DeKALB – Two Northern Illinois University administrators who had been in interim roles will now spend the next three school years in their positions, university officials announced Friday.
Lisa Freeman, who was named acting executive vice president and provost in October, has been promoted to the position permanently by NIU President Douglas Baker. She will continue as the university’s chief academic officer for the next three school years, according an NIU news release.
Lesley Rigg, who had been the acting vice president research and innovation partnerships, is also expected to remain in the position for at least the next three years.
“It is an honor to accept the position of executive vice president and provost,” Freeman said in a statement. “I am enthusiastic about the opportunity to continue working with President Baker, Vice President Rigg and the members of NIU’s academic leadership to facilitate the success of our students, faculty and staff.”
Chief among the issues that Freeman will confront is the university’s student retention rate as officials try to reverse four years of declining enrollment. Total enrollment topped 21,800 in fall 2013, but was down 10 percent since 2009.
NIU officials have said that a third of the students who came to NIU as freshmen in 2012-13 did not return as sophomores in 2013-14.
“That’s probably the top priority,” NIU spokesman Paul Palian said, “to make sure that we can increase our graduation rates and keep people in school, and get them through to the finish line and beyond.”
Freeman joined NIU in 2010 as vice president for research and graduate studies and a professor of biology, after 16 years as a faculty member and administrator at Kansas State University. Freeman currently serves on the Illinois Innovation Council and the Fermi Research Alliance, as well as the boards of the Chicago Council on Science and Technology and the Illinois Manufacturing Extension Partnership.
She took on the acting provost and executive vice president role as part of Baker’s reorganization of the administrative structure in October. The university then launched a national search to fill the position, but its top candidates for the position either were retained by their own institutions or accepted other offers, Palian said.
However, during that time, Freeman proved herself while on the job, Baker said in the release.
“As the search progressed, it became clear what we had already known – that Lisa Freeman is exceptionally qualified to make sure our academic programs are strong and well supported while providing students and faculty alike the tools they need for success,” Baker said in a statement. “She is a person of vision – a strong communicator who understands the importance of aligning resources with the university’s goals – and perhaps most importantly, she is intimately in tune with our culture and the challenges we face as a university.”
Rigg also took on new responsibilities in the wake of the reorganization, Palian said, assuming the vice president of research and innovation partnerships role a couple of weeks after Freeman’s move.
She joined NIU in 1998 as a professor of geography, and said that she will continue looking for partnerships and collaborations that will advance the university’s research goals.
“Research helps define the NIU experience and provides the opportunity for students to conduct academic research alongside talented faculty, which attracts undergraduate and graduate students alike,” Rigg said in a statement.