Freeman prioritizes enrollment in FY2019 Presidential Goals

By Taher Zeitoun

DeKALB — Following the resignation of former President Doug Baker due to alleged improper spending, President Lisa Freeman said she vows to increase transparency between students, faculty and the university in the 2019 fiscal year.

Freeman said her goals for 2019 involve a continuous strategic and developed approach.

After being hired, a four-year plan to address the goals Freeman established for the 2018 fiscal year was created. Freeman said after looking at those goals, she identified enrollment and fiscal stability as continued challenges. She said it is important to be specific and transparent in addressing challenges such as enrollment stabilization and how those things will be addressed.

Board of Trustees Vice Chair Dennis Barsema said the goals developed by the Board of Trustees are designed to address some of the biggest challenges faced by the university. He said the Board has set the bar high, and Freeman is already off to a great start.

Freeman said providing transparency regarding presidential expenditures and university direction by posting on the website has been helpful in building trust. She said being candid with presidential expenses is important to remove confusion as to how those dollars are being spent.

Recognizing the importance of supplying up-to-date information, Freeman said she feels good about the increase in transparency.

The university released a five-year Strategic Enrollment and Management plan Tuesday, which Freeman said is meant to provide transparency about the direction the university is taking to address enrollment and contains three overarching goals to help stabilize enrollment by 2023.

“We’re a university that wants to make plans and decisions using data to help guide us, and that theme carries over into the New Strategic Enrollment Management plan,” Freeman said.

She said the plan details where opportunities to stabilize enrollment will come from while proceeding in a manner which respects our university’s missions and values.

Barsema  said the release of the Strategic Enrollment and Management plan is a good start in addressing issues regarding funding and fiscal stability.

“The plan provides the most comprehensive framework for boosting enrollment, retention and diversity at the university I have seen,” Barsema said. “This year, we expect to begin seeing the benefits of new budgeting procedures developed under [Freeman’s] administration, which will help us better understand our financial condition and guide our decision making.”

Enrollment is a key economic driver for the university, which Freeman said is why it leads her list. She said it’s crucial to invest in programs supporting enrollment such as the university’s recent partnership with Wiley Education, intended to boost online enrollment.

“The partner we have brought on board has the technology to use up-to-date modern analytics to help reach students in and out of state [who are] interested in online courses for data analytics,” Freeman said.

She said another successful partnership was found in Discover creating code_orange, leading to more projects for FY19.

Gerald Blazey, vice president of Research and Innovation Partnerships, helped launch the Discover code_orange program. Blazey said NIU has a partnership laboratory known as 21 North on campus which develops ideas in innovation and research, two things Freeman said remain important to her.

Blazey said it’s important to get involved with partnerships in other institutions, whether they be industry, foundation or academic.

Blazey also said one of Freeman’s goals for FY18 was to create research clusters. He said there are now two research centers; CREATE and the Northern Illinois Center for Community Sustainability.

“These partnerships are the source of innovation, bringing in new ideas for technology and having people in close quarters discussing with each other,” Blazey said.