Q&A with Beth Ingram, executive vice president and provost

Noah Thornburgh

Dr. Beth Ingram was hired as the university’s executive vice president and provost in June. Her role oversees the office of Student Affairs, Institutional Effectiveness, and Human Resource Services. The following are excerpts of an interview with the Northern Star on her plans for the year. They have been lightly edited for clarity and consistency.

What would you like to see more student feedback on?

I think student feedback is always important in anything that we’re doing because you’re on the ground walking around, and you are experiencing what you experience on campus, and so the students can bring a perspective that it’s hard for somebody in my position to have access to.

What nationwide trends in higher education would you like to bring to NIU?

Some things we’re already working on, which is to provide more advisors to students, more effective advising and to make sure that we deliver a more personalized advising experience. When I went to college, advising was basically sitting down with your advisor, and they said, “Here are the four classes you need to take next semester.” There was no multi-year planning, there was no discussion about what I wanted to do with my career or how I might set myself up to apply to graduate school. That was 30 years ago now.

That’s not how we think about advising anymore. We want advisors to have a more personalized experience. So the conversation you have with a first-year student is different than a fourth-year student. The conversation you have with a student who’s struggling and may not be ready to get into the business school will be different than a student who knows they want to be an accountant and do great in math courses. So we should really use discussions that we have with students to deliver information and support they need when they need it.

What does that look like practically?

I think it was getting more advisors, but it was also providing more professional development for advisors to help advisors learn how to talk to different students in different ways. And that’s something that’s in the Strategic Enrollment Management Plan. And there’s the advising piece and integrating that with career advising. A lot of universities are moving toward a more seamless career and academic advising system. So when you’re a first-year student you start to have conversations about what you see yourself doing after you finish. But once you’re a senior, you pretty much know what classes you have to take, right? At that point, you’ve really got to be thinking about what’s what’s next for you and how you set yourself up to do that.

How do you see your role fitting into the effort to increase enrollment?

Vice President [of Enrollment Management] Sol Jensen leads that effort, but a lot of the people that report to me are involved in the Enrollment Plan. Enrollment isn’t just about recruiting students, it’s about the life cycle of the students. My office plays a big role in making sure students are successful, feel welcome, are retained and then graduate. It’s not just about getting students in the door, it’s about making sure the experience they have here is transformational. And I can play a big role in that.

I, for a long time, thought about other groups of students, students that left here a few credits short of graduation, or something happened and they couldn’t come back and finish. We can provide opportunities for those students, which is another kind of enrollment, but it’s also helpful to people who have reached a point in their lives when they could finish their degree.