Vision 2020 progressing, still work to do

By Kim Randall

NIU has undergone many changes within the last years as a part of the Vision 2020 Initiative.

Many of the changes that have been made so far — like making the campus more technologically equipped — have been successful and beneficial to students, but there’s still more work to do.

For those who are unfamiliar, the Vision 2020 Initiative began in fall 2010 under the leadership of former NIU President John Peters. Vision 2020 was created with the intent of pushing NIU forward to become “the most student-centered public research university in the Midwest…,” according to the initiative’s website.

To reach this goal, strategic methods are being used to strengthen and improve target areas like student retention rates, campus appearance and academic enrichment.

Some areas of the plan have not gone as well as hoped, like the persistent drop in enrollment. But NIU has made progress that cannot be ignored, like the newly built Outdoor Recreation Complex and renovated Gilbert Hall. These are among many of the improvements that have been made to enhance campus appearance.

Improvements like these have helped update the campus and add to students’ needs and college experience.

NIU is doing a lot to help move the university into the right direction for the near future; however, while campus appearance has seen improvement, this is not enough. There needs to be an equal balance of constant improvements seen in each benchmark to make the overall plan strong.

An example would be student enrollment: NIU has designed a website specifically for the outlining of Vision 2020’s progress. The Vision 2020 website lists a chart illustrating projections for freshman enrollment numbers to be 3,393 by 2020. Yet, according to a Sept. 12 article in the Northern Star, total enrollment for this semester has gone down by 731 students. This is the fourth year in a row enrollment has been on the decline.

Not only has enrollment seen a decrease, but the freshman retention rate saw a decrease of 2.1 percent in the 2010-2011 academic year.

Yes, making necessary improvements to the look of the campus is great, but if areas as important as enrollment and retention are not improving then aesthetic improvements have essentially been made without the people the university relies on: students. NIU should do more to see why enrollment continues to decrease.

“A lot of the stuff that NIU is doing is nice and is helping to improve the campus,” said Shyla Flakes, junior physical therapy major. “I like the changes, but I still feel that there is a lot of things that aren’t being addressed, like student parking, which I think is a big issue.”

The efforts and achievements Vision 2020 has made should be commended, but if NIU truly wants to become a student-centered research university, it should revisit its goals.

In order for us to continue moving forward and not be stuck in a standstill, we need to analyze where we are to get to where we want to be. The work does not end here.