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As COVID-19 started shutting down international travel in March, students from Northern Illinois University studying abroad had to be rushed back home.

Anne Seitzinger said she knows it was devastating for them. She’s the director of the study abroad office at NIU.  

Months later, her staff is still helping them deal with the consequences of the abrupt change in plans.

“They're trying to get refunds for the students, and most of them have been able to do that,” she said. “And the ones that haven't been able to tell us about refunds yet, it's sounding positive.”

Cicadas - 'A Treasure To The Midwest'

Jun 23, 2020
Connie Kuntz

Annual or "dog-day" cicadas emerge throughout the summer every year and buzz all summer long. Chances are you have already started to hear them along with a sub-brood of periodical cicadas, which are part of the large Marlatt's XIII brood.

In northern Illinois, the Marlatt's XIII brood of periodical cicadas emerges every 17 years, all at once. Right now, these creatures are still under the ground and we won't see them emerge until May 2024. In the southern parts of the state, the periodical cicadas emerge every 13 years.

Susan Stephens

Northern Illinois University President Lisa Freeman sent out an email to employees of the school on Wednesday outlining next steps for their return to campus.  She said that return would be a "trickle" not a "flood."

Many have been working remotely since March when NIU began closing campus facilities in the wake of concerns over the spread of COVID-19, and, later, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker's stay-at-home-order.

Northern Illinois University

State and local leaders are making decisions every day about the COVID-19 pandemic that are met with both praise and criticism. WNIJ's Chase Cavanaugh has the second part of our series "The Hot Seat" talking to leaders about the process behind these big decisions. 

Normally, mid-March is when Dr. Lisa Freeman is engaging donors and alumni. But the situation changed quickly while she was on a cross-country flight to a Washington D.C. alumni reception. Then, the governor declared a state of emergency. 

Photo provided by Kendra Holton.

Theatre has been a part of society for at least 2500 years. Northern Illinois University is making sure it continues, regardless of the pandemic.

As it has in the past, NIU is hosting theatre camps for middle schoolers and high school thespians. This time, the camps are virtual. Kendra Holton is an assistant professor at the university's School of Theatre and Dance. She says it will be a different experience online, but kids and their parents can still expect an excellent experience.

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They say, "Absence makes the heart grow fonder," but what does isolation do to couples and families?

Dr. Scott Sibley is an assistant professor in human development and family sciences at Northern Illinois University. He said practicing self-care helps couples and families stay strong while sheltering in place, but so does accountability.

"Too often, we have couples and families that just like to point the finger at each other," he said. "I think that's one of the things I see often as a therapist; just a lot of finger pointing."

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Northern Illinois University president Lisa Freeman says the COVID-19 shutdown has cost the school $40 to $50 million so far in "revenue reductions and real costs." Future financial losses will be significant, too, in state funding, enrollment, housing, canceled events, and even philanthropy.

Evadne Bowlin

This week, the Teachers’ Lounge is actually a Student Teachers’ Lounge. We have DeKalb Founders Elementary student teacher & Northern Illinois University senior, Evadne Bowlin.

Evadne talked to host Peter Medlin about how coronavirus affects her both as a student-teacher and just as a college student. We also got into her journey to education and how she’s kind of been a student teacher since the 7th grade.

Flickr user / kristin_a (Meringue Bake Shop) "Vote!" (CC BY 2.0)

States are working to expand remote voting to address the coronavirus pandemic, but what’s already in place can differ widely between them. 

Voters in Illinois currently have the option of requesting an absentee ballot, without the need for a specific reason.  Scot Schraufnagel is Chair of the Political Science Department at Northern Illinois University. He says other states currently have an easier voting process than the Land of Lincoln.

Veronica Storc

Have you seen visualizations of what the COVID-19 virus looks like under a microscope? It looks like a small sphere with little spikes coming off it.

Now picture those tendrils as human fingers clawing out of the center of the sphere. With universities across the state canceling in-person classes, Veronica Storc can't go into campus art studios for the rest of her senior year at Northern Illinois University. She made that sculpture in her apartment, illustrating how the virus and social distancing have changed our lives.

The Illinois Auditor General's office released the most recent compliance report for several Illinois public universities, including Northern Illinois University. In the NIU report, auditors noted that in their test sample, two employees were paid beyond their termination date.

The report includes the university's reponse to the finding.

NIU eSports Hosting Daily Online Gaming Sessions

Apr 7, 2020
Andrew Heiserman

The eSports club at Northern Illinois University is organizing daily game sessions.

The club’s mantra is “anybody can play.” And anyone from competitive players on NIU’s eSports teams to casual gamers are flocking to their favorites while stuck at home can join the eSports Discord.

Discord is a platform where groups of gamers can chat over video, voice or text. 

NIU

Northern Illinois University's Holmes Student Center will serve as a primary alternative housing site. According to a release from the DeKalb County Health Department, initial experience with COVID-19 infections in Illinois demonstrated a need to provide alternative housing for those who are awaiting test results or have tested positive and do not have another way to appropriately isolate or quarantine (i.e. family members or friends who can assist in alternative housing arrangements).   
 

John Zuber

On this week’s show: John Zuber. He talked with host Peter Medlin about teaching in the time of coronavirus. John is particularly fascinated by how it’s impacted his relationships with his students. He thinks so far doing classes online from his couch while traversing technical difficulties has made them more casual and maybe more personable.

 

NIU Moves All Summer Courses Online

Apr 2, 2020
niu.edu

Northern Illinois University has moved all summer courses online instead of face-to-face. That’s because of continuing uncertainty regarding the extent of the State’s stay-at-home order to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. NIU President Lisa Freeman and Provost Beth Ingram issued a joint statement Thursday. April 6 is the first day of registration for summer classes.

Northern Illinois University

Universities across the state have canceled in-person classes for the rest of the semester. But how do you learn acting, music or dance from home?

There’s no replacing the immediacy of live theatre. And there’s no replacing a live concert or recital.

But Alexander Gelman says it’s worth remembering that art’s greatest enemy can be a lack of limitations. He’s the head of Northern Illinois University’s School of Theatre & Dance.

Susan Stephens

NIU President Lisa Freeman released a letter to the campus community on Wednesday, March 25 outlining two cases of students diagnosed with COVID-19:

Dear Students, Faculty and Staff,

I am writing today to confirm that two NIU students have been diagnosed with novel coronavirus (COVID-19). University officials are cooperating fully with the DeKalb County Health Department and other public health officials regarding the appropriate next step for our community.

Susan Stephens

NIU President Lisa Freeman joined several other Illinois public universities in announcing that classes would be conducted remotely for the remainder of the semester to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

She says there are possible exceptions for a small number of labs, internships, clinical and practicum programs. But there is no official word as yet on what those courses may be.

 

Jacob Chan is an NIU student. He says he’s not sure how his classes will translate to the new online format. 

Chase Cavanaugh

As the Illinois primary election draws closer, college students are preparing to cast their votes. Some for the first time. As part of our series, "You're the Boss," we asked several NIU voters at campus voter registration events about their most important issues in the election, and what questions they would ask candidates and current officeholders directly if they had the chance.  Here's what they had to say:

Salvador Meza, electrical and computer engineering major, Chicago

Susan Stephens

Northern Illinois University recently announced it will no longer require the ACT and SAT for admission and scholarships.

Arturo Chuatz is an accounting major from Elgin. He says the announcement doesn’t matter much to him since he is close to graduating. But he says it could help his family. He says his little sister sometimes struggles on standardized tests.

“She gets super anxious and she’s always like, ‘I don’t do well on exams.’ It’s going to help her out if she chooses to transfer to a four-year university eventually,” Chuatz said.

A high score on the SAT or ACT is no longer required for admission to more than a dozen four-year colleges and universities in Illinois. As of last week, that includes Northern Illinois University, which will now accept a high school GPA of 3.0 for admission.

 

Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, Western Illinois University, and many private colleges had already adopted similar policies. They’re all part of a growing movement.

NIU No Longer Looking At SAT & ACT Scores

Jan 30, 2020
Susan Stephens

Students applying to Northern Illinois University with a 3.0 grade point average or higher will soon be automatically admitted.

Other universities, including Western Illinois University, have already adopted test-optional policies.

NIU is the first public university in the state to go completely test blind starting fall 2021.

The university will no longer look at SAT and ACT scores for admission as well as merit scholarships.

Guy Stephens

A Northern Illinois University professor is looking at ways to reduce incarceration rates for those dealing with mental illness. Professor of Sociology Fred Markowitz will continue his research in Finland thanks to a Fulbright research grant.

Markowitz said both Finland and the U.S have seen an increase in the number of mentally ill in jail as they cut back local treatment programs. He said in the U.S., it’s difficult to get good information on the impact of those cuts, or programs that might prevent jail time for those grappling with mental illness.

Susan Stephens

Northern Illinois University officials continue to look for ways to attract new students.

Fall enrollment hit its lowest level in 50 years. Officials recently announced they will freeze tuition rates for the sixth year in a row.  Room and board rates will also remain flat next year. The university will cap tuition at  $4,732.80 per semester for students taking 12 or more credit hours. That’s to encourage students to finish their degree on time. University President Lisa Freeman said NIU will also lower student fees.

Last month, Northern Illinois University police investigated a potential threat circulating on social media.

The university sent a late-night “community awareness message” telling students and staff the threat wasn’t credible. But many NIU students had already seen the rumors online and were not satisfied with the university’s short response.

That morning, November 18, Kaitlyn Frisby woke up to Facebook and Twitter reactions about the situation from her classmates -- questions like: How long did they talk to the person? Are they in police custody?

Ann Marsden / libbylarsen.com

A piece by acclaimed American composer Libby Larsen will be given its world premiere this weekend at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb. The work is inspired by the true stories of migrants.

Last week, Northern Illinois University announced the Huskie Pledge. The grant could cover tuition and fees for a student’s first year and up to four additional years.

The university is now offering more details on what the process will look like for students interested in applying.

Susan Stephens

Northern Illinois University President Lisa Freeman announced the “Huskie Pledge” grant program in her State of the University speech. 

Illinois students enrolling as full-time freshmen at NIU in fall 2020 will be awarded a grant to totally cover their first year of tuition and general fees. To meet the grant criteria, they must come in with a 3.0 or higher high school GPA and have a household income of under $75,000.

Peter Medlin

About a mile away from Northern Illinois University’s campus in DeKalb, a nice 2-story house on the corner of Woodlawn Drive is vacant. The only sign of wear in sight is on a small metal sign in the freshly cut yard where the address is slowly rusting away. 

Built in 1955, this house has been home to the presidents of NIU. But, when Dr. Lisa Freeman was hired last year, she already had a home in DeKalb.

Northern Illinois University

A Northern Illinois University administrator will chair the Illinois Innovation Network Council.

The Network is a collection of 15 hubs based at state universities. Each hub is a center of research, entrepreneurship, education, and workforce development; and the Council is a way to better coordinate their projects.  NIU's inaugural chairman is Vice President for Research and Innovation Partnerships Dr. Gerald Blazey. Blazey says all the hubs have a central connection to the Discovery Partners Institute in downtown Chicago.

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