Presidential Engagement and Partnerships Professorship

Call for Nominations and Applications

NIU faculty, staff and community members are invited to nominate NIU professors with outstanding records of community engagement for the 2023 Presidential Engagement and Partnership Professorship.

Nominations are due by Oct. 9, 2023. Applications will be accepted through Nov. 13, 2023.

The university’s mission incorporates the institution’s responsibility to serve the public, to contribute to the betterment of society, to promote the application of knowledge and the interaction of faculty and practicing professionals and to prepare students for effective and responsible citizenship. The Presidential Engagement and Partnerships Professorship has been established to recognize outstanding faculty members who exemplify the following criteria:

  • Commitment to fostering reciprocal partnerships in which problems, solutions, goals and measures of success are defined jointly from the outset and throughout the term of the partnership
  • Recognition for the ability to undertake socially-responsive research and to engage external communities in conscious efforts to bring scholarship to bear on regional, national or international problems
  • Enhancement of curricular content by incorporating opportunities to create, integrate, transfer and apply knowledge for the benefit of all partners
  • Supervision and mentoring of student participants in collaborative projects with external audiences designed to have long-term community impact
  • Development of a sense of civic responsibility that transcends disciplinary boundaries, status and culture

Special emphasis will be placed on the recognition of faculty whose efforts have resulted in significant public outcomes and who have involved students in projects of direct benefit to external audiences.

This award will not only recognize and honor past excellence in outreach and engagement but will provide significant tangible support for current and future efforts.

Definition of Engagement

According to the Carnegie Foundation, "community engagement describes the collaboration between an institution of higher education and its larger communities (local, regional, national and global) for the mutually beneficial exchange of knowledge and resources in a context of partnership and reciprocity."

Nature of the Award

Each Presidential Engagement and Partnerships Professor will receive the following upon appointment:

  • An increment of $5,000 to base salary.
  • A grant of $5,000 during each year of the four-year award period following the non-renewable appointment. The grant is to be used for any legitimate activities directly related to the improvement of the professor’s engagement initiatives (e.g., equipment, graduate assistants, supplies, travel, secretarial help) except for personal salary.
  • Release for one semester (or the equivalent in part-time releases) from teaching, research and service responsibilities during the last half of the four-year award period to permit the generation of new course materials, grant applications or scholarly works; the development of new partnerships; and/or the engagement of new audiences. Colleges will receive $4,000 towards the cost of that one semester release.

These provisions are to be over and above any tangible resources or released time that these individuals may obtain through grants, contracts, or other sources during the award period.

Presidential Engagement and Partnerships Professors will be formally appointed in the spring of the year prior to the starting date of their appointments. At this time, each professor will be presented with a medallion intended for wearing with academic regalia.

Eligibility and Selection

To be considered, individuals must hold tenure and the rank of professor and have served at least six years at NIU. Nominees should be acknowledged for their commitment to sharing and reciprocity with community partners and their demonstrated continuous excellence in service of direct benefit to the public with collateral benefits to the university. Individuals who have received the Presidential Research Professor Award or the Presidential Teaching Professor Award may also be eligible for appointment as a Presidential Engagement and Partnerships Professor; however, nominees may only apply for one award per year. Professors nearing retirement from the university are eligible. If appointed, these individuals will receive the benefits and support associated with the award for that part of the appointment period during which they are fully employed at NIU. Sitting members of the Selection Committee are not eligible for the appointment.


Nominations may be made in writing by any individual, including the nominee, who is a current or former member of the university community (alumni, faculty, staff, students, administrators or community partners). External scholars and practitioners knowledgeable about the nominee’s qualifications may also nominate. Nominations must be submitted to Rena Cotsones, Ph.D., vice president for outreach, engagement and regional development and chief engagement officer, via All nominations will be forwarded to the selection committee.

Nomination letters are due by Monday, Oct. 9, 2023.

Application Material

Interested nominees will prepare an electronic portfolio that includes the following:

  • A current resume which includes a record of partnership development, relevant project outcomes, external funding and public recognition related to engagement
  • A brief essay (maximum of 1,000 words) expressing the nominee’s philosophy on outreach and engagement from both scholarly and pedagogical perspectives. For instance, what is the role of engagement and partnerships in the nominee’s discipline or in his or her research interests? In relation to pedagogy, how do collaborative projects with external partners assist students’ learning of course content? How have students’ experiences impacted course curriculums? How does the nominee develop external partnerships to address areas of mutual interest?
  • Tangible evidence of outcomes related to public-impact-focused research, engagement and outreach; e.g., changes in practice and policy, successful advocacy
  • A list of three references, including a minimum of two (2) from community partners who can speak to the different aspects of the nominee’s work in engagement partnership development and outreach
  • The names of three students or alumni who can speak to their participation in partnership initiatives under the direction of the nominee and the influence of those activities on their current thinking. (These individuals will be asked to provide a letter by the application deadline.)

Electronic application portfolios are due by Monday, November 13, 2023.

Obligations of Presidential Engagement and Partnerships Professors

Presidential Engagement and Partnerships Professors are expected to carry out a continuous program of activities related to public-impact-focused research and scholarship, teaching, and outreach and engagement during the four-year award period. At the conclusion of the award period, each Presidential Engagement and Partnerships Professor will be asked to make a public presentation on their work; that presentation may take the form of a written piece published in the popular press, a broadcast interview, a community speech or any other form of public expression.

To ensure the smooth functioning of their respective departments, each professor will consult with the department chair, the college dean and the provost, as necessary, about scheduling the released time related to the award.

Distinguished Engagement and Partnerships Professors

When the Presidential Engagement Professor completes the four-year award period, his or her title will become Distinguished Engagement Professor.

The Selection Committee

The selection committee is composed of members of the Outreach Advisory Committee, a dean chosen by the Council of Deans and prior recipients of the Presidential Engagement and Partnerships Professorships during their award periods. The Selection Committee will be chaired by the chief engagement officer or a designee.

For more information, call the Division of NIU Outreach, Engagement and Regional Development at 815-753-0835 or email

Contact Dr. Freeman

Office of the President
Altgeld Hall 300
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