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Northern Illinois University has been selected for inclusion on U.S. News & World Report’s list of Best Global Universities for 2021. NIU is one of only 10 institutions selected from the state of Illinois.

According to U.S. News, the seventh annual rankings focus specifically on academic research and overall reputation of schools, rather than separating undergraduate or graduate programs. The rankings were created to help students more accurately compare institutions around the world. Nearly 1,500 institutions across 86 countries were ranked.

The rankings focus closely on research output and productivity, with 25% of the score based on global and regional research reputation and an additional 10% on the number of publications accepted in the past year. The reputation score was based on Clarivate Analytics’ Academic Reputation Survey, which asks academics around the world to give their views of programs in their disciplines regarding both the research and teaching reputations of institutions.

In addition to NIU, other Illinois institutions of higher education on the list include the University of Chicago, Northwestern University, the University of Illinois, the University of Illinois at Chicago, the Illinois Institute of Technology, DePaul University, Loyola University Chicago, Rush University and Illinois State University.

“We are gratified to be recognized among a prestigious group of research universities, and are particularly gratified that our physics program achieved an individual program ranking,” said Executive Vice President and Provost Beth Ingram. “This is a testament to the hard work and creative energy that our faculty devote to their scholarship and artistic endeavors.”

Date posted: November 9, 2020 | Author: | Comments Off on NIU named to list of top universities worldwide

Categories: Centerpiece Faculty & Staff Global Students Uncategorized

When Jenna Dooley (then Jenna Wright) first walked into WNIJ as a college freshman, little did she know that she would build a career in public broadcasting, first as a “Morning Edition” host at WUIS-FM in Springfield, Illinois, and later returning to WNIJ as a reporter and news director. She recently garnered recognition – and a chance to make a positive difference in the field of news broadcasting – with her election as president of the Illinois News Broadcasters Association (INBA).

Jenna Dooley

Dooley says of her introduction to news broadcasting, “During high school in Orion, Illinois, I had an assignment to shadow someone in a field I was interested in. I shadowed a local TV reporter who had worked at WNIJ as a student and highly encouraged me to reach out to the station once I arrived on campus. So, as a freshman in the fall of 2003, I walked into the station and asked for work!”

This bold move paid off, and Dooley began working as a board operator on nights and weekends. She worked part time at the station while earning her bachelor’s degree in journalism at NIU, and she later went on to earn her master’s degree in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois-Springfield. Dooley is a former “Newsfinder of the Year” from the Illinois Associated Press and recipient of NIU’s Donald R. Grubb Journalism Alumni Award.

Dooley credits a number of mentors, including WNIJ’s Dan Klefstad and Susan Stephens, as well as Allen May and Alex Wiertelak (formerly faculty members with the Northern Television Center), with teaching her the ropes of broadcasting, editing and newswriting during her student years at NIU.

This focus on mentorship and personal connections shapes Dooley’s approach to her new role as INBA president, where she says she plans to personally reach out to each of the current 145-plus members to see how they’re doing and how the organization can support them. Dooley also intends to establish a network of mentors to support professionals early in their careers.

“Often, young reporters must leave their immediate support networks to take their first jobs,” Dooley says. “Once they land a job in a competitive field, it’s in a new community where the hours are long and unpredictable. Their ambition is an amazing attribute for their newsroom, but it can be a lonely time when cameras aren’t rolling. The Illinois News Broadcasters Association is more than 145 members strong with folks at all levels of their careers. Mid- to late-career reporters can draw strength from the enthusiasm of young reporters. Likewise, early-career journalists can hear from others who know what it’s like to live the unique lifestyle of a broadcaster.”

Founded in 1955 by news professionals from across the state, INBA continues to take an active role in educating, defending and promoting fellowship among those in the broadcasting industry. INBA also plays an important role in preparing the next generation of electronic journalists for this complex and ever-changing business. Dooley was elected during the organization’s fall convention held Sept. 26. She succeeds WREX station manager Josh Morgan, who served in the role for two years.

Dooley says the relationships and professional development shared at INBA are more important than ever right now. “Everyone is so isolated personally, and that has undoubtedly seeped into our professional lives,” she says. “Reporters have spent months running a marathon at a sprinting pace. It’s important that we give ourselves permission to practice the same self-care that we report to our audiences. My goal in talking to members is to ask how they are managing this stressful time and how we can work together to be a support system that they can rely on now and into the future.”

WNIJ 89.5 FM is part of Northern Public Radio, the broadcast arm of Northern Illinois University. The mission of Northern Public Radio is to enrich, inspire and inform adults in northern Illinois through programs and services that share ideas, encourage thought, give pleasure and create community.  Learn more at

Date posted: November 4, 2020 | Author: | Comments Off on WNIJ reporter and alumna elected president of Illinois News Broadcasters Association

Categories: Alumni Centerpiece Community Faculty & Staff Students Uncategorized

While technical skills can be learned on the job, certain individual traits and interpersonal skills are essential for career growth. Teamwork, communication, accountability, critical thinking and problem-solving are a few of the 10 essential employability competencies identified by the state of Illinois in the Postsecondary and Workforce Readiness Act. But how can these competencies be taught, measured and certified in a way that is meaningful for individuals and employers?

That’s the challenge NIU’s Education Systems Center (EdSystems) faced along with community partners in the Peoria area. Their answer came in the form of GPEAK – the Greater Peoria Essential Abilities and Knowledge system, which is being piloted this fall and released more widely in early 2021.

GPEAK is a partnership between Illinois Central College, Peoria’s CEO Council and Regional Workforce Development Alliance, the Greater Peoria Economic Development Council, the Illinois Community College Board (ICCB), Jobs for the Future and EdSystems. These groups came together with the goal of translating the state’s 10 competencies into a practical system to prepare individuals for meaningful and fulfilling careers. The system evolved into a free and open online platform available to students, education systems, community-based agencies and employers in the region that provides certification to individuals who have demonstrated mastery of an essential workforce skill.

The GPEAK kick-off event in November 2019 brought together employers, educators and community partners from the Greater Peoria area.

According to EdSystems Policy and Program Manager Heather Penczak, the first step in the process was to bring more than 85 community members from diverse employers and organizations to the table to establish a common language and shared understanding. Over a five-month period, EdSystems planned and facilitated a series of meetings to discuss the competencies, create detailed descriptions and determine how to test when those competencies had been achieved.

“There were already so many good things happening in the Peoria region, and many different organizations were providing employment training,” says Penczak. “But some of them were providing essential skills training and others were focused primarily on technical skills, and they took many different approaches. So the initial part of this project was really just aligning our understanding of the essential skills – getting everybody to speak the same language.”

The next step was to develop a curriculum to teach and evaluate each of the competencies. For this curriculum to work, it had to be applicable for high school and community college students as well as early and mid-career employees. And it needed to be something that could be used by individuals on their own, in the high school or community college classroom, and by employers to train interns or employees.

“One of the trickiest parts of developing the curricular resources was that there wasn’t exactly one setting where they would be used, and there wasn’t just one targeted learner,” says Kristin Brynteson, director of professional development for the NIU Center for P-20 Engagement, which was tapped to design the curricular resources.

Brynteson and her team aimed to create a curriculum that would be universal enough to apply to youth through adult learners, yet also targeted enough to encourage self-reflection and growth in the essential competencies. One of the ways they did this was to tailor the resources to fit specific industries that are represented in the Peoria region, including IT, manufacturing, logistics and law enforcement.

“The first thing we did when we wrote the case studies was to ask, ‘What are some of the industries that we want to make sure are represented?’” Brynteson says. “For example, in the decision-making curriculum, there’s a case study around the logistics industry and supply chain, so it’s really about making some of these crucial decisions that could mean an organization either gets their supplies or doesn’t,” she says.

The real-world case studies are paired with pop culture references to stimulate fun and meaningful conversations. “For the decision-making curriculum, for example, we refer to a point in ‘Star Wars: Return of the Jedi’ where Darth Vader makes a very crucial decision,” Brynteson says. “Participants analyze that with some guiding questions: What were the intended outcomes? What decision did he make? What were the pros and cons of that decision?”

All of these resources work together to encourage self-reflection for individuals, or small or large groups.

“For the individual, there’s a self-inventory,” Brynteson says, “because self-awareness is one of the biggest issues. You may think you’re a good team player, but are you really? So, at the individual level, the lessons involve self-reflection, taking an inventory and then using the results to go through an independent guided journal around that competency. These can then be used as the basis for group discussions or for one-on-one guidance from a teacher or industry mentor.”

Penczak emphasizes that the conversations sparked by the curricular resources and assessments are where much of the learning takes place.

“As part of the GPEAK training experience, the individual and their mentor or teacher each complete an assessment of the individual’s skills. There should be a conversation before and after the assessment. If, after the assessment, you find that you’re mismatched on a few things, then that should be a conversation starter to say, from the mentor side, here is some advice and support for you, and from the participant side,  how can I improve and develop certain skills? This should never be something where people fill it out and everyone moves on. If there isn’t the conversation, then you’ve lost the value of it and are not utilizing the GPEAK system to its full potential.”

Because employer participation is so important, Penczak is grateful that the team was able to build GPEAK onto the already existing Illinois workNet platform. “This platform is already familiar to many of the organizations and is very simple and user-friendly on the mentor/employer side,” she says. “For the individual, the platform provides a full dashboard with a wealth of resources as well as virtual badges to demonstrate their achievements.”

Colleagues at EdSystems and the P-20 Center (which houses both NIU STEAM and the Illinois P-20 Network) are proud of their collaboration to serve the Peoria community and – they hope – to create a model for other communities to emulate.

Jon Furr, EdSystems executive director, says, “One of the things that makes EdSystems’ policy work unique is our focus on intentionally implementing state-level policy on the community level. This helps us make sure that the policies are implemented successfully across the state while helping us identify needs and opportunities to address in future policy design.”

Amy Jo Clemens, director of NIU’s Center for P20 Engagement, says, “It’s exciting to me how NIU STEAM and the Illinois P-20 Network worked hand-in-hand with EdSystems for the GPEAK project. Whereas EdSystems serves as a bridge for state-level policy to the community, we like to focus on innovation and implementation in the local educational system, often bridging across K-12 and higher ed institutions. That’s what’s really nice about the collaboration between EdSystems and P-20. We’re all addressing similar issues and problems; we’re just addressing them with different expertise and supports, bringing everyone together to have a greater local impact.”

Education Systems Center (EdSystems) is a mission-driven policy development and program implementation center based within Northern Illinois University’s Division of Outreach, Engagement and Regional Development. Learn more at

The NIU Center for P-20 Engagement includes NIU STEAM and the Illinois P-20 Network, which promote collaboration between educational entities and community partners to improve education and bring innovation to schools, community colleges, workplaces and other community settings. Learn more at

Date posted: November 4, 2020 | Author: | Comments Off on NIU’s EdSystems and P-20 Center help to develop essential employability skills in Peoria

Categories: Communiversity Faculty & Staff Homepage Uncategorized

It turns out that communities that are good for older people are actually good for people of all ages, according to Mim Evans, a senior researcher at the NIU Center for Governmental Studies (CGS).

Mim Evans, a senior reseacher at the NIU Center for Governmental Studies.

Evans says communities that are designated “age-friendly” are also often called “livable communities” because they provide a healthy and positive environment for all people. “A number of surveys, in particular done by the National Association of Realtors, asked people of all ages what they were looking for in a community and found that there were many overlaps,” she says. These included safe and affordable housing, quality health care, transportation, outdoor space, environmental quality, and chances to socialize and get involved in public life.

This is good news for the U.S. in general and for the state of Illinois, both of which are experiencing a shift toward an older population.

According to Evans, “The Chicago Metro Area Planning Group (CMAP), estimates that there will be an 80% growth in residents 65 plus in the Chicago area by 2050. And our own research at CGS indicates that in 2019 people over age 65 made up a quarter of the population in five Illinois counties. By 2029 – which is not very far off – that number will likely be as high as 23 counties having at least a quarter of their population 65 plus.”

Evans says this demographic shift, which is affecting both urban and rural areas, leads to a central question: “How do we make our communities better suited as a place for older residents, not just to live but also to be valued and active participants in community life?”

The city of Woodstock, Illinois, is one municipality that has decided to proactively court older residents by earning an official age-friendly designation from the AARP. The city won a Transformational Grant from the Community Foundation for McHenry County to fund their age-friendly livable community initiative.

Historic downtown Woodstock, Ill.

That’s where the NIU Center for Governmental Studies comes in. As part of the two-year grant project, CGS will guide Woodstock through a three-step process to identify the community’s current strengths, define the needs of Woodstock’s older population and their population overall, and create a roadmap of actions and policies the community can take.

“Woodstock is one of the first communities in Illinois that is trying to formally adopt a livable community action plan that they can then implement in the coming years,” says Evans. “CGS’s role here – and often in communities around our region – is to provide technical assistance to supplement their own staff’s abilities and help them develop policies.”

While CGS has not yet completed the work of identifying Woodstock’s current strengths and needs, Evans notes that the town of about 25,000 residents has a lot of positive qualities it can build on. “It’s a lovely community with a charming downtown, shops, and a strong arts base with the Woodstock Opera House and active writers and artists groups. They’re on the Metra commuter line, which enables residents to easily reach Chicago and everything in between.”

Once CGS has finished identifying Woodstock’s current strengths and areas for improvement in relation to the livable community criteria, the next step will be to identify the needs of Woodstock’s older residents and their overall population.

“Whenever we can find connections between what will be beneficial to an older population and what will also fit well for the younger population, we want to start there,” Evans says. “Those can be some of the very first things that a community may try and implement to generate community support and get the best results for their investment.”

The final step will be to leave the city with a set of specific policies, as well as actions and strategies to take to implement those policies.

“Our goal is to leave them with not just a roadmap for how to get where they want to go, but also some ideas of how to progress down that roadmap, including the people who can help them to get there,” says Evans. CGS will be working not only with City of Woodstock officials, but also with a local steering committee of leaders and experts in serving the elderly who can provide local knowledge every step of the way.

Evans commends Woodstock for pursuing a livable community plan and hopes the town will be a model for other communities in Illinois.

“This is actually a wonderful time for communities to reconsider the needs of their older residents,” she says. “The pandemic has brought the needs of the older population to the forefront even more than they were before. I think this will lead to changes in the way people think about where they want to live as they get older and the way their older relatives live. These changes really have the potential to benefit the community as a whole and provide a more balanced approach to the economy that benefits all residents.”

Learn more about the NIU Center for Governmental Studies at

Date posted: October 28, 2020 | Author: | Comments Off on NIU Center for Governmental Studies working to create age-friendly communities

Categories: Community Faculty & Staff Homepage Students Uncategorized

Brad Sagarin, professor of psychology, was named a fellow in the Society for Personality and Social Psychology.  This society, which is the largest in this subfield, is an international organization that focuses on understanding how individual differences and social contexts impact human behavior.

Professor Brad Sagarin

“This is quite an honor, recognizing his unique and sustained contributions to the current state of knowledge in personality and social psychology,” said Amanda Durik, chair of the Department of Psychology.

Sagarin’s research interests in social influence; resistance to persuasion; deception, jealousy and infidelity; evolutionary psychology; human sexuality; and statistics and research methodology have powered an impressive publishing career.

He has published 54 papers in peer-reviewed journals; has given numerous invited presentations to military, corporate, grassroots and community organizations; and was a member of the Director of National Intelligence Summer Hard Problem Program 2010 studying social media.

Sagarin has been interviewed on a variety of podcasts and has published blog posts for Psychology Today and an op-ed piece in The Guardian. His work has been cited in numerous popular outlets including New Scientist, Time and The Economist.

In addition to publishing and presenting, he has served on the editorial boards of Archives of Sexual Behavior, Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, Personal Relationships, Perspectives on Psychological Science, and Social Influence. He served as associate editor for two journals, Basic and Applied Social Psychology and Journal of Positive Sexuality.

Sagarin has been at NIU since 1999 and teaches students in the psychology graduate program. He is  currently mentoring four candidates, two at the master’s level and two at the Ph.D. level.

Date posted: October 26, 2020 | Author: | Comments Off on Brad Sagarin named Society for Personality and Social Psychology fellow

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

It’s always exciting to hear from and live chat with experts from NASA, Fermilab and Argonne National Lab. But the real stars of NIU’s Oct. 31 STEM Fest Celebration might be the NIU student presenters who are majoring in diverse fields such as computer science, electrical engineering, communicative disorders, art, chemistry and math.

Math Club Vice President Allie Mohr demonstrates the “Pringle Ringle Challenge.” Find the Math Club video in the Huskie Hall during the Oct. 31 STEM Fest Celebration.

Have you ever tried to build a freestanding upright ring of Pringles chips using no adhesives, just chips, friction and a little determination? Well, get out your can of Pringles because Math Club President Brenna Bretzinger and Vice President Allie Mohr are ready to show you how – and teach you a bit about gravity and friction in the process. The Math Club video is one of many that will be available in the Huskie Hall virtual room, along with several 20-minute live presentations throughout the online event.

STEM Fest will end with a lively science demo show streamed to all the STEM Fest virtual rooms.

The STEM Fest virtual celebration is free and open to the public and features fun talks and activities for all ages. From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Oct. 31, participants will be able to view STEM presentations and videos, live chat with experts, try out hands-on activities at home, and enjoy lively science demo shows. Registration is available at

For visitors who’d like to take a more serious look at STEM majors and careers, the NIU STEM student panel should not be missed. Moderator Sam Watt (an NIU alumnus who earned his B.S. in physics in 2014 and M.S.Ed. in instructional technology in 2019) will ask four current and recent NIU students about their science- and technology-related majors, their career plans and their tips for getting the most out of an NIU education. All four have worked as student workers for NIU STEAM, which creates STEM Fest each year, along with other educational programming for the public, teachers and students. They’ll reflect on what they learned in their work with NIU STEAM, their courses and their participation in NIU clubs and organizations.

NIU Chemistry Club Treasurer Anastasia Klenke demonstrates how to make moving, colorful art using chemical reactions with milk, dish soap and food coloring. Find the Chemistry Club video in the Huskie Hall during the Oct. 31 STEM Fest Celebration.

All four panelists agree that much of the exciting work they’re doing in their classes and careers lies at the intersection of different disciplines. Hal Brynteson, a junior majoring in computer science, had been a digital artist for about 10 years before enrolling at NIU. “My time at NIU and my work with NIU STEAM has been about pursuing an interest in how disciplines overlap – how digital art and computers and programming overlap with art as a whole,” Brynteson says. Brynteson has done a variety of work in graphic design and programming as part of their student employment and has been active on the Mars Rover Team in the NIU College of Engineering and Engineering Technology (CEET).

NIU senior Theresa Li explores the connections between hardware and software with her double major in computer science and electrical engineering. “I’m on NIU Robotics, and I learned a lot about how hardware and software work together, which is why I decided to double major,” says Li. “When you join a design team like Robotics, then you’re actually applying the skills you learned in the classroom, and these are the skills you use in industry for an actual job. This past summer, in my internship at John Deere, it has really helped a lot.”

NIU alumna Jasmine Carey (B.S. industrial management and technology, M.S.Ed. instructional technology) came to NIU with an interest in CAD (computer-aided design) and loved the hands-on aspect of classes in the Department of Engineering Technology. When Carey came to work for NIU STEAM, she also discovered a love of teaching, which she pursued with a master’s degree in instructional technology. Carey now works full time as a kindergarten through fifth grade STEM teacher in Rockford. “Why not teach technology and combine my interests all into one?” she asks.

Junior Idalia Ruiz is majoring in biomedical engineering and minoring in math and philosophy, and she’s noticing many connections among her different courses. “At the beginning, they all seemed very separate,” she says, “but then you start to see down the road that they’re all connected, especially when you have to apply these things in the field.”

Although the STEM Fest team will miss the excitement of welcoming thousands of visitors to the NIU Convocation Center, they say there are also some advantages to the online format, which allows visitors to customize their own STEM Fest experience and get a front-row seat to every session.

The main STEM Fest events will take place in three virtual “rooms” throughout the day – the Haunted STEAM Lab, which features demos and videos with a spooky theme; the Huskie Hall, which showcases the research and artistry of NIU faculty and students; and the STEM Quest room, spotlighting STEM experts from a variety of fields and organizations. The day will end with a “Find Your Spark” science demo show, streamed simultaneously to all the rooms.

NIU STEAM staff members will be on hand in all the virtual rooms to answer questions and help visitors navigate the array of live presentations, chats and videos available.

Some of the highlights the STEM Fest team is most looking forward to include:

  • Amusement Park Physics (10:20 a.m., STEM Quest) with NASA Education Specialist Susan Kohler.
  • Engineering at Home (10:40 a.m., Huskie Hall) with Dr. Christine Nguyen from the NIU College of Engineering and Engineering Technology.
  • NIU STEM Student Panel (11:40 a.m., Huskie Hall) with current NIU students and recent graduates.
  • Esports Chat and Chew (12:10 p.m., Huskie Hall) with the NIU Esports team.
  • Math, Engineering and Dreams (12:20 p.m., STEM Quest) with authors Kelly Starling Lyons, Amy Alznauer and Gillian King-Cargile.

Register now for this free event and view a full schedule at

STEM Fest is possible thanks to the generosity of our sponsors: IDEAL Industries Inc., 3M, Thermo Fisher Scientific, Nicor Gas, ComEd, Mortenson, First National Bank of Omaha and the Suter Company.

Date posted: October 26, 2020 | Author: | Comments Off on Oct. 31 STEM Fest Celebration spotlights NIU students and experts

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

Elizabeth Vieyra was little when she first noticed some of her peers did not have the same opportunities she did.

Elizabeth Vieyra

Vieyra was always musically inclined, playing flute and violin. But she realized not everyone in her hometown of Aurora who wanted to take up an instrument could do so.

“I saw people around me who really wanted to try music but didn’t have the resources to do it,” she recalls. “I thought if I studied music education I could help people like them and kids like me who just really love music.”

When Vieyra, a sophomore, completes her music education degree, she hopes to teach music at a public school and offer private lessons at an affordable price to people in her hometown.

Vieyra is inspired by her teachers, who she said are always willing to offer help, even outside of office hours. That collaborative attitude pervades the atmosphere of the Music Building, where Vieyra said competition feels good-natured and working together is the primary focus.

“People here have a really strong bond and connection,” she said. “When something isn’t working, people come together and make it work.”

Receiving the NIU Foundation Impact Scholarship opened new doors for Vieyra, who can now afford to stay on campus instead of driving home every day. That means more time for practice, more time for study and more opportunities to be involved, she said.

“I was so happy when I found out I received the scholarship,” she said. “I ran to tell my younger siblings about it. I told them they have no excuse not to go to college because I am doing it. I am getting the help I need, and they can, too.”

When her siblings are ready for college, Vieyra said, she encourages them to choose NIU. The university and the School of Music are providing her with more than an education – they are giving her a second family.

“NIU is a place where you can make your home,” she said. “I am at home.”

Learn more about students like Vieyra during Thousands Strong, a virtual event to celebrate the thousands of Huskies whose strength, impact and generosity change lives at NIU.

Date posted: October 19, 2020 | Author: | Comments Off on Music to her ears: Scholarship helps Elizabeth Vieyra share the joy of music

Categories: Alumni Arts Faculty & Staff Homepage Parents Students Uncategorized

Winter is coming…and so is Game of Thrones and Medieval History. Have you taken a 23andMe test to find out about where you come from? Do you know someone who struggles with addiction or substance abuse? How well acquainted are you with Don Quixote?

These are just a few of the themes honors students will have the opportunity to explore in the spring semester.

The Honors Faculty Fellowship program began this fall with a cohort of NIU’s award-winning professors and innovative researchers. It will continue to provide engaging, interdisciplinary seminars to NIU honors students this spring.

Andrea Radasanu, Ph.D., director of the University Honors Program

“Honors seminars are the crown jewel of the honors curriculum,” said Andrea Radasanu, Ph.D., director of the University Honors Program. “Faculty and instructors get to teach enthusiastic and accomplished students from all disciplines, and, in many cases, introduce students to entirely new material. We are excited about the amazing seminars this year, and we are already looking for our slate of Honors Faculty Fellows for next year.”

This coming semester, Kari Hickey, Ph.D., from nursing and Carol Walther, Ph.D., from sociology will bring an interdisciplinary approach to some serious issues. “This course has not been taught before,” the teaching team said. “We will examine how addictions, health and criminal justice intersect in providing possible solutions to substance abuse and addiction. As faculty in different programs, we will lead students in thinking about this problem through a community health and sociological lens.”

Tim Crowley, Ph.D., looks forward to sharing his love of “Don Quixote” with honors students. “Experience with this text in the classroom gives me confidence that it holds particular appeal for intellectually motivated students with different disciplinary interests within the humanities and beyond,” Crowley said.

Professor Valerie Garver will be teaching seminar on “Game of Thrones” during the spring 2021 semester.

The popularity of “Game of Thrones attests to interest in a genre where great storytelling intersects with historically rich references. Valerie Garver, Ph.D., is bringing a popular seminar on “Game of Thrones” and medievalism back in spring 2021. “The main reason I would like to teach this honors seminar again is to engage with students, helping them to see the past in new ways, not least how it has shaped our modern experience,” Garver said.

Other members of the Honors Faculty Fellowship program include: Clare Kron, Ph.D., Department of Biological Sciences; Beverly Henry, Ph.D., director of Health Sciences; and Paul Wright, Ph.D., Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education.

Faculty interested in proposing a seminar for fall 2021 or spring 2022 can learn more about the University Honors Program’s call for proposals.

Upcoming Honors Seminars, Spring 2021

Game of Thrones (HIST 399H)

Many medievalists have been struck by the uses and abuses of medieval history in the HBO television series “Game of Thrones.” This course will address how and why the showrunners drew from the Middle Ages, whether consciously or unconsciously, in creating a “believable” or “realistic” fantasy world. As a result, we will explore ways modern people understand, interpret and selectively emphasize certain aspects of the Middle Ages in order to comment on contemporary issues and to come to terms with the cultural meanings of the past. Therefore, as we work our way through the series “Game of Thrones,” we will spend time reading texts from the Middle Ages, scholarly texts about the Middle Ages, recent commentaries on allegedly medieval aspects of “Game of Thrones,” and popular analyses of the series.

Taught by Valerie Garver, Department of History.

Human Genetics and Evolution (HON 300B)

Interest in personal background has become a priority in our current era. This is the newest form of “exploration,” in which genetic ancestry is plumbed to provide direction for the present. The popularity of genetic testing via kits such as 23andme continues to increase as individuals seek answers to their origins. As genetics tests also reveal DNA variation that may indicate health status, many hope to identify disease risks both for themselves and future offspring. The study of evolution is an essential complement of this exploration as it reveals the steady unfolding of the genetic signature of humankind as a whole.

Taught by Clare Kron, Department of Biological Sciences.

Ideas and Ideals in Don Quixote (ENGL 310H)

This seminar is devoted to one of the most famous and influential books in literary history: Miguel de Cervantes’s “Don Quixote.” This work, initially published in two phases (1605 and 1615), tends to be considered the first modern novel. At the turn of the 21st century, a group of 100 prominent authors worldwide voted “Don Quixote” No. 1 in the history of fiction. This seminar will explore this literary masterpiece and the fascinating relationships between society and human imagination across time periods and cultures.

Taught by Timothy Crowley, Department of English.

Interprofessionalism in Health Sciences (HSCI 399H)

Thinking about how you can improve health outcomes or patient experiences? The World Health Organization recommends interprofessional education. Learn about, from, and with each other through readings, discussion, and group projects to learn about different professions and develop your skills with collaboration. In this class, you will participate in interactive learning with other disciplines to prepare you for “deliberatively working together” to improve community and population health care systems.

Taught by Beverly Henry, School of Interdisciplinary Health Professions.

Disparities in Criminal Justice, Addictions and Health (HON 310-2)

In the 1960s, President Nixon claimed a war on drugs. Since that time, we have seen changes in drugs and a drug epidemic that has impacted communities. This course examines the possible solutions to drug overdoses through a community health and sociological lens. We have broken the course up into three parts. First, we will begin the class discussing historical changes in the health and criminal justice system. Second, we will focus on social class, racial/ethnic groups, sexualities, abilities, citizenship status, and gender positions in community health and the criminal justice system. Third, we will examine the labor practices of professionals. Students will explore ways of effectively analyzing outcome effectiveness of different programs/policies and will be required to gain firsthand knowledge by doing research in the greater northern Illinois area.

Taught by Kari Hickey, Department of Nursing, and Carol Walther, Department of Sociology.

Sport for Youth Development (KNPE 399H)

Professor Paul Wright

When most people think sport, they think competition. Learning how to compete fairly and constructively is certainly important for children and adolescents. However, sport can teach so many other positive life skills, such as goal setting, leadership, communication and respect for diversity. The field of sport-based youth development specializes in using sport as a means to promote positive overall development and teach life skills that transfer to other settings. In this class, we will explore theory, best practice and research in the field of youth sport.

Taught by Paul Wright, Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education.

Date posted: October 7, 2020 | Author: | Comments Off on Honors Faculty Fellows program to continue in spring 2021

Categories: Faculty & Staff Homepage Students Uncategorized

Members of AFSCME Local 1890 recently made a gift of $750 to the Student Emergency Fund. The gift was made in honor of the university’s 125th anniversary and represents roughly $1.25 from each of the union’s more than 600 members. The chapter represents all clerical and paraprofessional staff at NIU.

Originally, the leadership of the union had planned to conduct a fundraising campaign over several months, with members spreading out across campus and collecting donations to benefit the Huskie Food Pantry. Then came COVID-19 and, like many things related to the university’s anniversary, those plans had to be altered a bit.

While the pandemic made face-to-face fundraising impossible, it did nothing to change the union’s determination to make a gift. In fact, it only reinforced it, said local chapter president Angie Gasero.

“As we watched the pandemic unfold, we wanted to do something to help our students,” she said. “Most of our members work with students all of the time, and we wanted to help support them through this difficult period.”

The plan to give the money to the Huskie Food Pantry also changed as the scope of the need became clearer. “Many of us have had our own struggles, but we wanted to show that we really care about our students. When the Student Emergency Fund was created it was a natural place to direct our support,” Gasero said.

Established in April, the fund assists struggling students with resources and funding to get access to technology, employment, housing, meals, transportation and other critical, basic needs. To date, the fund has distributed more than $1 million in assistance to more than 3,300 students.

The gift, which was the first major philanthropic effort by AFCSME Local 1890, was made in late July, using money from the general fund.

“I am deeply grateful that AFSCME Local 1890 chose to support the Student Emergency Fund,” said NIU President Dr. Lisa Freeman. “Their selection of this fund, and the generosity that their members have shown – both through this gift and through support by individuals – demonstrates what a caring campus community we have, and how each of us is here to support our students.”

Donations to the Student Emergency Fund can be made through the NIU Foundation, and 100% of all gifts to the fund will be used to provide direct support to students in need.


Date posted: September 17, 2020 | Author: | Comments Off on AFSCME Local 1890 gift supports Student Emergency Fund

Categories: Centerpiece Faculty & Staff Students Uncategorized

On Sept. 21, 2020, the University Libraries will host the presentation Challenges of Communiversity Organizing from 6-7 p.m. on Adobe Connect.

Mark Schuller, professor of anthropology and nonprofit and NGO studies

Mark Schuller, a professor of anthropology and nonprofit and NGO studies at Northern Illinois University and affiliate at the Faculté d’Ethnologie, l’Université d’État d’Haïti, will discuss how faculty within the public university come into contact with marginalized groups and their struggles for justice. Increasingly, these groups – undocumented, transgender, African American and women victims of sexual assault, for example – are in crisis and trauma.

In this presentation, Professor Schuller will discuss efforts made as a member of NIU’s “communiversity” to engage in organizing, particularly a training program called People’s Organizing Weekend Retreat (POWER). Professor Schuller will also discuss the need to update community organizing models to address contemporary struggles necessary to collective engagement: millennials’ increasing reliance on new technologies, revitalized identity politics and addressing trauma.

The webinar lobby will open at 5:30 p.m. The presentation will start at 6 p.m. Registration is required.

For more information, contact Wayne Finley at [email protected].

Date posted: September 16, 2020 | Author: | Comments Off on Libraries’ Research and Artistry presentation rescheduled for Sept. 21

Categories: Community Faculty & Staff Homepage Students Uncategorized

Being raised in tiny Brownsburg, Indiana, while not only Black but Nigerian, confronted NIU doctoral candidate Ore Akinbo with challenges from many sides.

Standing on one side: her professional path of neuroscience and behavior. On another, her white classmates and teachers. On another, her African American peers.

Yet the daughter of two scientists – her father, Olujide Akinbo, is a professor of chemistry at Butler University who earned his Ph.D. at NIU in 1997 – is not one to surrender easily.

Or, as she has discovered this year, quietly.

Her journey began with a recognition of cultural, and perhaps genetic, expectations.

“My dad is an analytical chemist. My mom’s first degree is in physics. It was bound to happen,” laughs Akinbo, who enrolled in the NIU Department of Psychology in 2017. “It’s one of the accepted career choices you can make as a child of immigrants: lawyer, doctor, engineer. Scientist falls under acceptable.”

The daughter of two scientists, Ore Akinbo was destined to love science.

Inspiration at home was abundant, as she spent summers working with her father on projects and experiments or watching brain surgeries on the Discovery Health channel with her mother.

The outlook past those four walls, however, proved sparse.

“Growing up in a predominantly white environment, and being the odd kid out, I smelled too much like our home Nigerian food. I got bullied for things. Even the other Black students around me didn’t understand why I was so passionate about science or doing well in school,” Akinbo says.

Within her treasured books, she adds, “all of the scientists that I ever really read or learned about were all white males. There was never really space for someone like me to exist. I knew of Black female scientists, but only because they were the people my parents introduced me to.”

At school, meanwhile, “there were no Black teachers for me to learn from. The only Black teachers I encountered were special ed teachers, or teachers who worked with troubled children. There were never any science or English or math teachers who looked like me, and that was frustrating.”

Nonetheless, Akinbo persevered, heading to nearby Butler to earn her bachelor’s degree in psychology with minors in chemistry and neuroscience.

Coming to DeKalb for graduate studies at her father’s alma mater opened doors to research positions in the labs of NIU psychology faculty.

Akinbo (left) works with other graduate students under the guidance of Angela Grippo.

Under the guidance of Angela Grippo, Akinbo focuses on the behavioral, neuroendocrine and cardiovascular consequences of social and environmental stress using the prairie vole model. With Leslie Matuszewich, meanwhile, she explores the effects of stress, addiction and drugs of abuse on neurochemistry and behavior using Sprague Dawley rats.

Despite Akinbo’s arrival at this penultimate level of her professional life, however, she found that some of the experiences of home remained.

“Knowing the pain I felt, I would love to push for a different narrative in science that’s more inclusive – not just for Black women but for Black people in science – to give students who look like us that role model, or that person to look up to, to know that there is space for them,” she says.

Akinbo presents her research findings.

“Right now, unfortunately, it doesn’t feel like that,” she adds. “I go to this huge international conference – the Society for Neuroscience – and you would think that if it’s an international conference, and there are 30,000 people there, that there should be a stronger presence of Black scientists. In the two years that I’ve gone, I have come across very few of them.”

Enter George Floyd and his May 25 murder in Minneapolis.

“When the activism really started ramping up on Twitter, I heard about Black In Neuro, and I was like, ‘Finally! Maybe I can find one or two other people,’” Akinbo says, “and I found an entire community. I didn’t even know they all existed. At one point, I was crying while I was tweeting. I didn’t know that anyone else was out there.”

Finding that collective online brought not only connections and comfort but a compulsion to lift her own voice and the platform to accomplish exactly that.

Akinbo tweets her own opinions and advocacy and retweets others who are like-minded champions of social justice issues along with hashtagged “introductions” of other Black women in science. She also candidly shares her feelings about the “mental, physical and emotional” stress of graduate school, and about the challenges of teaching undergraduate classes.

Twitter has proven a friendly place for a graduate student with no Black classmates in her particular program and only a few in the department.

“It is very lonely being the only Black person sometimes because there are things that you can’t necessarily explain to other people,” she says.

“When you see someone suffocate on national TV, or when you watch someone get shot in front of their kids, you know, it hits a little bit differently as a Black person – because you see that person as your family. You see them as a family member,” she adds. “And, sometimes, that’s hard to explain to my white peers.”

Despite some pushback from unexpected corners – “from people that I did consider family, from people who I was very close to growing up” she says – Akinbo is determined to press forward to create positive change.

She hopes that lifting her voice via Twitter helps some of her white friends and colleagues to recognize their unintended microaggressions – “Sometimes, they don’t cut deep, and sometimes it’s death by a thousand paper cuts, and they keep doing it, not knowing that it hurts,” she says – and to consciously evaluate whether their “mental and physical spaces” are truly welcoming of and inclusive of Black and brown people.

Going online also has given Akinbo a new mentor, Black in Neuro co-founder Kaela Singleton.

“Kaela is amazing. She calls herself ‘The Beyoncé of Neuroscience,’ and she is literally what I want to be once I hit postdoc life,” Akinbo says. “She’s confident, she has come through a lot academically and a lot personally, and she’s come out on the other side so much stronger. She says, ‘Yes, I’m great, but let me help you be great.’ She remembers to look back behind her and uplift people.”

Akinbo wishes she could have found this when she was younger – a face on her screen similar to the one she saw in her mirror.

“I would have followed that person to the ends of the world. That would have been amazing to have,” Akinbo says. “But I’m perfectly OK with me being that person for another person.”


“For somebody like me, who’s a super-nerdy girl, hiding in her room, reading her fifth book of the day, our dreams are a little bit different, and the environments we find ourselves in don’t always encourage that. Even when it’s not a predominantly white space, even if it’s a low-economic or low-socioeconomic area, you’re not encouraged. You are overlooked. You are not seen. You are invisible,” she says.

“I hope that by amplifying our voices even louder, and by getting involved in these programs, that I’m able to encourage one child to continue on with their science dreams. I’m hoping with all of us shouting into this space of social media that we’re able to create a voice that will attract more children, that will attract more future scientists and that will let them know they’re not alone,” she adds.

“Building this community is not just to help us but also to help whomever comes next so that they’re not entering their graduate programs alone: They’re entering with a tribe.”

Date posted: September 14, 2020 | Author: | Comments Off on Psychology doctoral student discovers online community, confidence to join voices of social justice advocacy

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An outstanding senior from each of the four-year degree-granting institutions of higher learning in Illinois is chosen every year to receive the prestigious Lincoln Academy Student Laureate Award. Nominations are now open for departments to nominate a senior graduating from NIU during the 2020-2021 school year (August 2020, December 2020 or May 2021).

Lincoln Student Laureates are honored for their overall excellence in both curricular and cocurricular activities.

Andrea Radasanu, director of the University Honors Program

“Being nominated for the Lincoln Laureate award is a huge honor for students, a true recognition for high academic achievement as well as remarkable leadership and involvement beyond the classroom,” said Andrea Radasanu, director of the University Honors Program.

The NIU Student Laureate should have an NIU grade point average of 3.50 or higher and demonstrated excellence in cocurricular and extracurricular activities, which point to superior leadership skills.

The person selected will represent NIU at a special ceremony held in early November. Normally, this ceremony, along with a luncheon, is held in Springfield, Illinois, where Gov. J.B. Pritzker (or his designee) presents each Student Laureate with a Lincoln Academy medallion and a modest financial award. Plans for this fall have not been announced yet.

Past NIU Lincoln Laureates include:

All faculty are encouraged to put forward excellent nominees for consideration for departmental endorsement. For more information about the award and process, please visit the NIU Lincoln Laureate webpage. Students who meet the criteria may ask faculty members in their respective departments to consider nominating them.

Submit the electronic nomination form, including supporting departmental endorsement and faculty letter of recommendation, by noon on Sept. 11, 2020.

For more information, please email Jason Goode at [email protected]

Date posted: September 2, 2020 | Author: | Comments Off on University Honors seeks nominations for Lincoln Laureate

Categories: Awards Faculty & Staff Homepage Students Uncategorized