New director announced for the NIU School of Art and Design


Amy Fleming

Associate professor and head of the photography department at NIU, Jessica Labatte, standing in front of a vibrant wall mural. Labatte has been selected to be the next Director of the NIU School of Art and Design, beginning in July. (Courtesy of Amy Fleming)

By Daniel Massa, Lifestyle Writer

DeKalb – Starting July 1, Jessica Labatte will begin her new position as director of the NIU School of Art and Design. 

Labatte is an associate professor and is currently head of the art school’s photography department. Prior to her acceptance as the new director, Douglas Boughton, a professor of art education was the previous director, who will soon step down after serving 3 years in the position.

Labatte attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago where she received her Master and Bachelor of Fine Arts. 

Labatte stated that she became interested in the director position after being selected for NIU’s Emerging Faculty Leadership Program. Faculty members’ potential for leadership in higher education is the focus of the program.

“With the skills I’ve developed and the experiences I’ve had in the classroom and as an artist, I’ve realized that my ability to creatively solve problems would be an asset in leadership,” Labatte said, expressing her excitement for taking over as director at the art school. “I’ve worked to expand outreach in the arts and I’ll be able to do more of that as director. We have a great faculty with great ideas, and we’ll work together to make some wonderful things happen.”

She started her career at NIU in 2012 as a visiting assistant professor before starting her tenure track in 2014.  She would go on to spearhead a number of projects on and off the NIU campus such as Faces of Belonging and the Past and Pleasant exhibition at the Ellwood House Museum in DeKalb.

Labatte and her Advanced Photography Post Production class collaborated with members of the campus and local community to make history in March 2022 to create  the largest paper snowflake in the world. The record was even certified by the Guinness Book of World Records.