Speeches, Presentations and Statements

State of the University Address

September 20, 2017

Speeches

State of the City Address - 10/03/18

It is an honor and a privilege to be invited to share the stage here with Mayor Smith to reflect on the state of our community in 2018 … It is a testament to the strength of our city-university partnership that NIU is routinely invited to participate in this way.

When I stood here a year ago, we had just received our first state budget in nearly two years. Along with our public university colleagues around the state, we have spent a good deal of time since then trying to reverse the damage that was done and restore financial stability to our institutions. That work continues in 2018, but at NIU we are not allowing those challenges to limit our thinking about the future. We are moving forward rather than looking backward.

As we think strategically about the next five … 10 … and even 20 years, there is a common theme in all our discussions, and that is partnerships. Virtually every major initiative we are involved with or are planning involves partnerships with other colleges and universities … with the private sector … with philanthropists … and of course with our local community.

Let me give you a handful of recent examples (some already mentioned by the mayor):

  • The merger of local bus services to create a better and less expensive public transportation system in DeKalb and Sycamore.
  • The connection of the bike and walking path that goes through our campus to the DeKalb Nature Trail and Prairie Park.
  • Bringing the very popular VeoRide bike rental service to NIU and DeKalb.
  • Installation of more than 250 banners up and down Lincoln Highway and Annie Glidden Road.

These are all projects that could only happen through city-university partnerships. They are quality-of-life improvements that benefit all our citizens, and we’re proud to have been partners in bringing them to life.

Sometimes partnerships grow out of regular interaction between individuals or entities, as with the projects I just mentioned. But other times, they develop out of unplanned conversations and chance encounters. Here is one such example:

The head of our Computer Science program, Dr. Nick Karonis, was having a conversation with one of his alums who works at Discover Financial Services. Nick was interested in providing new research opportunities for his undergraduate students. Turned out, Discover was looking for ways to capture the innovative thinking of tech-savvy college students for product development. The result is a newly renovated space in Founders Memorial Library, dedicated to a new program called “code_orange.” Forty undergraduate students will be paid to work on new Discover technologies in the areas of mobile-software development, web-application coding and person-to-person payment systems. In addition to the great experience for our students, code_orange has attracted significant national media attention, including from the Wall Street Journal. A great example of a university-industry partnership with countless benefits for both partners! We’ll be dedicating this new space later today.

Up to this point, I’ve talked about partnerships on some very well-defined, individual projects. Now I’d like to shift to three other initiatives, all very large undertakings that contain multiple programs and many potential partners. In all three cases, we believe these initiatives can be huge game-changers for our university and for DeKalb.

First, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act signed into law late last year created a program aimed at targeting underdeveloped areas with new private investment. The Opportunity Zone program provides significant tax advantages for investors who reinvest capital gains into projects in these zones.

This very new and not yet well understood program caught the attention of City of DeKalb economic planner Jason Michnick. With only days to apply, Jason successfully nominated a section of northwest DeKalb for Opportunity Zone designation. That area includes nearly all of our DeKalb campus, as well as most of the Annie Glidden North corridor.

Since learning of the designation, we have since met with financiers and have been told that DeKalb offers a combination of characteristics not seen anywhere else in the country – peri-urban location, access to interstate highways, rail, an airport, existing fiber optic networks and a respected research university. We have also heard that the amount of private money available for Opportunity Zone investments nationwide is more than $6 trillion, and that investors are anxiously awaiting the final IRS guidelines that will help them choose the best projects.

At NIU, we’ve chartered an Opportunity Zone Task Force that is developing projects for consideration. Generally speaking, the areas we’re looking at include community revitalization, manufacturing, health care and food systems innovation in the context of community sustainability. You’ll be hearing more about Opportunity Zones in the near future – and I want to give a shout-out to Jason Michnick for his great work in recognizing this opportunity and including our campus in the proposal he submitted. Jason?

The second game-changing partnership I want to tell you about involves the related entities of the Illinois Innovation Network and the Discovery Partners Institute (often abbreviated DPI).

The Illinois Innovation Network will link DPI, a public-private research institute led by the University of Illinois System and headquartered in Chicago, with partners across the state. Five hundred million dollars have already been appropriated to fund the project. As the primary hub of the Illinois Innovation Network, the Discovery Partners institute will facilitate research projects that combine the expertise of faculty at multiple universities. We’ve been working with our University of Illinois colleagues to become the first non-U of I affiliated hub in the network, and on Oct. 9, University of Illinois System President Tim Killeen and I will be holding a news conference here in DeKalb to announce the outcome of those discussions.

I’m very excited about our involvement with DPI and the Illinois Innovation Network. We’ve identified research themes that include food systems innovation, water resource stewardship and preparation for climate change. In addition to research programs that involve a wide variety of academic areas, we will also focus on public policy development and environmental law.

The innovation hub concept includes multiple universities and provides an attractive platform for attracting private partners. It will provide the opportunity for our students and faculty to become involved in collaborative research, engagement and education projects.

I mentioned that one of our foci will be in the area of food system innovation, and I would be remiss if I didn’t take this opportunity to give a plug for an upcoming event:

On the evening of November 13 at the Egyptian Theatre, the DeKalb Area Agricultural Heritage Association, or DAAHA, will be hosting an amazing event that I hope many of you will attend. It’s called An Evening with Innovators, and it will feature a conversation among three nationally recognized experts and two local entrepreneurs who have experience and success supporting food systems innovation.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should say that I serve on the DAAHA board and have been involved in planning this event – but even if I weren’t, I would make time to attend. A few weeks ago, I spoke at the dedication of a new historical marker at the former DeKalb Ag/Monsanto building on Sycamore Road. As I told the audience then, one of the things that attracted me to DeKalb was its rich history of agricultural innovation. Capturing and celebrating that legacy provides a platform for networking that will help us to inspire the next generation of local entrepreneurs.

The final game-changing project I want to mention is the Annie Glidden North Project.

AGN is critically important to NIU. It is where the majority of our students live; it houses many of our Greek organizations; it is located on the border of our campus; and it is deteriorating. Nearly 25 percent of DeKalb’s total population lives in the AGN area, and it is time to reintegrate this neighborhood into our community.

Mayor Smith has already spoken at length about this project and the collaborative work of the appointed task force with area residents and the city’s consultant, but I would be remiss if I did not take this opportunity to reiterate NIU’s strong support for this important undertaking.

In the limited time I have left, I want to mention a few other partnerships that are enhancing our university and our community:

  • Kishwaukee College is a tremendous asset to this community and a great partner with NIU. The programs we work on together are too numerous to mention, but I would like to mention that, for the fifth year in a row, we have seen an increase in the number of students who transfer to NIU from Kish College to finish four-year degrees.

We hope to encourage this positive trend. Therefore, under the new Aim High scholarship program, in Fall 2019, qualifying entering transfer students from Kishwaukee College may be eligible for a one-time $3,000 Kishwaukee College Transfer Scholarship.

My counterpart at Kish, Laurie Borowicz, is here today, and I’d like to acknowledge her as a great partner and education advocate. Laurie?

  • Northwestern Medicine is still a relative newcomer to our community, but they have not wasted any time in getting involved with important local initiatives. Look for more announcements in the near future about partnerships between Northwestern and NIU. Northwestern CEO Jay Anderson is here today, and I want to acknowledge him as well. Jay?

Two recent events that both showcased our community and engaged NIU students were made possible by our strong partnerships:

  • The inaugural “Campus Meets Community” event brought 43 DeKalb businesses to our campus to showcase their offerings to NIU students. Thanks to the DeKalb and Sycamore Chambers for helping make that event a success.
  • And the new-and-improved Corn Classic Run more than doubled its number of participants for an event that took runners through our campus and into the downtown for a well-attended “Taste of DeKalb” finale. Again, amazing what we can do in partnership with each other!

Finally, I want to let you know about a school grants program funded by our athletic conference, the Mid-American to promote positive relationships within our local community. NIU has strong partners in both DeKalb superintendent Jamie Craven and Sycamore superintendent Kathy Countryman. So, when the university received a total $5,000 from the College Football Playoff (CFP) Foundation’s Extra Yard for Teachers platform, we provided $2,500 each to the DeKalb and Sycamore school districts.

  • With these funds, the DeKalb School District will support faculty and staff professional development and the implementation of a Diversity Plan.
  • The Sycamore School District will support Second Steps, an instructional program rooted in social emotional learning that equips students to foster positive relationships, conflict resolution, and good choices.

And NIU support for local high schools is also evident in our deployment of funds under the new Aim High scholarship program:

  • Qualifying entering freshmen who will be 2019 graduates of a DeKalb County high school may be eligible for one-time $3,000 DeKalb County Scholarships.
  • Further, DeKalb County high school graduates who are active members of Youth Engaged Philanthropy (YEP) may each be eligible for an additional $1,000 award if they meet the AIM HIGH family income thresholds.

If there is one thought I’d like to leave you with, it is this: Whether we are university employees, city staff, health care workers, private business people or public school officials, our future and our success are inextricably linked. Relationships are resources, and we dare not waste them. Every day, in every way, we are better together. Thank you.

Presidential Vision - 08/30/18

Read the transcript of President Freeman's open form address.

Presentations

DeKalb Chamber State of the City - 8/10/17

Good morning! It is an honor and pleasure to be here today as the Acting President of NIU and a proud resident of DeKalb, and to share this stage with a loyal NIU alumnus, Mayor Jerry Smith. The audience also contains a number of prominent current and former Huskies. I would like to recognize specifically NIU Trustee Tim Struthers, who contributes significantly to our university and our community.

I'd also like to mention and introduce four other members of NIU's senior leadership who are here today:

Anne, Vernese, Matt and Sol play important roles at NIU. In addition, they are residents of DeKalb County who care about the city of DeKalb.

Much has happened at NIU since last year's State of the City Address: Perhaps most importantly, after 736 days, we finally have a budget and an appropriation. Accordingly, we can begin to reverse the damage done and restore financial stability to our institution. We will not be able to do everything we want and need to do immediately-- there is lot to reconcile. We are working through that- and also beginning the work needed to determine how and when we can address neglected employee compensation. Our dedicated employees deserve a raise. This is a priority for me personally. Realizing that objective will also be good for our community.

NIU has also had a number of leadership transitions:

We also have two new permanent deans joining us this academic year:

Together, these competent and committed members of the leadership team will help NIU maintain momentum. Our work will continue, change will occur, and we will make progress.

In the seven years I've been at NIU, I've seen the partnership between the university and the city of DeKalb expand and flourish. We work together to attract and grow new businesses, and to develop community leaders and entrepreneurs.

For example, the Leadership Symposium held this past March was a resounding success. The event brought together brought together about 100 aspiring leaders from NIU, the DeKalb Chamber Leadership Academy, and other local organizations. As reported by the Daily Chronicle, "The day provided a true community partnership by bringing together multiple generations of aspiring leaders. Everyone was involved in this event for the purpose of building leadership in DeKalb. No politics, no hidden agendas, just terrific networking and discussions."

The inaugural year of the IDEAL-NIU Intrapreneurship Program was highly successful, and the program is growing. This collaborative initiative provides NIU students with experience in researching markets, developing products, and building business plans on IDEAL product and service ideas. The two teams from the first cohort of nine students were successful in formulating business plans, and as a result, they finished the spring 2017 semester as paid interns. They are currently in the early phases of product development for their projects and IDEAL has filed a provisional patent on one of the technologies. A second cohort of fifteen students representing Business, Engineering & Engineering Technology, Political Science, Economics and Art and Design were selected this spring to work on selected IDEAL projects this summer. This fall, two teams comprised of those students will begin to develop business plans and pitches. Working from a location on Lincoln Highway, with the support of IDEAL and NIU, these students are literally inventing our future.

Last year at this time, we told you about a new program called Jobs Plus. This is a professional development program in which students who have jobs in DeKalb and Sycamore can participate in complementary educational experiences that focus on real-world, workplace issues. To date, more than 500 students and 20 local employers have participated in Jobs Plus. That's an excellent start, and we're anxious to increase further the number of participants. Employers tell us those students are more engaged employees who are more willing to consider staying with their companies after graduation. Moreover, this innovative program has gained national attention, being highlighted by a number of higher education organizations and publications, including the Educational Advisory Board.

I am also very enthusiastic about our collaborative efforts to make downtown DeKalb more attractive and more accessible to our students. This past February, the city of DeKalb, Proudly DeKalb, and NIU cooperated to bring ~65 NIU students downtown. The students were given a tour and provided with dinner and the opportunity to provide feedback related to downtown DeKalb revitalization and economic development. I attended that discussion at O'Leary's, and I was impressed with the students' ideas for improving retail and entertainment options. From my conversations with the Mayor, I know that the city is listening carefully to the students and allowing their ideas to inform business development efforts.

Our students also emphasized the importance of improving downtown transportation options, mentioning specifically the needs for street and sidewalk lighting, bike sharing stations, and more convenient bus service. To this end, NIU has been an active participant in the DeKalb Area Transportation Authority long-term planning process. We've been working on a new partnership between the Huskie Bus Line and the Voluntary Action Council transportation service that will increase the efficiency of both TransVAC and Huskie Bus Lines, and be a boon to our entire community. You know, improving transit in our region has far-reaching implications for employment, educational opportunities and overall quality of life. NIU is proud to be part of the collaborative effort to find solutions on that front, both for our students and for all local residents.

One of my top priorities for NIU is fostering pride in the university – both on campus and in across our community. In spite of some formidable challenges, NIU continues to do good work every day. The university's mission is "to promote excellence and engagement in teaching and learning, research and scholarship, creativity and artistry, and outreach and service." And our value proposition resides within that mission- Last month, the prestigious Brookings Institution recognized NIU as a leader among selective public research universities, because of its success at both providing social mobility for students of modest means and producing high-impact research.

In fact, NIU is distinguished from competitors by our success using knowledge creation to transform student lives and to inform society. This is possible because our faculty are highly accomplished teachers, scientists, scholars and artists who care deeply about our students' success- and because our community is open to providing students, staff and faculty with new opportunities for teaching, learning, discovery and artistry.

For example, the local community has embraced NIU's Supermileage Team. This student group from our College of Engineering and Engineering Technology has earned six top 3 finishes in the last eight years in national competition. This summer they won awards for creating a vehicle that gets 1,741 miles per gallon.

Another team from Engineering will soon be producing a solar-powered car. And before even starting that project, team members have been working this summer to help teams of middle-school and high-school girls compete in the ComEd Ice Box Derby, an event where old refrigerators are converted into go-karts. Sounds like fun- and I am sure it is- but it's also more. Through these efforts, the NIU students are empowering young women to explore opportunities in STEM- and helping to develop our future workforce. Note- that competition is being held this Saturday in Chicago, in case any of you would like to see a kitchen appliance repurposed as a vehicle!

These are just two examples that illustrate how NIU's excellence reflects the intersectionality of learning, discovery and engagement. There are many, many more, and together the city and university goals have the opportunity to create new narratives that build pride in our university and our community.

In this context, I commend the city for their work to date on the Annie Glidden North Corridor. This area includes neighborhoods where many of our students live. The changes that have occurred over time present challenges to our community. We are very pleased that the city is moving to address the issues.

And, as revitalization proceeds, we're hopeful that there will be new, attractive opportunities for NIU that align with our mission and our engagement agenda. Where neighborhood revitalization has been successful in other college towns, universities have taken on strong roles in developing programs and opportunities for neighborhood residents. I've submitted a letter of support for the city's current proposal, and we've provided public testimony on how an improved Annie Glidden neighborhood would help our enrollment efforts.

And we are putting a lot of effort into attracting new students. Our Enrollment Management and Marketing Communications area is also hard at work on new ideas for inspiring Huskie Pride throughout our community.

  • If you haven't gone to the NIU homepage in a while, check out our new website – it's a very attractive and user-friendly site- and it was produced by talented university staff. NIU staff have also produced a new orientation guide called the NIU OneBook, and it includes information about the community for new students.
  • Our new mayor, the NIU and DeKalb police chiefs and a host of other community leaders (including some of our trustees) have volunteered to help out with our NIU Welcome Days events – This has a very positive impact on students and their families (who often need reassurance about the community where they're dropping off their young people for the year).
  • NIU's Marketing and Communications team is working on new materials that all of you can display in your businesses – Sol Jensen asked me to mention this and invite any of you with ideas to talk with him after this meeting or by phone or email.

And speaking of Sol – We are delighted to have him leading our enrollment efforts. Sol's background includes work on many of the same student recruitment challenges that we face at NIU in terms of changing demographics and competition.

There are many fluctuations that take place throughout the enrollment cycle—particularly at this time of year—that makes providing projections very challenging. With that said, we know that the overall enrollment (total headcount) for NIU will be down again this year. Most of the decline comes from fewer returning students. As the incoming classes are smaller than those who came in 4-5 years ago (and are now graduating), we will see fewer total students. I expect this trend will continue for another year or two until our incoming classes become larger than our graduating classes.

The real positive news is that, first, based on where we stand today, we are showing another increase in our first-year retention rate. This is a critical first step in helping our NIU students achieve success and their educational and career goals. These results are a direct correlation to the excellent work and focus that is being dedicated to our retention efforts from across the university community. We all care about student success as stated directly in our university mission.

The other great news is that after several years of considerable decline, our incoming freshmen and transfer numbers are appearing very stable compared with last year. Despite the challenges we have faced—and will continue to face—as a state and an institution, this gives me great optimism and positive momentum to build upon.

We all know what a great place NIU is to receive an education. We're going to improve how we tell our story and deliver our message to prospective students, their families, and the community.

The community includes many graduates of NIU. Our Alumni Association is looking at new ways to connect – and there are a lot of you out there. The Association is talking about:

  • Hosting a variety of events in the community that will allow alumni and community members to engage with NIU by appealing to varied interests, including lectures, theater, art and music.
  • They're creating new ways for local alumni to plug into NIU through volunteerism. A new group called the Huskie PAC (stands for Proud Alumni Core) will match up local residents with volunteer opportunities across campus.

I believe in NIU, and despite all of the challenges we face, I'm optimistic about our future. We continue to serve our students and our region very well. And our impact is greater because of our collaboration with the city of DeKalb and the local business community.

Beyond the work of the city, there are three ways all of you can help strengthen NIU:

  • When you hear a good news story about NIU, share it- by word of mouth or on social media.
  • When you hear misstatements or incorrect information about NIU, challenge them is you have an opportunity to do so.
  • Find ways to engage with our students, as well as our faculty and staff. When you have a job opening or a volunteer opportunity– call Career Services and get connected. Our goal is to have every business in town engage with at least one student each semester. If you have a new idea to share, and you can't figure out who to call at NIU, speak to Jennifer Groce or call the President's office. We'll make sure you get to the right person or unit.

I thank you for your time this morning, and look forward to continuing the great work that we have undertaken together.

Board of Trustees - 6/28/17

During the course of the transition that has been taking place these last few weeks, the feedback I've received from across campus reminds me that whatever our differences may be, I know in my heart we are unified in our love of NIU and our desire to do what's in the best interest of the university and our students.

For example, we are united in our desire to provide students with the tools they need for success in their careers and their lives – critical thinking skills, disciplinary knowledge, a strong work ethic and the ability to work on teams as part of a global workforce. This is reflected in our shared commitments to sustaining academic excellence, to celebrating diversity and making all members of the Huskie community feel welcome and valued.

I assume the acting presidency with eyes wide open and an understanding of the hard work ahead. This is an inflection point for the university. The first order of business will be to rebuild trust in our leadership – among our faculty and staff, and across the larger university community. That is not going to happen with words; it will only happen with actions. And it will take time.

What I pledge to you and the campus community is that we will be guided by the principles of shared governance, mutual respect and transparency in decision-making.

But I will also adhere to a very simple proposition, and one I believe very deeply – that the strength of NIU comes from the bottom up, and not the top down. Our best ideas come from staff and faculty and always have. We in leadership need to listen very carefully and actively to them. My administration will cultivate and actively seek the best ideas and thinking from everyone on campus.

The challenges we face – in bolstering our financial stability, increasing our enrollment and stabilizing and rebuilding our reputation – are by no means only of our own doing. We are facing unprecedented uncertainty at the state level. We are going to need to make some tough decisions this year – decisions not everyone will like. What I can promise is that we will have total clarity both in how we make those decisions and how we intend to implement them.

Our Board of Trustees has spoken eloquently about being united in their approach to governing this great institution. I am very encouraged by their expression of this sentiment. Unity does not mean you always agree on the means to an end. Rather, unity means that at the end of the day, there are core principles that we can all agree on – and a shared understanding of our institutional mission. Such unity can be very powerful, and it will help us succeed, despite those factors that are arrayed against us.

What lifts my spirits about the future is that I've seen evidence of this unity throughout my tenure at NIU. Time and again, I've seen staff and faculty come together to tackle really large issues. Our work in Program Prioritization, which will proceed and hopefully accelerate, is a wonderful manifestation of what our people can do when they work together on common goals.

This kind of shared effort happens every day at NIU, in ways both large and small. Now, more than ever before, we need this unity of purpose to animate us on a daily basis. My pledge is to put all of my time while serving as acting president into making this happen. This is one reason why I have made clear my intention to not compete for the permanent role of president. There will be no distractions from doing what I believe must be done to focus on what brings us together – rather than what divides us. I look forward to the challenge.

Statements

Dialogues on Critical Topics - 10/4/18

Dear Students, Faculty and Staff,

NIU places a high value on creating and maintaining a university culture rooted in civil discourse. When we listen and engage with the intent to objectively understand, versus to judge or condemn, we better ourselves and our university. Sharing your voice is powerful and important.

While there are many topics I could point to where civil discourse is needed, two particularly high-profile situations currently present us with dialogue-worthy opportunities to learn from them and create pathways for inspiring change. The first is the current trial of Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke for the 2014 shooting death of Laquan McDonald; the second is the pending judicial appointment of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the United States Supreme Court. Any verdict or decision reached in either situation will leave questions and a range of emotions.

A variety of students, faculty and staff will be hosting multiple opportunities this month to join in co-facilitated dialogues to discuss critical topics related to these cases. I encourage us each to consider participating in, or promoting, the events in some way. Additional topics and ideas are always encouraged and can be sent to president@niu.edu.

FY19 State Budget Pending Governor's Signature - 6/1/18

Gov. Rauner has indicated that he will sign HB109, which would approved an FY19 spending bill that provides NIU:

  • Operating budget of $83.6 million – a 2 percent increase from our FY18 allocation.
  • Funding for FY19 MAP grants that remains flat from FY18; however, the university will now have the opportunity to provide students with multi-year MAP funding. This reform emerged from the bipartisan, bicameral Higher Education Working Group. It will allow us to be more competitive in our recruitment of new students, and to give those students more certainty regarding their financial aid packages over the course of their college careers.
  • $6.8 million toward supporting the first phase of the critically needed boiler replacement project.

This is all positive news for our state, for higher education in Illinois and for our students. This funding will allow us to continue the important work of maintaining excellent academic programs; to begin to address critical repair and maintenance needs; to rebound from 700+ days of fiscal and political gridlock in FY16 and FY17; and to recruit and retain qualified students, faculty and staff from diverse backgrounds.

I deeply appreciate your commitment and effort to be excellent stewards of our university, budget and resources. We have worked hard together to advance academic excellence while making NIU more effective, more efficient and more sustainable. While it is important that we continue this challenging work, we must also develop innovative and new ways to build resourceful relationships that help us to grow and thrive. This will enhance our reputation as we evolve with – and shape – the changing landscape of higher education.

Go Huskies!

House Appropriations Committee Testimony – 4/11/18

Good morning and thank you, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee. It's a pleasure to be here. My name is Lisa Freeman, and I'm the acting president at Northern Illinois University. I have at the table here with me today our Acting Executive Vice President and Provost Christopher McCord and our new Vice President for Administration and Finance Sarah McGill.

Since this is an appropriations committee, I'll get right to the point. Public higher education in Illinois is at a difficult crossroads. We're coming off of a very challenging two- to three-year time period—a period in which operating budgets were reduced, capital projects were shuttered with costly delays incurred, and student aid payments were delayed to thousands of our students. The budget impasse and this period of uncertainty have created doubt about the future of higher education in Illinois among students and parents, university faculty and staff and members of the business community. That is why we must work together to restore their confidence and to create a sustainable financial model for public higher education in our state.

Despite the challenges of the past couple of years, NIU has continued to serve students and society. This past summer, the university was cited positively in a report issued by the Brooking's Institution for simultaneously producing important research while also extending social-mobility opportunities to students from low-income households. This recognition highlights exactly what distinguishes NIU from other universities in Illinois and elsewhere—our commitment to providing students from all walks of life with a higher education experience that engages them in knowledge creation. The university's combined emphasis on opportunity and innovation maximizes NIU's long-term, positive impact on our graduates, on their families and communities, and on our regional economy. Please note: of NIU students graduating from 2015 to 2017, 85 percent remain in Illinois. Illinois companies that employ more than 200 NIU graduate, include Abbott Laboratories, Allstate, Caterpillar and Northern Trust Company.

The governor's recommendation would provide NIU with $81.9 million in General Funds support for FY19. However, I am advocating for $91 million, the level of base funding received by the university in FY15, the fiscal year prior to the budget impasse.

To provide additional context, I would like to share that NIU continues to generate $900 million a year in economic activity in the northern Illinois region. Compared to our budget request, that's nearly $10 generated for every dollar received. We are not just an expense line in the state budget—we are an investment that continues to deliver positive returns with respect to people's lives; attracting and developing businesses; and supporting our statewide economy.

To continue this important work, NIU and other public universities need predictable, adequate, stable funding from the state of Illinois. We need this to maintain excellent academic programs; to address critical repair and maintenance needs; to rebound from 700+ days of fiscal and political gridlock; to recruit and retain qualified students, faculty, and staff from diverse backgrounds.

NIU and other universities also need flexibility to operate in an efficient and economical manner. NIU is looking forward to a thoughtful discussion of civil service and procurement reform that will allow the university to adapt to the changing landscape. Current processes and procedures often prevent us from making prompt, practical changes in university operations.

NIU recognizes that in return for predictable, stable support and enhanced flexibility, the university must commit to increased accountability. We take seriously our responsibility to be good stewards of public funds, and we welcome the opportunity to show, in a regular, transparent reporting system, how those investments are paying off. That is why we have signed on to the Investment, Performance, and Accountability Commitment (IPAC).

NIU is continuously striving to streamline its operations, rethink processes and procedures, economize whenever possible, and leverage relationships as resources in an attempt to adapt to the changing higher education landscape.

For example, NIU will be holding tuition flat and decreasing fees for FY19—the fifth consecutive year that we have held these essentially unchanged.

We also work closely with community college partners to develop innovative arrangements and seamless pathways for the benefit of our students. We offer multiple degree completion programs at colleges such as Rock Valley and Harper College. We are collaborating extensively with our neighbor Kishwaukee College to develop high-impact transfer pathways and three-year baccalaureate degree pathways. In fact, we have just celebrated a formal agreement on a customized RN-to-BS pathway that allows students to complete an Associate in Applied Science Degree in Nursing at Kish while taking a number of BSN classes at NIU.

Importantly, NIU engaged in a Program Prioritization process that reviewed every academic and administrative program across the university. To date, this process has had $16.1M in financial impact, including the transformation or elimination of more than 65 academic programs, and the elimination of three vice presidencies.

I appreciate the opportunity today to provide testimony to inform the decision-making process. I want to reiterate that what we're talking about is more than a budget appropriation—it is both an investment in and commitment to our state's educational and economic future. NIU is committed to being excellent stewards of our university and region, and we welcome the opportunity to work closely with all members of the General Assembly, the IBHE, ISAC and our institutional colleagues in achieving our mutual goals.

Thank You.

Senate Appropriations II Committee Testimony – 2/22/18

Good afternoon and thank you, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee. It's a pleasure to be here. My name is Lisa Freeman and I'm the Acting President at Northern Illinois University. I have at the table here with me today our Acting Executive Vice President and Provost Christopher McCord and our new Vice President for Administration and Finance Sarah McGill.

Chris and I are not new to NIU but are relatively new in our current roles. Sarah is new to NIU; however, she is not new to the state of Illinois. She comes with experience from the university of Chicago and most recently Northwestern University. We are very glad she joined us as our new CFO.

As we have heard from the IBHE and others today, public higher education in Illinois is at a difficult crossroads. We're coming off of a very challenging two- to three-year time period, a period in which operating budgets were reduced, capital projects were shuttered with costly delays incurred and student aid payments were delayed to thousands of our students. The budget impasse and this period of uncertainty have created doubt about the future of higher education in Illinois among students and parents, university faculty and staff and members of the business community. That is why we must work together to restore their confidence, and to create a sustainable financial model for public higher education in our state.

Despite the challenges of the past couple of years, NIU has continued to serve students and society. This past summer, the university was cited positively in a report issued by the Brookings Institution for simultaneously producing important research while also extending social-mobility opportunities to students from low-income households. This recognition highlights exactly what distinguishes NIU from other universities in Illinois and elsewhere – our commitment to providing students from all walks of lifewith a higher education experience that engages them in knowledge creation. The university's combined emphasis on opportunity and innovation maximizes NIU's long-term, positive impact on our graduates, on their families and communities and on our regional economy.

I'd like to share that more than 95 percent of our undergraduates come from Illinois, and most of them stay here after graduation. For NIU students graduating between 2015 and 2017, 85 percent remained in Illinois. Illinois companies that employ more than 200 NIU graduates include Abbott Laboratories; Allstate; Caterpillar; and Northern Trust Company.

Senate Bill 3377 would provide NIU with $81.9 million in General Funds support for FY19. However, I am advocating for $91 million – the level of base funding received by the university in FY15, the fiscal year prior to the budget impasse.

For context, I would like to share that NIU continues to generate $900 million a year in economic activity in the northern Illinois region. Compared to our budget request, that's nearly $10 generated for every dollar received. We are not just an expense line in the state budget – we are an investment that continues to deliver positive returns with respect to people's lives; attracting and developing businesses; and supporting our statewide economy.

NIU and other public universities need predictable, adequate, stable funding from the state of Illinois – to maintain excellent academic programs; to address critical repair and maintenance needs; to rebound from 700+ days of fiscal and political gridlock; to recruit and retain qualified students, faculty and staff from diverse backgrounds.

NIU and other universities also need flexibility to operate in an efficient and economical manner. NIU is looking forward to a thoughtful discussion of civil service and procurement reform that will allow the university to adapt more easily to the changing landscape. Current processes and procedures often prevent us from making prompt, practical changes in university operations.

NIU recognizes that in return for predictable, stable support and enhanced flexibility, the university must commit to increased accountability. NIU continuously strives to streamline its operations, rethink processes and procedures, economize whenever possible and leverage relationships as resources in an attempt to adapt to the changing higher education landscape. We take seriously our responsibility to be good stewards of public funds, and to offer an education that is not only high quality, but also accessible and affordable.

For example, NIU will be holding tuition flat and decreasing fees for FY19 - the fifth consecutive year that we have held these essentially unchanged. Moreover, NIU students do not pay per-credit-hour charges above 12 credits per semester. This tuition structure provides a financial incentive for students to take "15 to finish," with 15 credits/semester being the number necessary to graduate within four years.

We also work closely with community college partners to develop innovative arrangements and seamless pathways for the benefit of our students. And, we go beyond guaranteed admission, reverse articulation, 2+2 and 3+1 agreements. For example, we offer multiple degree completion programs at Rock Valley and Harper College. We are collaborating extensively with our neighbor Kishwaukee College to develop high impact transfer pathways and three-year baccalaureate degree programs. In fact, we have just celebrated a formal agreement on a customized RN-to-BS pathway that allows students to complete an Associate in Applied Science Degree in Nursing at Kish while taking a number of BSN classes at NIU.

To update you on initiatives that I shared last year, NIU has engaged in a Program Prioritization process that reviewed every academic and administrative program across the university. To date this process has had $16.1M in financial impact, including the transformation or elimination of more than 65 academic programs, the elimination of three vice presidencies and the generation of over $1M in recurring, annual savings from replacement of individual desk top printers with shared technology.

I appreciate the opportunity today to provide testimony to inform the decision-making process. I want to reiterate that what we're talking about is more than a budget appropriation – it is both an investment in, and commitment to, our state's educational and economic future. NIU is committed to being excellent stewards of our university and region, and we welcome the opportunity to work closely with all members of the General Assembly, the IBHE, ISAC and our institutional colleagues in achieving our mutual goals.

Thank you.

Tax Reform Legislation - 1/16/18

Welcome back to all faculty, staff and students. Please accept my best wishes for a wonderful and fulfilling year ahead. I'm writing today to provide you with an update on an important federal development.

Just prior to the end of 2017, President Trump signed into law the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (H.R. 1) and most of its provisions went into effect January 1, 2018. This is the most sweeping revision of the U.S. tax code since 1986.

NIU worked closely with other universities across Illinois and the nation to engage and inform legislators as they crafted this legislation during November and December 2017. Many of you also contacted your elected officials. Thanks to these efforts, the final law does not eliminate a number of threatened provisions from current law that enhance the affordability of higher education for students and families. For example, the bill maintains the tax-exempt status of tuition waivers for graduate students as well as university employees and their dependents. The law also preserves the Lifetime Learning Credit for part-time students and tax deductions for student loan interest.

However, this legislation includes provisions that will increase costs for the university and likely for students and families as well. The legislation unfavorably changes the treatment of certain types of university income and reduces tax incentives for charitable giving, potentially stifling philanthropic gifts that support student scholarships, academic research, athletics and other core components of the university. The new limit on individual state and local income tax deductions could further complicate the state's investment in public higher education.

The full magnitude of this legislation's impact on the university, students and their families will come into sharper focus as the details of the law are analyzed in the coming weeks and months. In the meantime, I invite you to visit the American Council on Education'scomprehensive site for a further explanation about the impact of tax reform on higher education.

As always, NIU is committed to ensuring that an outstanding, affordable public education at NIU remains within reach of all Illinoisans.

Important Safety Message - 11/1/17

At NIU, the safety and security of all students, faculty, staff and visitors is our No. 1 priority. The recent criminal activity in an area surrounding our campus has us all concerned. I want to make sure you are aware of the actions NIU has taken to address your safety because together, through open communications, being responsible, following important safety tips, reporting anything concerning or suspicious to police and upholding our values, we can best take care of one another.

First, NIU is in constant contact, and working closely, with the City of DeKalb and the DeKalb Police Department to share information and deploy resources. Both the NIU Police and DeKalb Police have recently increased the number of officers patrolling on- and off-campus, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Additionally, NIU Police have positioned a mobile command unit to enhance police presence and its ability to respond on- and off-campus.

For our students who live off campus in the surrounding neighborhoods, in addition to the heightened police presence, the Huskie Line Bus will now allow for additional stops and offer extended evening hours. Information on these expanded schedules will soon be available at www.huskieline.com. Our Huskie Safe Line free shuttle will continue to be available from 11 p.m. until 5:30 a.m.

I have asked our Housing staff to quickly accommodate any student who lives off campus and wishes to move into a residence hall. We are prepared to provide you with immediate assistance by calling 815-753-0371.

For our on-campus student residents, all residence halls will now have secured access 24 hours a day and will require students to present their OneCard to gain access. All visitors not affiliated with the university will be required to provide identification.

These changes are important and necessary. We are closely monitoring these recent incidents and working around the clock to meet the needs of our community. As we have said at our two recent student safety forums, your feedback is critical. Be equipped with the latest information and get alerts via our Everbridge App and from DeKalb through Alert DeKalb. If you see something, say something. Please contact police (emergency 911; non-emergency 815-753-1212) if at any time you feel unsafe.

If you need a place to talk or feel safe, as always, there are places for you to go. The Cultural Resource Centers are available for gathering as a community. If you need additional support, Counseling and Consultation Services is also available (815-753-1206). You may also reach out to staff in Student Affairs (815-753-1573).

It doesn't matter whether you live or work on- or off-campus, NIU is your home and we all want it to be safe. We are committed to each of you and encourage you to seek the resources you need.

NIU Stands with Our DACA Students - 9/5/17

Dear Students, Faculty and Staff:

In response to today's decision from the White House, I want to reassure our community that everyone at NIU is committed to all of our students and their educational pursuits, as well as to our employees, regardless of their immigration status.

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program allowed undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States as children to come forward safely to request (A) to remain in the country and (B) to receive work authorization. If granted, those allowances were good for a period of two years and subject to renewal if the applicants met a series of guidelines. Participants were not eligible to receive federal or state financial aid for higher education here in Illinois and were required to pursue other avenues to finance their education.

Earlier today, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, on behalf of President Trump, announced the termination of the DACA program, stating that it will immediately begin winding down with limited renewals and no new applications for legal status being considered after today. As details and clarity emerge, we will update the FAQ page for our students and have staff available at both the Center for Latino and Latin American Studies and the Latino Resource Center to help our students understand and navigate information and options.

Today's federal action will understandably cause concern, confusion and even anger for many of our undocumented students, their families and the faculty, staff and students who are their advocates and allies. I want to be clear that NIU stands with our students, regardless of their immigration status. Moreover, we are committed to admitting and retaining students regardless of status or nationality. We will also continue to support undocumented students through privately funded scholarships; student support groups and faculty advocates; counseling and consultation services; academic and cultural resource centers; and Ally training on how to best advocate for undocumented students.

NIU encourages our elected officials to reach a legislative solution quickly that enables each of our students and graduates to work, participate meaningfully in our society and contribute to the economic health of our state and nation. If you want your voice heard on this matter, engage with the student-led organization DREAM Action NIU to learn how to advocate on its behalf with state and federal legislators.

In this dynamic time, undocumented students and employees at NIU might be shouldering fears about their future and families. They are deserving of your kindness, respect and encouragement.

To our undocumented students: You belong at NIU. We want you here, and we are prepared to help you navigate how to continue on your educational journey. Continue to go to class. Refuse to let this action interfere with your goals. You are here to earn an education so that you can better yourselves: When you are educated, informed and engaged, you are just what our nation needs. Tap into the offerings and leadership available in our Resource Centers – they are welcoming to all students, faculty and staff in need of guidance and dialogue.

NIU will continue to take measures to support and assist our undocumented community, and I encourage students, faculty and staff to continue to communicate with the university on important legal and social issues that affect these Huskies. Our commitment to being a diverse, inclusive and welcoming university will not waver.

FY18 Budget Update - 7/6/17

I am delighted to say that after more than two years, the State of Illinois has a fully funded budget bill.

I applaud our legislators for the bipartisan cooperation required to end a stalemate that has hurt our state, our university and our students. Their actions signal that they appreciate the important role of public higher education in building a prosperous future for Illinois. In particular, I want to thank Representative Bob Pritchard for his support of the relevant legislation.

For NIU, the spending bill provides:

  • Retroactive funding that will allow us to meet outstanding obligations from FY17.
  • Retroactive funding to reimburse NIU for the funds credited to student accounts to cover grants awarded through the Monetary Assistance Program (MAP) in FY17.
  • Funding for FY18 MAP grants.
  • Capital Development Board funding that should allow for completion of the Stevens Building project.
  • Operating capital for FY18 at a level 10 percent below our allocation in FY15, the last year that we had a full budget.

The receipt of these funds will positively impact NIU's cash position and alleviate stress on new and returning students who rely on MAP grants, allowing them to focus on their educational goals.

Even though we are grateful for the clarity and security provided by this latest action, it does not alter the fact that we have absorbed a funding shortfall of more than $65 million over the last three years. We must continue the work to enhance the financial stability of NIU by increasing enrollment, becoming more efficient and aligning our resources with our priorities. There will be some difficult decisions ahead, and I pledge that we will tackle these issues together.

Guided by principles of shared governance, mutual respect and transparency in decisionmaking, my leadership team will seek the best ideas and thinking from everyone in the university community. We will adhere to a very simple proposition — one that I deeply believe in — that the strength of NIU comes from the bottom up and not the top down.

I eagerly anticipate working together to move NIU forward. We will proceed with a unity of purpose, acknowledging that even when we do not fully agree on the means to an end, we share core values and a commitment to the institutional mission.

Go Huskies!

Leadership Meetings

Contact Dr. Freeman

Office of the President
Altgeld Hall 300
815-753-1271
president@niu.edu

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