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NIU installs Baker as university's 12th president

Published: Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013 5:30 a.m. CST
(Rob Winner – rwinner@shawmedia.com)
Douglas Baker meets with guests before his inauguration Wednesday inside Sandburg Auditorium on the Northern Illinois University campus in DeKalb. Baker is the 12th president of NIU.

DeKALB – Douglas Baker has wasted no time getting settled at the helm of Northern Illinois University.

Stepping into the role July 1, Baker, 57, officially was inaugurated Wednesday in a 90-minute ceremony at the Holmes Student Center on the DeKalb campus.

“It’s a tremendous honor to be entrusted with the responsibility to lead this institution,” Baker said. “I would like to take a moment to express my gratitude to the board of trustees for selecting me.”

Baker has taken what he calls the first steps toward reorganizing the university’s infrastructure to connect 21,000 students, 4,000 staff members and 225,000 alumni. The theme for his inaugural address – and what he hopes to accomplish – is student career success.

“A university focused on student career success provides students with a deep and meaningful body of knowledge to help them succeed in their careers and in life,” Baker said.

Some of those first steps already taken by Baker include:

• An overhaul of the budget, finance and institutional research functions

• Creation of a new administrative division dealing with facilities, human resources and compliance

• Creation of a new international affairs division

• Hiring of a new athletic director and moving management of the Convocation Center and Huskie Stadium to his office

• Hiring a new police chief

Baker called the international affairs division, headed by Ray Alden, a critical component for both the university and its students.

“In that role, he already has lead a team of senior administrators to China for discussions with two new partnering institutions,” Baker said. “In December, 23 leaders from those Chinese universities will join us to further explore our partnership.”

More changes, large and small, will be forthcoming, Baker said.

“I can’t do this alone,” Baker said. “Who will make the changes? You: the faculty, staff, students and alumni, as well as our local community.”

After the ceremony, state Sen. Dave Syverson, R-Rockford, said this is an exciting time for NIU.

“He has some bold ideas and that’s just what people are looking for right now,” Syverson said.

Campus minister Denise Sanders echoed Syverson’s thoughts.

“He has a lot of goals but it seems like he will work hard to accomplish them,” Sanders said. “He seems to have a lot of energy.”

David Burchard, a high school junior from Geneva, said he’s unsure where he will attend college, but he appreciated the stories he heard from current NIU students during the program.

“This gives me a better perception that NIU is a good school,” Burchard said, “where people are chasing their dreams and accomplishing them.”

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