CIO in, VPs out in Baker’s changes

By Kelly Bauer

NIU welcomed CIO Brett Coryell in the same breath as it announced two vice presidents would no longer work at NIU, the news coming in a Friday address from NIU President Doug Baker.

The changes are part of Baker’s efforts to root out inefficiencies to save the university money and help with recruitment and retention.

“We are committed to our guiding principles in alignment with NIU’s mission, strategic goals and our keystone goal of student career success,” Baker said in his Baker Report, a once-weekly email address to the university community. “These changes are a reflection of that commitment as we constantly assess and evaluate our progress in meeting these critical goals.”

Changes were also announced in October: a vice president for international affairs — a role former provost Ray Alden took — was created; Finance and Facilities was split into the Division of Administration and the Division of Finance; administration of the Convocation Center and Huskie Stadium was moved to Athletics and University Relations was renamed and started integrating NIU’s marketing, communications and branding programs, among other changes.


Coryell, who was Emory University’s deputy chief information officer, will be paid $290,000, Baker said. He is NIU’s first CIO and vice president for information technology.

“CIO’s are pretty expensive,” Baker said in a Saturday interview. “I’m convinced in a very short period of time he’ll be saving us more [than he costs] … .”

Paul Hixson, CIO at U of I, is paid $210,637.50; Ronald Crain, SIU-Carbondale’s assistant provost and CIO, is paid $180,000.

Baker said Coryell will save the university money by cutting down inefficiencies; for example, Baker said Coryell can “drive down” costs when purchasing equipment and can identify programs or people performing the same tasks as others.

Coryell will report directly to Baker. The search for a CIO started shortly after Baker announced NIU would hire a CIO and CFO as part of the administrative changes he announced in October.

Vice presidents

Bill Nicklas is now the vice president for Operations and Community Relations, adding responsibilities from Finances and Human Resources on to those from his former position as vice president of Public Safety and Community Relations.

Baker said a potential raise for Nicklas was “not even talked about … yet.” Nicklas was paid about $157,000 in Fiscal Year 2013, according to the Illinois Board of Higher Education, and Baker said Nicklas is making about $200,000.

Nicklas, a former city manager of DeKalb and Sycamore, was hired in 2011 as the associate vice president for Institutional Planning and Sustainability.

Nicklas was named temporary acting director of Public Safety in November 2012, and he was promoted to vice president of Public Safety and Community Relations in March.

Steve Cunningham, vice president of Administration, will turn his attention to Illinois’ pensions at the request of Baker, but he will then look elsewhere for employment.

Legislators approved a pension reform bill that cuts cost of living increases and raises the minimum retirement age for state workers in December. Some faculty and staff disapproved of the bill, which now faces challenges in court.

Cunningham will sort through pension issues to “clarify the new retirement landscape and thereby help NIU employees,” but “has expressed interest in pursuing other employment opportunities when that work is completed,” according to the Baker Report.

Cunningham started overseeing the Office of the Controller, the Accounting Office and operations at the Holmes Student Center on top of his responsibilities as vice president of Administration and Human Resources Service in August 2012, but those responsibilities were shifted to interim CFO Nancy Suttenfield during Baker’s October administrative changes.

Kathy Buettner, former vice president of University Relations, will no longer work at NIU.

Buettner has been replaced on an interim basis by Brad Hoey, former director of Communications and Marketing.

Baker could not confirm if Buettner was dismissed or if she opted to leave NIU.

Buettner was made vice president of University Relations in August 2009 and was hired by NIU in 1995.

July 1, Nicklas replaced Buettner as head of Board of Trustees operations. Buettner had served in that role for about 10 years, and continued as the board’s administrative liaison to the Legislation, Audit and External Affairs Committee and as the board’s second assistant secretary.

Police Department

Police Chief Tom Phillips has been added to Baker’s Operations Cabinet, though he will report to Nicklas.

The changes will allow Phillips to work with the university’s vice president to promote safety throughout the campus, Baker said.

“Having him coordinate with other vice presidents is very important,” Baker said in the Saturday interview.

Phillips started in the fall, replacing former NIU Police Chief Don Grady.