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NIU’s Baker reaches out to Sycamore, visits council meeting

SYCAMORE – A visit with the Sycamore City Council from Northern Illinois University President Doug Baker was called a historic event by Mayor Ken Mundy.

“I don’t believe we’ve ever had an NIU president grace us with their presence,” Mundy said.

“We’ve already had many of you reach out to us, and I want to thank you for the warm welcome,” Baker said. “We’re doing some really exciting things at the university.”

Baker shared his vision for student career success.

“We’re saying it’s not just a matter of getting our students to graduation,” Baker said. “We’re preparing them for lives beyond the university. We have to put more tread on the tires in terms of life skills.”

Baker said the university has some great programs, particularly in the area of paid internships, which he calls the single best predictor of career success.

In the meantime, Baker and the administration at NIU is seeking input from the community on ways to provide ethically-inspired leadership, enhance enrollment and retain more students while faced with the challenges of budget cuts, declining enrollment and a high attrition rate among freshmen who don’t return to the university for their sophomore year.

“We’ve got to turn it around,” Baker said.

Thriving communities are an area that is important in student retention, Baker said.

“There is a concern about faculty and staff – about half do not live in DeKalb and Sycamore,” Baker said. “We need to have faculty and staff living in the community – and that would transform the local business community, too.”

Mundy said Sycamore already is working toward enhancing ties with the university. One example he provided was last summer’s Tuesdays on the Town.

“We had student athletes here to meet with the community,” Mundy said. “Kids don’t care what sport they play, it’s just huge to meet these athletes.”

Mundy said he already has attended one of the university’s Bold Futures workshops, and plans to attend another this week.

“We’re looking forward to working more with NIU,” Mundy said.

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