Our Leadership

Rena Cotsones

Rena Cotsones, Ph.D.

Vice President,
Outreach, Engagement and Regional Development and Chief Engagement Officer

Bringing people together for a common good has been a lifelong passion for Dr. Rena Cotsones.

As chief engagement officer for NIU, Dr. Cotsones leads the Division of Outreach, Engagement and Regional Development, advancing the university’s public mission and providing leadership, partnership and support for faculty, staff and students interested in engaging with the broader region. She oversees the Center for Governmental Studies, the P-20 Center for Engagement, Northern Public Radio, the university’s three regional centers and field campus, NIU’s centralized conferencing and event management function and NIU’s Public Engagement Networks. Dr. Cotsones is also actively engaged in a number of university-wide initiatives such as the development of the Northern Illinois Center for Community Sustainability and the new Strategic Development Team, looking for new ways to create, enhance and fund transformational university projects.

During her NIU career, Dr. Cotsones has worked with regional partners to create and implement collaborative approaches to advancing education, economic development, workforce development, and innovation initiatives in northern Illinois and Chicagoland. For example, she worked with NIU engineering, community college and industry leaders to create NIU Engineering @ RVC, a community-based, industry-integrated engineering baccalaureate completion program in Rockford, Illinois. This collaborative workforce solution has inspired the development of other innovative approaches to education and workforce development in the region and won the 2017 Award of Excellence for Talent + Place Development from the University Economic Development Association (UEDA).

Dr. Cotsones is actively engaged in the national dialogue on university engagement and outreach. She is a former Chair of the Executive Committee of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) Council on Engagement and Outreach and is a current Executive Committee member of the APLU Commission on Community and Economic Engagement. She is a frequent speaker on economic and community engagement, a faculty member for the Engagement Academy and a Fellow of the Strategic Doing Institute.

She began her career as a television journalist after graduating from Illinois State University with a Bachelor of Science in mass communication. She holds a master’s degree in public administration and a Ph.D. in political science from Northern Illinois University.

Amy Jo Clemens

Amy Jo Clemens, Ed.D.

Assistant Vice President,
Outreach, Engagement and Regional Development
Director, Center for P-20 Engagement

Dr. Amy Jo Clemens is the assistant vice president of the division and director of the Northern Illinois University Center for P-20 Engagement. She has spent 34 years in education, with more than 15 of those years in policy development, program delivery and student advocacy, including the past 7 years in higher education.

For the division, Dr. Clemens works on priorities that cut across colleges and divisions, including the Strategic Development Committee and the NIU Engagement Task Force. As director of the P-20 Center, Amy Jo oversees five directors with P-20 responsibilities that span from birth through lifelong learning with a focus on STEM readiness, diversity in the workforce, continuing education and bridging secondary to postsecondary for Illinois’ most vulnerable students and families.

Dr. Clemens brings to OERD many years of experience as a classroom teacher, principal and administrator. She began her career as a teacher in a Montessori preschool before completing the Illinois teacher certification program at NIU and teaching high school chemistry and physics. She then served as the Principal of Malta High School, where she began writing grants. Her grant writing has exceeded $12 million for NIU alone. Her experience in state educational policy and program delivery includes serving as an assistant superintendent for the Illinois State Board of Education and regional superintendent in Lee and Ogle counties.

Dr. Clemens met NIU alum Alan Clemens when they were both graduate assistants in Grant Hall 35 years ago. They married and have three grown children – Emily, Thomas and Nicholas. She likes to garden, read and travel.

Staci Hoste

Staci Hoste

General Manager, Northern Public Radio

Staci Hoste is the director of the region’s public radio stations. Northern Public Radio is a five-station network of public broadcasting services owned and operated by Northern Illinois University. 89.5 WNIJ, the network’s flagship station, is a charter member of NPR and programs news, information and entertainment throughout northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin. Meanwhile, 90.5 WNIU provides the region’s only source for 24-hour non-commercial classical music. 

Hoste has been a lifelong listener to WNIJ and WNIU – first as a “prisoner of public radio” in her parents’ backseat, and now of her own enthusiastic accord. Hoste joined the stations in 2008 and became director in 2012. In her role, she oversees general station operations as well as the fundraising and community engagement strategies. 

She also maintains and represents an active presence in the public radio industry nationally. Hoste is a director on the University Station Alliance (U:SA) governing board.  The U:SA is a national organization focused on strengthening relations between stations and license holders like that of Northern Public Radio and Northern Illinois University. Work on the U:SA board is centered on building strategic alliances, sharing resources, guarding editorial integrity, benchmarking performance and reviewing governance. Hoste also engages on legislative issues related to public broadcasting throughout the state in her role on the executive committee of the Illinois Public Broadcasting Council. 

Hoste also spends time working with the Corporation for Public Broadcasting on issues related to ensuring “universal service” and examining ways to maximize the public/private partnership nature of the Community Service Grants. And, in hopes of learning from others and maybe talking about something other than radio, Hoste serves on the NIU Friends of the Library board as well as the Northwestern Medicine Hospice board of directors. 

Outside of the station, Hoste enjoys spending time outdoors, running, reading and keeping busy raising two “prisoners of public radio” of her own.

Jeannine East

Jeannine East

Director of Outreach Strategic Initiatives

Jeannine East is the director of strategic initiatives in the Division of Outreach, Engagement and Regional Development at Northern Illinois University. Since 2018, she’s been coordinating the growth of esports on campus, where she worked to open four esports centers, launch a varsity esports program, and increase the role of esports in student recruitment and retention. She’s also collaborated with faculty, staff, students and the community to help build competitive esports programs that support healthy gaming practices.

Jeannine also serves as the marketing content expert in OERD. Her background in writing, editing, marketing and data analytics help us create web and print content that is clear, concise and effective.

Before joining our division, Jeannine worked at NIU’s Enrollment Management, Marketing and Communications division, managing the web team, project managing and editing large design projects for Creative Services, and writing and coordinating email communication for prospective students. Prior to NIU, she worked for 15 years at start-up internet marketing agencies in Chicago and Salt Lake City in a variety of roles including Strategic Partnership Manager, Senior Editor, and VP of Clientology.

Jeannine holds a bachelor’s degree in English from NIU, a Graduate Certificate in technical writing from NIU and a Certificate in esports management from University of California Irvine. Jeannine is a Certified Project Management Professional (PMP).

Mary Strub

Mary Strub

Director of Outreach Administration

Mary Strub has been with the Northern Illinois University Division of Outreach, Engagement and Regional Development since 2008, where she has been the senior business manager/administrative associate for multiple departments, including the Center for Governmental Studies and the EdSystems Center. In Mary’s current role as director of outreach administration, she supports the division’s departments and centers by managing personnel decisions and processes, administering contracts and grants, creating and maintaining budgets, processing international employee paperwork, and implementing policies and procedures to support key initiatives. Mary worked in human resources at NIU (then called personnel) from 1982 to 1991 before working as a business and project manager in the private sector until her return to NIU in 2008.

Mary approaches her work with the goal of establishing the framework that will enable OERD to foster partnerships and engagement. She draws on her familiarity with university policies and procedures to support the outstanding research, programs and events that come out of the Division of Outreach. She builds strong working relationships with external clients and across campus to help manage the grants and contracts that fund many of the division’s efforts. Mary enjoys the wide array of work done in the division and the variety of challenges she encounters. Mary holds a BA in English from Northern Illinois University.

Greg Kuhn

Greg Kuhn, Ph.D.

Director, Center for Governmental Studies

Greg Kuhn is director of Northern Illinois University’s Center for Governmental Studies (CGS). Greg has 40 years of combined experience in government administration, consulting and academics. In addition to working at CGS for many years, Greg has also served in city management as Village Manager in Clarendon Hills and Assistant to the Manager in Skokie, both Illinois communities in the Chicago area. He has also served as a consultant to governments as Director of Local Government Management Services at Sikich, LLP, Managing Vice-President of the PAR Group and Senior Associate in Governmental Services at Korn-Ferry International.

As part of CGS, Greg has undertaken research, conducted organizational studies and provided leadership assistance to governments throughout the state. He specializes in strategic planning, public management, organizational design, leadership training, and governance and policy formulation.

Greg is also a lecturer in NIU’s Department of Public Administration and the Northwestern University School of Professional Studies, and he has earned teaching awards at both schools. He holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from Marquette University and a master’s degree in Public Administration and Ph.D. in Political Science from Northern Illinois University.

In his spare time, Greg is active in his community, serving on Amita Health’s Hinsdale and LaGrange Hospital’s Patient and Family Advisory Council, and for 27 years on the Clarendon Hills Plan Commission and Zoning Board of Appeals, including terms as vice-chair and chair. Greg is a native of Grand Ridge, Illinois, and comes from a family with long-standing ties to NIU.

Sam Guerrero

Sam Ortega Guerrero

Director, Advancement for Institutional and Regional Initiatives

Sam Ortega Guerrero is the director of advancement for institutional and regional initiatives, a jointly shared position between the NIU Foundation and the Division of Outreach, Engagement and Regional Development. As a part of the corporate and foundation relations team, Sam connects funders to the division’s programs and collaborative projects. He is also part of the NIU Strategic Development Team, which aims to create a culture of strategic development through interdivision collaboration and by matching funders with NIU priorities to create game-changing opportunities.

Sam earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Benedictine University. Previously, he was manager of programming and events at Innovation DuPage. A key leader during the organization’s startup and formative years, he contributed to developing the program offerings for Innovation DuPage’s incubation, acceleration, partnership development and DEIA initiatives, and he worked to recruit and support more than 80 high-growth potential startups and 120 small businesses. Prior to his involvement at Innovation DuPage, Guerrero was a commercial real estate broker, serving as vice president of Golden Group Real Estate.

Dan Streed

Daniel Streed

Director of Outreach Operations and Budget

Dan Streed is the director of Outreach operations and budget in the Division of Outreach, Engagement and Regional Development at Northern Illinois University.

Prior to joining the division, Dan worked in local government management, including as the budget manager for the fast growing City of Thornton, Colorado, and, most recently, as the deputy and acting county administrator in Boone County, Illinois. Other previous stops include internships at the City of DeKalb, NIU, and the Chicago Rockford International Airport. Dan brings to OERD extensive experience in public sector budgeting, multi-year financial and capital planning, human resources and purchasing.

Dan is a proud native of Rockford and holds a bachelor’s degree in political science and a Master of Public Administration degree from Northern Illinois University. Outside of work, Dan enjoys time with family, sports and exploring the outdoors.

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Division of Outreach, Engagement and Regional Development
307 Lowden Hall

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Learn about the Engagement Task Force and our institutional goals for Centering Engagement, Driving Impact.

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