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Changing with the times

September 12th, 2013

http://myniu.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/baker-doug2.jpgThe numbers are in. On Wednesday, we announced the university’s 10-day fall enrollment count. We reported a modest increase in new freshmen and graduate school enrollment this fall, which is gratifying as the nation is in the midst of a national downturn in college enrollment trends. Yet it is clear that we have significant work ahead.

Since arriving at NIU, I’ve spent time talking to our many stakeholders — students, faculty, staff, alumni, and community members — and am working toward a communiversity-wide discussion about the many opportunities available to us to reach the goal of 100 percent of NIU students finding success in graduate school or in the workforce within six months of graduation. I am thankful for the energy, enthusiasm, and the many ideas and insights provided so far during these fruitful discussions.

This highly competitive higher education landscape, combined with the forecast of a decline in Midwest high school graduates through 2020, requires NIU to make bold, creative, and entrepreneurial changes in the way we teach and serve our students. For NIU to thrive, we must provide students with engagement opportunities that enhance their academic experience and prepare them for personal and career success upon graduation.

While the challenges we face are significant, they are not unique to NIU. Colleges and universities, public and private, throughout the nation are grappling to come to terms with what will be the 2.0 “reboot” of higher education in the future. What is important to NIU is that it is our responsibility to overcome these challenges for our university and to deliver a world-class education that prepares our students for success in their future pursuits.

DeKalb Mayor Rey and I just landed this afternoon in Moscow, Idaho, home of my former school, the University of Idaho. We have two days of meetings set up with local leaders in Moscow to hear firsthand how university and community officials have worked together to create a vibrant community, on and off campus, that is welcoming to University of Idaho students and enjoyed by the residents of Moscow. And of course, we will conclude our visit in the Kibbie Dome as the NIU Huskies take on the Idaho Vandals.

Go Huskies!