

“I learned about how you have to complete training to conduct human subjects research; I took an online training course with questions that involved the history of people and the ethical situations involving research,” she says. “It really opened my eyes to the fact that research is important, and it really made my research experience real: I’m working with this thing that is happening now.”

Her analysis of the survey data showed that “the majority of pre-service teachers agree with concepts regarding buying goods and services; saving and financial investing; and making informed spending choices.”

Survey respondents also indicated an interest in “how people have trouble saving enough for financial emergencies.”

“If they agree with concepts like these, it could show that teachers value teaching financial literacy,” Filipski says, “and it could mean including innovative teachings strategies in their classrooms.”

One of those innovations is teaching the financial literacy standards through the arts.

Mary Beth Henning
Mary Beth Henning

“Exposing my students to pictures of poverty, consumerism, marketing and bartering involves experience-based learning,” she says. “It helps them develop socially, encourages critical thinking and meets the needs of diverse learning styles.”

Henning loved that.

“Sadie went the extra mile, looking for more multicultural artwork to share with elementary students that would help them better understand financial literacy,” says the professor, who formerly served as a co-director of the NIU Center for Economic Education.

“The artwork she found was amazing. Kyrssi Staikidis, as associate professor in the NIU School of Art and Design, gave her some recommendations of websites to look at for multicultural artists,” Henning adds, “so I learned a lot from Sadie, too. It was a fabulous summer.”

Date posted: August 22, 2018 | Author: | Comments Off on COE students dive into summer research

Categories: Education Faculty & Staff Homepage Prospective Students Research Students Uncategorized

“I’m a First-Gen College Student” will bring together first-generation students, faculty, staff and recent alumni with Welcome Events from 4 to 6 p.m. Sept. 4 and from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sept. 5 at Founders Memorial Library.

To help launch the program, we’re telling just some of the many first-generation stories here at NIU.


Mark Frank

Mark Frank

One Saturday years ago, a young Mark Frank begrudgingly spent his morning digging in the yard with his brother to fix a leaking water pipe.

The family couldn’t afford to hire someone, and the house had no water. The two finished up digging just in time to play in an afternoon baseball game.

“If you don’t want to do those things when you’re older, make sure you get a good education,” their father told them at the time. “Then get a good job so you can pay some schmuck like me to do the job.”

They listened. Frank’s brother was slightly older, but both ended up earning bachelor’s degrees the same year as the first in their family to go to college.

Frank, a professor in the Department of Geology and Environmental Geosciences at NIU, earned his Bachelor of Science from State University of New York College at Fredonia in 1994. He earned a master’s degree in 1996 and a Ph.D. in 2001 from the University of Maryland.

Times were different for Frank’s parents growing up in the 1960s. His father went from high school to the U.S. Air Force to working as a jet engine mechanic, while his mother took jobs in retail.  You could make a living without a college degree back then.

While raising their sons, they saw economic decline.

“They encouraged us to do well in school, which is not what they got from their parents,” Frank remembered. “We had to learn to do a lot of things. If the muffler fell off the car, we had to get a new one and put it on ourselves. We couldn’t afford to take it to the dealer or mechanic.”

He’s thankful for that experience as it drove him through college. He developed a fascination with how things work, an understanding of what it would take to get him where he needs to be.

Frank started out in electrical engineering, but changed his major after an organic chemistry class challenged him to identify unknown liquids and powders. He liked figuring things out on his own–basically, research. He also knew he’d want to teach one day.

He didn’t have much money, but he made it work.

“You got used to not having things other people have,” he said. “It didn’t really matter. What really mattered for me, anyway, was I was learning new things.”

Frank encourages students to find something they enjoy doing, perhaps even take classes outside their major to help them grow. A philosophy class he took in college still sticks with him.

With less state funding for education, today’s students face a larger financial burden, often having to take out substantial loans and work to afford college, Frank said.

“When you come to college as a first-generation student, I think it’s good to have your sights set on a goal, not just attend college, but think to yourself, ‘Where do I see myself?’ There are lots of us here that want to help,” he said.

“We want the students to succeed. I’ve talked to students about my journey. It shows them, especially first-generation students, this is something obtainable. This can be done. It might not be an easy path, but it’s there.”


Enjoy food, music and giveaways and hear stories about the personal experiences of those who were the first in their families to attend four-year colleges at Welcome Events on Sept. 4 and 5 at Founders Memorial Library.

Learn about the resources available here, including the Breaking Barriers bi-weekly support group for first-generation college students, the Mentoring Valuable Peers program, future career events, supportive and accessible NIU policies, financial aid and scholarship information and more.

Are you a first-generation faculty or staff member? Drop in to a Welcome Event and take home a laminated “I am a first gen college graduate” door decoration to put in your office. Let first-generation college students know they’re not alone and support is available.

Date posted: August 22, 2018 | Author: | Comments Off on A first-generation college student: Mark Frank

Categories: Faculty & Staff Homepage Prospective Students Students

“I’m a First-Gen College Student” will bring together first-generation students, faculty, staff and recent alumni with Welcome Events from 4 to 6 p.m. Sept. 4 and from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sept. 5 at Founders Memorial Library.

To help launch the program, we’re telling just some of the many first-generation stories here at NIU.


Christy Dorsey Johnson

Christy Dorsey Johnson

Christy Dorsey Johnson transferred colleges seven times. At one point, she and her young daughter lived in her car.

It took her about 14 years to finally earn her bachelor’s degree, another two years to earn a master’s degree. But she did it.

“It’s been a journey, and the journey continues,” said Johnson, an assistant director of admissions for regional recruitment and an admissions counselor at NIU since 2015. A Ph.D. is next on her list. “My life has been one of persistence.”

Johnson grew up splitting time between her mother’s home in Chicago and her father’s in Puerto Rico. She watched how hard they worked, how much they sacrificed to support their family. They didn’t complain, just did what they had to do to get by.

Johnson knew she wanted to go to college despite the fact no one in her family had gone before her.

“There was never a question of, ‘Will I go to school?’ That was just something I knew I was doing,” she said. “It was just something in me.”

Determined to go out of state despite her parents suggesting otherwise, Johnson first attended the University of Maryland Eastern Shore where she fell in love with the diverse population. She hadn’t really prepared financially, took out student loans.

Told by her family to consider business, she met with an advisor, who asked her which area of business she’d like to pursue.

“I thought she was slightly trying to make me feel uneducated,” she remembered. “I had no idea that business had so many emphases, nor did she give me any idea that it did. I got so irritated with the questions that I changed my major to education.”

Bilingual, she thought she’d become a Spanish teacher. But, after her freshman year, the university discontinued her major.

So she transferred to Central Michigan University simply because a friend was there. After about a year and half, her financial aid wasn’t cutting it.

“My mom is like, ‘Bring it on home.’ I wanted to always take my own route. Nobody could tell me anything,” she said.

“I should have listened to my parents, but I felt like they didn’t go to college so they couldn’t give me that guidance. I’m the type of person who needs someone who’s been there, done that before. Even if someone hasn’t been there, if they have God-given common sense, they can give you advice.”

It would be a few more transfers–to Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, Ill., Chicago State University (for a semester), back to Olivet, back to the University of Maryland Eastern Shore and finally to Governors State University in University Park, Ill.–before she earned her degrees.

She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies from Governors State University in 2009 and earned her master’s degree in communications and training there two years later. Through the years, she’s volunteered countless hours at nonprofit organizations and co-authored a book, “College Planning: An Interactive Workbook Designed to Prepare Students for College.”

It’s not a winding road she’d recommend, especially considering the amount of student loan debt she accumulated, but she’s proud of how far she’s come.

“I am a super-persistent person,” Johnson said. “I’m a believer. I’m a person always pushing.”

In the midst of all the transfers, Johnson was working and raising her daughter, now 17-year-old Aiyana, as a single parent. The pair even overcame a stretch in 2005 in Phoenix, Arizona, in which they were homeless.

“I’m going to restaurants in the morning, gas stations, washing up and sending her to daycare. It was super scary sleeping in the car,” she remembered.

“At least we did have a car. It was a difficult time. My family didn’t know we were living like that. I like to do it on my own. I got myself into this situation. I’ll get myself out… My daughter thought we were on some adventure, God bless her. I was going to do what I had to do. I can’t afford to give up. Someone is depending on me.”

Now college shopping, her daughter aims to study international business and Asian Studies. Aiyana taught herself Korean, founded the nonprofit organization The Concrete Rose Society to help provide teen mentorship training for girls ages 10 to 18 and wrote a memoir about her mother. She published the book with the help of her step-father, Benjamin Johnson, whom Christy married last July.

“We’ve struggled. We’ve been homeless. We’ve gone through a lot. To look back on the words she put inside that book, that she put about me and the strength she sees in me..,” Christy said with tears in her eyes, “… I just can’t even tell you. I knew she was paying attention, but I didn’t she was paying attention so much.”

Her struggles, she feels, help her connect with the students she advises, many of whom also are first-generation students.

She just tries to be there, to listen and to answer questions.

“They should just seek as much information and as many resources as early as possible and don’t be afraid to ask questions,” she said.

“You don’t necessarily have to chase that money field. You want to chase passion so when you get the paycheck, it’s a bonus. I love what I do. It’s not the highest paid job, but God provides for me and my family. I get to go out and talk to people, meet different people from different backgrounds. I enjoy what I do.”


Enjoy food, music and giveaways and hear stories about the personal experiences of those who were the first in their families to attend four-year colleges at Welcome Events on Sept. 4 and 5 at Founders Memorial Library.

Learn about the resources available here, including the Breaking Barriers bi-weekly support group for first-generation college students, the Mentoring Valuable Peers program, future career events, supportive and accessible NIU policies, financial aid and scholarship information and more.

Are you a first-generation faculty or staff member? Drop in to a Welcome Event and take home a laminated “I am a first gen college graduate” door decoration to put in your office. Let first-generation college students know they’re not alone and support is available.

Date posted: August 20, 2018 | Author: | Comments Off on A first-generation college student: Christy Dorsey Johnson

Categories: Faculty & Staff First-Generation Homepage Prospective Students Students