The Vision 2020 working group on Regional Impact, Outreach, Engagement, and Graduate Education was tasked with devising strategies the university can use to capitalize on the opportunities for engaged research, artistry, and service that exist in its exceptionally complex region. The group met ten times during the spring 2011 semester and absorbed an extraordinary amount of material, beginning with the evolution of the concept of engagement and the current national focus on engagement as a central university function.
Increase NIU's share of the large and growing pool of part‐time, off‐campus, undergraduate and graduate students (ages 25‐45) in the region from 1% (3,000 students/40,000 credit hours annually) to 3% (9,000 students/120,000 credit hours annually).
Enrolling a greater share of the off-campus market (ages 25-45) is mission critical to NIU"s claim to the region and to the university's regional impact. This market is rapidly expanding while the 18 to 22-year-old market is shrinking. Adult learners are place-bound because of work and domestic commitments; they seek innovative solutions that enable them to pursue higher education.
NIU’s graduate student enrollment is declining, while competitors’ enrollments are increasing dramatically. Graduate education and research are essential to the future vitality of the university and the region because NIU graduates with advanced degrees contribute to the region's economic, social, and cultural well-being.
Develop 12 to 25 additional online certificate and degree programs (for a total of 49 programs) that are prioritized to meet the highest levels of student demand; and establish a continuing, adequately funded infrastructure to create and support more market‐driven, online programs.
National surveys show that online students prefer to study at a nearby university and appreciate occasional face-to-face meetings. Because of NIU's location and reputation, it is well-positioned to maximize online enrollments.
Increase engaged learning activities for NIU undergraduate and graduate students by capitalizing on regional opportunities. Few institutions can match NIU’s location for the engaged learning opportunities that are strongly supported by the strategic plan, but the development of such opportunities for NIU students lags behind competitor and benchmark institutions.
NIU lacks a systemic approach for tracking and assessing the university's wide range of outreach and engagement initiatives, allowing these activities to go uncounted, unrewarded, and unnoticed. The ENGAGE! website is designed to correct this problem.
Tracking and assessment are required to demonstrate increased regional and global impact, justify rewards, and provide information for promoting outreach and engagement initiatives.
Recommendation 6 – Increase regional and international outreach and engagement activities.
NIU needs to create incentives for, support, and promote engagement activities at the regional, national, and international levels through an infrastructure dedicated to engagement. This commitment to engagement will help promote the university’s reputation, reliability, and presence in addressing public needs; recruit students; motivate external funders; and inspire new, mutually beneficial partnerships.
Encourage faculty involvement in outreach and engagement activities by including engaged research, engaged teaching, and engaged service in promotion and tenure processes and other faculty rewards. These changes will increase, NIU's regional and global impact and formally recognize current faculty and staff for what they have done and are continuing to do. This might also become a useful recruitment tool for faculty in some disciplines.