Welcome back! I’m so happy to see all of you after what I hope was a relaxing and productive summer.
As we mark the first day of classes each August, I always find myself incredibly invigorated and optimistic about the semester and year that await us.
This year is no different and, in many ways, I am feeling even more encouraged and excited.
Maybe it’s because we spent the last few months enjoying the amazing tweets from China and Taiwan, where our Educate Global travelers taught English to children and youth. What a marvelous program, not only transforming the lives of the young “campers” but also those of our undergraduate and graduate students. It’s impossible to measure the impact this experience will make on the U.S. classrooms where they soon will teach.
Perhaps it’s because we’ve made such impressive strides in meeting the priorities set forth in our Strategic Action Planning Framework.
June’s Social Justice Summer Camp, for example, offers just one example of an innovative practice that we’ve launched to achieve our mission. As I said during last week’s All-College Meeting, the K-12 teachers who attended that mission-critical camp were energized to talk late into the night about those questions that could lead to improved outcomes for students from diverse and historically marginalized backgrounds.
Our work to grow our college already is bearing fruit.
Enrollment notched up this summer, and our number of transfer students has risen by 32 over last year. Meanwhile, a group of 14 Dean’s Achievement Scholars is starting class today – that’s tripled from 2016-17. We also saw a 25 percent jump in the headcount of College of Education students in the University Honors Program. All of this should help us lift our retention rates even higher.
Research continues to accelerate, with more than double the number of Dean’s Research Grants last year. College of Education faculty reported approximately 170 publications and creative works. I look forward to learning about what you discover this year!
I hope all of you were able to meet Yanghee Kim, who visited campus last week in advance of her arrival in January as our new LD and Ruth G. Morgridge Endowed Chair in Teacher Education and Preparation. Yanghee has big ideas, boundless passion, a heart for collaboration and an NSF grant in search of new partners here in the College of Ed and across the university.
Speaking of new faces, we have 12 new faculty members joining us this fall. That total tells me that the university knows about, and rewards, the great work we’re doing here. Congratulations to all of you, and please know that we’re glad you’re here. We are stronger with you.
Finally, maybe I’m buoyed by the news in July that the Illinois General Assembly approved a fully funded budget for higher education. As Acting President Lisa Freeman communicated this summer: “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.”
Naturally, significant fiscal challenges remain. We and the university will continue to move forward with Program Prioritization and the college’s Strategic Action Planning Framework, including the necessary goal to align resources with priorities.
We’ll enjoy opportunities to dialogue, listen and share, so please bring your lunch, your questions and your comments. Our ears are open to your feedback and suggestions, and we’ll try to address any concerns you might have. The first two are scheduled Tuesday, Sept. 12, in Anderson 221, and Monday, Sept. 18, in Gabel 146. Dessert is on us!
Here’s to a great year!