Category: LEPF

Marguerite Key Fellows names first class of school principals

key-fellows-2018

Top: Rachel Bednar and Jay Brickman
Middle: Patrick Hardy and Debra Klein
Bottom:Katie Matthews and Chris Tennyson

Six principals from NIU’s service region have been named as the inaugural Marguerite Key Fellows, a new initiative of the NIU College of Education.

The six principals will gather Thursday, June 21 on the DeKalb campus for an intensive leadership retreat to share creative and potentially transformational ideas to “unlock” higher education for underserved populations of students.

Organizers hope that these conversations will not only shepherd such students into college but also prepare them for success there.

The Marguerite Key Fellows Program was proposed by Alan Clemens, an instructor in the Department of Leadership, Educational Psychology and Foundations, and Carolyn Pluim, chair of the department. The program was made possible by a gift Key made to the department with the goal of advancing the principalship across NIU’s service region.

“What we’re hoping to find is real evidence of innovation, energy and ingenuity that’s being brought to the table in service of this very poignant need, and to put additional focus on this innovation, to increase opportunities for students to successfully achieve their college dreams,” says Clemens, research associate and director of the Illinois Post-Secondary Report Card at NIU’s Center for P-20 Engagement.

Carolyn Pluim and Alan Clemens

Carolyn Pluim and Alan Clemens

“There is research that shows – and I personally believe this – that those students across the country who, at this moment are facing the most significant obstacles to college access and college success, are the country’s largest source of growth potential,” he adds. “I can’t see any more noble purpose, or more potentially powerful purpose for the future of our country, than empowering these underserved voices.”

A five-member advisory committee will guide the ongoing framework and rationale of the program as well as the selection, and work, of the fellows.

Fellows need only serve one year, Clemens says, but are always welcome to stay involved.

“The Marguerite Key Fellows Program is a project in line with the vision and passion Marguerite has for supporting the preparation of future educational leaders,” Pluim says. “The program will recognize the great work Illinois principals are doing, and provide them with specialized professional development and growth opportunities.”

Marguerite Key

Marguerite Key

Key graduated in 1944 from Northern Illinois State Teachers College – now known as NIU – with a major in biology and a minor in music. When the Kellogg Foundation funded a program in Illinois to place a health educator on the staff of each state college, she came back to Northern.

She and her husband spent their professional lives in Washington, D.C., where she enjoyed a 40-year career in the Arlington County Schools as director of guidance in a middle school while he worked with the National Education Association.

Widowed in 1995, she returned to DeKalb and became involved in the successful campaign to purchase the Milan Township one-room schoolhouse and to move it to the NIU campus.

As she became more involved in activities and programs in the College of Education, she served on the college’s Development Committee for many years and helped to develop and promote fundraising and volunteer efforts. Her financial gifts enabled the development and implementation of innovative programs in the areas of principal and superintendent preparation.



Keeping all the balls in the air: Honors lauds Leslie A. Sassone with Great Professor Award

sassone-3

Leslie A. Sassone (left); her father, Nick Sassone; and NIU alumna Gail Gattis, a National Board Certified Teacher in River Forest, who uses Professor Sassone’s juggling curriculum.

Among the many decorations adorning
Leslie A. Sassone’s office in Graham Hall is a small photograph she snapped years ago at a Grateful Dead Furthur Festival concert.

The picture shows a woman reading a book, paying little or no attention to the music being performed in front of her by living legends of rock ’n’ roll.

Sassone laughs when she thinks about that moment. Maybe it amuses her simply because she loves music so much – she self-describes as “a peace-love-justice child of the ’60s” – or, maybe, it’s because music is how she got here.

Raised in New York, Sassone was in her early 20s and spinning the hits at a radio station on the East Coast when she decided to pursue a bachelor’s degree in media systems and management. Doubting that she possessed “the voice” for a larger market, she figured a college diploma would at least provide some security for her future in broadcasting.

But something unexpected happened at Westfield State University.

“I was introduced to philosophy,” says Sassone, a professor in the NIU College of Education since 1997.

Her new passion – her intense love of “the honest interactions and connections between text and the world” – eventually led her to Purdue University, where in 1988 she earned an M.S.Ed. in Communication and Speech Education and, in 1994, a Ph.D. in Educational Studies.

Nearly 25 years after that doctorate, the powers within philosophy continue to drive her.

Leslie Sassone

Leslie Sassone

“Philosophy keeps me honest. Philosophy invites me to think through the thoughts of other people on their own terms,” she says. “Philosophy of Education is why I love working with students. It’s a reminder to me that we might stop hurting each other if we could just understand that we come from different paradigms.”

Or maybe her motivation stems from a deeply personal mission to shape current and future generations: “I was a high school dropout from the prestigious Stuyvesant High School in New York City, and those teachers I had – not one of them ever saw me,” she says. “Teachers need to see past themselves.”

Either way, her love of subject and love of teaching clearly resonates with students.

Chosen to receive the University Honors Program’s Great Professor Award for 2018, Sassone is being recognized for “contributing significantly to honors education at NIU” and “manifesting leadership, dedication and service” to the program and its students.

Despite those glowing terms, and her gratitude for the recognition, she takes it all in stride. She’s here to empower students “to know what they believe and how to communicate that.”

“What could be more valuable than helping people become literate?” she asks. “Teaching keeps me young. It keeps me up with the times. It lets me extend and visit my beliefs regularly. I’m someone who makes her job fun for herself.”

A professor in the Department of Leadership, Educational Psychology and Foundations, Sassone teaches courses in the area of foundations, which offers neither a major nor a minor. None of her classes are “prerequisites to anything,” she adds. “It frees me.”

She also loves to teach EPFE 201: Education as an Agent of Change, a General Education course. “I love Gen Eds,” she says. “I believe that every NIU student is a College of Education student.”

Honors classes are especially dear to her, and she is grateful for the college’s generosity in allowing her to teach those.

sassone-4Like her subject matter, her classrooms are unique.

Classes begin with a contemplative focus activity. “If it’s good enough for the K-12 public schools in Illinois to have a moment of peace to gather themselves,” Sassone says, “then it’s good enough for us.”

By the end of each class, however, the professor has exhausted herself as not a teacher but an active participant – a “co-facilitator.” She’s intertwined in the discussion, throwing herself in as fully as Parker Palmer advocated in “The Courage to Teach,” pushing students to share their viewpoints freely.

And although she does dutifully craft syllabi and tries to order books in advance, those tasks pain her. She’d rather get to know her students first, and for them to know each other, before she locks in a semester’s worth of “really difficult” readings and tests.

Then there’s the juggling.

Juggling is a hallmark of Sassone’s work over the last seven years. She uses juggling ostensibly to build classroom community through a fun activity, and to model for future teachers something inexpensive they can do in their own classrooms, but its benefits run far deeper.

Mastering the skill requires patience, practice, perseverance and persistence – all necessary skills for literacy and success in life. Juggling also addresses the K-12 Social Emotional Learning Standards, something she first realized after watching NIU students working to keep all the balls in the air.

Educators who adopt juggling to their classrooms are also engaging in the tenets of John Dewey’s “Experience and Education,” she adds, including contemplative practice, freedom of intelligence and understanding purpose. “Juggling brings all that to the forefront,” she says.

sassone-2

Sassone introduces Thomas E. Wartenberg, speaker at the 2013 James and Helen Merritt Distinguished Service Award Lecture in the Holmes Student Center.

She visits a fourth-grade classroom in River Forest several times a year to work with the children in juggling, something she’s previously done in other suburban school districts, including Elgin’s U-46.

But it’s the figurative balls she juggles – the nagging questions and quotes about existence, such as “To know the good is to do the good” and “Can we learn to understand?” – that truly keep her engaged in teaching. And it’s why she believes her students value her.

“I see people – and that seems to both scare and endear the students to me,” she says. “I hope students know they’ll learn something from my experiences, and that they will appreciate and recognize that philosophy of education matters.”

Sassone (left) and her students present March 6 at the Engaged Learning, Teaching and Scholarship Conference: Celebrating High Impact Learning at NIU.

Sassone (left) and her students present March 6 at the Engaged Learning, Teaching and Scholarship Conference: Celebrating High Impact Learning at NIU.



Global problems, community praxis: April 19 conference set to explore world conflict, peace

globe-2Scholars from NIU and Macedonia will convene Thursday, April 19, in DeKalb to discuss local, national and international approaches to peace and transcultural communication.

“Global Problems and Community Praxis” is the second annual conference – but the first in the United States – organized on that topic by the Center for Peace and Transcultural Communication, a collaboration between NIU and the University of Tetovo.

“We’re really excited. These are particularly timely issues these days,” said Patrick Roberts, a professor in the Department of Leadership, Educational Psychology and Foundations.

“Our key goal is to facilitate scholarly exchanges, to foster public awareness of global conflicts and to examine, ‘How can I make a difference in my local community? How does local action have global impacts?’ We want to broaden awareness of what the issues are.”

The conference, which will include four professors from Tetovo among the presenters, begins at 9 a.m. in the Barsema Alumni and Visitors Center, 231 N. Annie Glidden Road.

James W. Pardew

James W. Pardew

Keynote speaker James W. Pardew, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the U.S. ambassador to Bulgaria from 2002 to 2005 and the author of the 2017 book “Peacemakers: American Leadership and the End of Genocide in the Balkans,” will talk at 6 p.m. in the auditorium of Barsema Hall, 740 Garden Road. A reception begins at 5 p.m.

Both events are free and open to the public. Call (815) 753-9359 or email proberts1@niu.edu for more information.

Roberts believes that people who attend, whether as participants or observers, will walk away with a clearer understanding of modern conflict and ways to resolve it from a “think globally and act locally” perspective.

Among the daytime presentation topics: “Does Torture Work: An Empirical Test Using Archival Data,” “The Balkans – A Matching Point of Two Controversy Theories,” “Migration as a Social Phenomenon and Refugees as a Contemporary Reality” and “The Politics of Food Diplomacy.”

Presenters also will discuss “Fleeing from Danger: Refugees’ Stories in Elementary School Classrooms,” “Religious Violence and Peacemaking: Rethinking Contemporary Conflicts,” “Between Mao and Gandhi: Social Structure and the Choice of Violent and Nonviolent Resistance,” “How Do We See Our Neighbors? Youth Inclusion, Participation, and Collaboration in Moldova” and “Sport for Development and Peace.”

NIU College of Education presenters will include Teresa Fisher, Carolyn Pluim, Teresa Wasonga and Paul Wright.

Laura Ruth Johnson

Laura Ruth Johnson

Laura Ruth Johnson, a professor in the college’s Department of Educational Technology, Research and Assessment, believes the interdisciplinary nature of the presenters and topics will illuminate connections “between these different struggles, both globally and locally.”

“Many times, when we have these types of conferences, they just focus on one distinct area,” she said. “This conference represents areas from all over the university. The topic is very broad – it covers a lot of ground – and allows us to explore common and divergent interests.”

Johnson’s own work in Chicago’s Humboldt Park neighborhood provides a good example.

Her research studies civic engagement, community involvement and advocacy among Latino and African American youth, with a focus on young mothers, and sees a bridge to the University of Tetovo’s battle for justice in higher education.

Use of social media and other media, she added, is making the planet a smaller place.

“What happens in one place often resonates in other locales in terms of climate change, economic and food insecurity or fights for human rights and gender equity,” Johnson said. “The Me Too movement has resonated internationally.”

Emily McKee

Emily McKee

Emily McKee, a professor in the Department of Anthropology of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences who holds a joint appointment with the Institute for the Study of the Environment, Sustainability and Energy, studies resource conflicts and environmental peacebuilding.

Her students, who are learning about access to clean water, climate change, fracking, mining and more, will participate with students of Department of Sociology Professor Laura Heideman in a roundtable discussion on conflict and peacebuilding.

McKee’s students learn about “conflicts that involve access to resources around the world. Resource conflicts and environmental peacebuilding are buzzwords that get thrown around, such as wars between two countries,” she said. “We explore some of these tropes that are not so easily pigeonholed as resource conflicts but built into other conflicts, such as social, religious and economic.”

The roundtable “is looking at our pedagogy and how we teach these courses,” she added.

During the roundtable, students will speak about their semester-long research projects on cases of resource conflict around the world and reflect on the impact that this engaged learning has had on them. “That’s relevant to them as they go on in their lives as citizens and in their careers,” McKee said. “I’m particularly excited about that.”

Patrick Roberts

Patrick Roberts

For his part, Roberts is excited by the potential for motivation, whether in DeKalb, Chicago or Macedonia.

“We don’t want be a conference where people just get up and read papers,” he said. “I’m hoping to learn how understanding becomes action and the strategies people employ. None of that can succeed if there aren’t people – communities – willing to put these principles and polices into action.”

NIU and the University of Tetovo were introduced in 2014 through the work of Anthony Preston, director of Global Programs in the NIU College of Business.

The Center for Peace and Transcultural Communication was dedicated in 2015, when Acting NIU President Lisa Freeman visited the University of Tetovo. The center aims to foster better social platforms for younger generations and a better society.

A current exhibition in the College of Education’s Blackwell History of Education Museum tells the story of Tetovo through nearly 70 reproductions of photographs that depict the university’s tumultuous existence.



Kiracofe among three co-editors of Education Law Into Practice

Christine Rienstra Kiracofe

Christine Rienstra Kiracofe

Christine Rienstra Kiracofe, professor in the Department of Leadership, Educational Psychology and Foundations, has been named co-editor of Education Law Into Practice (ELIP).

ELIP is a special section of West’s Education Law Reporter and sponsored by the Education Law Association.

It publishes short, practical pieces on topics in education law that are important to practitioners, scholars and attorneys. These pieces include practical and useful checklists, charts, sample forms, model policies, sample memoranda, sample documents, procedural guidelines and short articles that are thoroughly supported by citations to statutes and case law.

All manuscripts are subject to a peer-review process.

Kiracofe, an adjunct professor in the NIU College of Law, teaches Education Law, Education Finance and Legal Aspects of School Business Management. She has authored more than 30 articles, books and book chapters, and her work has been cited in law reviews, education finance literature and court documents.

She recently was elected to the Board of Directors of the Education Law Association.



All-college meeting motivates faculty, staff to set 2018 focus

Laurie Elish-Piper

Laurie Elish-Piper

Laurie Elish-Piper plans to inspire – and expects to find inspiration – in 2018.

The dean of the NIU College of Education used the platform of the spring all-college meeting to reveal her “one word” focus for personal development and effort and to also encourage faculty and staff to choose their own “one word” missions.

“Mine is ‘inspire.’ One of my goals is to inspire others to do their best work, to set higher goals and to engage,” Elish-Piper told the audience. “I also want to make sure that I take the time to look at, learn about and be inspired by all the amazing work you’re doing.”

Evidence of that work proved in ample supply during the 90-minute meeting Jan. 9, which also included remarks from Acting NIU President Lisa Freeman.

Shining examples included expansion of Educate U.S., which this semester will send students to practice their teaching skills at a Native American reservation in North Dakota.

Meanwhile, Elish-Piper said, the “Engage” division of the donor- and partner-funded Educate and Engage Program soon will provide “fabulous opportunities” to non-licensure students.

Kinesiology majors can travel to the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado while Sport Management students can visit several facilities in Indianapolis, including the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

College of Ed faculty and staff learned from David Walker, associate dean for Academic Affairs, that enrollment in the College of Education is climbing, something unique among NIU’s seven colleges.

strategic-frameworkWalker (one word: “care”) partially attributed those gains – up 0.76 percent at the undergraduate level, and up 4.26 percent at the graduate level, for a grand total of 2.41 percent at the time of the all-college meeting – to the college’s emphasis on intentional growth, a pillar of the Strategic Action Planning Framework.

At the undergraduate level, the college is working on one new degree (the B.S. in Sport Management), four new minors (including the Department of Counseling, Adult and Higher Education’s minor in Social Change Leadership), 19 new courses and three new certificates of study that will all be ready for Fall 2018 enrollment.

Graduate programs added a new certificate and a new specialization, both in the Department of Special and Early Education, and 17 new courses for Fall 2018.

Honors enrollment of College of Education students soared 24 percent in one year, Walker added.

Bill Pitney, associate dean of Research, Resources and Innovation, reported on progress in the framework’s Research Advancement objective despite small drops in the college’s research productivity.

Ben Creed and Zach Wahl-Alexander

Ben Creed and Zach Wahl-Alexander

Pitney (one word: “grace”) saluted two professors – Ben Creed from the Department of Leadership, Educational Psychology and Foundations; and Zachary Wahl-Alexander, from the Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education – who were named to the PI Academy External Mentoring Program.

Five faculty members were recognized as recipients of Dean’s Research Grants. All eventually will present the results of their work, as previous grantees did during the fall semester.

It all sounded wonderful to Freeman, who called herself “optimistic about NIU’s future.”

“The College of Education values and priorities align with NIU’s mission and core values, as well as the university’s commitments to excellence, knowledge creation, innovative practice and social justice,” Freeman said.

“Moreover, your strategic planning efforts are appropriately reflective of the opportunities identified through Program Prioritization,” she added, “as well as the historical importance of the College of Education as an anchor of the university and a leader in P-20 educational innovation across our region, state, nation and world.”

She applauded the college’s new ranking from U.S. News & World Report – “As impressive as the No. 5 ranking is that the college was ranked No. 3 for peer respect. People are talking about NIU,” she said – as well as the University of Tetovo exhibition in the Blackwell History of Education Museum.

Laurie Elish-Piper and Lisa Freeman

Laurie Elish-Piper and Lisa Freeman

NIU’s chief executive encouraged the audience to “hope for the best and plan for the worst” when it comes to Springfield and budgets. The university is “prepared for the unthinkable,” she added.

Higher education must actively engage in the conversation in Illinois as some call for consolidation, she said. “We shouldn’t be staying away from tough conversations. We should be encouraging realistic conversation,” she said. “What we need to do is be unafraid to speak.”

Freeman then revealed her “one word” for 2018 – “relationships” – which reinforces the importance of collaboration.

Relationships provide resources for individuals and institutions. Relationships surround people with others who see the world differently. Relationships heal, reaffirm, encourage and, with a nod to Dean Elish-Piper, inspire.

“When you can never get enough time or money to do something,” Freeman said, “the value of relationships is one that should never be underestimated.”

Enjoy photos from the all-college meeting and the festive “Winter Wonderland” social event that followed immediately in the Learning Center.



U.S. News extols College of Ed online grad programs – again

laptop-keysAnother year, another celebration of a Top 5 ranking from U.S. News & World Report for the NIU College of Education’s online graduate programs.

NIU is tied for fifth with the University of Houston and Utah State University this year, bringing the Top 5 streak to six consecutive years. The College of Education also made the “honor roll” in 2012, the first year that U.S. News began collecting data on online graduate education programs.

Dean Laurie Elish-Piper is proud, but not surprised, that NIU tops all other Illinois and Mid-American Conference colleagues.

“Being ranked in the Top 5 for the last six years really affirms the quality and consistency of our NIU College of Education online graduate programs,” Elish-Piper says.

diploma“One aspect of the ranking that I’m most proud of is the ranking for faculty qualifications,” the dean adds. “Our faculty and staff are on the cutting edge of online learning, and it’s exciting to see their great work being consistently honored.”

Indeed, NIU scored 94 out of 100 in the Faculty Credentials and Training category. The college also earned high marks for Student Engagement (89 out of 100) and in Student Services and Technology (79 out of 100).

Meanwhile, the college earned a Peer Assessment score of 3 on a scale of 1 to 5.

U.S. News creates and offers its list of Best Online Graduate Education Programs to inform those teachers who aspire to grow their careers.

The NIU College of Education offers three online master’s degrees within the departments of Educational Technology, Research and Assessment (ETRA) and Leadership, Educational Psychology and Foundations (LEPF).

Wei-Chen Hung

Wei-Chen Hung

ETRA Chair Wei-Chen Hung, who is quick to credit faculty members for their continued dedication to excellence in online education, reports that his department has achieved a desirable milestone.

“Some of our students say they feel no difference between face-to-face and online because they feel that the dynamics of the interaction is always there between students and faculty,” Hung says.

“Our students receive the best instruction and learning opportunities in online environments, and most students are not surprised by that. They say, ‘Of course!’ That’s the first reaction they have,” he adds. “I believe this is due to the faculty’s high qualifications to teach these courses online and their incorporation of innovative teaching methods.”

Faculty in ETRA strive to retain the U.S. News ranking by participating in professional development to stay up to date on their skills, he says.

Naturally, he adds, the professors and instructors also care deeply about fostering student success and doing what is needed to ensure that.

“Last year, we were very purposeful to initiate a quality measures training,” Hung says. “As a result, every faculty member who teaches online was also certified to teach and to design and develop online courses. Some even went on to become certified reviewers of online courses to support other faculty members who want to develop online courses.”

Carolyn Pluim (Vander Schee)

Carolyn Pluim (Vander Schee)

Carolyn Pluim, chair of LEPF, calls the latest ranking “a clear reflection of the expertise that we have teaching in the program area.”

“We have a really nice blend of faculty members and instructors who’ve had years of experience in the field,” Pluim says, “and there is a strong commitment to making the online program very applicable to the needs of working students. Our flexible online program enables students who would otherwise not be able to take two years out their professional lives to participate.”

She credits the department’s close and strong relationship with the Illinois Association of School Business Officials (IASBO) for recruiting top students and faculty to NIU.

Between 20 and 25 new students begin the program every other semester, she says, with at least three cohorts progressing through the curriculum simultaneously.

“I have yet to see an end of people who want this degree, to be honest,” Pluim says.

“We adhere to routine course updates to remain relevant and to reflect current best practices that are very applicable to that the students are going to be facing in the field,” she adds. “We’ve also got people in the program who are often grappling with the same kinds of questions that our courses are asking them to problem-solve around. The blend of theoretical knowledge and practical applications makes for a richer classroom dialogue.”

Other Illinois schools ranked include the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (25), the University of St. Francis (36), Concordia (88), McKendree University (107) Roosevelt University (125) and the University of Illinois at Springfield (131).

Mid-American Conference schools in the rankings include Buffalo (15), Ohio (18), Ball State (36), Central Michigan (46), Bowling Green (88), Kent State (107), Toledo (107), Eastern Michigan (148) and Western Michigan (150).



EdLEAD names first cohort

Chad McEvoy

Chad McEvoy

NIU cultivates a dynamic and enriching environment for faculty looking to grow as professionals, but the College of Education believes there is always room for improvement.

“On our campus and so many other campuses, we are very intentional about professional development for teaching. We have resources on our campus in that regard,” says Chad McEvoy, chair of the Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education.

“We’re also very intentional about research development as, again, are many other universities,” McEvoy adds. “We’re not always as intentional when it comes to developing future leaders.”

The challenge is clear, he says.

“For our college and our university to be successful in the future, we need strong leaders and we need to develop future strong leaders who are going to be our future deans, associate deans, department chairs, program directors and other administrators on campus,” he says.

“But how do we prepare our faculty and others to not only fill these positions but to excel in these positions in the future? That’s a thought I’ve had in my head for a long time.”

Enter EdLEAD, the College of Education Leadership Education and Development Program.

edlead-logoDesigned to invest in the intentional development of leadership skills for faculty who aspire to take on such positions, EdLEAD will present a series of professional development workshops through the spring and summer semesters of 2018.

Faculty in the program then will spend the 2018-19 academic year in hands-on leadership projects that provide practical experience.

Members of the first cohort:

  • Mary Beth Henning, Department of Curriculum and Instruction
  • Steve Howell, Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education
  • Jim Ressler, Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education
  • Kelly Summers, Department of Leadership, Educational Psychology and Foundations
  • Stephen Tonks, Department of Leadership, Educational Psychology and Foundations
  • Paul Wright, Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education

All will find “robust preparation to grow, learn, take on new opportunities and expand their careers in different ways,” says Laurie Elish-Piper, dean of the College of Education.

ed-lead-profs

Top row: Mary Beth Henning and Steve Howell Middle row: Jim Ressler and Kelly Summers Bottom row: Stephen Tonks and Paul Wright

“Higher ed is facing a lot of challenges, and having highly qualified leaders who are ready to step in is critical to the health and wellbeing of any academic institution,” Elish-Piper says.

“We want to make sure we are investing in our faculty who aspire to take on leadership roles,” she adds. “We truly believe that professional development of leadership skills will not only enhance the contributions these people will make but also their experiences at NIU.”

McEvoy initiated early conversations with Elish-Piper and associate deans Bill Pitney and David Walker, discovering that they shared similar visions and approaches.

“Early in the fall semester, Dean Elish-Piper asked if I would be involved,” McEvoy says. “I’m excited to help build our emerging leaders in the college. I don’t know that any of us would claim to be expert leaders, per se, but we are people who are trying hard to lead the units that we oversee.”

Making the transition to leadership can occur naturally but not easily, he says, further justifying the EdLEAD model.

“We often look at our strong faculty members as strong in teaching, strong in scholarship and strong in the service area, and then we thrust those strong faculty into leadership roles,” McEvoy says.

“The skills and hard work that allowed them to become effective faculty members generally do translate to helping them excel in some of these leadership activities,” he says, “but we need to equip them with leadership training and development that will enable them to excel further.”

Pitney and Walker are confident that EdLEAD will accomplish just that.

Bill Pitney, Laurie Elish-Piper and David Walker

Bill Pitney, Laurie Elish-Piper and David Walker

“EdLEAD is a way to support and extend faculty leadership development, and I’m excited because it is an investment in our future,” says Pitney, associate dean of Research, Resources and Innovation.

“The program will raise awareness of critical and noteworthy issues facing higher education and its leaders locally and nationally,” he adds. “It will also explore ways to effectively lead during challenging times in higher education at multiple levels: department, college and university.”

Walker, associate dean for Academic Affairs, is eager to see college-faculty collaboration “to assist in developing future leaders in our own setting and also throughout NIU.”

“I really see this program as a unique set of opportunities to explore and develop, with the support of numerous leaders across campus, in areas such as budget, data use for decision-making, consensus building, communication or working with external constituents,” he says.

“We have a great group of six faculty participants,” he adds, “and we will all benefit from interacting and learning from each other.”



LEPF professor elected to board of Education Law Association

Christine Rienstra Kiracofe

Christine Rienstra Kiracofe

Christine Rienstra Kiracofe, professor in the Department of Leadership, Educational Psychology and Foundations, has been elected to the Board of Directors of the Education Law Association.

Kiracofe teaches Education Law, Education Finance and Legal Aspects of School Business Management. She has authored more than 30 articles, books, and book chapters and her work has been cited in law reviews, education finance literature and court documents.

The Education Law Association (ELA) is the premier forum for all professionals in education who are interested in practical knowledge, scholarship and interdisciplinary dialogue about legal and policy issues affecting education.

A national, nonprofit member association, the ELA offers unbiased information to its professional members about current legal issues affecting education and the rights of those involved in education in both public and private K-12 schools, universities and colleges.

For education professionals and legal advocates on behalf of educational institutions and individual clients, the ELA remains an indispensable resource.



Camera’s eye: Blackwell photo exhibition to tell tale of Tetova

Fadil Sulejmani

Fadil Sulejmani

As Fadil Sulejmani greeted students and faculty of the new University of Tetova, he uttered words likely never spoken before – or since – to mark the inauguration of a school.

“We want pens and notebooks,” Sulejmani told the crowd, “not violence.”

Despite his pleas and his hopes, terrible unrest awaited the trailblazers of ethnic Albanian higher education in Macedonia, even on that day in 1995.

Local police decked out in riot gear tried to force their way into the classrooms. They did not succeed. Members of the local community courageously turned out en masse to form a human blockade.

Yet the government would continue to harass and intimidate Tetova for several years.

Sulejmani himself, a professor of Albanian at the University of Prishtina for 23 years before he helped to found Tetova with other Albanian intellectuals, eventually was arrested and sentenced to 30 months in prison, although he was released after one year.

His only crime? Daring to provide higher education to ethnic Albanians.

To Patrick Roberts, associate professor in the Department of Leadership, Educational Psychology and Foundations, the story of Tetova is too compelling – and too important – to ignore.

tetovo-poster“Ethnic Albanians are a minority, more or less marginalized with limited access to higher education,” says Roberts, who also serves as faculty director of the College of Education’s Blackwell History of Education Museum. “Their story is a very powerful lesson of how higher education should never be taken for granted.”

Fortunately, cameras caught it all.

Nearly 70 reproductions of photographs that depict the university’s tumultuous existence are coming to the Blackwell for a five-month exhibition

Vullnet Ameti, rector of the University of Tetova, will attend the grand opening from 3 to 4 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 14. Brief remarks from NIU Acting President Lisa Freeman and College of Education Dean Laurie Elish-Piper are planned for 3:15 p.m. Ameti is visiting DeKalb to receive an honorary NIU doctorate during the Dec. 16 Graduate School commencement ceremony.

All faculty and staff are encouraged to attend the opening of “The University of Tetova and the Struggle for Educational Equity in the Republic of Macedonia” if their schedules allow.

Museum visitors also can read first-person narratives written by four people who were involved in the founding or the early years of Tetova.

Roberts began thinking last December about bringing the images to DeKalb as he and others from NIU visited Tetova for an international conference at the Center for Peace and Transcultural Communication, a joint venture between the two universities.

“The NIU folks who were there were taken to the University of Tetova’s museum, in the small building where the first classes were held,” he says. “In this small museum were many, many photographs taken over the years that told the story of the university’s founding and its status, in many respects, as an illegal university. It was not recognized by the government.”

Steve Builta, director of Technology Innovation and Learning Services for the College of Education, quickly bought into Roberts’ vision. Builta compares Tetova’s battle for educational rights to the U.S. struggles to desegregate its K-12 schools decades ago.

“It’s very compelling. It’s a fantastic story to tell about a place in the world that not many of our students know much about, and people will be fascinated,” Builta says. “It will be interesting for people to think about the fact that we don’t have to fight for our university education in the way they did.”

Vullnet Ameti

Vullnet Ameti

Rachelle Wilson-Loring, graduate assistant for the Blackwell, the Department of Anthropology and the Pick Museum of Anthropology, has helped to curate and install the Tetova exhibition.

Before beginning the curation process, she knew nothing about the University of Tetova and only a little about Macedonia.

“I remember the war, and the refugees, but I was too young to understand the nuances,” Wilson-Loring says. “This exhibition has really made me examine what was going on, and it’s a familiar story: the fight for education. I believe that education is a human right, and being able to tell this story for them – and to show their fight – is really empowering to me.”

An “anthropologist by nature,” she hopes that visitors to the exhibition adopt an international view of education, considering that what happens globally impact the United States, and then question themselves and others about finding the best paths to progress.

“Education shouldn’t be a stagnant thing, and we have been keeping it that way for too long,” she says. “I hope people understand why the ethnic Albanians were fighting for this – a university, teaching in the Albanian language, teaching Albanian history – and fighting for the survival of their culture.”

Students should take personal inspiration from the photographs, Roberts adds.

Patrick Roberts

Patrick Roberts

“This is a really relatable story, with lessons of how a group of committed students, with the help of their community and their professors, can really fight for this right to a quality life and education,” Roberts says.

“We hope to energize our own students to think of themselves as activists,” he adds, “and the roles they can play to be advocates or leaders in any social movement they feel impassioned about.”

Guided tours for faculty and students are planned for the spring semester, Wilson-Loring says. The exhibition closes May 11.

The Blackwell is located in the Learning Center on the lower level of Gabel Hall. For more information, call (815) 753-1236 or email blackwell@niu.edu.



NIU to give honorary doctorate to Tetovo’s ‘rector of the people’

Vullnet Ameti

Vullnet Ameti

NIU will confer an honorary doctorate degree this fall to Vullnet Ameti, a man who demonstrated his belief in education as a human right by helping to establish the only Albanian university in Macedonia.

The rector of the University of Tetovo will receive his distinction during the Graduate School commencement, scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 16, in the NIU Convocation Center.

Anthony Preston, director of Global Programs in the NIU College of Business, nominated Ameti on behalf of the university’s Division of International Affairs.

“Dr. Vullnet Ameti is one of the most charitable and courageous men I have ever met,” Preston said. “He is truly a man that cares about the people of his nation.”

He has proven his commitment many time over, Preston added.

“In the early ’90s, the government did not recognize Albanians living in Macedonia as equal citizens,” he said. “They were not allowed to vote, or use the same facilities, and were not granted the right to education.”

Change began in 1994.

“Rector Ameti, along with other Albanian intellectuals in Macedonia, led the protests in front of the rifle barrels of the Macedonian gendarmerie,” Preston said. “Until then, Albanians only dreamt about the possibility of earning a secondary degree in their home country.”

For Ameti, those dreams took him from his homeland to Yugoslavia, where he earned his bachelor’s (1985) and master’s (1989) degrees at the University of Pristina, and later to Bosnia and Herzegovina, where he completed his Ph.D. at the University of Tuzla in 2008.

But it was in Macedonia where Ameti would build his legacy.

ameti-vullnetWorking with his fellow ethnic Albanians, Ameti began to recruit teachers to open and staff a university. Students and teachers held classes in churches, mosques, restaurants and even private homes.

“On June 4, 1994, Rector Ameti and his family donated a small piece of farmland for the purpose of starting a university. This was the first, and as of today the only, Albanian university in Macedonia,” Preston said.

Ten years later, the national government finally recognized the University of Tetovo as a state university of higher education.

More than 27,000 students now are enrolled in pursuit of undergraduate and graduate degrees, including the Ph.D. level.

“He has taught thousands of students and continues to be a rector of the people,” Preston said. “He is never afraid to get his hands dirty. I have witnessed him on many occasions lay bricks for new buildings on campus, cut bushes and trees and feed the homeless.”

Acting NIU President Lisa Freeman visited the University of Tetovo in 2015 to dedicate the Center for Peace and Transcultural Communication, a joint venture with NIU meant to foster better social platforms for younger generations and a better society.

The center hosted its first international conference last December. Around 225 people, including a contingent of five from NIU, attended “The Impact of U.S. Policy in Promoting Democracy, Peace, State-Building, Economic Recovery and the Protection of National, Religious and Civic Values in the Countries of the Region.”

Freeman returned to Macedonia in May of this year to receive an honorary doctorate from the University of Tetovo.

Vullnet Ameti and NIU Acting President Lisa Freeman

Vullnet Ameti and NIU Acting President Lisa Freeman

“Rector Ameti always has impressed me with his bravery in the face of resistance and his determination to provide higher education to ethnic Albanians living in Macedonia. What he has done – what he continues to do – is remarkable, inspirational and humbling,” Freeman said. “I always look forward to our visits, as well as our conversations about access to education, and it will be my great privilege to present him with this honorary degree.”

Patrick Roberts, an associate professor in the College of Education’s Department of Leadership, Educational Psychology and Foundations, shares in the enthusiasm for Ameti’s NIU recognition.

Roberts helped to plan and lead last December’s international conference on democracy, and is spearheading a mostly photographic exhibition depicting the history of the University of Tetovo.

The exhibit, hosted in the Blackwell History of Education Museum in Gabel Hall, will open in December to coincide with Ameti’s visit to DeKalb.

Logo of the University of Tetovo“Under Professor Dr. Ameti’s leadership, UT has become a world-class institution that continues to be committed to educational access and equity, its founding vision. The story of UT is really a story of community and courage, and we’re excited to tell that story here at the College of Education’s Blackwell Museum,” Roberts said.

“Dr. Ameti has been wonderfully supportive of our efforts to pull the exhibition together, and that’s just one example of the many things he’s done to nurture the partnership between NIU and UT,” he added. “What’s so admirable is that he has established a forward-looking vision for UT’s future that remains firmly committed to the social justice issues that have animated its past. That’s inspiring.”