NEIU President Dr. Gibson Answers Students Questions
March 1, 2022
Dr. Gloria J. Gibson, President of Northeastern Illinois University (NEIU), held an in-person Open Office Hour on Tuesday afternoon, Feb. 15, 2022, between 3:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. She invited all students, faculty, and staff to stop by Student Union 003 (SU003) to ask questions or share comments.
Three students attended this informal gathering and asked Dr. Gibson about several topics from questions about scholarships or COVID-19 policies, to concerns about the development of the university and room for improvement, as well as new initiatives.
The Future of NEIU
The dialogue started with a question about Dr. Gibson’s vision for the future of NEIU. In her response, she stated the goal of putting academic excellence first by improving and adapting programs to the needs of the future, “understanding the needs of the workforce. For example, the Department of Computer Science recently finalized a proposal for a new career in Cyber Security,” noted Dr. Gibson. In addition, the arts and athletics will play a crucial role in upcoming years, providing an opportunity for students to develop their full potential and creativity, as well as a sense of community and belonging to NEIU. The Arts program is quite settled and strong, but there have been a few years without the sports program. Right now, following student demand, a designated committee is developing a new sports program for NEIU, which at the moment is in its early stages. Hopefully, there will be Athletics at Northeastern soon.
Enrollment and Retention
Another of the students brought up a worrying fact for the university. Between the Fall of 2021 and the Spring of 2022, 12 percent of the student body has been lost. In this sense, Dr. Gibson commented that the cause of the issue is currently being evaluated and measures are being implemented to increase the retention rate of students, such as the hiring of new personnel. In fact, there is a New Vice President of Enrollment Services, Kimberly Williams, who will bring new enrollment strategies in the fall of 2022. However, this problem is not new and was already reflected in the NEIU Climate Study of the past years, which Dr. Gibson uses it as a reflection of the university’s community voice to address current challenges.
At the same time, Dr. Gibson highlighted the importance of the different Living And Learning Communities (Social Justice, Future Teachers, Explore Yourself) that provide an adequate environment for academic success allowing students to live at the Nest at no cost. Beginning in Fall 2022, two more Living And Learning Communities will be created. Another key tool for recruiting freshman and transfer students is the NEIU For You scholarship, which covers tuition for first-time freshmen for up to four years at NEIU. In fact, one of the students present in the room was a recipient of this scholarship. Dr. Gibson was interested in his history, the high school he came from, and asked him what this scholarship had meant to him: “The opportunity to focus on my career without having to invest my time on doing extra hours of a work that I don’t like, as well a relief for my parents that don’t have to pay for it.” This conversation led to one of the new recruiting strategies: Having students go to their old high schools to talk about their experience at NEIU.
However, these measures mostly focused on younger students do not fully address the needs of the NEIU student body where the median age of students is 28-years-old. For this reason, Dr. Gibson was asked about her plans to integrate these older students, commuters, or workers who do not spend as much time on campus. She answered that as with the rest of the students the goal is to “provide the support they need to pursue their higher education understanding the different needs of students and giving” in this case to meet the needs of this group of students university provides resources like online courses or childcare services, but there is room for improvement in this task, for instance, offering more evening classes or alternatives to childcare like sports for kids at the P.E complex.
Difficulties in retention are not limited to the student body, they also concern faculty and staff in what Dr. Gibson has defined it as “a problem that not only affects Northeastern but a national phenomenon, if not a global one that in some sense is COVID-19 related.” Following the pandemic topic and taking stock of the first days of the semester of remote learning, Dr. Gibson stated that “the health and security on-campus is always first and foremost.” After returning to the classroom, there have been very few reported cases of COVID-19. “I am very happy and pleased to see everyone back and especially students,” declared Dr. Gibson.
P.E Complex Efficiency
Another question that was asked by one of the students was about the P.E complex. The students suggested to Dr. Gibson the possibility of extending the hours on the weekends, and also how long it would take for the pool repairs in order for it to be reopened. Dr. Gibson responded that these two questions were outside his sphere of competence and that they could be better answered by the Recreation Center personnel.
Afghan Transition Program
The last question of the Open Office Hour was about the Afghan Transition Program, regarding the arrival of the Afghan students to NEIU and their adaptation to this new environment. Dr. Gibson provided some updates. Initially, there were 15 slots, but two of the selected students finally couldn’t come, so at the moment there are 13 Afghan students at Northeastern enrolled in undergraduate programs, masters programs and three of them in the English as a Second Language Program. “They have been very, very appreciative of the opportunity to come to Northeastern,” said Dr. Gibson. Last week they joined the board of trustees meeting. That same board will be the one in charge of making a decision about the future of the Afghan Transition Program that ends this summer. Dr. Gibson ensured that she will recommend continuing the scholarship, she stated that “It’s a wonderful experience to have the Afghan Students. Northeastern is very diverse, and having the students here is outlined with the mission of our university.”