Huskies Advancing Change

NIU strives to be a welcoming and inclusive community where every Huskie feels respected and appreciated.

To this end, we are embracing anti-racist values and behaviors, and taking actions that will lead to permanent change. These include recognizing and dismantling systems, structures, policies and practices that are biased or racist. We are committed to personal and collective action, to thinking and acting differently, and to being unrelenting in efforts to reject bigotry and eliminate exclusionary systems and practices.

Student Voices


Diversity, equity and inclusion are woven into the fabric of NIU’s athletic department. The athletic department is intentional about creating a diverse, equitable and inclusive environment where coaches, staff and student-athletes are continually educated and trained in various areas. In addition, coaches, staff and student-athletes have the opportunity to serve the community, university and department in diversity and inclusion initiatives.

  • The Diversity Integration Group was established in 2013-14 at the direction of Sean Frazier, vice president and athletic director of NIU. DIG brings together staff, coaches, student-athletes and university representatives to discuss ongoing diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts and participate in DEI actions. The group is led by Senior Associate Athletic Director Courtney Vinson and welcomes collaboration on DEI initiatives from within athletics and across campus.
  • Associate Vice President/Director of Athletics Sean T. Frazier co-chaired the LEAD1 committee that produced “Actionable Recommendations to Create More Diverse Senior Leadership in NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) College Sports.”
  • The DIG completed completed Social Justice Action Plan initated in 2020 and also updated DIG Action Plan for 2021-24 academic years.
  • NIU Student-Athlete Diversity and Inclusion Committee was created by NIU student-athletes in fall 2020 as a byproduct of social justice activism due to protests following multiple murders of Black people in America. The first event that NIU student-athletes organized was the Student-Athlete Unity March and Rally on Oct. 10, 2020.
  • In January 2022, NIU Athletics received 2022 NCAA/MOAA Award for Diversity and Inclusion and became the first two-time winning institution. The NCAA/MOAA Award for Diversity and Inclusion recognizes and celebrates the initiatives, policies and practices of school and conference offices that embrace diversity and inclusion across intercollegiate athletics. This can be achieved through community service, professional development, hiring practices or programming activities that enhance opportunities for people of diverse cultures, backgrounds and experiences.

Mid-American Conference Accolades

  • The Mid-American Conference (MAC) initiated new programming for coaches and administrators that consisted of diversity, equity and inclusion educational sessions. NIU coaches and staff participated in all sessions. NIU Assistant Vice President Monique Bernoudy and Associate Professor Eric Hall were invited discussion leaders.
  • President Lisa Freeman was nominated by the MAC to fill a vacancy on the NCAA Minority Opportunities and Interests Committee. This is an association-wide committee focused on fostering an inclusive environment and creating a culture that promotes fair and equitable access to opportunities and resources for student-athletes, coaches and administrators who are ethnic minorities, LGBTQ+ or who have disabilities.
  • NIU has had multiple programs and winners of the MAC Give Back Leadership Awards, which are awarded each week to the MAC institution, sport program or student-athlete that has shown excellence in service and citizenship for that week.


Academic Diversity, Equity and Inclusion leads the charge in establishing an equity-minded community that challenges and eliminates exclusionary systems and practices.

Diversity and Resource Centers

NIU’s diversity and cultural resource centers and academic diversity programs provide programs and events that support and engage students, faculty and staff on topics related to their professional, cultural and social interests. These centers are often a “home away from home" for students seeking ways to connect with others who share their culture.

Ally Training

Goal 4A

Social Justice Education

Social justice education programs at NIU support students, faculty and staff from across the university by advancing equity-minded practices and building an inclusive community where every member is appreciated and respected.

  • Anti-racism Reading List
  • Conversations on Diversity and Equity (CODE) create spaces for students, faculty and staff to learn about the cultural differences that shape our world and explore complex aspects of the diversity and equity framework.
  • The Huskie Conversation Café Podcast explores critical and topical themes in the book that serves as NIU’s common reading experience in the 2020-2021 academic year, "When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir," by Patrisse Khan-Cullors and Asha Bandele.
  • People’s Organizing Weekend Empowerment Retreat (POWER) empowers student activists who have previous experience organizing and/or participating in activities centered on the tenets of social justice. The focus is on coalition-building while allowing participants to work as allies and collaborators at NIU.
  • College of Law Race and Law Conversations provide a platform with expert panelists engaging in much-needed conversations on a wide range of racial and social justice issues.
  • The College of Education’s Academic Equity Committee launched a Racial Equity Academy in fall 2021 with one dozen participants – two per department – to learn, talk, reflect and create projects to incorporate equity and a culture of belonging in their work.

Goal 4A

Campus Groups

Anti-racism Collective

The Anti-racism Collective subscribes to the principles that power differentials and hierarchical structures are often antithetical to anti-racist pursuits, and that egalitarian, autonomous approaches are necessary as an additional lever to pull in order to bring about institutional change. The Anti-racism Collective, thus, operates independently from NIU administration, and will only share information publicly that its executive board deems safe for all members to share.

Our goal is to provide a space for members of DEI committees, or those interested in anti-racist agendas in departments and units without DEI committees, to meet regularly; share resources, goals and progress on anti-racist initiatives; and hold each other accountable for that progress through providing feedback on DEI initiatives/goals.

The constituency of the Anti-racism Collective are students, faculty and staff interested in making anti-racist changes to NIU policies, procedures and structures. We envision the major product of the Anti-racism Collective to be publicly available periodic documentation on progress toward anti-racist initiatives for each department/unit that is represented.

Black Faculty and Staff Association

The NIU Black Faculty and Staff Association is a university-recognized organization dedicated to supporting Black faculty, staff and students; raising awareness of Black issues on campus; and providing opportunities for mentoring, networking and collaboration.

Faculty Senate Social Justice Committee

The Faculty Senate Social Justice Committee is charged with identifying factors that contribute to institutional racism at NIU and taking action to correct them, with a focus on university policies, procedures and practices. The committee has 12 members and three subcommittees: Institutional Racism; Academic Affairs; and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

Presidential Commissions

The president is advised by five commissions on issues related to campus climate for diverse populations. The commissions enhance our university community by engaging in education, research and recognition of employees that advance equity and inclusion.

Student Affairs Anti-racism Team

Student Affairs has formalized a team committed to anti-racism as part of its divisional committee structure. This team will identify and address systemic barriers to racial equity, inclusion and social justice within Student Affairs, including policies, hiring practices and other obstacles to provision of culturally responsive student service. The committee will assist with goal setting, strategy development and outcomes evaluation.

Community Engagement

Belonging: An NIU-DeKalb Partnership

  • Belonging is a partnership with the city of DeKalb to engage in community dialogues and education to create an inclusive and welcoming community.
  • Belonging: A Community Conversation with Dr. john a. powell was sponsored jointly by the city of DeKalb and NIU. Approximately 500 people tuned in for the thought-provoking dialogue that challenged all to think and question the ways in which we include and exclude people from our lives and community. Following this successful inaugural event, Belonging received grant support from state and local sources to sustain its impact.
  • A Healing Illinois Grant in the amount of $30,000 was awarded by the Illinois Department of Human Services to fund community work focused on racial healing, including creation of a Belonging Leadership Council, and support of public art and engagement activities.
  • The DeKalb County Community Foundation provided $5,000 to support Belonging initiatives to a community partnership that includes NIU, the city of DeKalb, the Family Services Agency, the Ellwood Museum and the DeKalb County History Center.
  • Two upcoming exhibits, Arts in Action and Faces of Belonging, are possible because of the support received by Belonging.

Arts and Culture

The college is committed to utilizing the arts to advocate for anti-racism and social justice education. In fall 2020, they helped organize the Black Lives Matter painting on Castle Drive and in front of Stevens Building.

  • The School of Theatre and Dance produced a reading series of plays by BIPOC authors in the fall and is planning one for the spring.
  • The School of Music has devoted resources to pursue equity and ensure representation in their artistry, including:
    • Purchasing music from BIPOC composers who are being featured in each concert event.
    • Creation of a committee to address and promote awareness of social justice issues that has determined the following action items:
      • Perform and focus on BIPOC music.
      • Study works of BIPOC artists.
      • Recruit BIPOC faculty members to assist with teaching and making practices more equitable collegewide.
  • The jazz department is heavily committed to diverse composers and forming a consortium of BIPOC works partnered with BIPOC alliances.
    • Indian rhythms.
    • Blues composers.
    • Female composers.
  • The choir is:
    • Learning about and performing a diverse repertoire.
    • Attending presentations by guest artists such as Karen Siegel and other women composers.
  • The band purchased rights to perform works by BIPOC composers.
  • Large ensembles are studying different BIPOC repertoire as well, and expect guest artists to take to the next level.
  • The School of Art and Design is sponsoring a lecture series featuring BIPOC artistry and scholarship.
Collection, Talks and Performances
  • The Burma Art Collection is located in the NIU Art Museum, where selections from the permanent collection are exhibited on a continuing basis. Recent exhibitions showcased contemporary artists in the Olson Gallery and reverse glass painting. In addition to visual art, the Burmese collection holds manuscripts, music and maps. 
  • African American scholars Huey Copeland and Cherise Smith gave public talks about African American artists Fred Wilson and Carrie Mae Weems as part of our Allen Lecture series
  • Cassandra Smith gave a public talk about her work at Pottery Mound as part of our Allen Lectures. She also visited Professor Evans’ class to talk about contemporary Indigenous artists.

For more information about their programming and resources, please visit  Art for Social Justice. 

Their mission is to inspire activism for social justice and cultural diversity through engagement with museum collections, exhibitions and educational programs.

  • Hateful Things (Feb. 1 - April 9, 2021)
  • Relevant past exhibits:
    • Swept Under the Rug
    • Quilts and Human Rights
    • Push Factors: Perspectives on Guatemalan Migration
    • Storytelling: Hmong American Voices
    • The Children of Native America
    • Trowels and Fair Trade: Revealing the Underground Railroad and Contemporary Slavery

Alumni Engagement

College of Law alumni are actively engaged with the college and in the community as leaders, committee members, speakers, panelists and mentors on diversity, equity and inclusion matters.

  • Six of our alumni judges served as part of a panel on implicit bias in the judicial system on Saturday, Feb. 27, from 3-4:30 p.m.
  • The Honorable Vincent F. Cornelius (’89) is the co-founder and has served as the co-host of the NIU Law Minority Reception for the past 18 years. During this event, people of color and/or advocates for justice are honored for Excellence in Service and Leadership.
  • The Honorable Vincent F. Cornelius (’89), Circuit Court of Will County, was recently appointed to serve on the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission’s (ARDC) newly formed Equal Justice Rules Committee (EJRC).
  • Dr. Mary Milano (’78) and Kenya Jenkins-Wright (’03) were appointed as co-chairs for the Illinois State Bar Association’s newly created Steering Committee on Racial Inequality, which was borne out of a resolution passed by the ISBA Assembly in June 2020. In addition, Matt Pfeiffer (’00) was appointed as a member of this committee.
  • The Honorable Sondra Denmark (’04) and the Honorable Sheree Henry (’94) were speakers for the Black Law Students Organization’s program, From BLSA to the Bench. Former BLSA President Judge Denmark and former BLSA member Judge Henry spoke to the group about their journey through law school, their legal careers and their paths to the bench.
  • Rich Lenkov (’95) is on the Advisory Board for Legal Prep Academy, a unique law-themed high school on the west side of Chicago, serving primarily students of color.
  • The Honorable Thaddeus Wilson (’94) is the current president of the Illinois Judicial Council (IJC). While the IJC is primarily composed of African American judges and judicial officers of the state, it has grown to include judges and judicial officials representing a myriad of ethnicities, as well as judges who serve on the federal bench.
  • Dartesia Pitts (’05) and Jerrod Williams (’02) are former presidents of the Cook County Bar Association, the oldest association of African American lawyers and judges in America.

State and National Leadership

American Physical Society

Vice President Jerry Blazey and Assistant Vice President Anna Quider contributed to the American Physical Society’s report, Building America’s STEM Workforce: Eliminating Barriers and Unlocking Advantages (PDF). Their efforts have highlighted how federal research investments amplify systemic inequalities and what steps might be taken to diversify research participation.

Equity Working Group for Black Student Access and Success

Three Huskies were appointed to the Equity Working Group for Black Student Access and Success in Illinois Higher Education, a cross-industry working group to address inequities and disparities amongst Black students in Illinois: NIU President Lisa Freeman, Mechanical Engineering Professor John Shelton, and Higher Education and Student Affairs graduate student T’Keya Hicks.

Goal 2B

Partnership for College Completion

NIU actively supports the work of the Partnership for College Completion and its ambitious goal to eliminate institutional achievement gaps in college degree completion for low-income and first-generation students in the northeastern Illinois region by 2025.

Goal 2B

National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education

Vice President Vernese Edghill-Walden has been appointed to the National Association of Chief Diversity Officers in Higher Education Anti-racist Framework Task Force, and that will inform how NIU conceptualizes and defines anti-racism.


NCAA Minority Opportunities and Interests Committee

President Lisa Freeman has been selected to serve on the NCAA Minority Opportunities and Interests Committee (MOIC) with a term beginning September 01, 2021, and continuing through August 31, 2025. The NCAA MOIC champions the causes of historically underrepresented student-athletes, coaches, and administrators by fostering an inclusive environment, thereby creating a culture that promotes fair and equitable access to opportunities and resources.

Shaping Equitable Federal Research Policy

Vice President Jerry Blazey and Assistant Vice President Anna Quider lead NIU’s federal advocacy efforts to create a more equitable science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) research landscape. They work directly with staff for the U.S. Congress to shape policies that address how federal research investments amplify systemic inequalities. They contributed to the American Physical Society’s report, Building America’s STEM Workforce: Eliminating Barriers and Unlocking Advantages, which highlights inequities in the distribution of federal research funding.

Contact Us

Office of the President
Altgeld Hall 300


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