Northern Illinois University

Northern Today

Northern Today - June 29, 2009

Rockford executive Marc J. Strauss
elected chair of NIU Board of Trustees

Marc J. Strauss, general counsel for First Rockford Group in Rockford, Ill., has been elected chair of the Board of Trustees of Northern Illinois University.

Strauss, who was first appointed to the board in 2005, most recently served as its vice chair.  He has also chaired the Legislation, Audit and External Affairs Committee, and is the NIU board’s liaison to the Universities Civil Service Merit Board – a statewide body that Strauss has chaired for more than two years. 

“Marc is well-regarded and respected by his colleagues on this board, and he brings tremendous expertise to the position at a time when leadership of any public body is an extraordinary challenge,” said outgoing Board Chair Cherilyn G. Murer.

For his part, Strauss said “respect, transparency and accountability” will mark his tenure as board chair. 

“We will be working very diligently within our shared governance system to look in greater depth at our budget and resource allocation,” Strauss said.  “The financial crisis we face today requires this board to have a far deeper understanding of NIU resources and systems in order to protect the quality of our teaching and research, as well as the objectives of our strategic plan, all while keeping an NIU education affordable for our students.”

Strauss holds three degrees from Northwestern University and is a member of the DeKalb, Chicago and Illinois State Bar associations.  He is a member of the International Council of Shopping Centers and the Rockford, Illinois and National Associations of Realtors.  He has been associated with First Rockford Group since 2001, and previously held law firm partnerships in  Sycamore, DeKalb and Chicago.

In addition to his professional work, Strauss has been an active volunteer in many DeKalb-area civic organizations, including TAILS Humane Society, the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce, DeKalb Park District and Kishwaukee-DeKalb Kiwanis.  

Other board officers elected today include vice chair John Butler of Chicago and secretary Robert Boey of DeKalb.  All board officer terms begin July 1.

Reorganization focuses on student
recruitment and success

NIU officials have announced a reorganization aimed at improving student success from enrollment through graduation.

Effective July 1, a new unit called the Office of Student Academic Success will provide what Provost Ray Alden calls a “one-stop shop” for coordination of all services that support student academic progress, including early alert programs, mid-semester grade checks, special initiatives for building student leadership and financial literacy programs. Student Academic Success will be part of NIU’s umbrella Academic Advising Center.

Vice Provost Earl “Gip” Seaver will head the new initiative.

Seaver joined the Provost’s Office in 2003 following an impressive career as professor of speech-language pathology, including 11 years as director of NIU’s Speech and Hearing Clinic and 13 years as chair of the Department of Communicative Disorders. Since joining the Provost’s staff, Seaver has been in charge of undergraduate academic affairs, a role he will retain in the new organizational structure.

Vice President Brian O. Hemphill also receives new duties in the reorganization as he takes on responsibility for enrollment management.

As vice president for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management, Hemphill will assume responsibility for the offices of Admissions, Student Financial Aid, the Scholarship Office and Enrollment Operations beginning July 1. Hemphill will continue to manage Student Affairs as he integrates the enrollment function into a more holistic program of student support services.

Hemphill joined NIU in 2004 after serving as associate vice president for Student Affairs and dean of students at the University of Arkansas, and associate dean of students at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. In addition to his administrative role at NIU, Hemphill is an associate professor of Counseling, Adult and Higher Education in the College of Education. His experience at Northern includes providing services that enable students to successfully transition to college life and participate in learning experiences beyond the classroom.

“NIU has long enjoyed a reputation for providing an outstanding experience for students, both inside and outside the classroom,” Provost Ray Alden explained. “With these changes, we are realigning our efforts to bring a more holistic approach to student recruitment, enrollment, support and success. We want to attract students who are interested in developing an integrated skill set from a wide range of academic and campus life experiences. The well-rounded graduate is what employers are looking for, and we want to nurture and expand the experience that creates those graduates.” 

NIU President John Peters said the reorganization supports priorities laid out in the university’s new strategic plan.

“This is a welcome focus on student success beginning at the very earliest point of contact with prospective students and carrying through to their graduation from NIU,” Peters said. “I’m pleased that the enrollment management function will now be represented on my cabinet, and that once we enroll those students we can provide a much more coordinated approach to ensuring their academic success.”

NIU involving high school teachers
in cutting-edge physics research

Forget about “R and R,” shorthand for rest and relaxation.

Physics teachers Elisa Gatz of Sterling High School and Jim Browne of Amboy High School are using their summer break to get a little “R and D.”

Gatz recently began conducting research and development on particle detection alongside scientists in NIU’s High Energy Physics Group. Browne is working at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory on the LIGO project, which aims to detect gravitational waves.

Elementary particle physics isn’t the normal fare for high school science teachers or students. But that is changing in some schools across the country thanks to QuarkNet, a 12-year-old professional teacher development program funded by the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Energy.

As participants in QuarkNet at NIU, Gatz and Browne hope to incorporate what they learn during the eight-week program into cutting-edge physics lessons at their respective schools.

“I didn’t really learn much about high energy or particle physics when I was going through my training as a teacher, but I’ve always found it fascinating,” Gatz says. “I hope to learn more so that I can apply it in my classroom.”

The NIU Department of Physics this year was named as an official QuarkNet center, a designation shared with 52 other top universities and laboratories nationwide, including the University of Chicago, John Hopkins University, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, Argonne National Laboratory and Brookhaven National Laboratory. QuarkNet ultimately aims to interest more high school students in the sciences.

Gatz and Browne are receiving an intensive eight-week summer training to become “lead teachers.” As such, they will help train several other high school physics teachers from nearby districts during one-week workshops at NIU in future years.

“We’re thrilled to become a QuarkNet center, especially when considering that only a handful of institutions are accepted into the network each year,” says Pati Sievert, NIU’s outreach coordinator for science, technology, engineering and math. “It puts us in good company.”

The first QuarkNet institute at NIU was held during the summer of 2008 as a joint exercise between NIU and Argonne National Laboratory. During the week-long program, both physics teachers and high school students were taught how to assemble and use cosmic ray detectors.

Now NIU is charged with strengthening and expanding the program to schools in northwestern Illinois. Amboy, Byron, Sterling and DeKalb high schools are enrolled with the NIU center, as is Auburn High School in Rockford.

“We want to reach out to high school students, both directly and through their teachers,” says Dhiman Chakraborty, an NIU physics professor and scientist.

With assistance from several other physicists and graduate students, Chakraborty heads up NIU’s QuarkNet effort. He also leads a five-member team of NIU physicists and graduate students participating in the Atlas project at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, in Geneva, Switzerland.

“In future years, high school students will accompany their teachers and come to NIU to directly participate in hands-on training in experimental techniques,” he adds. “They will be introduced to state-of-the art equipment used in real groundbreaking experiments and trained by professional physicists at NIU, Argonne and Fermilab.”

Browne and one of his Amboy High School students participated in last summer’s QuarkNet institute, where they attended talks given by active researchers from Argonne and NIU. They also built a cosmic ray detector using a kit and instructions supplied by QuarkNet.

QuarkNet high school teachers receive stipends for their participation and travel expenses. Lead teachers, such as Gatz and Browne, also receive mini research grants and stipends for academic-year planning.

Participating schools receive equipment, such as detector kits, so they can continue experiments and data collection. QuarkNet teachers and students at hundreds of high schools across the country share data, ideas and exciting observations over the Internet and at annual multi-institution “masterclass” gatherings via live webcast.

“Our goal is to instill and cultivate among high school students an awareness and interest in science in general, and physics in particular,” Chakraborty says. “This is extremely important to the long-term future of this country. A quick look at world history is enough to see how essential scientific research is in ensuring a nation’s strength and prosperity.”

More information about QuarkNet can be found online at

NIUNet reaches Hoffman Estates, Rockford

NIU Outreach Centers in Rockford and Hoffman Estates are finally seeing the light – the one coming through fiber optic cables.

Both centers were connected earlier this month to the university’s high-speed fiber optic network – NIUNet – dramatically improving Internet service to those buildings.

How much of an upgrade will the connection provide? Consider, for the sake of comparison, that Internet service providers advertise connections of 2 to 10 megabits to be “high-speed.” The new 10-gigabit connections at the centers are about 10,000 times faster than that, said NIU network architect Herb Kuryliw.

That improvement will eliminate the nightly slowdowns in the computer network when dozens of students flip open their laptops and tap into the building’s Wi-Fi. It also will make the centers much more attractive to corporate clients looking to conduct multi-site training programs or run media-rich presentations across the Web.

The improved connections, coupled with new equipment installed last fall, will allow professors to deliver distance education classes essentially in real time with DVD-quality picture and sound – from appropriately equipped classrooms on the main campus in DeKalb, or from hundreds of other universities around the world.

The new connection also will eliminate more than $50,000 a year in annual fees that each center currently pays for Internet service vastly inferior to what they now receive. It also will enable them to back up data instantaneously on servers in DeKalb.

As has been the case throughout the creation of NIUNet, the network also will benefit other entities, Kuryliw said.

In Rockford, the university worked cooperatively with the City of Rockford to install cable there.

The city provided the labor and equipment to lay the line, while NIU provided the fiber and design work. As a result, both entities were able to achieve goals while spending far less money than if they had pursued them independently. Kuryliw estimates the cooperative effort cut the cost of the project by about 80 percent.

Some of the new fiber in Rockford will be instrumental to help complete the Northern Illinois Technology Triangle, another fiber optic ring that Rockford officials hope will be part of an economic revival there, said Glenn Trommels, information technology director for the city. It will also, someday, provide improved Internet service to schools, hospitals and local governments. Cooperating with the city to install several sections of fiber saved NIU 80 percent of the cost of pursuing that work on its own, Kuryliw said.

In Hoffman Estates, schools in District 300 and District 211, the Village of Hoffman Estates and the nearby City of Elgin all stand to get better, faster and cheaper Internet service with the arrival of NIUNet.

NIU-Naperville was connected to NIUNet about two years ago. The university’s Information Technology Services group is working to find cost effective ways to close the last few miles of the original 175-mile fiber optic loop.

SciCamp: The next generation

Future scientists, engineers visit NIU campus

The next generation of scientists visited campus this past week, building water-powered rockets, assembling model roller coasters, making solar ovens, constructing wind turbines and experimenting with miniature fuel cell cars.

Oh, and, they also enjoyed ice cream that they made themselves – using liquid nitrogen.

NIU played host to about 20 students enrolled in two separate SciCamp groups. SciCamp Discovery was geared for students entering the sixth and seventh grades; SciCamp Exploration included students entering eighth grade and high school.

“Our aim is to get kids excited about science and to expose them to scientific activities that they wouldn’t normally receive in a classroom,” says Pati Sievert, camp director and NIU’s outreach coordinator for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

NIU has been hosting science and engineering-related camps for elementary, middle and high school students since 2002. About 200 students are attending one of six different camps this summer.

“It’s especially rewarding to see kids get excited about things they didn’t even know were related to science,” Sievert says. “At our SciCamps, they also develop good friendships with other students who have similar interests.”

Studies have found that students pursuing STEM-related careers need to be better prepared for college, and oftentimes teachers themselves are in need of further professional development. Last year, NIU Outreach consolidated and began managing university-wide STEM Outreach programs, which include professional development opportunities for teachers and efforts to introduce young people to emerging scientific fields.

The goal is to engage young students in science, math and engineering and raise awareness among teachers, parents and community members about the importance of nurturing these skills.

Reservations still available
for LLI trip to Elmhurst

NIU’s Lifelong Learning Institute will continue to take reservations through Friday, July 3, for its Elmhurst field trip through Friday, July 3.

The trip takes place Friday, July 17, and includes the Lizzadro Museum of Lapidary Arts, Elmhurst Art Museum and the Theatre Historical Society of America.

The jewel box-shaped Lizzadro Museum of Lapidary Arts features stone carvings and earth science. Meanwhile, the Elmhurst Art Museum, a Ludwig Mies van der Rohe home, specializes in late 20th century American art. The field trip will include a docent-led tour of two featured exhibitions: Stacza Lipinski’s intricately cut paper installations and Marc Sijan’s realistic human plaster sculpture.

Finally, visitors to the Theatre Historical Society of America at the York Theatre in the Elmhurst City Centre, will view artifacts from the era of the great movie palaces in the United States.

Participants will depart from the Normal Road entrance of the Holmes Student Center at 8:30 a.m. Cost is $65 for LLI members and $75 for non-members and includes all entrance fees, lunch, hands-on activities, transportation and the guided tour charges.

Call (815) 753-0277 or register online at

Annuitants Association to host
trip to Gold Coast Art Fair, cruise

The NIU Annuitants Association will sponsor a trip Saturday, Aug. 1, to the Gold Coast Art Fair, including the Chicago Architecture River Cruise.

  • 7:30 a.m. – Depart from Holmes Student Center, Normal Road entrance
  • 9:30 a.m. – Chicago Architecture River Cruise with bus transfer to the art fair following the cruise
  • 11:30 a.m. – Gold Coast Art Fair with free time for browsing and lunch on your own
  • 4:55 p.m. – Depart Chicago from the corner of LaSalle and Ontario

Cost is $105 per person and includes round-trip transportation in deluxe motor coach and Chicago Architecture River Cruise. Reservations confirmed by payment. Pick-up points are available at Orchard Road, Naperville Road or Midwest Road upon request. Payments are transferable but not refundable.

To make a reservation, or for more information, contact Steven Johnson at

Kishwaukee Symphony to play
July 23 concert at Hopkins Park

The Kishwaukee Symphony Orchestra will perform at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 23, at the Hopkins Park band shell.

Named the 2009 Community Orchestra of the Year by the Illinois Council of Orchestras, the musicians will play an eclectic selection, from Strauss’ “Emperor Waltz” to the themes from “Batman” and “Spiderman” to the national anthem.

Kishwaukee Symphony to host
golfing event with Linc Smelser

The Kishwaukee Symphony Orchestra will host its 11th annual golf outing Friday, July 17, at the Sycamore Golf Club, 940 E. State St.

Golfers can hit the links with KSO Conductor Linc Smelser, the Illinois Council of Orchestras’ 2009 Conductor of the Year. Smelser is also an applied artist in the NIU School of Music.

Lunch and registration begin at 11:30 a.m., and the shotgun start is at 1 p.m. Rates range from $115 for an individual golfer to $551 for the deluxe Beethoven Package for four.

Special events include a 50/50 raffle and silent auction (supported by the generosity of local businesses and individuals). On-the-course events include longest drive, closest to the pin, straightest drive and shortest drive.

All proceeds benefit the Kishwaukee Symphony Orchestra, 2009 recipient of Community Orchestra of the Year by the Illinois Council of Orchestras. 

More information and registration materials are available online. For other questions, call Phyl Naffziger, chair of the KSO Golf Committee Chair, at (815) 748-7071.

Kishwaukee Corporate Health
opens convenient care center

Kishwaukee Corporate Health, which NIU generally uses as an occupational medicine physician service, has opened an “Exclusive Convenient Care” center for the companies it serves. It is closed to the general public.

The center, located at 3251 Commerce Drive in DeKalb, is two blocks west of Kishwaukee Community Hospital off Bethany Road. Hours are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Friday. Walk-ins are welcome; patients who call for appointments will reduce their wait times.

Services for minor, non-work-related injuries and illnesses are available for employees and family members of participating client companies only. Patients must be 18 or older. No pediatric or OB/GYN care is provided.

For more information, call (815) 754-4882 or visit

Art Museum to rent works

It is time once again for the NIU Art Museum’s annual “Art to Lend” exhibition. Works from this exhibition from the permanent collection are available to hang in secure campus offices.

Those who are interested in considering the selections should stop by the Altgeld Gallery (first floor, west end) between Monday, June 29, and Thursday, July 9. Hours are from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day. As in previous years, works will be assigned by lottery-based preferred selections. The lottery drawing will be held at 3 p.m. Thursday, July 9.

There are nominal fees for this service to cover part of the Art Museum’s incurred costs and for the direct care and maintenance of the collection, including matting and framing to make new selections available.

Check for more information on the rental policy. For any other questions, contact Pete Olson at (815) 753-7867 or via e-mail at


  • Jodi M. Scaletta, supervisor of the biology lab for 10 years, died June 18 in DeKalb. She was 47.