Northern Illinois University

NIU Office of Public Affairs

News Release

Contact: Melanie Magara, Office of Public Affairs

April 19, 2007

NIU strategic plan to address teaching methods,
research emphases, regional impact and campus culture

DeKalb – Six months into a comprehensive study of NIU’s mission, strengths, challenges and opportunities for growth, the university’s Strategic Planning Task Force is rolling out four reports on “overarching themes” that will guide the planning process as it moves into colleges and departments next fall.

The 45-member task force concentrated its efforts on issues related to strengthening the teaching and learning environment, identifying and strengthening clusters of research excellence, identifying and enhancing NIU’s impact on the Chicagoland region and building campus community.

Four workgroups tackled each of the major themes. Their reports, along with a confidential response mechanism, can be found on the Strategic Planning Task Force web site on the NIU website at

“When the task force finishes its work in May, the action on these priorities will take place in the colleges and departments,” explained NIU Provost Ray Alden. “What we’re doing now is building the framework for all those efforts going forward.”

More than 100 faculty, staff and students have participated in meetings and interviews about NIU’s future. According to Alden, the four “umbrella” themes emerged fairly quickly and have generated what he terms “some very excited and enthusiastic discussions about what NIU can and should be known for.”

“Task force members have made it clear that the success of this effort depends on how well we are able to define what we mean in ways that speak clearly and persuasively to all our constituencies,” Alden said. “Our challenge going forward is to identify what it will take to make these things happen, and how we will measure success in each area.”

NIU President John Peters last fall established a set of key principles to guide the strategic planning effort. Peters told the campus in his October 2006 State of the University address that NIU should in all its future efforts strive to be a sustainable, accountable, global, engaged and responsive university.

“I’m pleased to see that our strategic planning task force has truly integrated these principles into the foundation of this planning effort,” Peters said. “As we head into our first ever capital campaign, it will be important for us to be able to assure donors that we are good stewards and worthy of their investments.”

“It’s also important for us to have a genuine campus dialogue about these plans,” Peters added. “This process will drive resource allocation going forward, including resources for academic infrastructure such as better classrooms, technology, scholarships, professorships and academic program support. This isn’t just an exercise – it will result in strategic investment to support key areas and build institutional reputation for decades to come.”

The draft work group reports will undergo additional discussion at upcoming task force meetings and a final roundtable discussion with more than 100 faculty, staff, students and alumni. When task force members are satisfied that all major issues framing future strategic planning efforts have been surfaced, they will commission a final ‘Phase One’ report from planning consultants at The Learning Alliance for Higher Education.

“This has been an exhilarating process,” Alden said. “I think it’s difficult to read through these reports and not be excited about the ideas and honest expression they contain. We have the opportunity to make a difference for this institution and the students and region we serve, and I believe this task force has risen to the occasion. I encourage all members of the NIU community to study these reports and add their own thoughts and ideas to the mix.”

Work Group Summaries

The Teaching and Learning Environment

Chair: Harold Kafer, Dean,
College of Visual and Performing Arts


  • Joe Dertien, Graduate Student Advisory Council
  • Dawn Ericksen, University Libraries
  • Tom Krepel, Office of the President
  • Kate Mantzke, Department of Accountancy
  • Paul Stoddard, University Council / Faculty Senate
  • Diana Swanson, Women’s Studies / English
  • Christine Worobec, Department of History
  • Elisa Fredericks, Department of Marketing
  • Deborah Pierce, International Programs
  • Earl “Gip” Seaver, Office of the Provost

Major Themes:

  • Engaging Learners
  • Thinking Broadly and Deeply
  • Embracing and Expanding Diversity
  • Conversing About Ideas

Key Points:

  • The values expressed in the aforementioned themes should guide all aspect of academic planning going forward.
  • A mechanism should be developed whereby application of said valuesis matched by application of resources needed to manifest them in new programs and initiatives.
  • These guiding values grow out of recognition of existing strengths in NIU’s current teaching and learning environment.

Research and Scholarship Clusters

Chair: Susan Mini, Chair, Department of Physics


  • Rathindra Bose, Research & Graduate School
  • David Buller, Department of Philosophy
  • Janet Holt, Educational Technology, Research & Assessment
  • Narayan Hosmane, Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry
  • Pradip Majumdar, Department of Mechanical Engineering
  • Sarah Marsh, Department of Management
  • Peter Middleton, School of Music
  • Joel Milner, Department of Psychology
  • Malcolm Morris, College of Law
  • Mary Pritchard, College of Health & Human Sciences
  • Jerry Blazey, Department of Physics

Major Themes:

  • Collaboration / Multidisciplinary Scholarship
  • Involvement of Students in Faculty Research & Scholarship
  • Building on Existing Strengths

Key Points:

  • Research can and should inform teaching. Faculty and students should work together on creation and dissemination of new knowledge.
  • NIU needs to strengthen its commitment to individual faculty research and artistry.
  • Clearly articulated criteria should be developed and oversightmechanisms established to guide growth of existing research andscholarship programs and development of new, multidisciplinaryprograms and initiatives
  • Efforts should be made to match NIU’ s research strengths with emerging regional needs to strengthen programs, expand their reach and provide more opportunities for experiential learning.

Regional Impact

Chair: Brigid Lusk, Chair, School of Nursing


  • Virginia Cassidy, Office of the Provost
  • Julia Fauci, University Press
  • Andrew Krmenec, Department of Geography
  • Sharon Smaldino, Educational Technology, Research & Assessment
  • Anne Kaplan, Division of Administration and Outreach
  • Richard Orem, Department of Literacy Education
  • Melanie Magara, Office of Public Affairs
  • Steve Cunningham, Division of Finance and Facilities
  • Omar Ghrayeb, Department of Industrial & Systems Engineering

Major Themes:

  • NIU Region as ‘Global Portal’
  • Partnerships and Collaboration
  • Matching Regional Needs With NIU Strengths

Key Points:

  • NIU’s service region is among the world’s top 3 – 5 centers of commerce, technology, health care and the arts. Full engagement with that region puts NIU on a national and international stage in every aspect of its identity, mission and potential for growth.
  • Regional dominance in health care and technology provide countless opportunities for future NIU advancement, partnerships and identity development.
  • NIU should engage in ‘relentless promotion’ of its strengths and contributions to this global region.

NIU Community

Chair: Deborah Haliczer,
HR Director of Employee Relations


  • Brian Hemphill, Division of Student Affairs
  • Kim Judson, Department of Marketing
  • Laura Lundelius, Campus Parking
  • T.J. Lusher, University Libraries
  • Bob Marshall, NIU Alumni Association
  • Cindy Phillips, Information Technology Services
  • Jim Phillips, Intercollegiate Athletics
  • Adam Novotny, Student Association
  • Lemuel Watson, Counseling, Adult & Higher Education
  • Judy Santacatarina, LAS Advising

Major Themes:

  • Collaboration
  • Communication
  • Recruitment and Retention
  • Engagement With Alumni

Key Points:

  • A strengthened sense of community among all members of the NIU ‘family’ is needed to facilitate all types of collaboration.
  • NIU should increase investment in all forms of communication – internal and external – to foster better relationships, build pride and project a clear sense of institutional identity.
  • Enhanced efforts at recruitment and retention of talented, diverse and engaged students, faculty and staff are needed to help NIU meet all of its goals.