Northern Illinois University

Northern Today

Provost Raymond Alden
Provost Raymond Alden

Greg Long
Greg Long


Baccalaureate Review group nears end
of public input phase of goals examination

April 13, 2009

by Mark McGowan

Members of the Baccalaureate Review Task Force will host a final open forum Tuesday to conclude a semester-long collection of opinions on the meaning of an NIU bachelor’s degree.

Scheduled for 3 p.m. in Altgeld Hall Room 315 (the Board of Trustees meeting room), the session will again focus on broad questions: What do we want our students to know? What do we want them to be able to do? What kind of citizens – what kind of people – do we want them to be?

The process has gone well, said Greg Long, a professor in the School of Allied Health and Communicative Disorders who chairs the committee.

“People are ready to have a discussion on this topic, and the vast majority have been very appreciative. There is a general consensus that there is value in talking about this. We haven’t done this in a serious, cross-university fashion for many years,” Long said.

“We have, at this point, hit a lot of our constituencies in a couple different fashions. We’ve completed well over 30 focus groups, and we’ve had approximately 850 people respond to the online survey,” he added. “Students make up about half of the respondents so far. We’ve had professors who have been quite active in encouraging their students to participate.”

The online survey remains open through April.

“Our online survey has provided excellent coverage,” Long said. “We’ve heard from about 130 employers, many of them NIU alums.”

Spawned by the university’s strategic planning process, the committee has labored on the basis that every institution must periodically review what it believes and make sure its curriculum supports those beliefs. The committee also realizes a general agreement is necessary for change.

NIU’s last baccalaureate review of this scope took place 25 years ago.

Committee members will spend the summer sifting through the eventual reams of data to create a report and, come the fall, present recommendations to administrators and campus leaders. They will keep a devotion to transparency and an open mind to suggestions and tweaks, Long said.

Provost Raymond Alden has praise for the committee’s work so far.

“It’s quite appropriate coming out of a strategic planning process that had, as its first goal, to preserve and enhance the academic quality,” Alden said.

“This is a process that many universities are going through, and I’m excited about it. I look forward to seeing a faculty-driven product that says, ‘These are our educational values, and they are reflected in the learning outcomes that all students should attain while at NIU.’ ”

Discussion has centered on two themes, Long said: the basic skills that bachelor’s degree graduates need and the values they should have.

“We’ve had a consistency in terms of responses – critical thinking, ethics, global citizenship, issues of diversity,” he said. “I’ve been impressed by people’s willingness to participate and be creative and to see how curriculum relates to the overall experience and not just their courses.”

Members of the steering committee also include David Changnon, Jes Cisneros, Carolinda Douglass, Barbara Fouts, Elisa Fredericks, Omar Ghrayeb, Jeff Kowalski, Michelle Mingas, Earl “Gip” Seaver, Paul Stoddard and Lucy Townsend.