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815 < 5 is a pair of podcasts bringing you the latest news and events in and around the 8-1-5 area code in less than five minutes! It was produced by students at Northern Illinois University's Journalism 302 News Reporting course during the Spring semester. In May 2022, 815<5 received 1st Place in the Outstanding Radio Newscast category from the Illinois News Broadcasters Association's statewide student awards.

NIU This Week: State money for repairs, students prepare for finals

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Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker recently announced more than $400 million as part of the state’s construction plan. During a recent news conference, he spoke about the importance of the plan which will fund 149 deferred maintenance projects, including structural repairs, to universities across the state, including NIU.

“The Rebuild Illinois Capital plan is the largest infrastructure plan in the state's history,” he said. “It's also the largest infrastructure plan in the entire nation, and it’s about renovating and expanding our world class institutions of higher education.”

Governor Pritzker added that investments also include wheelchair accessibility and repairs in plumbing and sewage.

NIU will look to use its share to repair the roofs of the Music Building and Gabel Hall.

MAP Funding

More college students will get grants to pay for school. The latest state budget includes an increase in the Monetary Award Program. Andrea Allen is a financial aid manager at NIU.

“It will be for the Fall and Spring semester only,” she noted. “It will not cover summer classes. That would be offered yearly if the student is eligible.”

She says there are approximately 5,000 students who will qualify for the MAP grant for the Fall and Spring semesters.

COVID Semester in Review

COVID positivity rates peaked in the beginning of the semester. They began tapering off after the first week with single digit positivity rates through February, March, and April.

Some students have voiced their opinion on implementing campus related protocol changes. Spencer, a second year Chemistry Education major, thinks there should be a student forum before making changes.

“So students could have time to ask questions or voice any concerns with the policy and [NIU] could take the opinions of the students into account," he said, "because most of the university population would be the students and the policies would affect them the most.”

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The last tests conducted resulted in a 1.5% positivity rate.

Mental Health Focus During Finals

Finals week can be a time of chaos and frustration for many students. If they don’t prioritize their mental health, it can lead to an increase in depression and anxiety.

Dr. Timothy Paquette is the director of the Counseling and Consultation Services Center at NIU. He is also a licensed psychologist. He says mental health is important and there are several things students can do to prioritize their mental health during finals week.

“Eating well, still some getting exercise, doing things for self-care, having balance each day even when your stressed even there is a lot to do,” he said. “Being able to take regular breaks, [and] being able to take care of your body and your mind, that becomes really important at a time like finals exams.”

The Center is open Monday through Friday in the Campus Life Building.

Caffeinating Huskies

Cast Iron Coffee near campus aims to serve coffee to DeKalb residents and NIU students in a warm, welcoming environment. The menu marries a range of sweet drinks with more traditional Italian espresso, so there’s something for everyone.

The café opened its doors in March 2020 during the pandemic.

Senior environmental studies major Titus Williamson works there as a barista.

Williamson says the coffee shop typically closes at 4 p.m. but during finals week, the idea is to host a few study nights where the store will be open later for NIU students.

Reflections on a unique year

With finals left before students split off for break, they are reflecting back on the year. Viviana Cortez is a junior majoring in Communicative Disorders.

“My favorite memory of campus was getting involved in different programs,” she said. “In the Fall, I was involved in Huskie service scholars.”

Cortez says being involved this year really helped her as a transfer student.

NIU’s undergraduate spring graduation will be held May 14th.

Greek groups aim to be more inclusive

The United Greek Council will rebrand to the Multicultural Greek Council starting this fall. The rebranding helps to represent a more authentic representation of the chapters involved in the group. Honor Morgan is president of the Panhellenic Council.

Phired Up has partnered with NIU to revitalize the four councils that include 41 chapters on campus. The Revitalizing Greek Life Task Force also works with NIU to help make the Greek councils more inclusive

Spring sports scheduling scramble

Due to the pandemic, multiple teams have had to deal with daily testing, shortened seasons, and games being canceled. One group that’s dealt with all these complications is the women’s basketball team. Head coach Lisa Carlsen said the biggest problems arose from rescheduling issues.

The Huskies had a record of 14-15 this season.

From the news team at 815 < 5, have a great summer!

Contributions by Brandon Montemayor, Jamariah Crider, Gabe Fiorini, Kurt Bitting, Joi Bradley, Amanda Woo, Waleed Alamleh, and Allyson White (editor)