Peters outlines vision for changing landscape

President John Peters introduced “The Vision 2020 Initiative” at the State of the University address Thursday afternoon in Altgeld auditorium.

By Jalen Cobb

“THE CHANGING LANDSCAPE OF HIGHER EDUCATION” was the title of NIU President John Peters State of the University address Thursday.

Peters introduced the creation of “The Vision 2020 Initiative,” an idea to enhance NIU’s academic future.

“The NIU Great Journeys Strategic Plan [Vision 2020 Initiative], led by Provost Ray Alden and driven by our faculty, has provided us with a detailed road map for our academic future,” Peters said.

The purpose of this strategic plan is to promote student, faculty, and facility excellence throughout the NIU community, Peters said.

According to this plan, an extensive amount of goals have been proposed to be met to make NIU better for not only DeKalb, but also for new and returning students.

Peters said the purpose for implementing this plan is to make NIU “the Midwest’s most student-centered university,” an idea that he is adamant on accomplishing.

“We aim to make NIU the first choice among talented students in our region,” he said. “Yet, we are an institution of higher learning, not a publicly traded company.”

Peters emphasized the idea that NIU’s primary function is not as a business. Students are enrolled in NIU to better themselves and earn an education that is versatile and useful in the world.

Freshman business major Kyle Urbashich said he chose NIU not only because of it’s proximity and closeness to home, but for its outstanding academic programs, the business program in particular.

“The tours and classes provided at NIU gave me insight and sparked my interest,” Urbashich said.

Providing insight and gaining that closeness among students and administration is a goal that Peters said he would like to accomplish.

“It is our duty not only to educate – but also to motivate,” Peters said. “We need to pull our students up, not push them out. Yes, we produce accountants, artists, educators, judges, scientists, computer whizzes, medical professionals, public administrators and more. But our true hallmark is producing problem solvers, global citizens and tomorrow’s leaders.”

Peters said he hopes to take an active role in student academic success by emphasizing engaged learning. NIU students and faculty should work together to promote greatness. To accomplish that goal, he said it is known that engaging in learning develops better comprehension and critical-thinking skills, but students should be taking an active role by participating.

Dana Gautcher, coordinator for student academic success, said she thought the idea of the address was promising.

“I was empowered and excited about this initiative,” Gautcher said.

Even though she was excited, Gautcher said she believes that it can be better than expected, but the NIU community must redirect their attention and invest fully to influence a better outcome.

“Student investment and involvement in the task force/committee is important and if students are worried about the university’s progress, then they should become involved,” Gautcher said.

Financial support is another topic that was addressed, knowing members of the NIU community worry about it.

“When we embarked on an ambitious $150 million campaign [True North], there were many who thought perhaps we should think smaller, not set our sights so high. And I could fully understand their caution,” Peters said. “We cannot — and we will not — let the state’s financial woes trump our responsibility to do so.”

He acknowledged the economic pitfalls but said he believes that sometimes action is required to make things happen.

“I am…confident NIU is poised to increase the amount of external funding,” he said. “This benefits our students by providing even more exposure to cutting-edge research and by making them part of the discovery process.”

Peters said he envisions greatness for NIU. This greatness will be implemented not only through learning but also through the aesthetics of the campus. Remodeling residence halls, Cole Hall, and the renovations of the Stevens building are goals that Peters has set out to accomplish.

“To fund these major improvements, the Board of Trustees will begin consideration of a plan later this month for the sale of Build America Bonds,” he said.

Peters said he plans to provide the best for not only students, but also for the faculty/staff by implementing a salary stabilization proposal. He said he believes that a salary stabilization plan must be accrued to provide growth and will help his mission properly.

“It must include a special, tenure faculty merit pool for those we cannot afford to lose and it must incorporate a staff and faculty salary increase…for those in the lower salary ranges,” Peters said.

Rewarding and retaining is important, Peters said, and even though the future is uncertain, growth is important. “If NIU is to continue to grow and meet our mission to properly serve the people of the State of Illinois, we must make this commitment a reality,” Peters said. “This is my highest priority.”