Northern Illinois University

NIU Office of Public Affairs

John Peters
John Peters

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News Release

Contact:  Melanie Magara, NIU Office of Public Affairs
(815) 753-1681

September 25, 2008

President calls for focus on student success and program integration in annual address

DeKalb – In his first annual address since the February 14th tragedy, NIU President John Peters told students, faculty and staff the university is moving forward with a renewed sense of purpose and unity, guided by its strategic plan and a focus on student success.

Peters said the university has already added 200 new class sections in areas of highest demand; is overhauling the core curriculum for the first time in 25 years; and will be creating cross-college “landing spots” for students who aren’t able to enter their first choice of academic major.

“First and foremost, we are building on NIU’s genuinely student-center ethos through an action plan that places students firmly at the center of everything we do,” Peters said.

Calling NIU “a well-balanced research university,” Peters said its strategic plan puts special emphasis on integrating teaching, research and service in ways that enhance student learning opportunities. 

“We know that engaged learners are more successful students,” Peters said.  “Engaged learning takes place whenever students pursue their academic interests beyond the classroom, and they are doing that through study abroad, participation in research projects, internships, clinical placements, volunteer and service work and many other faculty-led opportunities.” 

Peters pointed to NIU’s extensive work with area public schools and healthcare providers as examples of the mission integration called for in the university’s new strategic plan. NIU’s P-20 (pre-school through graduate school) initiative provides extensive hands-on experience for NIU students and researchers while also improving students achievement in K-12 schools. Peters took the opportunity of his address to announce an agreement between NIU and DeKalb District 428 to jointly plan and launch the new DeKalb High School (see sidebar on NIU/428 partnership). The NIU Family Health, Wellness and Literacy Center in the former Monsanto building on Sycamore Road and the university’s proton therapy initiative were similarly cited for providing service to the region as well as excellent teaching and research opportunities.

Peters said growth on the academic side of the university will be largely multidisciplinary, with faculty from multiple colleges collaborating on new programs that cross traditional college and department boundaries. Examples under development include nanoscience and engineering, environmental studies and an institute to improve learning at the critical middle-school level.

NIU’s ambitious strategic plan calls for a multi-million dollar investment in new faculty, programs and technology, and Peters said the first phase of that funding plan is already in place. In addition to some $6 million in new money dedicated to the project, the university will reallocate existing dollars and invest substantial private monies in strategic priorities over the next three years.

True North, the university’s first-ever comprehensive capital campaign, is nearly 90 percent of the way to its $150 million goal with two years to go, Peters said. Since its launch in 2003, True North has established 17 new professorships and endowed chairs, and quadrupled scholarship dollars awarded from endowment.

Peters also announced receipt of two federal grants aimed at helping the university recover from February 14th:  a $586,000 grant to help the university improve, test and share its emergency response plan, and a $397,000 grant to fund new counseling and mental health positions in the Counseling and Student Development Center and the Office of Employee Relations and Training. Both grants are from the U.S. Department of Education (see sidebar on grants).