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On Thursday, Aug. 30, Acting President Lisa C. Freeman will participate in an open forum from 2 to 3:30 p.m. in the Altgeld Auditorium, where she will share her vision for the future. Time will be set aside for questions and answers.

The session will be streamed live at, as well as recorded and made available online for those unable to attend. After downloading and installing the free Adobe Connect software, viewers can follow the link to login to the live stream with their NIU credentials or join as a guest.

Employees are encouraged to attend this event in order to actively engage with Dr. Freeman.

The university has authorized release time for employee attendance at this event, including hourly Operating Staff, subject to operational requirements.

Supervisors of areas with limited access to email should confirm that this printable notice has been either placed in employees’ mailboxes or posted in a common area so that all employees are aware of the release time for the event.

Following the open forum, a survey will be made available to gather additional feedback. Results of the survey will be compiled and provided to the trustees. For those employees who do not have readily-available access to a computer to take the electronic survey, the University has additionally authorized release time of one hour in order to locate a computer and take the survey, subject to approval by the employee’s supervisor based on operational requirements.  As an alternative, a paper copy of the survey can be sought from the Office of General Counsel by calling 815-753-1774 or visiting 330 Altgeld Hall.

For more information on the process, timing and opportunities for feedback, see

Date posted: August 29, 2018 | Author: | Comments Off on Campus urged to attend Presidential Open Forum

Categories: Faculty & Staff Homepage Students

NIU and Northwestern Medicine announced today that they have signed a letter of intent for Northwestern to provide comprehensive healthcare expertise, by way of staffing, operating and managing Health Services at NIU.

“Partnering with Northwestern Medicine will allow us to provide our students access to world-class health care here on campus and throughout Northwestern’s expansive network,” said NIU Acting President Lisa Freeman. “As one of the largest and most respected medical systems in the region, Northwestern Medicine has the capacity and capability to provide our students with a much broader range of high quality medical services both here in DeKalb and elsewhere.”

NIU faculty and staff may recall that Health Services was one area identified in the university’s Program Prioritization process as an opportunity for transformation. The partnership will expand upon Northwestern’s local offerings, which include Kishwaukee Hospital and several DeKalb-area centers for specialty care related to diagnostic imaging, neuroscience, cancer, diabetes and mental health.

Northwestern will assume responsibility for sports medicine services beginning July 1, 2018, while both parties hope to have a final agreement on all Health Services operations by early 2019.

“Thanks to this new partnership, NIU student-athletes will continue to receive the highest level of healthcare, and will now be able to take advantage of a broad range of specialists offered through Northwestern Medicine,” said NIU Associate Vice President/Director of Athletics Sean Frazier. “The well-being of every student-athlete comes first, and with Northwestern Medicine officially a part of the Huskies’ team, I am confident the level of care NIU students receive, as well as access to the doctors and services they need, will be second to none.”

Date posted: June 7, 2018 | Author: | Comments Off on NIU announces partnership with Northwestern Medicine

Categories: Uncategorized

La Vonne Neal

La Vonne Neal

Teacher. Manager. Soldier. Leader. Mentor. Athlete. Scholar.

Of the many hats La Vonne I. Neal has worn over her 40-year career in national defense, corporate America and higher education, the one she values most is “collaborator.”

“My professional brand is, in one sentence, that I’m a mission-focused, data-informed, transformational leader. I inspire people,” says Neal, associate vice president in the NIU Division of Administration and Finance.

“But my greatest joy is that I’ve been able to collaborate with people, and that means scholars, faculty, staff and other colleagues. Their success is the measure of my success,” she adds. “What an amazing experience this has been.”

After eight years at NIU – the first five as dean of the College of Education – Neal will retire July 1.

Yet her “significant and lasting positive impact on our university community” will remain, NIU Acting President Lisa Freeman says.

“La Vonne Neal and I started at NIU on the same day in 2010,” Freeman says. “Since then, I have seen Dr. Neal’s energy, creativity and organizational skills inform positive change not only in the College of Education, where she served as dean, but also across NIU. Dr. Neal has exhibited a strong personal commitment to the development of human potential.”

Neal’s recent work in process improvement and operational effectiveness has “helped the university improve our service to students and other members of the university community,” Freeman adds. “Dr. Neal has been a valuable resource to units interested in process re-engineering.”

Her legacy in the Division of Administration and Finance began with the drafting of a blueprint for the transformation process, instituting a Lean Six Sigma methodology with academia nuances.

During Fiscal Year 2017, she led 10 concurrent process re-engineering projects across 143 units with 244 project members.

“Thanks to Dr. Neal’s thoughtful efforts and dedication, Administration and Finance has a strong framework for process reengineering that will serve us well in the years to come,” says Sarah McGill, NIU vice president for Administration and Finance and chief financial officer.

“We can change a thing in many ways, but we never had a framework to do that here. My team and I had to develop that actual framework, and that’s what I’ve done my entire career – that which made things easier, if you will,” Neal says.

“Now there is at NIU a roadmap for problem-solving. Now we have a quantitative history. We have developed a process for transparency and for visibility, and we collected and generated data to inform the institution during the budget development process,” she adds. “When you think of that, that is huge – and we did it in three years. That’s high impact in a truncated period of time.”

Neal’s career has centered on “high impact.”

Known and respected nationally for her scholarship in the need for culturally responsive teaching, she came to NIU from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, where she served as dean of the College of Education and implemented a new culture of assessment throughout its programs.

Neal eventually published “Diversifying the Teacher Workforce: Preparing and Retaining Highly Effective Teachers” in 2014 with national colleagues Christine E. Sleeter and Kevin K. Kumashiro.

One year earlier, Neal had begun mentoring three female members of the NIU ROTC.

Under her guidance, Karina Avila, Maria Colompos and Shanell Walter – none was a College of Education student – went on to conduct research, present at academic conferences and co-author a book titled, “Borders, Bras and Battles: A Practical Guide to Mentor Undergraduate Women to Achieve Career Success.”

Military service is in her background as well.

After earning her bachelor’s degree in political science from LaSalle University, Neal entered the U.S. Army as a second lieutenant in military intelligence. She rose to the rank of captain as she gained experience in leadership and strategic planning.

Leaving the Army for management positions with corporations such as Johnson & Johnson, Kraft Foods and Miller Brewing Co. sparked her “personal commitment to the development of human potential.”

She later enrolled at the University of Texas at Austin, where she earned a master’s degree in special education and a Ph.D. in special education with an emphasis in multicultural education. Following five years as a social studies teacher in Texas, she joined the faculty at Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas.

During her time in the NIU College of Education, Neal realigned academic departments, celebrated U.S. News and World Report rankings for online graduate education and nurtured some members of her team into higher roles.

Modeling leadership through her capacity for talent identification and inspiration is important to her, she says.

“Leadership is not about me,” she says. “It’s about people.”

Vernese Edghill-Walden, senior associate vice president for Academic Diversity and chief diversity officer at NIU, calls Neal “an inspiring colleague, scholar, motivator, mentor and sponsor.”

“She has been a champion for equity and inclusion in her scholarship and throughout her professional career,” Edghill-Walden says. “Since I arrived in 2015, Dr. Neal has shown her unwavering support for the Office of Academic Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.”

Furthermore, Neal’s generosity of time – “invested in so many students, faculty and professional staff, not just at NIU but around the world” – demonstrates her consistent advocacy for research, scholarship, knowledge creation and leadership.

“As a mentor, her gentle reminders to students, colleagues and mentees to ‘reach your potential’ is a gift,” Edghill-Walden says. “La Vonne will be missed.”

In retirement, Neal plans to continue doing what has driven her for a lifetime.

“The common theme for me is engaging with people – enjoying life, engaging with family and friends, global travel,” she says. “I have friends and family all over the world.”

Fond memories of NIU will travel with her.

“When I came here in 2010, who knew what would take place? When you look at what we all were able to do together, this was a collaborative effort, and we were able to successfully transform on many levels,” Neal says. “I absolutely have enjoyed my time here.”

Date posted: May 21, 2018 | Author: | Comments Off on La Vonne Neal to retire July 1

Categories: Faculty & Staff Homepage Uncategorized

A ribbon cutting was held earlier this week for Coffee & Bagels in the lower level of Founders Memorial Library. The restaurant features Caribou Coffee and Einsteins Bros. Bagels, as well as sandwiches, salads, fresh fruit and yogurt parfaits.

Date posted: May 2, 2018 | Author: | Comments Off on Coffee & Bagels celebrates opening with ribbon cutting

Categories: Faculty & Staff Homepage Prospective Students Students

Brian Robinson just wanted to give his grandmother a new stove but by tweeting the moment from his smartphone, he gave a gift to the world.

Robinson, a May 2017 NIU graduate, who earned his degree in accountancy, inadvertently turned his grandmother into an internet viral video sensation by tweeting out the moment when she first saw the stove on Dec. 11. She literally jumped for joy and squealed with delight. The tweet has more than 3.5 million views. It was featured on the NBC Today show and in the online editions of USA Today, London’s Daily Mail and the BBC, to name a few.

“I never expected the video to blow up like this, but I am glad it did,” Robinson says. “It has made a lot off of people happy.”

The gift was to thank his grandmother, Monadell Robinson, for supporting him both financially and emotionally throughout college.

“My grandma was valedictorian of her class at North Carolina Central University, so she taught me and my siblings to value education,” Robinson says.

She also was always prodding him to do better.

“Every time I joined an organization or won an award, she would relish the moment, and then ask ‘How are your grades?’ A 3.5 grade point average wasn’t good enough; she always let me know that I could do better.”

Her encouragement worked. While excelling in NIU’s nationally recognized accountancy program, Brian also served as Vice-President of the Epsilon Phi chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc.; worked as a peer educator for Financial Cents; was director of orientation for Black Male Initiative, site manager for Goodwill’s Voluntary Income Tax Assistance Program; and served as a supplemental instruction leader for NIU’s Introductory Financial Accounting course. He was also and as a student senator and treasurer for the NIU Student Association. Those activities helped him win the Kevin D. Knight Senior Leadership Award. He also worked two internships at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and over the summer passed all four sections of the CPA exam on his first try. He now works for PwC as an assurance associate.

“My time at NIU prepared me well to start my career, especially the opportunities to develop leadership skills, which are essential to performing well in the workplace,” he says.

It was while attending Thanksgiving dinner at his grandmother’s house in Dolton that he hit upon the idea of replacing her worn-out stove. “I looked around and realized that she has had the same appliances my whole life,” Robinson says.

So far, Brian hasn’t been back to enjoy a meal cooked on the new range, but he expects that Christmas dinner at his grandmother’s house will be better than ever this year.


Date posted: December 20, 2017 | Author: | Comments Off on NIU grad’s gift to grandma goes viral

Categories: Homepage

Acting President Lisa FreemanDuring Wednesday’s wide-ranging and upbeat State of the University Address, Acting President Lisa Freeman confirmed her commitment to being “smart, tough and relentless” in moving NIU forward – and to maintaining a campus that is open and accepting of all people.

Progress will not come easily, however, as public universities in Illinois “plan for the worst and hope for the best.”

“The impacts of more than 700 days without support from the state cannot be undone quickly, and there’s still a great deal of uncertainty with Springfield for next year,” Freeman said.

“We have parts of our budget that deserve – but don’t have – stable permanent funding. We have pressing needs related to renovation and repair of our physical plant and refresh of our technology,” she added. “We are going to have to continue to reduce spending in some areas as well as to increase revenues. Divisions will be asked to make further reductions.”

Yet NIU’s leader also cited many signs of resiliency and hope on campus and beyond, making sure to hail last Saturday’s mammoth Huskie Football victory over the Nebraska Cornhuskers.

Chief among the good news: “Campus visits are up,” she said, “as is freshmen enrollment, law school enrollment and overall retention. We have to build on those gains.”

Freeman began her remarks with words of comfort for those impacted by “unprecedented series of natural disasters” and “untold pain and suffering” from Texas and Florida to Mexico and the Caribbean.

She then reminded the audience of the promise she made during the summer when she accepted her current post.

“I pledged that NIU will be guided by the principals of shared governance, mutual respect and transparency in decision-making,” Freeman said. “This university will keep moving forward. We will formulate the appropriate strategies, make the necessary decisions and build momentum in the process to strongly position NIU for the future.”

One of those strategies seeks to reward many NIU employees for their hard work and dedication. “We cannot afford to neglect our most important resource – our people – any longer,” she said.

The acting president announced that she has asked the Board of Trustees to convene a special meeting Thursday, Oct. 19, to consider a 3 percent pay raise for eligible employees. That group includes:

  • Employees hired before Dec. 31, 2016, who are not currently part of an open contract within a bargaining unit;
  • Temporarily appointed Supportive Professional staff who have been continuously reappointed for three or more years; and
  • Graduate assistants who would receive 3 percent increases in their stipends.

Should the board approve the increment plan, Freeman said she will turn down the salary boost for herself. Meanwhile, her vice presidents also are either declining the additional dollars or making a gift to the NIU Foundation. Human Resources has developed a helpful Frequently Asked Questions guide and will update it periodically.

Among other areas of encouraging momentum:

  • Program Prioritization has spurred mergers between similar and complementary areas. “Program Prioritization best demonstrates the power of bottom-up,” Freeman said. “The Program Prioritization process has changed our culture, encouraging us to think in news ways about how to support our mission and improve our operations. We are more thoughtful about whether it makes sense to keep doing things the way that they have always been done.”
  • NIU is strengthening connections with the community. Projects include a possible integration of the Huskie Line buses with TransVAC, the formation of a City/University Student Leaders Group and a “Taste of NIU” series of events that aims to drive NIU’s nearly 7,000 local alums back to campus.
  • Construction projects are changing the face of campus. “Next year, the Stevens Building will open with news classroom space and a Black Box Theatre waiting to be filled with our talented students,” Freeman said. “We are also on schedule to start revitalization of the ground floor of the Holmes Student Center, paid for by Build America Bonds.”
  • NIU, along with partners Harper College and Township High School District 211, was selected as one four teams out of 50 that applied to participate in the Seamless Transfer Pathways Design Challenge. “This work will not only impact our own institutions, but will also provide opportunities for other schools to pilot the models that we develop and to benefit from our scalable innovation,” she said. “Other institutions view us as leaders, and we are.”
  • NIU faculty attracted nearly $10 million in funding during Fiscal Year 2017 for fundamental and applied research, a growth of 11 percent over the previous year.
  • Academic programs continue to enjoy national rankings and recognition, while the university itself celebrates a nod from the Brookings Report, placing NIU in a select national group of public universities that produce important research and advance the social mobility of students from low-income households.

Freeman directed her most passionate and well-received comments to those who are worried about the current political climate at home and abroad.

These students, whose “hopes, dreams, motivations and accomplishments” inspire Freeman, now find themselves “vulnerable and in need or our respect and support.”

Higher education, she added, “can and should be the catalyst for change.”

“Our world is struggling right now. None of us can avoid witnessing the turmoil and the injustices happening around the globe, throughout our nation and in our state,” Freeman said.

“Diversity and inclusion are at the core of our successful learning environment. Different perspectives and cultures enrich us all, open our minds and challenge our beliefs and our potential,” she said.

“No matter your background – whether you are Black, Latino, Asian American, white or an international student; have a different belief system; and regardless of gender identity or status – when we admit you, we accept you and we welcome you,” she added. “Feeling welcome, and achieving a sense of belonging, is what we all want. And, when we have that, we can be our best at teaching, learning, creating and ultimately shaping our world for the better.”

Improving the world begins with the ambitions, abilities, talents and personal stories of students, which have inspired Freeman and her husband, Doug Rose, to give $25,000 to the NIU Foundation this year for student scholarships.

“We believe in the potential of our current and future students,” Freeman said as she announced the contribution and issued a challenge. “Our hope in making this gift is that others will join us – to increase unrestricted funds available for scholarships – to make education a reality for those who want it most.”


Date posted: September 21, 2017 | Author: | Comments Off on Freeman pledges to move NIU forward during State of the University remarks

Categories: Centerpiece Faculty & Staff Students Uncategorized

NIU mourns the loss of the following faculty and staff members over the summer:

June 2017 – Mark Canaday, assistant director, Housing & Residential Services

July 2017 – John Ireland, instructor, Department of English; Jeanne Essex, administrative assistant, Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost; David Strozewski, building services worker, Building Services

August 2017 – Vincent McGinn, professor, Electrical Engineering; Dan Reynolds, professor emeritus, College of Law




Date posted: September 18, 2017 | Author: | Comments Off on Passages

Categories: Homepage

As a new academic year – and a new era – begins at NIU, the university is rolling out the welcome wagon for several new faculty and staff.

The roster includes more than 50 new faculty and nearly three dozen staff, all of whom are now part of the university’s goal to boost enrollment and address challenging fiscal conditions.

“The strength of NIU is from the bottom up, and not the top down,” Acting President Lisa Freeman said this summer. “That means that our best ideas come from staff and faculty and always have, and we in leadership need to listen very carefully and actively to them. My administration will cultivate and actively seek the best ideas and thinking from everyone on campus.”

New Faculty

Christina AbreuCenter for Latino & Latin American Studies
Natalie AndzikSpecial and Early Education
Nicole BettinPhysical Therapy
Clayton CamicKinesiology & Physical Education
Russ CarterPhysical Therapy
Carliss ChatmanLaw
Marcia CookeNursing
Christine D’AlexanderMusic
Fatih DemirEducational Technology, Research, and Assessment
Danko DruskoMusic
Josephine EbomoyiHealth Studies
Christopher EinolfCenter for Nonprofit and NGO Studies
Hasan FerdowsiElectrical Engineering
Melissa FicklingCounseling, Adult & Higher Education
Sarah FoxLaw
Victor GensiniMeteorology
Aarie GlasPolitical Science
Barbara GonzalezStatistics
Thao GriffithNursing
Eric HallHistory
Jim HeylandOperations Management & Information Systems
Mary HintzscheNursing
Xiaodan HuCounseling, Adult & Higher Education
Candice HuxAccountancy
Joe InsleyArt & Design
Dana IsawiCounseling, Adult & Higher Education
Jenn JacobsKinesiology & Physical Education
Jaehee JongPublic Administration
Dongho KimEducational Technology, Research, and Assessment
Colin KuehlPolitical Science
Wei LiElectrical Engineering
Haiying LinManagement
Kathryn MazurekHealth Studies
Lindsey MunguiaNursing
Martin NdicuAccountancy
Cynthia NelsonHealth Studies
Irina NesterovaChemistry & Biochemistry
Karl NilsenMilitary Science
Dan OestLeadership, Educational Psychology & Foundations
Nancy PetgesNursing
Charles PudrithAllied Health & Communicative Disorders
Nan QinFinance
Eunju RhoPublic Administration
Heather RollerBiological Sciences
Maybell RomeroLaw
Claire SchaeperkoetterKinesiology & Physical Education
Emerson SebastiãoKinesiology & Physical Education
Phillip SinkMusic
Bobby SinkoMechanical Engineering
Jifu TanMechanical Engineering
Mahdi VaeziEngineering Technology
Agesilaos VasilopoulisHealth Studies
Melanie WalskiCurriculum & Instruction
Ying WangOperations Management & Information Systems
Christopher YoungMilitary Science
Noel YsasiAllied Health & Communicative Disorders
Shupei YuanCommunication

New Staff

Alicia AndersonEducation
Anne AppleLaw
Ethan Argueta Jr.Public Safety
Frederick BarnhartLibraries
Antonette BournHousing & Residential Services
Collin BruningConvocation Center/Intercollegiate Athletics
Jordan BurkoCounseling & Consultation Services
Tony CalderalaEducation
Marcelo CampolinaIntercollegiate Athletics
Jaclyn  CuffLorado Taft
Katherine DolanCampus Child Care
Claire DuvallEducational Technology Research and Assessment
Noca ErvinCollege of Business
TJ  FeuerbachIntercollegiate Athletics
Eddie GarzaIntercollegiate Athletics
Teri GenslerCollege of Business
Virginia GuzmanHuman Resource Services
Teresa HarringtonHolmes Student Center
Jayne HolleyAlumni Relations
Ray JacksonGift Planning
Nick JonesEngineering & Engineering Technology
Jeremy JorgensenPublic Safety
Maria KaszaIntercollegiate Athletics
Bethany KautzLorado Taft
Pulchratia Kinney-SmithHuman Resource Services
Derrick LanderInfrastructure Services
Elsa LiteckyLorado Taft
Darryl LockettHuman Resource Services
Ryan LoweLaw
Sarah LyonsNursing
Alex McAnallyCampus Child Care
Liz McKeeAlumni Relations
Melissa MeinenCounseling & Consultation Services
Brandace MerrittAllied Health & Communicative Disorders
Kimberly MillerDevelopment Operations
Daniel MillerPublic Safety
Nancy NewmanHealth Studies
Donald PetersonEngineering & Engineering Technology
Alex PitnerStudent Involvement & Leadership Development
Christopher PooleCommunication
Sarah PrescottLibraries
Quinn RearIntercollegiate Athletics
Sydney RiebeAllied Health & Communicative Disorders
Maxine RohdeCounseling & Consultation Services
Genesis RueHousing & Residential Services
Elina SavoieHousing & Residential Services
Chris SmithHousing & Residential Services
Donna WalkerHousing & Residential Services
Brandon WatkinsIntercollegiate Athletics
Cori WildDepartment of Management
Tom WestHousing & Residential Services
Date posted: September 11, 2017 | Author: | Comments Off on Welcome new faculty and staff!

Categories: Faculty & Staff Homepage Students

Over the past four years, I have enjoyed sharing the progress we’ve made in building a more sustainable organization, creating a more just and inclusive environment and the almost daily achievements in teaching, research, artistry and engagement that have promoted our goal of student career success.

I also have reported with pride about the awards earned by members of the NIU community, have shared the excellence exhibited by our students and faculty, both inside and outside the classroom, and expressed gratitude for the immense work undertaken by hundreds of staff and faculty to deliver on a multi-year commitment to Program Prioritization.

Then there have been the times when I’ve provided you information on the challenges we face in maintaining financial stability, given our tenuous state political and fiscal climate, and the lengths we have had to go to reduce our operating budget to deal with this persistent uncertainty. And, there have been times when I’ve had the task of clarifying other issues that have challenged our ability to move the University forward.

This brings us to May 31, when I provided important background on the release of the report from the State of Illinois’ Office of Executive Inspector General (OEIG) that reviewed procurement and hiring practices that happened back in the early months of my administration, in mid- to late-2013. While I take full responsibility for the mistakes made on my watch, I also take great exception to the unfair characterization of my actions in that report. Our Board of Trustees also clarified their understanding of what occurred and outlined corrective actions we undertook to address the errors and prevent their recurrence. As I said then, the staff members brought on board in 2013 and 2014 were hired to make urgent changes that I believed were necessary to move the University forward at a key time when it was under great scrutiny from federal agencies. I sincerely believed that all decisions were in compliance with the applicable requirements.

Nonetheless, it is clear to me that the reaction and concerns relating to the OEIG report — despite the work that the Board and I did several years ago to address the issues as soon as we became aware of them — have distracted the institution from the important work we need to do to address the challenges we face. I care too deeply about NIU to allow that to happen.

I shared my concerns with Board Chair John Butler last week. After careful consideration, we concluded the best step for the institution was to move forward with a presidential transition arrangement. As a result, I will be leaving the university on June 30.

I leave the University in the very capable hands of Executive Vice President and Provost Lisa C. Freeman, who has been of great support to me during my tenure here, and has led many of our major initiatives, most notably Program Prioritization. I am confident Lisa will build on the work we’ve done to enhance our financial sustainability, improve and expand on our retention and recruitment initiatives and better align our resources with the University’s mission. I ask that you support Lisa as she assumes her role as Acting President on July 1.

My thanks to our wonderful leadership team, our strong cadre of Deans, the faculty and staff, our inspiring and talented students, donors, alumni and my office staff for their support.

I also want to give my sincere thanks to the Board of Trustees for giving me the opportunity to lead NIU. It has been an exciting, professionally rewarding and ennobling experience for both Dana and myself. I wish you the best of luck in moving this great institution forward in these very challenging and turbulent times.

Go Huskies!

Date posted: June 15, 2017 | Author: | Comments Off on Baker Report: Endings and New Beginnings

Categories: Faculty & Staff Homepage Students

Today the Executive Ethics Commission (EEC) publicly released the final report of the Office of the Executive Inspector General (OEIG) regarding its nearly three-year investigation into the university’s use of the affiliate employment classification in 2013 and 2014. Until now, Illinois state law and the OEIG investigation process have required that this matter be confidential. As such, I have not been able to be as transparent as I would have preferred, but I am now able to directly address this issue.

First, by way of context, I want to reflect on the state of affairs when I arrived on campus in the spring of 2013. The FBI, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of Education and the Illinois State Police had recently searched the NIU Police Department; seized computers and records; and were actively investigating the university.

The executive vice president and chief of operations in the former Division of Finance and Facilities had taken a leave of absence related to those investigations, and the leadership and oversight of the Department of Police and Public Safety had changed. We were also confronting significant strategic, structural and financial challenges related to student recruitment and retention, state support of public higher education and pension obligations.

Faced with those circumstances, and charged by the Board of Trustees to change the culture and direction of the university, there was a need to quickly engage outside experts skilled in culture change and financial management for an unbiased and comprehensive assessment.

As we filled those roles, I sought the expertise of senior staff, including the human resources and legal departments, to ensure we appropriately proceeded. I relied on the information I received and acted in good faith. At no time did I intend for myself, or any of my staff, to violate any polices or procedures. I sincerely believed that all decisions were in compliance with the applicable requirements.

The individuals hired made significant contributions to NIU, and helped lay a firm foundation upon which we have built these last few years.

In July 2014, we were notified through an OEIG complaint that there were concerns over hiring five individuals as affiliate employees. Once aware of this, I worked with the board to seek clarity and make corrections. Upon consideration and review, we took decisive action to revise policies related to hiring and compensation, eliminated the affiliate classification, and took steps to correct travel and housing expenses that were deemed inappropriate under applicable requirements. We also took steps to strengthen our whistleblower policy, and made it more visible so that it is easier to bring forward concerns if people have them.

Separate from these efforts, the OEIG began its own investigation approximately three years ago. Its final report was presented to the NIU Board of Trustees in August 2016. They concluded that internal university policy in the application of the affiliate classification, as well as the Higher Education Travel Regulations and University P-Card Policies and Procedures, had not been followed. They recommended that the board take appropriate action with the president on resolution and for two employees to receive counseling. At no time did the OEIG recommend suspension, dismissal or fining any party involved. Ultimately, the board felt that the corrective measures relating to policy, process and training personnel taken throughout the previous two years were suitable.

I concur with the report’s findings that there were no violations of the state’s Ethics Act, and I appreciate that they not only acknowledge the numerous steps we’ve taken but also that recommend we continue. However, I disagree with any implications that there was intent to circumvent NIU’s guidelines or state regulations. Still, I take responsibility for the mistakes identified, and I have worked diligently since these issues were brought forward in 2014 to do everything in my power to keep them from happening again.

The EEC solicited a formal response from me in April 2017 on this matter, and I obliged: I asked that if the OEIG report were to be released that my response be made public as well, which has taken place.

NIU’s Board Chair John Butler has made available a response on behalf of the Board of Trustees, and we’ve developed a Questions and Answers document to provide additional information.

With this matter concluded and the corrective measures in place, I look forward to being able to devote my full attention to the issues facing our university and to ensuring that NIU will continue to fulfill its vital mission with an emphasis on preparing students for success after graduation.

Doug Baker

Date posted: May 31, 2017 | Author: | Comments Off on Baker Report – The OEIG Report: Context, Reflections and the Way Forward

Categories: Faculty & Staff Homepage Students