Northern Illinois University

Today on the show we have not just a teacher, but a teacher of teachers! Dr. Laurie Elish-Piper is the Dean of the College of Education at Northern Illinois University. We talked about what drives her to want to help mold the next generation of teachers, how today’s aspiring teachers are different than 10 years ago, her career-spanning literacy work and how COVID-19 has changed how student teachers prepare to go into the classroom.

Kelly Olson knows college campuses can be an overly-complex web of offices and services. She’s the assistant dean of students at Northern Illinois University, and says for students struggling with housing or food insecurity, it can be hard to know where to find help.

NIU Basketball Coach Prepares for Next Season

May 7, 2021
Northern Illinois University

After the first full season of basketball amidst the pandemic, NIU’s new men’s basketball coach is reflecting on a year like no other. 



Rashon Burno is the new head coach for NIU’s men’s basketball team. He says that he felt overwhelmed during the last season amidst the pandemic. 


NIU COVID-19 Dashboard

NIU officials asked students via email to consider returning home a week before the end of the semester. The move comes as the university has seen a “significant increase” of COVID-19 cases including more than 100 positive tests in the past two weeks.

Sophia Varcados.

For some, music can be a great companion through good and bad times. On Sunday, a northern Illinois music therapist gives insight on how these tunes can also be used for healing.  

Jen Conley is a board-certified music therapist and a licensed professional counselor. She said music is gratifying but some people don’t recognize its deeper power. 

Peter Medlin

The NIU Convocation Center in DeKalb is normally used for commencement ceremonies and Huskie basketball games, but it has doubled as a mass vaccination site since January. The arena jumbotron even plays ESPN for residents waiting in observation after their shot.  

Last week, the DeKalb County Health Department held four vaccine clinics at the Convocation Center. The department’s team has been assisted by two, 18-person National Guard teams who help with check-ins, second dose scheduling and observation.

Northern Illinois University Career Services is holding a virtual career fair Wednesday open to NIU students as well as the public.

“Frankly, our employers really appreciate being able to connect with as many candidates as possible,” says Cathy Doederlein, director of internships and external relations at the Career Services department. She says they’ve retooled all of their programs and moved them online during the pandemic.

Photo by Northern Illinois University - Pick Museum of Anthropology.

George Floyd’s death ignited protests and conversations around race relations last year. But racial tensions have existed for many years in America. A traveling exhibition featuring racist imagery has landed at Northern Illinois University. The goal is to inspire more discussions.  

Aunt Jemima on a pancake box, board games, books and other racist items are some of the objects that can be seen in the “Hateful Things” exhibition at NIU’s Pick Museum of Anthropology.

Perspective: Hateful Things

Feb 10, 2021
from the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia

Do you own any Mammy salt and pepper shakers? Do you know where they come from? Running now through April 9 at the Pick Museum of Anthropology at Northern Illinois University is an exhibit called Hateful Things. It’s a traveling exhibit by the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia, which houses over 9,000 artifacts. 

Parts of Illinois are due for a "felt" earthquake. Those are magnitude 3 or 4 earthquakes -- big enough that you can feel them. That's according to Philip Carpenter. He's a professor with the Department of Geology and Environmental Geosciences at Northern Illinois University and a registered professional geologist in the State of Illinois.

"If you look at the historical record, we get one of those about every 10 years or so," he said. "Now we did have a couple of very small quakes -- one in 2012 and one in 2015 -- but those weren't like the Lily Lake Quake of 2010."

Your education doesn’t have to stop when you graduate. The Lifelong Learning Institute at Northern Illinois University has upcoming online sessions for those who have an appetite for knowledge.

Jason Klein, the director of P-20 initiatives at NIU, said that absorbing knowledge keeps us young. 

Spencer Tritt

During the pandemic, schools are seeing a significant teacher shortage, especially a lack of substitutes. They typically see a surge of subs and new teachers in January as winter graduates enter the job market.

But in 2021, it’s unclear if that boost will come for Illinois schools suffering staff shortages due to COVID-19.

Susan Stephens

Just a quick drool and you'll get results back in 24 hours. Northern Illinois University will begin using the SHIELD Illinois rapid COVID-19 tests in January. The saliva tests were developed by the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

Barrie Bode is the director of COVID-19 facilities at NIU. He says just remember not to eat, drink or use mouthwash within an hour of a saliva test.

Peter Medlin

The idea of sitting in an office can be a hurdle for some when working on their mental health. But a hike through the forest or a canoe trip down a calm river can often provide the perfect metaphor to explore what they're going through emotionally.

Patrick McMillion believes that. He’s a therapist and Northern Illinois University instructor who helped write standards for the first-ever adventure therapist credential.

NIU Continues To Pivot During Pandemic

Nov 20, 2020
Susan Stephens

The NIU campus community is coming to grips with a new normal of teaching and learning during the lingering pandemic. Classes this fall have been held remotely or in a hybrid format. There are restrictions on housing and activities. And because cases of the coronavirus continue to spike across the United States and here in Illinois, more are coming.

Abigail Anderson is a media studies graduate student. She hopes those measures will be enough to slow the spread by next year.

Young Birders Want You To Join The Club

Nov 18, 2020
Tony Del Valle

There's a new bird watching club on the Northern Illinois University campus in DeKalb and they want their fellow NIU students to join them. It's called Inclusive Birding Club and Tony Del Valle is the trip chair. He coordinates birding trips and hikes. He said the group is safe, welcoming and judgment-free; and that they are inclusive in every sense of the word.

NIU Today

Northern Illinois University’s president is encouraging the campus community to take further steps to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

During a virtual “State of the University” Tuesday afternoon, Lisa Freeman said the Thanksgiving holiday will be a challenge to contain the virus.

Chase Cavanaugh

A newly proposed scholarship would give Rockford Public School students an opportunity for free tuition and fees at Northern Illinois University.

Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara said the impact of the Rockford Promise scholarship program for the Rockford community is beyond just education.

“We know that educational attainment is an education in and of itself is directly tied to public safety. It is directly tied to neighborhoods; it is directly tied to economic development,” he said.

STEM Café Explores The Science Behind Haunted Houses

Oct 28, 2020
Northern Illinois University

This year, Northern Illinois University is hosting a series of virtual STEM cafes. One of them, "The Psychology of Haunted Houses" will break down what it takes for "a good scare." 

Taking on this task are collaborators Paul Kassel, dean of the NIU College of Visual and Performing Arts, and Jim Langley, scene and lighting designer and retired theater professor. The two will focus on chemistry, lighting technology and the brain to explain how to make haunted houses more effective.

NIU STEMFest Virtual This Year

Oct 28, 2020
Northern Illinois University

Northern Illinois University’s STEMFest celebrates the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The annual event usually draws large crowds to the NIU Convocation Center. Not the 2020 edition. 

This year, STEMFest will culminate with a virtual celebration on October 31st from 10am to 2pm. 

STEMFest organizer Dr. Kristin Brynteson noted that the online platform allows visitors to customize their STEM experience.

A civil rights expert shared his perspective with DeKalb community members on belonging. This happened Thursday evening during a Zoom conversation.

The conversation was presented by Northern Illinois University and the City of DeKalb. 

719 Northern Illinois University freshmen received the Huskie Pledge grant this fall, during the first semester it was offered. It covers remaining tuition and fees for Illinois residents with a minimum 3.0 GPA in high school and whose family income is no more than $75,000.

Sol Jensen is the VP of enrollment management, marketing and communications at NIU.

Jenna Dooley

Northern Illinois University is expanding COVID-19 testing efforts into what some might consider an unexpected place: wastewater.

Dr. Barrie Bode was the longtime chair of NIU’s Department of Biological Studies. Now he has a new title he could have never anticipated: director of COVID-19 facilities.

Partnered with the Kishwaukee Water Reclamation District, Bode is building a lab and assembling a team to implement a new component in the university’s surveillance testing plan.

Yvonne Boose

A couple of weeks ago, a derogatory word toward Black people was spray-painted on Northern Illinois University’s Center for Black Studies building. This week, the community came together to paint a different message.

In bright red, the words “Black Lives Matter” run along Castle Drive near the university. They were put there Thursday Oct. 1 during the “Art and Soul” social justice event.

Participants with masks on took turns painting the street while listening to live music performed throughout the affair. 

Connie Kuntz

"River Weaving” by John Siblik is environmental art that you may have seen if you’ve gone by the Kishwaukee River in DeKalb recently. It features 90 elements made of willow, stone and steel. They curve and bend into the water, creating a shape like a hunter’s bow. But the art doesn't hunt fish and wildlife -- it hunts litter. 

"We found a lot of cans, a lot of bags and a mattress," Siblik said. "And a coronavirus mask, some shoes, a hairbrush...lots of booze bottles."

NIU Today

Northern Illinois University officials plan to pursue charges after a derogatory word was spray-painted on the Center for Black Studies building. Police are investigating the incident as a hate crime. President Lisa Freeman issued a campus wide statement decrying the action. She said the paint has since been removed. The university will host a virtual, campus conversation Thursday night to discuss the incident.

Dear Huskies,

I’m writing to make you aware of an incident that occurred overnight and the actions we’re taking to address it.

Enrollment at Northern Illinois University went up this fall for the first time in a decade, despite pandemic concerns.

At the beginning of 2020, the university’s enrollment projections looked good. A plan was in place, applications were up. Then COVID-19 happened, and it became impossible to predict how the fall numbers would look -- if students returned at all.

Sol Jensen is NIU’s Vice President for Enrollment Management, Marketing and Communications. He said that one of the most important improvements was with local, northern Illinois students.

Susan Stephens

Northern Illinois University saw a slight increase in enrollment this fall.


Total enrollment at NIU climbed to 16,769 students. That’s only a 1% gain from last year, but it’s the first increase since 2009

Peter Medlin

Move-in day is normally a frenzy. At large schools like Northern Illinois University, thousands of students descend onto campus; student organizations pass around sign-up sheets in crowded dorms, maybe even the football team helps unload furniture.

Not this time. This year, students made appointments to move into dorms over the course of several days.

David Lewis just transferred to NIU from a community college in his home state of Missouri. He and his dad drove in the night before to get an early start. He came for the political science department and the marching band.

On a new Teachers’ Lounge, host Peter Medlin talks with Northern Illinois University’s Dr. Lara Crowley. She’s the chair of the English department at NIU.

They cover how her department is making the transition online this fall, her work teaching and learning about Shakespeare in England, and the thrill of discovering 500-year-old poems!

Near the end they also talk a little bit about her kids getting into Harry Potter for the first time during the pandemic. So, indulge them as they geek out on that for a few minutes. Shout-out to the Ravenclaws.