Freeman, Weffer join new Illinois Board of Higher Education committee


Patrick Murphy

A NIU decorated fire hydrant sits grounded on the sidewalk at the intersection of First Street and Lincoln Highway in DeKalb.

By Elisa Reamer, News Editor

DeKALB – The Illinois Board of Higher Education has announced that NIU President Lisa Freeman and Simón Weffer, member of Illinois Federation of Teachers and sociology professor, have been selected for a new Strategic Planning Advisory Board, according to a Wednesday IBHE news release.

The board aims to create an equitable, accessible and innovative higher education ecosystem across Illinois that ensures students and communities thrive, according to the news release. 

Members of the advisory committee will come up with strategies to increase affordability and workplace needs, IBHE Board Chair John Atkinson said in the news release. 

“I am thrilled that this group has agreed to help us chart a course for higher education in Illinois,” Atkinson said.

The board’s main goal is to create a safe space for students of color and to keep enhancing diversity within higher education. 

“This new plan must address the importance of an aligned education system,” said Co-Chair Juan Salgado, chancellor of City Colleges of Chicago. “Higher education needs to better serve the varied needs of our increasingly diverse, life-long learners, whether it be at  two-year or four-year colleges and universities, public or private or credential programs.” 

Focused educators are evolving the system when it comes to the pandemic and past decisions, Pat McGuire, co-chair and state Senator, said in the news release. He said now is the time to make higher education fair at both community colleges and universities.

1871 CEO Betsy Ziegler will join as a co-chair on the committee and said in the news release that employers know the nature of work is changing rapidly and that partnership with our higher education system is essential. 

“Preparing students for jobs and civic life is critical to our companies and our economy, as is the innovation and research that come from a strong higher education system,” Ziegler said.