Northern Illinois University

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Daniel Kempton
Daniel Kempton



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News Release

Contact: Joe King, NIU Office of Public Affairs
(815) 753-4299

June 22, 2009

Kempton to lead NIU Honors Program

DeKalb, Ill. — Daniel Kempton believes he is in the enviable position of being in the right place at the right time.

The newly appointed director of the University Honors Program takes over the post with a brand new strategic plan for the program (one that he helped initiate) already in place, and a commitment from the university to strengthen the program.

“I believe that for a long time the Honors Program at NIU has been doing some very impressive things with few resources,” said Kempton, of Sycamore, who has served on the University Honors Committee several times, including as chair last year. “I think we are at a juncture where there is a commitment to increase that support so that we can do even greater things.”

A few of the initiatives outlined in the plan for the program are immediate priorities, Kempton said. They are:

  • Increase cooperation. Presently there exists a fair amount of redundancy between requirements for the University Honors Program and departmental honors programs. “We want to make that as seamless as possible, and I think we can accomplish that with a little flexibility and sharing of resources,” Kempton said.
  • Improve the classroom experience. Kempton hopes to set a standard of excellence across the board for all honors classes. To do that he will institute the sharing of best practices across departments. He also is exploring the creation of summer grants that would provide incentive for faculty to develop more active and creative projects for honors students enrolled in “mini-sections” of classes.
  • Increase engaged learning. Providing students the chance to participate in hands-on, real-world learning is a strength of NIU, Kempton believes, and he hopes to make such experiences a requirement for honors students, whether that be through internships or projects like those in the College of Business Experiential Learning Lab.
  • Go global. Kempton, who was named the International Educator of the Year for NIU in 2008, travels frequently to conduct research (including Fulbright fellowships that allowed him to travel to Russia and South Africa) and has taught abroad in the United Kingdom and Australia. Those travels have vastly enriched his scholarship, he said, and he plans to work closely with International Programs to increase opportunities for honors students to enhance their own education by studying overseas.

To help pay for all of those initiatives, Kempton also has plans to increase fundraising activities for the program.
“To date, the program hasn’t worked much with the NIU Foundation. Other departments and colleges on campus have been having increased success with outside funding and I would like to start down that path,” he said. Part of those efforts, he added, will be to improve relationships with honors alumni, who will also be solicited for ideas on how to improve the program.

It is an ambitious agenda, but one that Kempton is capable of moving forward, said Vice Provost Gip Seaver.
“Daniel is very dedicated to students and to the Honors Program,” Seaver said. “I think he brings a vision to the program that will strengthen it and help it grow.”

Nancy Castle, who has filled the role of Honors Program director on an interim basis for the past year, said she is sad to give up the post but knows she will leave it in good hands.

“I haven’t had this much fun in 25 years of teaching,” she said. “Daniel is coming into a great situation and he is a great fit for the job. He connects very well with students; he’s an excellent teacher and an outstanding researcher. He is well known and respected across campus, and his years of experience as chair of political science will be invaluable.”

Kempton, who takes over the job Aug. 1, is eager to get started.

“The program has a very good staff and an interim director who really built some momentum. I’m really looking forward to building on that success,” he said.

Leading the Honors Program is the latest step in an NIU career that began in 1987, shortly after Kempton earned his doctoral degree at the University of Illinois, where his expertise in the classroom earned him the top award for excellence in undergraduate teaching – both in his department and university wide.

At NIU he has served as chair of the Department of Political Science from 1999 until 2006, and prior to that served stints as assistant chair, director of graduate studies and director of undergraduate studies. He has been the recipient of 11 different fellowships, received top honors

for teaching within his department and has been nominated for some of the top teaching awards at the university. His scholarly interests include Russian domestic politics, Russian foreign policy, missile proliferation, the international diamond trade and global terrorism.

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