Wednesday was a day for celebrations at Northern Illinois University…even before the undefeated Huskies crushed Ball State, 48 to 27. It was Inauguration Day for NIU president Doug Baker, and student achievement was the focus.
NIU’s 12th president began his inaugural speech by quoting the school’s 6th president: Rhoten Smith led the university for four years during the turbulent Vietnam War era:
“I believe the New University will once again claim the prideful allegiance of its faculty, students, and alumni, but this pride will be based not on nostalgia, sentiment, and football victories, but on continuing participation in the life of the mind.”
President Baker said this is also a “chaotic time” for higher education. That’s why he’s calling on all members of the community to get involved in improving the school.
And the crowds at the inauguration and reception were enthusiastic. NIU senior Kathryn Olson says she’s excited about Baker’s tenure because she feels there will be more opportunities for more people to make a difference.
“I feel like this new president is bringing a new sense of community to that, not only for the NIU community but for DeKalb as well.”
Baker even joked about how nice it would be to be known as a “cool college town.” DeKalb Mayor John Rey says they’re working on it:
“I think it’s more than just adding bars to the downtown area. It’s really focusing on the activities that will attract students, that will interest students.”
Rey says that could mean a performance space or a collaborative incubator site near the university.
Baker has been president since July: one way he’s engaged the on and off campus community is a series of “Bold Futures Workshops,” where around 800 people have brainstormed about priorities, problems, and solutions.