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NEIU Independent

Northeastern Illinois University's student-run newspaper

NEIU Independent

Northeastern Illinois University's student-run newspaper

NEIU Independent

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Interview With the Interim Provost: Dr. R. Shayne Cofer

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Todd Crawford
Picture of Dr. Shanye Cofer

Dr. R. Shayne Cofer recently became the Interim Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs at NEIU. Cofer earned his Ph.D. and M.M. in Music Education from the University of Iowa. He first came to NEIU in 1998 as an assistant professor in the music department. He later became Associate Provost in 2020.
Cofer’s job as Provost is a big one. He is the chief academic officer of the university.
“All the faculty work under this office, the curriculum is developed in this office, any new curriculum… new programs come through this office,” Cofer told the Independent. This includes the new Masters of Science in Nursing that NEIU is building, as well as NEIU’s upcoming first doctoral program, providing an Ed.D. or Doctor of Education. The provost’s office also covers promotions and writes the contracts for faculty.
In addition to his role as Provost, Cofer is also co-manager of Enrollment Management with Dean and VP for Student Affairs, Dr. Terry Mena. NEIU gets most of its budget from tuition dollars. Students are charged per credit hour they register for, which means that full-time students bring in more tuition than part-time students. Freshmen bring in more tuition over the course of their academic careers than transfer students. This is why NEIU has been focusing its recruiting efforts on full-time freshman students.
In an effort to boost enrollment, NEIU is currently contacting students who have indicated their intent to enroll in classes, reaching out to both students and their parents via text, email, and phone. According to Cofer, there are about 900 applicants who have intended to enroll, but only 400 have actually registered for classes. Academic Affairs are currently working to get the other 500 to enroll.
Even with NEIU’s new emphasis on full-time freshman students, Cofer recognized that NEIU traditionally catered to transfer students, and that they have different needs than freshmen.
“First-time freshmen when they come in, and most of them don’t declare a major, they don’t know what they’re going to major in,” Cofer said. “The reason we have Gen Eds [General Education Classes] and all the different discipline areas is so that you can kind of get a smorgasbord so you can make a decision about what you want to major in.”
Regarding transfer students, Cofer said, “Transfers typically, they just transferred from Wilbur Wright with an A.A. degree in Math. They’re gonna come here and be in Math. So they’re pretty much set on what they want… They’re looking for us to help them continue what they’ve already started.”
NEIU has also been ranked as the most diverse college in the Midwest for four years straight, according to The Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education College Ranking. In the wake of the Supreme Court Ruling in SFFA v. Harvard, which struck down affirmative action in college admissions, Cofer was not worried about NEIU maintaining its diversity.
“We have always been diverse. We want diversity,” Cofer said. “We’re always looking for more students. Other universities, larger universities… those are the people that are going to have problems.”
Asked about what he would do differently from his predecessor, Interim Provost Dr. Andrea Evans, in working with NEIU’s shared governance bodies, Dr. Cofer spoke of turning a new day for NEIU.
“We all are here to try to rebuild confidence, to have better communication, to bring more people to the table,” he said. “Sometimes, decisions were made without having a large enough body of the constituents involved with the decision. And I think that brings tension.”
Cofer was understanding that things cannot change overnight. “Of course, we have to prove ourselves,” he said. “You can’t function if the faculty are angry.”
Cofer said the administration would not be sitting idle until a new president comes in.
“Our goal this year is just to listen, gather ideas, make whatever changes we have to to help move this ship forward,” he said. “When a new president comes on board, we can say, we didn’t just sit around for a year, waiting for you to arrive… We can hand her a portfolio and say, here’s what the work we’ve done. Here’s the information we’ve gathered from students from faculty, and here are some ideas for you to move forward.”
When asked what Academic Affairs could do to help attract candidates to apply as the president of NEIU, Cofer admitted that his department was not directly involved in those decisions. He said Academic Affairs could “do a really good job and try to look attractive by having a positive environment in which to work.”
Cofer also spoke of his commitment to NEIU’s other two locations, El Centro and the Carruthers Center for Inner City Studies (CCICS). He said the administration was building resources for the two campuses. He said they are “part of our culture, we need to take care of them.”
Dr. Cofer knows about taking care of students. When he was teaching music, he told the Independent, he always made sure to encourage and include students. He said that teachers have to be careful how they teach their students and what they say to them. The worst thing he heard was when a student would tell him they dropped out of music because of something a teacher said. In one of his first teaching jobs, Cofer told of how a high school hired him to rebuild their band program, which only had 10 students at the time. When he left, eight years later, the band program was thriving.

 

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About the Contributor
Dan Maurer
Dan Maurer, News Editor
Dan Maurer is the News Editor for the NEIU Independent. He is pursuing a Bachelor’s in  Sociology at Northeastern Illinois University. He got his associates degree from the College of DuPage. His goal in life is to position himself to be able to speak truth to power and provide analysis and facts for informed decision making. He spends his time reading, listening to podcasts, and engaging with science-fiction media. He also hosts karaoke multiple evenings throughout the week.

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