Professor Emeritus and Former Chair, Department of Communication
Former Director, Women’s Studies
Dr. Lois Self dedicated over three decades of dynamic service to the university and to the enhancement of Liberal Arts and Sciences. She’s described as a savvy administrator, a prolific scholar, a gifted teacher, and a talented communications professional. Though officially retired, Dr. Self continues to be an example of service in action, both to the local community and to the university.
Dr. Self graduated with honors in history from St. Andrews Presbyterian College, earned a master’s in American history from the University of North Carolina, and her Ph.D. in Communication Arts at the University of Wisconsin, studying with top scholars of American history, rhetoric, and public address. At NIU, Dr. Self made lasting academic contributions through a co-authored textbook on multicultural communication skills, publication of scholarly articles, and presentation at dozens of conferences in the U.S. and abroad. She played a key role in bringing new scholarship on gender and feminist theory and methodology in rhetorical theory, film studies, developmental pedagogy, and gender studies into her discipline and to NIU.
After coordinating the university’s oral communication skills program for educationally disadvantaged students for five years, and while continuing teaching and engagement in her own department, Dr. Self spent nine years as Director of Women’s Studies. Developing and expanding that program made it a model for university interdisciplinary initiatives and lead to her appointment as the first chair of the Provost’s Task Force on Multicultural Curriculum Transformation. Significantly, she was awarded the inaugural Wilma Strickland Award in 1995, for “exemplary leadership/service resulting in a more favorable campus climate for women.”
After directing the Women’s Studies program, Dr. Self was elected Chair of the Department of Communication, then in the midst of challenging transitions: most notably, merging the previous departments of Communication Studies and Journalism. Dr. Self used her communication and relationship skills to unite these units into one of the largest, most diverse departments on campus and garnered support from administration, faculty, alumni, and area communication professionals. To this day, colleagues, administrators, and alumni describe her as an exemplary university leader and role model: consistently honest, kind, and optimistic.
Upon retirement, Dr. Self said, “It has been my privilege and honor to work with people deeply committed to improving communication in our troubled world. In ‘semi-retirement,’ I look forward to continuing to build connections between alumni, faculty, staff, students, administrators, and the larger community.” In the years since, she has done just that. At the behest of the Provost in 2006, she led a year-long development seminar for faculty interested in academic leadership. In 2008, she oversaw the college’s fiftieth anniversary celebration; worked with faculty, staff, and alumni leaders to form a Communication Office for Liberal Arts and Sciences; and served as Acting Director of College Communications for two years.
Beyond the university, Dr. Self has also dedicated herself to serving the community. She chaired the National Communication Association’s Women’s Caucus, helped found that organization’s Feminist and Women’s Division, and received its national award for her “Outstanding Contributions to the Lives of Women in Communication.” Locally, she co-founded the DeKalb Area Women’s Center, served as a Girl Scout leader, and as an officer in the Sycamore Music Boosters. She volunteers and has served on the Steering Committee of Pay-it-Forward House, the community hospital hospitality house. Currently she serves on the Board of Safe Passage, DeKalb County’s domestic violence shelter and sexual assault agency.
Dr. Self has received numerous awards and recognitions for her contributions to the college, university, and community but receives the highest praise from colleagues both past and present, who describe her as dedicated, even-tempered, positive, and innovative. As one nominator wrote, “Lois is a demonstration of the intrinsic value of her interdisciplinary vision, her commitments to fairness and justice, and the capacity of NIU to develop leadership competency among its faculty.”