Northern Illinois University

Northern Today

Northern Today - December 3, 2007

NIU-led group to create statewide broadband
network to improve health care in rural Illinois

A coalition of universities and rural health care providers from across Illinois will create a fiber-optic, point-to-point wireless communications network that will revolutionize delivery of health care in rural areas of the state.

The group, known as the Illinois Rural HealthNet Coalition, will be led by Northern Illinois University.

The Illinois Rural HealthNet will be built using a $21 million grant from the Federal Communications Commission. It will extend from Galena in the north to Metropolis in the south, serving 80 small towns and a few larger communities such as Geneva, Rockford and DeKalb. It initially will include 85 hospitals and clinics, but can be expanded as needed. Participants in the northern half of the state should come online within 18 months with the rest to be tied in within three years.

When fully operational, the network will enable participating hospitals and clinics to dramatically expand the menu of medical services they offer. It will open the door to significantly improved emergency care, create opportunities for doctors to consult other physicians hundreds of miles away and give patients access to specialists around the state without ever leaving their hometowns. It will enable improved diagnostics in areas such as radiology, neurology, cardiology and pre-natal services.

“Illinois Rural HealthNet is a great example of how public universities can make a difference beyond their campuses, in the lives of all our citizens,” said health care executive Cherilyn Murer, who also serves as chair of NIU’s board of trustees. “Health care issues are always big, complex issues, and it takes a collaborative approach like this to make a difference.” 

IRHNet is nothing less than “a dream come true” for hospitals in rural and medically underserved areas of the state, said Roger Holloway, president of the Illinois Rural Health Association.

“This will be a godsend for rural Illinois. The opportunity to improve access to health care services through technology is something we have talked about a lot, and this project will make that a reality for many areas across the state. We are eagerly looking forward to the day when this comes online,” Holloway said.

Officials at the Illinois Hospital Association, which includes more than 200 hospitals statewide, echoed Holloway’s excitement at the announcement.

“It is critical for our small and rural hospitals to have access to the technology they need to deliver high quality care,” said Lori Williams, vice president of Small and Rural Hospital Affairs for the Illinois Hospital Association. “We look forward to working with NIU on developing this network.”

NIU’s Division of Outreach brings to the endeavor considerable experience in the design and operation of large fiber-optic networks and in forming partnerships with hospitals, school districts, municipalities and private companies to build networks in a cost-effective manner.

“I am very excited that NIU is able to combine the expertise we have developed in the creation of high-speed communications networks with the medical expertise of the other members of the consortium for the betterment of health care across Illinois,” said NIU President John G. Peters.

NIU’s Broadband Development Group, a university department that specializes in planning, implementing and optimizing broadband connectivity projects for municipalities and other large organizations, first conceived of the idea for the network.

“We had long been aware of the potential for broadband connectivity to improve access to medical services in remote areas,” said Alan Kraus, director of the Broadband Development Group. “And when the FCC put out a call for proposals, we realized that it created an opportunity to address the issue on a grand scale.”

Working with the NIU Division of Outreach, the Broadband Development Group quickly drew up a plan for IRHNet and recruited health care institutions and universities from across the state to join in the project.

When the FCC announced Monday, Nov. 19, that it was funding 69 projects to jump-start its Rural Health Care Pilot Program (at a total cost of $417 million), the IRHNet proposal received the third-largest grant in the country. The money for all of those projects will come from the Universal Service Fund, a fee collected from long-distance and wireless subscribers that subsidizes phone and Internet service to schools and libraries as well as to low-income populations and rural areas.

Walter Czerniak, associate vice president for technology services at NIU, said the network will be built utilizing existing fiber-optic lines wherever possible with new fiber to be installed where necessary and economically feasible. In areas where laying fiber would be prohibitively expensive, equipment that transmits data via radio waves will be used.

With money for the project in hand, the IRHNet consortium already is turning its attention to the details associated with construction of the network and to establishing protocols and procedures. That last detail is no small matter.

“Creation of this huge network allows us to tackle those issues in a very significant way. It will enable us to develop statewide standards for equipment, for software and for protocols on how information can be shared. It is a huge step forward in that process,” Kraus said.

For more information, look on the World Wide Web at

Dreaming big pays off for Broadband Development Group

The Illinois Rural Health Network began as an idea for a fiber-optic network that would provide citizens across the northern region of the state with access to the high-tech facilities and specialists that patients in urban areas take for granted.

That was an ambitious goal, considering that the team at the NIU Broadband Development Group had a mere six weeks to pull together a detailed proposal to compete for a grant from the Federal Communications Commission.

As work began, the team realized that there was a much bigger opportunity. Why not think big? Why not create a statewide network that could bring those same advantages to hospitals and clinics in all the sparsely populated areas of the state?

Despite having only three weeks to expand the vision from regional to statewide, the group took a leap of faith and plunged ahead.

That ambition proved well placed when, on Nov. 19, the group members received the full $21.6 million they requested. It was the third-largest of 62 grants awarded by the FCC to create rural health care networks.

NIU President John Peters heralded the project as a terrific example of the university’s commitment to meeting the changing needs of the region.

“The Illinois Rural Health Network is a very visible example of what it means to be an engaged and responsive university – one that recognizes the needs of the region and the state it serves and then steps up to apply its expertise to meet those needs,” Peters said.

For Anne Kaplan, NIU vice president for Administration and Outreach, the project represented the embodiment of the entrepreneurial spirit that the Division of Outreach tries to bring to all of its projects.

“IRHNet is a wonderful demonstration of what you can achieve when you merge technological expertise with the spirit of engagement,” she said. “You couldn’t find a more entrepreneurial group than the team that pulled this project together, or one that has a greater sense of what is possible in a region like ours.”

It was indeed that sense of possibility that drove the group, said Alan Kraus, executive director of the Broadband Development Group.

“When we looked harder at the call for proposals, it was clear that the FCC really wanted statewide projects. We realized that there would never be a better opportunity to go after funding. We knew that the time was right and that we had the team to make it happen,” Kraus said. “We all appreciated the magnitude of this opportunity – it’s one of those rare legacy projects that will benefit people long after we are all gone, so there was a real commitment to it.”

As daunting as the task was, Kraus felt he had the team to pull it off. Every member of the BDG has decades of experience in creating communication networks, and each had a skill set critical to the development of the IRHNet proposal:

  • Doug Power. Having formerly served as the head of telecommunications for the City of Chicago, where he designed the city-wide CivicNet, Power was no stranger to working on a grand scale. He acted as the lead author of the 147-page report of the proposal, pulling together information from other members and wading through arcane requirements.
  • Roger Swenson. Earlier in his career he spent more than two decades creating networks for corporations such as Caterpillar and Inland Steel. He applied that expertise as one of the lead engineers of the IRHNet, working out the technical requirements for equipment, fiber and other aspects.
  • Rusty Winchel. As an engineer at Motorola and Sprint, he had deployed thousands of miles of fiber optics across the country. Like Swenson, Winchel helped engineer the network, immersing himself in the nuts and bolts of the project.
  • Ray Elseth. Having previously led the technological upgrade of one of Illinois’ largest school districts from zero computers to more than 4,000 networked work stations, Elseth was no stranger to complex projects. He took responsibility for mapping out the network, staying on top of an ever growing and changing list of facilities that stretched from Galena to Metropolis and dozens of points in between.

Kraus directed the team’s efforts, drawing upon more than 30 years of experience in developing large communications networks, including acting as one of the lead players in bringing cable television to the Chicago metropolitan area.

Supplementing the BDG team was Herb Kuryliw, chief network architect for NIU Information Technology Services.

“The knowledge that Herb, and his boss, Wally Czerniak (associate vice president for Information Technology Services), have developed in deploying NIUNet was absolutely critical to the success of the project,” Kraus said. “Herb brought not only technical skills that were useful in engineering the project, but he also knew all of the players across the state – network engineers at other universities, technical people at research labs – all of the people on the front lines. He was able to pick up the phone and quickly assess situations and open doors.”

When the deadline arrived, team members felt confident they had created an excellent plan and drafted a polished proposal. They had also created a remarkable coalition, recruiting three other universities and eight major health care providers from across the state as members of a group that will build and manage the network.

The success of those efforts came as little surprise to Cherilyn Murer, chair of the NIU Board of Trustees and a health care executive who recognizes the long-term benefit the network will provide.

“Illinois Rural HealthNet is a great example of how public universities can make a difference beyond their campuses in the lives of all our citizens,” Murer said. “Health care issues are always big complex issues, and it takes a collaborative approach like this to make a difference.”

That collaborative effort, said John Lewis, associate vice president of NIU Outreach, epitomizes the type of work that Outreach tries to do for the region.

“This is the embodiment of the culture we have been trying to develop in Outreach,” he said. “It is entrepreneurship; it is responding to market needs; it is improving the economy and the quality of life in the State of Illinois. Those were the principles that Outreach was built upon, and this is a great example of that coming to fruition.”

Future elementary school teachers learn
valuable lessons from art education professor

Some of the most valuable lessons NIU teacher education students learn come from inside – and then outside – the Art Building.

That’s where they encounter Mira Reisberg, a professor of art education and illustrator of children’s books who truly loves the opportunity to work with tomorrow’s classroom teachers.

It’s partly because she knows how teachers and children can connect through art, and that well-taught art lessons open children’s eyes to the visual culture around them. Yet Reisberg also makes sure her NIU students grasp that art projects can teach children about the importance of serving their communities and protecting their world.

“In class all day, you catch them looking out the window at the snow, and then you get them back on task. I say, ‘Use it as a teaching opportunity,’ ” she says, quoting Dan Kriesberg’s “A Sense of Place: Teaching Children About the Environment with Picture Books.”

“Take a nature walk with kids. You can teach everything through snow. A snowflake has incredible math and science involved in it. Or have scavenger hunts. You can teach so much by looking at what’s around you. It’s just what you choose to focus on,” she says.

One of Reisberg’s students teacher’s students “brought in pictures of four or five of their favorite environments, including a waterfall, a beach and a forest, and asked their fellow students what they would do if they were taking their future kids on nature walks in these environments,” she adds. “What would they look for? What activities? The students responded that if it was fall in the forest, they could have the kids do tree rubbings or leaf rubbings or make mobiles doing all kinds of things with the leaves.”

Reisberg has 725 compelling reasons to prove that her ideas about good education are right.

She and her students will travel Wednesday, Dec. 5, to Hope Haven, where they’ll deliver $725 raised from animal-shaped art banks that the students made in class and then placed in businesses around town. They’ll also perform a sock puppet poetry jam for the children there.

She also has the words of some of her students.

Jason Mitchell, who’s majoring in special education, says Reisberg’s class “is not just about art. It’s learning about the environment. It’s learning about where you live. It’s learning about different political issues.”

Mitchell now has strategies for using art to teach children with special needs.

“If they were to draw, or do some kind of art that has to do with an animal or the environment, they might understand better than by just reading a book or having me lecture them on it,” says the sophomore who has created art projects for his three sons ages 10, 8 and 6 since taking Reisberg’s course. “She’s brought out a lot of different ideas and different aspects to art that I probably would never have thought of.”

“We learned about the three basics – place-based education, multicultural education and visual culture education – and we really incorporated that into every project,” adds Shardai Bell, a sophomore pre-elementary education major who hopes to teach fifth-grade. “It was a lot of fun. We did a lot of projects that I can incorporate into my own lesson plans in the future. These are projects you can do with your students to have fun while learning.”

During the summer, students in Reisberg’s courses took their own nature walks to explore the world outside the Art Building.

They drew pictures of the East Lagoon. They met local artists with rich heritages in their community and their artwork. They made sculptures of recycled materials for an organic farm where they also planted flowers and vegetables in an aesthetically designed “art garden.” The owners of the farm then donated some of the food to help nourish local hungry people. They also created “ecological” family trees with photos and their own illustrations about each family member to describe their relationships to the environment.

Retired NIU art education professor Helen Merritt accompanied Reisberg and Co. on a guided tour of Merritt Prairie, which Helen and her husband donated to the county.

The students saw sculpture by Andy Goldsworthy, the British artist whose works are constructed with all-natural materials and are left to decay and return to nature. In response, they made a mandala, “bringing together bits and pieces of organic things on the prairie” to represent the cosmos from their own human point of view.

“Helen is this exquisite older woman – truly exquisite – who is just this incredibly generous community-minded person. She is truly inspirational,” Reisberg says.

“While we were at the prairie, we experienced this huge rainstorm with enormous drops of water, and we had to flee. It added another layer of awareness to the power and beauty of nature,” she adds. “There’s a pine forest there as well, with all these pine needles, and we went and hung out in there. It was so fragrant. The ground was this really soft reddish-brown from the colors of the pines. It was just beautiful.”

Local sculptor Bob Blunk took the students to his studio, where the octogenarian still practices his craft, to display his creations and to help the future teachers to weld theirs together. Those sculptures, including a tomato cage, later were placed in the organic garden near Elgin.

“Bob Blunk is truly a local treasure – we don’t take advantage of our local treasures and how knowledgeable they are – whose work is really impressive. It’s large-scale stuff, and he’s still doing it,” she says. “He’s phenomenal, and just a really delightful human being.”

Reisberg’s knowledge of her community and its people is somewhat remarkable: The native of Australia came to NIU in the fall of 2006, but she serves as a living example to her students of learning about “your place” and striving to improve it.

Those are lessons she also draws from children’s books. Students in her courses must choose books to teach to their classmates.

The story of “Prietita and the Ghost Woman” touches on the problematic border between the United States and Mexico and the importance of protecting the environment for many reasons, including the health-promoting herbs and plants it gives. “The writer wants children to learn to look beneath the surface of things,” Reisberg says. “Things are not always what you’re told they are. Be critical thinkers.”

Another book titled “What’s the Most Beautiful Things You Know About Horses?” was written by Richard Van Camp, a member of the Dogrib (Tlicho) Nation from Fort Smith, NWT, Canada. Van Camp asked members of his tribe, which reveres dogs, to tell him what they know about horses.

“We learn about horses – all these beautiful and poetic things – but we also learn about the people he asks,” Reisberg says. “We rarely get to see representations of contemporary Native Americans. It’s either ‘the spirits guiding us’ of long-dead Indians; or stereotypes of the chief with the headdress whose images and names have been appropriated for all sorts of products, such as clothing, tobacco, cars and sports mascots; or the cowboys-and-Indians movies with Native Americans as either noble savages or just plain savages. In contrast to these images, this book has depictions about, and by, the indigenous people themselves.”

Children learn from the many one-dimensional images that they are exposed to, she say, which often simply reinforce stereotypes that are hurtful. “Visual images construe our reality,” she says. “We learn about life from pictures.”

In the spring, Reisberg will teach a new graduate seminar on cultural and environmental connections and the intersection of social justice and environmental stewardship in visual culture through the art education program. Registration is still open.

Students will look through post-colonial and visual-culture lenses at traditional art, contemporary art, indigenous art, multicultural art, children’s books, film and advertising in search of those intersections. As a final project, student will create pieces of art to demonstrate what they’ve learned, which can take any form from performance to video to making a children’s book.

“I’m so very fortunate that I get to do work I really, really love. This is work that I hope makes a difference to help make a better world, and I try not to do it in a way that’s hitting kids over the head. They develop a love of place and, through that love of place, caring,” Reisberg says.

“I feel really proud to be these students’ teacher,” she adds. “Many of them haven’t been exposed to this kind of thinking before, and now they’re going to incorporate these things into their teaching. You absolutely can teach everything you need to teach through art. It’s just a matter of gaining confidence in your creativity.”

NIU Chamber Choir’s holiday concert
features world premiere of commissioned work

Eric Johnson’s decade-long interest in the works of English composer Sir John Tavener includes a doctoral dissertation on the man whose “Song for Athene” closed Princess Diana’s funeral.

So when Johnson learned that Tavener was in search of commissioning agencies for a series of new Christmas carols, the director of choral activities in the NIU School of Music jumped at the opportunity.

That piece, titled “There Is No Rose,” received its world premiere during the NIU Chamber Choir’s holiday concert Sunday. Commissioning fees were funded by NIU’s Choral Department and the Lynne Waldeland Endowed Fund for Choral Music.

Introducing a work of Tavener’s is an honor typically reserved for professional or cathedral choirs of some prominence. NIU’s choral program was selected to participate in this project based on Johnson’s past research activities with Tavener and the Chamber Choir’s recent artistic successes.

“It’s really important to foster and support today’s composers,” Johnson said. “In 200 years, what composers will we be honoring if we don’t foster and support them now?”

Tavener’s song features eight separate parts for the choir’s 24 voices, some of which sing a drone note for most of the piece. Drawing on Byzantine influences, Tavener refers to the drone as the “ison,” and it carries significant metaphysical importance. And, in what the students call a “musical palindrome,” the intertwining melody lines are identical whether sung forward or backward.

“It has this ethereal sense,” said Stephen Yeseta, a senior vocal performance major. “It also has the orthodox tradition of the eternity note. It goes on forever. Everything circles around it, and returns to it. It ties the singers to this sense of the everlasting, and takes them into eternity. It’s not just the singing of a note.”

“Everyone starts at the same point – the eternity note – and goes off on their own parts, but eventually everyone comes back to where they began,” added senior Amanda Brex, a choral music education major. “It’s really interesting to listen to because different voices are singing the same pattern but at different times, causing the parts to sometimes clash.”

“But it’s still a really alluring melody,” said Carrie M. Filetti, a senior studying choral music education. “It’s not like anything else on the program. It’s something beyond.”

Johnson and his students believe “There Is No Rose” made a wonderful holiday gift for Sunday’s audience.

“They got a definite sense of the compositional spirit of John Tavener,” Johnson said. “It fairly represents his sound world and his aesthetic. It’s a rather mystical, somewhat minimalistic, compositional approach. His work always conveys a sense of space, and of place, in a moment, rather than progressing along a journey. He strives to create something sacred in a public place, to touch the transcendent and bring it down to earth in his own way.”

Choir members have worked hard on the piece, which arrived only a few weeks ago. But the students, whose voices can take an audience’s breath away and who have been invited to perform for national audiences and some overseas, were up to the task.

As late as Tuesday, though, the group continued to experiment with where to stand when they sing a cappella, as most of their pieces are performed.

One idea to scatter the melody singers throughout the audience while the eternity note singers remain on stage was attempted and rejected. The group then filled the stage in various spots, a configuration that seemed to please them all.

The experience has been a powerful one, Johnson said. It began as soon as he unwrapped the package and looked for the “dedicated to” message atop the scores.

“It was very exciting. Exciting was the first word. Intimidating was the second,” Johnson said. “We are the ones who are going to bring it to life for the first time. We are exploring a whole new world and trying to figure out what will make it work. There’s a great responsibility to put it out at the highest quality.”

NIU will award honorary degrees
to Argonne Director Robert Rosner,
author and physician Abraham Verghese

NIU will present honorary doctoral degrees to Robert Rosner, director of Argonne National Laboratory, and to Dr. Abraham Verghese, a best-selling author and professor of medicine at Stanford University.

Both Rosner and Verghese are expected to be on hand to accept their honorary degrees during the 9 a.m. commencement ceremony Sunday, Dec. 16, at the NIU Convocation Center.

“We’re honored to be welcoming two very distinguished and influential scholars to campus for the presentation of their honorary doctoral degrees,” NIU President John Peters said. “Both Dr. Rosner and Dr. Verghese are known worldwide for their outstanding contributions in the fields of science and medicine.”

“NIU awards honorary degrees on a very limited basis, recognizing people who have made great accomplishments in fields of interest to the university,” added NIU Provost Raymond Alden. “Drs. Rosner and Verghese clearly meet the criteria.”

An internationally recognized astrophysicist, Rosner has been director of Argonne National Laboratory since April 2005 and previously served as chief scientist at the laboratory.

His leadership and farsightedness in addressing national needs in science and engineering are widely recognized. Rosner is among the country’s leading thinkers in energy research and development, accelerator science, computational science and nanotechnology, and he serves on numerous scientific advisory committees in the United States and abroad.

“Dr. Rosner has been the leading proponent of collaborations between Argonne and national laboratories and universities, including NIU,” said Rathindra Bose, vice president for research and dean of the Graduate School.

“The university’s collaborations with Argonne have provided graduate and undergraduate students with access to unique and revolutionary experimental tools for basic research in science and engineering,” Bose added. “As laboratory director, Dr. Rosner also has supported joint appointments with NIU of scientists and joint fellowships for NIU graduate students.”

Rosner holds a Ph.D. in physics from Harvard University. He served as chairman of astronomy and astrophysics at the University of Chicago from 1991 to1997, and since 1998 has been the university’s William E. Wrather Distinguished Service Professor. He was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2001 and is a Fellow of the American Physical Society.

Dr. Abraham Verghese is the Senior Associate Chair for the Theory and Practice of Medicine at Stanford and the author of two well-known books.

Verghese’s first book, “My Own Country: A Doctor’s Story,” a memoir about treating AIDS patients in rural Tennessee, was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1994 and named by Time magazine as one of the five best books of the year. The book also was made into a Showtime original movie. 

His second book, “The Tennis Partner,” a compelling story of drug addiction and friendship, was a New York Times notable book and a national bestseller. Verghese continues to write for the New York Times and Wall Street Journal on a regular basis.

“Dr. Verghese is not only a distinguished scholar but also an extraordinary writer and visible communicator on topics of vital interest to society, ranging from infectious disease to medical ethics,” Bose said. “His accomplishments extend well beyond the field of medicine.”

Prior to his recent appointment at Stanford, Verghese served as director of the Center for Medical Humanities and Ethics at the University of Texas Health Sciences Center. He is an accomplished physician, certified in three fields: infectious diseases, pulmonary diseases and internal medicine.

A graduate of Madras University in India, Verghese trained as a resident and chief resident in internal medicine at East Tennessee State University and as a fellow in infectious diseases at Boston University. From 1991 to 2002, he was a professor of medicine at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, El Paso. He has published extensively on a variety of diseases including pneumonia, bacterial bronchitis, cellulitis syndrome, respiratory infections and AIDS.

In receiving honorary degrees from NIU, both Rosner and Verghese join distinguished company. Past recipients of honorary doctoral degrees from NIU have included former U.S. Speaker of the House J. Dennis Hastert, distinguished historian Arthur Schlesinger, former Argonne Director Hermann Grunder, U.S. Sen. Paul Simon, poet Gwendolyn Brooks and astronomer Carl Sagan.

High school seniors invited to become
tomorrow’s leaders, scholars at NIU

The NIU experience will become even more significant over the next decade for the 200 students who are chosen for the new Leaders and Scholars Program.

Beginning next fall, 20 freshmen are expected to maximize their academic lives on campus by exploring opportunities for involvement and future leadership. They also will cultivate and analyze initiatives to make the NIU experience an even more positive one for all.

Meanwhile, each year’s scholarship recipients will work as a team to identify an issue facing campus, develop strategies to overcome this concern and then present their findings to university administrators so NIU can serve its students better.

Perfect candidates are ones who are respected in and out of the classroom by their teachers and their peers and who have impacted their communities through their good works.

“Too often scholarships are so narrowly focused. This really gives those students who are great students – great people – an opportunity to be rewarded for all the things they’ve accomplished. This award looks deeper than a test score to find students who can impact the NIU campus,” said Brent Gage, assistant vice provost for enrollment services.

“We’re looking for that student who really makes a difference,” Gage added. “That’s the kind of student we want here at NIU.”

“One of the roles of a university is to help prepare our future leaders, and in this case, we’re going to be very purposeful about it,” said Vice Provost Earl “Gip” Seaver. “We’re trying to identify people very young who have good leadership abilities, and we’re going to bring them to campus to work with our leaders. To me, it’s kind of on-the-job training.”

Nominations of high school seniors are due Tuesday, Jan. 1, to NIU’s Office of Scholarship Coordination. Teachers, guidance counselors, NIU alumni and friends of the university are encouraged to put forth names.

Nominees will receive applications in the mail, which are due Friday, Feb. 1.

Each recipient will receive a $2,500 scholarship to apply toward the cost of the first year of attendance. Recipients will live on campus during their freshman year, enroll full-time both semesters and maintain good academic standing.

They also will participate in a one-day retreat prior to the fall semester, work with a mentor to ease their adjustment to college life and take a leadership course during the spring term.

“The NIU Leaders and Scholars Program is more than a scholarship program. It is an experience,” said Dana Gautcher, scholarship coordinator and financial retention advocate in the Office of Scholarship Coordination. “Students will benefit from a year’s worth of opportunities to get them involved and invested in NIU while further developing their leadership skills.”

“We’re very excited,” Seaver added. “As the parent of a Northern grad and the parent of another college student, I’d be thrilled that my student had this opportunity to get those leadership abilities.”

Gage, who brought the idea to NIU after seeing it work at other universities, said NIU also will benefit from the feedback of the Leaders and Scholars. It also provides the scholarship students with tremendous access to administrators and faculty, Gautcher said, strengthening those connections across campus.

“We have to continually provide our students a way to express to us how good of a job we’re doing. How well are we doing? We want to know,” Gage said. “We can change the culture on campus for students by students.”

Call (815) 753-4829 or visit for more information.

NIU invites community to Altgeld Hall
for holiday family celebration Friday

Northern Illinois University President John Peters and Mrs. Barbara Peters invite the community to spend a magical evening inside historic Altgeld Hall during the Holiday Family Celebration from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 7.

Young and old alike will enjoy a fun-filled evening of song and dance, holiday festivities and refreshments to celebrate the holiday season.

The event will feature entertainment by Macaroni Soup (performances at 6 and 7:15 p.m.), crafts for the children, a family photo session with a free portrait to take home, an opportunity to take pictures with Victor E. Huskie with your own camera, a dessert buffet featuring a candy “bar” for children and a chance to tour NIU’s oldest building with President and Mrs. Peters.

“Barbara and I always look forward to this evening when we welcome members of the community to campus for a celebration of the season,” President Peters said. “The holidays offer a special opportunity for friends and families to gather, and we consider everyone in the DeKalb/Sycamore area to be part of the university family.”

Parking and admission are free to the public.

For more information, contact NIU’s Office of Special Events at (815) 753-1999 or via e-mail at

Chipotle will make special delivery
to NIU students who won ad contest

Four NIU students in the Department of Communication will have some extra spending money this holiday season.

Representatives of Chipotle Mexican Grill will visit the chain’s DeKalb restaurant at 1013 West Lincoln Highway at 1 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 5, to award the students with the grand prize in its national video advertising contest, “30 Seconds of Fame.”

Seniors Chris Darkes, Brittany Samson, Sara Honchar and Joe Giorgi created the prize-winning entry, titled “Just the Fax,” which tied for first place in the contest. The four NIU students will share $7,500, with an equal amount going to a student team from Chapman University.

Each team’s university will receive $7,500 in additional prize money.

Chipotle judges cited creativity, consistency with brand and production value in awarding first place to “Just the Fax,” which tells the story of a famished officer worker (played by Darkes) whose burrito order arrives in a rather unconventional way.

The video will be played during the award presentation and also can be viewed at

All four of the students have taken advanced courses in media production with Communication Professor Laura Vazquez, who also advises the NIU Student Film and Video Association.

“Not only has this been a productive learning experience for my students but they’ve also bonded together as a creative team and as friends,” she said. “I’ve been very pleased to see the way they’ve all grown through the process.”


The DeKalb County Community Foundation has awarded the NIU Art Museum a grant to fund the second “Community Windows” project. During the coming summer, the museum will offer its prominent location to assist other non-profit arts organizations and museums in making more public their own programming and accomplishments.

Eight cultural organizations or museums will be represented by a poster on display in the NIU Art Museum’s Hall Case venue in Altgeld Hall from May 26 through Aug. 8. NIU’s Media Services Imaging Production Studio will work with each organization to design its poster.

“Community Windows” gives exposure for each cultural organization in a heavily trafficked area of the NIU campus and provides a professional promotional piece for future use at conferences, community events and its own venue.

The collaborative nature of this project built on previous partnerships initiated by the NIU Art Museum “Museum without Walls” Program and the DeKalb County Passport to Adventure Program, also funded in part by grants from the DeKalb County Community Foundation. 

Proposed featured organizations for the 2008 “Community Windows II” are:

  • Art Attack
  • Blackwell History of Education Museum
  • DeKalb Area Women’s Center
  • Gurler Area Heritage Society
  • Joseph F. Glidden Homestead
  • Sandwich Opera House
  • Regional History Center
  • Waterman Area Heritage Society

In 2007, the “Community Windows I” display included:

  • DeKalb Municipal Band
  • Egyptian Theatre
  • Kishwaukee Valley Heritage Society and Museum
  • Malta Historical and Genealogical Society Museum
  • Marie Louis Olmstead Museum
  • Midwest Museum of Natural History
  • NIU Community School of the Arts
  • Stone Mill Museum

“The NIU Art Museum is grateful for the DCCF’s support for projects that stress collaboration, allowing a single grant to benefit nine non-profit organizations at once,” said Jessica Witte, NIU
Art Museum coordinator of education and public relations.

“The project provides much needed professionally designed publicity materials to help make DeKalb County residents and visitors more aware of local cultural resources. The long-range benefits of the DCCF ‘Community Windows I & II’ projects will continue long after the displays at the NIU Art Museum. We really appreciate all DCCF does for the community.”

The NIU Art Museum is located on the west end of the first floor of Altgeld Hall. The galleries are open to the public from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday and by appointment for group tours. Exhibitions are free; donations are appreciated. 

The museum’s exhibitions are sponsored in part by the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency, the Friends of the NIU Art Museum, and the Arts Fund 21. For more information, visit or call (815) 753-1936.

Latino Resource Center to host ‘Christmas Posada’

NIU’s Latino Resource Center invites the campus community to celebrate the holidays with a tradiational “Christmas Posada” at 5 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 5.

This event is sponsored by O.L.A.S., M.A.S., De Mujer a Mujer and L.C.A.C. and is hosted by the Latino Resource Center and office of Student Involvement and Leadership Development. 

The event will include a traditional “asking for posada,” in which the participants sing Christmas carols and experience the complex blend of traditions and religious beliefs that come together in Latin American cultures. Afterward, return to the Latino Resource Center to celebrate with traditional food, drinks and music.

Although tamales, arroz, mole, hot punch and rice water will be provided, participants are encouraged to bring a favorite dish to share in a potluck.

To attend, RSVP by Tuesday, Dec. 4, to Javier Talavera at

Law Library announces hours for holidays, break

The David C. Shapiro Memorial Law Library has announced its hours through Jan. 13.

The law library will extend its hours for reading period and final exams, ending Thursday, Dec. 20. Hours are 7:30 a.m. to 2 a.m. Monday through Thursday, 7:30 a.m. to 1 a.m. Fridays, 10 a.m. to 1 a.m. Saturdays and 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. Sundays.

The library is open 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, Dec. 21. The library is closed Saturday, Dec. 22, through Tuesday, Jan. 1.

Hours in the first part of January are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 1 to 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Regular hours resume Monday, Jan. 14.

Call (815) 753-0505 for more information.

Provost seeks deserving honorees
for undergrad teaching, instruction

The time has come to begin the nomination process for the 2008 awards for excellence in undergraduate teaching and instruction.

Nomination guidelines and forms are available online.

Grants to support research, improve
undergraduate instruction available

The Committee for the Improvement of Undergraduate Education is administering four different types of grants to support research in and projects for the improvement of instruction in undergraduate courses.

  • Instructional Research and Improvement Grant
  • Student-Originated Instructional Research and Improvement Grant (requires a faculty sponsor)
  • Microcomputer Software Acquisition Grant
  • Project for the Improvement of Undergraduate Education

Multiple copies of the guidelines for these grants have been sent to each college and department office and are available online. Please use the current forms and not previous forms you might have retained.

All proposals must be submitted to the committee by Tuesday, Jan. 22. Projects must be accompanied by approval from the department chair and college dean.

All expenditures apart from salary must be made by June 1. Normally, salary associated with projects will be paid May 16 through June 15 regardless of when the work is actually completed.

WNIU to air holiday specials

In addition to holiday music heard throughout the season, Classical WNIU is pleased to offer the following specials:

8 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 6: Handel’s “Judas Maccabeus”
Celebrate Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, with the entire oratorio performed in all its glory by the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & UC Berkeley Chamber Choir. The program includes preconcert comments from conductor Nicholas McGegan.

9 a.m. Monday, Dec. 17: Concordia College Christmas Concert
For 80 years, the small Lutheran Evangelical school out on the prairie, Concordia College, has had anything but a small vision when it comes to celebrating music. With a choir and orchestra of more than 400, the Concordia College Christmas concert attracts capacity crowds from all faiths to celebrate the season and the promise it holds. For this Christmas, listen to nationally-renowned conductor René Clausen as he leads the pure, youthful voices in a concert called “On Our Way Rejoicing,” a potpourri of familiar and traditional works intertwined with music that brings new sounds and meaning to the season.

9 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 18: Welcome Christmas!
The annual Christmas concert from VocalEssence, recognized internationally as one of America’s premier choral groups.

9 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 19: Chanticleer Christmas
A Chanticleer Christmas celebrates the mystery and wonder of Christmas with an elegant blend of traditional carols, medieval and Renaissance sacred works, and moving spirituals.

9 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 20: St. Olaf Christmas Festival
The St. Olaf Christmas Festival is one of the oldest and most cherished celebrations of the holidays in the United States. Begun in 1912, the festival is a worship service of hymns, carols, choral works and orchestral selections that celebrate the birth of Christ. Featuring more than 550 student musicians, it takes place on the St. Olaf campus in Northfield, Minn.

8 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 20: Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker” Suite
Enjoy the entire ballet, performed by The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, under the direction of Vladimir Ashkenazy.

9 a.m. Friday, Dec. 21: Echoes of Christmas
Over the years, the Dale Warland Singers have provided magical performances for this season to listeners across the country. Drawing upon the archive of those live performances, Warland and host Brian Newhouse bring old and new treasures to listeners looking for Christmas inspiration.

8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 21: Handel’s “Messiah”
From the stunning solos, to the majestic and powerful effects in the Hallelujah Chorus, this performance steeped in tradition is guaranteed to set the Christmas mood.

8 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 22: Christmas Storytime
Sit back, pour the hot chocolate and let your inner child emerge this holiday season. Steve Blatt features a special program of enchanting music and beloved stories narrated by popular artists. Enduring classics accompanied by legendary orchestras will evoke memories of Christmas past, and set the stage for a blissful holiday. Highlights will include: “Twas the Night Before Christmas,” performed by the Boston Pops, John Williams conducting with actor/comedian Robin Williams narrating; Brother Heinrich’s “Christmas” by John Rutter, performed by the City of London Sinfonia & Cambridge Singers, John Rutter conducting and Brian Kay narrating; and Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker Suite” performed by the New York City Ballet Orchestra, David Zinman conducting and actor Kevin Kline narrating. Rebroadcast at 8 p.m. Monday, Dec. 24.

9 a.m. Monday, Dec. 24: A Festival of Nine Lessons & Carols
From the chapel of King’s College in Cambridge, England, the legendary Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols service (Biblical readings and music) as performed by the 30-voice King’s College Choir.

10 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 1: New Year’s Day from Vienna
Direct from the Golden Hall of the Musikverein in Vienna, the most popular classical music concert in the world: the Vienna Philharmonic New Year’s Day concert. The conductor this year is Georges Prêtre.

Visit for more information. WNIU is the classical music station of Northern Public Radio, the broadcast service of NIU.

WNIJ to air holiday specials

89.5 WNIJ is pleased to offer the following seasonal specials in its program lineup:

6 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 2: “Chanukah: A Time for Schtick”
An hour of high jinks and fun, including some great jokes for the holiday season, features veteran comedian Shelley Berman of TV’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and “Boston Legal;” Cathy Ladman, one of the country’s funniest moms and in great demand as a stand-up comic, recently seen Off-Broadway in “The JAP Show: Princesses of Comedy;” and the witty and multi-faceted musician/performer, Peter Himmelman.

6 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 9: Peter Ostroushko’s Heartland Holiday Concert
Peter Ostroushko’s Heartland Holiday concert celebrates the spirit of the season from a multi-cultural perspective. Ostroushko is a master fiddler and mandolin and guitar player, and his musical journey features traditional and ancient carols.

6 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 16: J.R. Sullivan’s Home for the Holidays
Re-visit the first WNIJ Christmas special produced with Jim Sullivan and friends from 1994. Join us for an hour of holiday music and seasonal stories, presented by some of Rockford’s favorite performers, past and present.

8 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 20: A Paul Winter Solstice Concert
From the cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City, Paul Winter, one of the original world musicians, is back again with a unique exploration of the solstice tradition in cultures near and far. Hosted by John Schaefer.

1 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 23: J.R. Sullivan’s Hometown Holiday
Rockford native J.R. Sullivan returns home for his 14th annual holiday celebration, recorded live on stage in Rockford. This year’s show reunites the remarkable talents of Stephen Vrtol III, Linda Abronski, Shawn Wallace, Megon McDonough, Randy Sabien and, making her debut with the Hometown Holiday cast, Holland Zander.

6 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 23: Jonathan Winters’ “A Christmas Carol”
A public radio tradition hosted by NPR’s Lisa Simeone. Master comedian Jonathan Winters presents a distinctive reading of Dickens’ holiday classic, with a special performing edition prepared by Dickens for his own presentations. 

10 p.m. Monday, Dec. 24: Echoes Sonic Seasonings
This year’s Sonic Seasonings takes listeners through a winter landscape drawn from Norwegian fjords, Irish dales and Northeastern mountains and foothills. It’s not just carols, but original music evoking the season’s time-stopping silences and chilled landscapes. Host John Diliberto dusts the snow off his boots and pulls up a chair with the musicians, drawing out revealing tales and Christmas memories to enhance the intimate concert setting.

10 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 25: An Echoes Christmas
Just when you thought you were sick of Christmas carols, find new ways of hearing some ancient sounds for the day with recent music by Andreas Vollenweider, Al Petteway and Amy White, Banshee in the Kitchen and more.

Noon Saturday, Dec. 29: The Capitol Steps New Year’s Edition of “Politics Takes a Holiday!”
The Capitol Steps’ annual awards ceremony roasts all of 2007 to a tasty crisp. Join Don Imus, Al Gore, the guy who had TB but still got on an airplane, Rudy Giuliani, Vladimir Putin, Hillary Clinton and many more as the Capitol Steps bring the year in review. You should look forward to 2008, but not before you make fun of 2007 first.

6 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 30: WNIJ’s 2007 Year-In-Review Special
The WNIJ Newsroom looks back at some of the significant local stories of 2007, including the summer floods, the closing of Cavel International in DeKalb and the resignation of U.S. Rep. Dennis Hastert.

10 p.m. Monday, Dec. 31: An Echoes Techno-Tribal New Year’s Stomp
Echoes kicks out the jams for a New Year’s Eve Techno-Tribal celebration, forming a seamless path into the new year, with music that dances in your head. John Diliberto matches beats and mixes atmospheres, riding the pulse of some of the newest ambient, lounge and techno-tribal music, creating the ultimate New Year’s Eve chill-out room.

Visit for a complete program schedule, plus information on other news and events heard on 89.5 FM. WNIJ is the NPR News/Talk station of Northern Public Radio, the broadcast service of NIU.

Alumni Association to explore natural wonders of Costa Rica

NIU’s Alumni Association is heading to Costa Rica this spring.

Unsurpassed natural beauty awaits travelers on this exploration of Costa Rica’s natural wonders. This tropical and secure paradise features lush rainforests, beautiful beaches, cloud forests, abundant wildlife, dynamic volcanoes, vanishing ecosystems and warm and hospitable people. It’s nature’s museum waiting for you to explore.

Visit the Alumni Association Web site or call (815) 753-1452 for more information.

PCSW seeking nominations of outstanding women students

NIU’s Presidential Commission on the Status of Women is accepting nominations for the 2008 NIU Outstanding Women Student Awards. This recognition process, begun in 1980 as the Women’s Student Leadership Awards, is intended to foster the development of leadership among women students, both graduate and undergraduate.

The nomination deadline is Monday, Dec. 17.

For details regarding eligibility, criteria and the nomination procedure, visit or call (815) 753-0320.

To access the nomination form, visit

Kishwaukee Concert Band to present Christmas concert

The Greater Kishwaukee Area Concert Band will present “An Old Fashioned Christmas” at 3 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 8. The concert will be held in the Boutell Memorial Concert Hall inside NIU’s Music Building. The concert is sponsored by The Medicine Stop in DeKalb.

John Hansen will direct the all-volunteer band in many familiar Christmas carols and songs, and Gavin Wilson will be the guest vocalist. The concert is free, and the auditorium is accessible to all.

Local chorus, brass band to join for Christmas cantata

The DeKalb Festival Chorus will join forces with the Prairie Brass Band to perform Daniel Pinkham’s Christmas cantata at 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 9, in the Boutell Memorial Concert Hall inside NIU’s Music Building.

Several traditional, and not-so-traditional, seasonal songs also will be featured. 

Tickets are $7 for adults and $5 for seniors and students. Tickets are available at the door or from any Festival Chorus member.

Faculty Development to host Teaching Effectiveness Institute

NIU’s Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center will host the Spring 2008 Teaching Effectiveness Institute from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 10, in the Capitol Room of the Holmes Student Center.

The theme is “Promoting Active Learning Through Blended Courses.” Presenters are Alan Aycock, Amy Mangrich and Tanya Joosten, all from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Learning Technology Center. Aycock is associate director; Mangrich and Joosten are instructional design consultants.

A blended/hybrid course uses a blend of face-to-face as well as online teaching and learning activities. Successful teaching of blended courses requires rethinking and redesigning face-to-face courses, creating new learning activities and effective integration of online and face-to-face components.

This transformation requires learning new skills necessary to manage online interaction successfully, incorporating methods of assessment and effective use of the interactive and organizational tools found in Web course management systems.

The workshop is open only to NIU faculty and staff. Advanced registration is required and available online. The deadline to register is Friday, Dec. 21. Please contact the center if you do not receive a response or an e-mail confirmation of your registration within two working days.

Registered participants will receive workshop materials, lunch, refreshments and certificates of participation. Those who register and are unable to attend should inform the center by Monday, Jan. 7, so that those on the waiting list might have the opportunity to attend.

Call (815) 753-1085 for more information. 

Community School of the Arts offers financial aid for spring

Students ages 18 and younger who want to pursue their study of the arts, but who cannot afford the full cost, are invited to apply for financial aid for the spring semester.

The NIU Community School of the Arts offers a wide variety of art, music and theater classes, including private music lessons and ensembles. The deadline for financial aid applications is Monday, Jan. 7.

All classes and lessons are taught on the NIU campus in DeKalb.

The NIU Community School of the Arts is sponsored by the College of Visual and Performing Arts. Approximately 80 teachers offer lessons on most musical instruments as well as in art and theater. More than 600 community people from nearly 50 towns and cities travel to DeKalb each semester for lessons and classes.

Application forms are available at (815) 753-1450 or online at The NIU Community School of the Arts is located in Room 132 of NIU’s Music Building.

Foundation seeks proposals for 2008 Venture Grants

The NIU Foundation, which looks forward to supporting faculty and staff in the pursuit of excellence in research, teaching, and outreach to the larger community, invites applications for the 2008 Venture Grants.

All proposals must be received in the Foundation Office (Altgeld 135) by Friday, Feb. 1, 2008. Awards will be announced no later than the first week of April.

Foundation officials anticipate awarding two to four grants at a minimum level of $5,000 and up to $25,000, with a total amount available of $55,000. All faculty and staff from units within the Division of Academic and Student Affairs, the Division of Administration and University Outreach and Intercollegiate Athletics are eligible to apply.

For complete information about the grants, as well as application information and forms, visit the NIU Foundation Web page. Contact the Foundation with questions at (815) 753-7539.

Human Resource Services to host annual blood drive

Human Resource Services will host its annual blood drive Wednesday, Dec. 5. It will be held in rooms HR166 and HR178 of the Affirmative Action and Diversity Resources section of the HR building.

The blood drive will run from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. Average time for blood donation is 45 minutes. 

Heartland Blood Centers will conduct the blood drive. HBC is a community blood center open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It provides and delivers all blood products to local hospitals for total patient care. HBC works toward collecting more than 100,000 units of blood annually, and at least 1,900 donors are needed each week to meet this need. One blood donation can save up to three people since the pint is broken down into three distinct components – plasma, platelets and red blood cells.

Appointments can be made by calling (815) 753-6000. Walk-ins also are welcome, but appointments will be taken first. Donors should remember to bring a photo ID to the drive. Each donor will receive a free pair of “Drop Everything Donate Blood” boxer shorts.