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The Magazine for Northern Illinois University’s Division of Student Affairs & Enrollment Management

Greetings from Dr. Weldy Now that the fall semester has come to an end, you and your student can pause to reflect on his or her accomplishments. I encourage you to stay active in your student’s educational pursuits, but it’s also important to recognize the difference between helping your student solve prob-

Eric A. Weldy

lems and solving problems

for them. Guiding your student to push through challenges themselves allows them to grow in independence and confidence. I hope you enjoy time with family and friends during this break, and that your student is refreshed and ready to return in January. Happy holidays! Eric A. Weldy, Ed.D. Vice President for Student Affairs & Enrollment Management

NIU Office of Admissions Enhances the Student Experience By Matt Hamilton, Family Connections Intern In January 2014, Dr. Dani Rollins started her position as Director of Admissions at NIU. A few months later, she was promoted to Assistant Vice President for Enrollment Management, overseeing Admissions, Financial Aid & Scholarships,

Dr. Dani Rollins

and Orientation & Family Connections. Rollins has been working in higher education for 15 years and has four degrees from multiple institutions. She graduated from University of Saint Francis with her bachelor’s degree in English and religious studies. She then earned a post-graduate diploma from the University of Kent in Canterbury, England in European and comparative literature. After she completed her post-graduate degree, she entered the bilingual and multicultural education master’s program at Northern Arizona University. Rollins finished her college education with an Ed.D. in educational leadership with a focus in higher education from NAU. Continued on page 12


The Magazine for Northern Illinois University’s Division of Student Affairs & Enrollment Management

Home of the Traditions

Kesha Williams

Hello Huskie Families! In this edition of the Family Connection magazine is our “Home of the Traditions” section where you will find unique stories and experiences of NIU. It’s hard for me to believe that the fall semester is almost over. It’s been an exciting semester. The semester started with the Huskie Fall Kick-Off, an inaugural event organized by Orientation & Family Connections. All new freshman students, transfer students and their families were invited to celebrate the start of a new school year. The Huskie Marching Band joined the class of 2020 on the football field to spell out NIU for an incoming class photo. All students who participated in the event were given a Northern Pact T-shirt. Parents and family members could also purchase a shirt to embrace their Huskie pride. The Northern Pact encompasses six principles that outline the expectations we have for members of our community. This event was successful due to the help of many university departments, student organizations and support from the DeKalb and Sycamore communities. There was so much comradery, energy and excitement from all parties, and we look forward to the Kick-Off event becoming an ongoing tradition of NIU. In this edition of the magazine, we interview Dani Rollins, Assistant Vice President for Enrollment Management and Director for Admissions at NIU. We feel it is important that parents and family members learn and gain insight about the growth of NIU and the intentional strategies that are being put in place to recruit students, and also ensuring they have a rewarding education. We also take an in-depth look at the Huskie Family Legacy through one family’s

experience at NIU. The Cooper family bleeds red and black, and have truly found their home here. Two generations have come to NIU, and we think it is important to learn more about what makes NIU special to them. The magazine also provides a comprehensive explanation of the New Freedom of Expression policy, which ensures that students have the best opportunity to express themselves in a safe and respectful environment and is indicative of freedom of speech. This issue of the magazine also revisits the concept of growth mindset. Last semester, we introduced growth mindset during Orientation, and due to its popularity and success in helping students and families transition, we decided to include this topic again. The concept has helped many parents, family members and students understand that it’s not just intelligence that dictates success, but most importantly, an individual’s resilience, ability to work hard and stay diligent. Lastly, on behalf of the Orientation & Family Connections staff, we hope you enjoyed Family Weekend! We saw record numbers of students and their families attending programs and participating in the activities that took place on Sept. 23-25. We hope to continue the momentum in showing Huskie Pride, and invite all families back to campus in the spring for Family Day on Feb. 4, 2017. Event details and online registration will be available in December! Make sure to visit our website at and “like us” on our Facebook fan page.

Kesha Williams Associate Director for Orientation & Family Connections

The Magazine for Northern Illinois University’s Division of Student Affairs & Enrollment Management


Tips for parent/student interactions over break Content supported by the Ohio State University parent newsletter As your students return home for winter break, you may notice some changes. The college environment affords students the opportunity to gain independence in a setting outside of home. Such changes go a long way toward students developing the autonomy to make their own decisions and build the skills necessary to be successful moving forward. This struggle to find independence can often conflict with the structure that has existed at home. Students go from doing what they want and when they want, to an environment that now contains rules and guidelines that they’re not individually responsible for creating. For many students,

this transition back to home life can be challenging. As the winter break approaches, please be mindful of some of the thoughts your student may be having: • I am a college student, NOT a kid. I have my own rules, live my own life and sleep until noon if I want to. • I eat pizza for breakfast, cereal for dinner and have no one to answer to. • Curfew? I haven’t had one in five months! • I have places to go and people to see! Can I borrow the car? • I have new friends, new hobbies and new interests. I want to spend time with you but on my own terms. • Where should I put my laundry? (Some things never change.) Continued on page 4


The Magazine for Northern Illinois University’s Division of Student Affairs & Enrollment Management

Tips for parent/student interactions over break Continued from page 3 Your independent student has arrived home from college, but this may not be the same “kid” to whom you are accustomed. A lot of growth and development occurs when students are away at college. What can you expect? How can you make this transition easy and fun for the both of you? Here are some helpful tips: • Accept that your student is becoming an independent adult and has had new experiences. While there will be plenty of time for making all of the family commitments, remember to allow them to make some of the decisions as far as planning. • Schedule some time for family activities but don’t expect him or her to spend time only with the family. • Encourage your student to make connections with old friends over the break, and take the time to meet and hear about some of their new college friends as well. • Curfew? Have a discussion with your student related to rules of home and your expectations. Perhaps make an agreement that they will let you know they are safe and a general time frame in which they will be home. Having a framework in place makes sense, and communicating that framework is equally important. • Have a discussion regarding alcohol and your student. What they may have been able to do for several months may not be acceptable at home. • Keep some of the same traditions as this will make things really feel like home. But remain open to new traditions. • Establish rules around borrowing the car, picking up younger siblings, chores and other responsibilities. Your student may not resume their prior responsibilities automatically. • Take time and look at family pictures, share old stories and spend time together as a family to enjoy your “kid” as they were then, and to appreciate your

young adult as they are now. • Review your student’s first semester. What went right? What could have gone better? If they have a major, is this still something they are passionate about? If your student has not declared a major, what was interesting to them this past semester? That may help to clarify next year a bit further. • If they have an internship, discuss how what they are doing will be applicable to their future. Utilizing the break to assist in the continued growth of your student can be valuable. More than anything, keep the channels of dialogue open. College is a time for students to learn and grow in a structured environment, but one in which your student sets much of his/her own structure. Identifying ways you can remain connected and help with your student’s continued self-discovery will only provide further avenues for your student’s continued success.

The Magazine for Northern Illinois University’s Division of Student Affairs & Enrollment Management


New Freedom of Expression Policy in support of student advocacy and activism By Jocelyn Santana Program and Training Manager Effective Oct. 1, 2016, Northern Illinois University updated its Freedom of Expression Policy. The new version expands our existing policy to allow students, faculty, staff and guests to engage in an open expression of ideas and opinions in public spaces on campus. You can access the full policy at As an institution of higher learning, we are committed to the freedom to speak, write, listen, challenge and learn. Student activism and advocacy have a long standing history in higher education. Developmentally, these activities teach students how to defend their individual and group rights, to challenge unfair institutions and systems, foster inclusion and liberation, and overall improve

their community and the world. By actively participating in expression acts, students learn about the democratic process, how to be active citizens in their community, and to develop civic mindedness (Hoffman & Mitchell, 2016). The safety of your student and our university community is important to us. The Freedom of Expression Policy prohibits expression acts that violate the law, threaten or harass, invade privacy or confidentiality, and disrupt university functions. If students suspect that their freedom of expression has been suppressed unfairly, they can file a report with the Office of the Ombudsperson. Students who feel that a particular expressive act contains language that is offensive, prejudiced or hurtful have the right to file a Bias Incident Report. We know that some expression acts

can produce a wide range of feelings from empowerment and support, to confusion, anger and fear. There are a several ways that you can support your student, regardless of their response to these activities on campus: • If your student is planning an expressive act, encourage them to register their act with Student Involvement & Leadership Development. This will help the university prepare, support and ensure your student’s safety. • Maintain open lines of communication. Ask your student what they think is going on around campus. What issues do they see that students want to address? How are they feeling about these issues? • Support the learning process. Your student may need your help Continued on page 6


The Magazine for Northern Illinois University’s Division of Student Affairs & Enrollment Management

New Freedom of Expression Policy Continued from page 5 to understand their reactions to certain activities. Reassure them that the university has resources that they can access to talk about their feelings and concerns. Resources The bias response team is comprised of diverse staff and students, and is in place to create a welcoming, inclusive and equitable community for our university and community. The bias response team is prepared to address issues or treatments that negatively impact your student and/or the community. If your student has observed or experienced a bias incident, you can encourage them to: • Report the incident by completing the Bias Reporting form

bias-incident.shtml. • Call the Office of Academic Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at 815-753-8387. • Stop by in person at the Office of Academic Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Altgeld Hall, Room 215. Counseling and Consultation Services provides comprehensive mental health support for currently enrolled students. Our professional staff can support students in their academic, emotional, social and cultural development through counseling, psychiatric treatment, crisis response and educational services. The staff in Counseling and Consultation Services can help your student develop skills, abilities and knowledge to empower them. Students can: • Participate in walk-in

consultation appointments. • Call the office for crisis services at 815-753-1206. • Learn more about services offered by vising the department’s website at The Office of the Ombudsperson provides students, faculty and staff with confidential and neutral information using an informal approach to help solve university related issues. This is a great resource for students to be listened to, have questions answered, develop options and assist in pursuing a resolution. It is important to note, the Ombudsperson cannot provide your student with legal advice, but can inform your student of their rights. For more information about the Office of the Ombudsperson, visit

The Magazine for Northern Illinois University’s Division of Student Affairs & Enrollment Management


Cultivating a growth mindset year two: within the residence halls and beyond By Amanda Durik, Professor in the Psychology Department During Freshman Orientation Summer 2016, we again introduced the idea of a “growth mindset” during our Summer Parent Orientations to parents and family members, and invited them to write a letter to their student that might help them approach college with this mindset. “What’s a growth mindset,” you ask? Carol Dweck and her colleagues have done more than 20 years of research on the topic. A growth mindset refers to the belief that skills and knowledge can change with effort. This is in contrast to a “fixed mindset,” which refers to the belief that skills and knowledge are innate and unchangeable. People vary in how much they have a growth mindset versus a fixed mindset, and sometimes they might have a growth mindset for one domain (e.g., writing) and a fixed mindset for another (e.g., math). These different mindsets matter, especially when people face difficulties and begin to struggle. Here’s how... Students who come to college with a growth mindset believe that they can grow their knowledge and skills, and that this is the point of college. They expect to put effort into learning, and believe that the more effort they put into it, the more they will learn. When these students get a bad grade on an assignment or test and begin to struggle, they look for feedback on how to do better, problem solve and try new strategies. These students can appreciate hard classes and difficult instructors. For them, a challenge is good thing — it means that they have encountered an

opportunity to learn. Now, consider students who come to college with a fixed mindset. They believe that their knowledge and skills do not change. In other words, they think they either already have what it takes or they don’t. College is therefore a test to determine who can make it and who can’t. This is pretty scary. These students believe that putting effort into learning is evidence that they can’t succeed. As such, the more effort they put into learning, the more concerned they become about not having what it

takes. When these students get a bad grade on an assignment or test and begin to struggle, they feel ashamed, fear feedback and may even avoid the people who can help them the most (e.g., instructors, tutors). These students are terrified of hard classes and difficult instructors. For them, a challenge is a bad thing — it might reveal that they just aren’t smart enough. Accumulating research suggests that students with a growth mindset Continued on page 8


The Magazine for Northern Illinois University’s Division of Student Affairs & Enrollment Management

Cultivating a growth mindset year two Continued from page 7 are more likely to seek help, persist through difficulty, put more effort into learning and ultimately learn more. For this reason, NIU has taken steps to cultivate a growth mindset on campus. For the second year, Freshman Orientation included a session for family members and friends that focused on defining a growth mindset and making recommendations for how to cultivate a growth mindset in others. At the end of the session, family members and friends had the opportunity to write a letter to their incoming NIU student. The idea was to help students focus on the potential for growth that comes from putting effort into difficult work, which is the whole point of college. As was the case last year, we partnered with several offices within

Housing and Residential Services in order to label, send and distribute over 800 letters to students. We timed the mailing so that they would be distributed to freshmen in October, just after midterm (when fixed minded students might be starting to worry about their abilities). New this year, we took further steps to help freshmen understand the concept behind a growth mindset by providing training to residence hall directors. Our purpose was to provide the background so that those in closer contact with freshmen on a daily basis could talk about challenge in a constructive way. We also wanted to allow freshmen an opportunity to talk about the letters that they received with someone who

would understand the deeper concept. We hope that our freshmen, as well as the whole Huskie family, are focused on growth as they begin the spring 2017 semester. A final note: We want to grow, too. If you attended the Freshman Orientation session on growth mindset and would like to provide suggestions and feedback to the organizers of the session, please share your experiences and ideas by clicking on this link and answering a few (seven, to be precise) questions: We need your feedback to work on improving the session for next summer. Thanks!

Important Dates for Spring Semester Monday, January 16 Martin Luther King Jr. Birthday (University Closed)

March 12-19 Spring Break

Tuesday, January 17 Classes Begin

May 5 Reading Day

February 4 Family Day

May 6, 8-12 Final Examinations

The Magazine for Northern Illinois University’s Division of Student Affairs & Enrollment Management


A Whole Family of Huskies By Matt Hamilton, Family Connections Intern NIU has made a strong impact on many people’s lives since its inception over a century ago. The Cooper family has experienced this impact first-hand. The Coopers have been a part of this university for the past 25 years, beginning when Andy Cooper decided to attend as a freshman in 1988, and Stacey (Mason) Cooper began attending shortly after in 1989. Andy and Stacey Cooper originally met and started dating in high school. When Andy graduated from Glenbard East High School, he chose to attend NIU because of its proximity to his home in Lombard, Illinois. When Stacey graduated a year later, she chose to follow Andy to NIU for similar reasons. Both Andy and Stacey started at NIU with the intent to become optometrists. However, as most college students know, plans typically change multiple times throughout the college experience. Stacey changed her major from biology to speech language pathology after she had explored the major, and Andy stuck with biological sciences. However, his career plan did shift from optometry to lab research. Stacey completed her bachelor’s degree in 1992. She started her career teaching at a preschool before returning NIU to earn her master’s degree in speech language pathology in 1993. She then finished her second master’s in public health in 2015. Once her third degree was completed, Stacey applied for a position in the Wellness Promotion Office as a health educator at NIU. Her attachment and commitment to the university solidified her decision to accept when the job offer was made. In this role, Stacey works with students in a

variety of capacities to help educate and encourage them to be healthy in all aspects of life. The NIU community was her favorite part about being a student. “I felt empowered as an undergraduate and it allowed me to establish myself as an individual. I wanted to assist other young adults in that process and help guide them on the road to success at NIU.” Andy continued his education at NIU after he earned his bachelor’s degree in 1991, and went on to earn his master’s degree in the same field in 1993. He then completed a second master’s degree in microbiology, and earned a Ph.D. from the University of Illinois in Urbana Champaign. Once Andy completed his formal education, he began working in research and development for Nalco Water. Andy is currently the vice president of water research and development at Nalco in Naperville, Illinois. Andy and Stacey married in 1992, and started a family. They have two children, Ailysh and Nolan. Andy and Stacey felt that it was important to expose their children to NIU because of the experiences that each of them had while attending and working at the university. Growing up, Ailysh and Nolan attended many Huskie athletic events and would enjoy an occasional night of bowling at the Huskies Den in the Holmes Student Center. Ailysh and Nolan even attended various summer camps at NIU while in high school, some of which helped them to decide their field of study for college. Ailysh graduated high school in 2014, and decided to pursue a degree in art education at NIU. Although the Art Institute of Chicago was one of her initial options, she didn’t feel a strong connection to the school when Continued on page 10

Above, NIU alumni Andy and Stacey (Mason) Cooper with their infant daughter Ailysh. Below, Andy and Stacey’s children, Ailysh and Nolan, are NIU students today.


The Magazine for Northern Illinois University’s Division of Student Affairs & Enrollment Management

A Whole Family of Huskies Continued from page 9 she visited. However, as she continued her college search and attended multiple workshops at NIU, she ended up choosing to join the Huskie family. As Ailysh began her educational journey as a freshman, Stacey started pursuing her master’s degree at NIU. They knew it was a unique circumstance, and appreciated they were both attending college together. Stacey made a conscious effort to encourage Ailysh to get involved with the university in her first weeks on campus. She understood from her own experiences at NIU how important the first few weeks are for creating a social network. This would only aid Ailysh during her transition. Ailysh eventually became a peer minister at Grace Place, a student-led community ministry. This influenced her decision to apply for the student orientation leader (OL) position for the summer of 2016 with Orientation & Family Connections. Although many students interviewed, Ailysh

was selected to be one of the few OLs to work the summer orientation programs. In that role, she was responsible for helping 3,000 new students transition into the college culture. After her summer position expired she applied for the student orientation coordinator position in the same office. Ailysh was offered the position, and she now assists with the training and management of about 30 other student leaders. When Nolan graduated high school and began his research of universities, NIU was a leading contender. Nolan was interested in computer science, and he quickly found that NIU has a well-respected program. Nolan was drawn to the community and the involvement opportunities that NIU offers outside of the classroom, and ultimately made the decision to continue his education as a Huskie. In his short time at NIU, Nolan has become a peer educator for the First- and Second-Year Experience Office. In this role, Nolan works as a

Ailysh and Nolan, second generation NIU students, at the Grand Canyon left and as kids on campus, right.

mentor for students during their first semester on campus. Peer educators also assist with our UNIV 101 and 201 classes. UNIV 101 for freshmen or 201 for transfer students are optional classes that are focused on educating students on programs and services that the university offers. These classes are designed specifically to help students matriculate smoothly to a larger university. Both Ailysh and Nolan have thrived at NIU. Their parents have supported them in their transition, while still allowing them space to establish themselves as strong individuals. Stacey continues to work at the university, and also volunteers her time with Orientation & Family Connections. She is always seeking opportunities where she can give back to the institution that gave so much to her and her family. NIU has been a part of the Cooper family for two generations and, most importantly, has produced some solid Huskies and wonderful legacy.

The Magazine for Northern Illinois University’s Division of Student Affairs & Enrollment Management


NIU Department of Police and Public Safety By Officer Wey-ni Langdon Community Relations and Crime Prevention

Officer Wey-ni Langdon

It’s that time again. With the fall semester coming to a conclusion and the holidays quickly approaching, I would like to take a minute to reflect on some of the accomplishments of our department and our continuous efforts in providing excellent service to you, your student and the university community. This year we created a new position of “Resident Hall Officer.” This officer has been tasked to continue enhancing the positive and productive relationships with the NIU students living in the residence halls, and the campus housing and dining staff, by developing and delivering community crime prevention education where students live and learn. We also hosted an interactive workshop on sexual assault and self-defense with H.E.R.O. Martial Arts for parents and students during this year’s Family Weekend. It was a huge success. We were able to provide some informative facts and learn some easy-to-remember moves that will help people stay safe in uncomfortable situations. On Oct. 3, 2016, the Illinois Liquor Control Commission partnered with the NIU Department of Police and Public Safety to host the 8th Annual College Town Summit. This conference featured a consortium of speakers and experts discussing alcohol-related issues affecting Illinois college towns and campuses. The summit is was attended by college officials, health practitioners, prevention specialists, law enforcement and students. One of our biggest accomplishments this year was our partnership with Big Brothers, Big Sisters Youth Organization

of DeKalb with the “Bigs in Blue” mentoring program. This is part of the department’s expansion of our community-based efforts to open the lines of communication between the community and the police department. The purpose the partnership is to promote collaboration in order to reduce juvenile delinquency, alcohol and drug use, truancy, and other risk behaviors in at-risk youth. The NIU police department is one of only 12 “Bigs in Blue” programs in the country. The NIU Police Department finished our first Citizens Police Academy, and it was a huge success. This was a new and exciting endeavor for our department. Our goal when we started this program was to allow citizens a firsthand look at what procedures and policies police follow to provide a better understanding for our community. Last but not least, NIU takes your student’s safety seriously. That’s why we we’re incredibly proud to be included in the ranking of the 50 Safest Large Colleges and Universities in America. NIU is the only university in Illinois – public or private — to make that list. As you can see, we have been very busy this semester. Our police department is dedicated to enhancing the communication between the police, community and parents and families. We want the police department to be as transparent as possible, which is why throughout the semester we make such efforts to build relationships with the DeKalb community, parents, family members and students. Please feel free to connect with us and keep up to date with our current and upcoming events and programs through our Facebook page at PUBLIC.SAFETY and Twitter. Have a safe and happy holiday season!


The Magazine for Northern Illinois University’s Division of Student Affairs & Enrollment Management

NIU Office of Admissions Enhances the Student Experience Continued from page 1 Upon her arrival, Rollins noticed that NIU was rather unique compared to institutions where she had previously worked. “I noticed how closely knit the students and faculty were. How many of the faculty were incredibly loyal and passionate about the university and its community. Many of the professors and other professionals have been working with the university for over a decade.” Another unique feature that stood out to Rollins was how local the student body is at NIU. Roughly 96 percent of NIU students are Illinois residents. There was a sense of community among students, whether it be through the 200+ involvement opportunities or that friendly Midwestern attitude. In her eyes, the students are one of the most remarkable features at NIU. Another aspect Rollins noticed is how passionate students are about their education, and how committed they are to finding employment.

Career Services is one office at NIU that helps prepare students to enter the workforce after they graduate. “The new Jobs PLUS program also works with students to help them gain career experience before they even graduate. The Jobs PLUS program will work with employers to design a program that expands the student’s education to outside the classroom and teach marketable skills. Students want meaningful employment, in their field, and NIU works tirelessly to help support that dream.” Rollins’ first goal is to draw more of these types of students to the university. In her short time here, Rollins has systematically worked to improve the admission and enrollment process for incoming students. The admissions evaluation process has been reduced from four to six weeks to two business days. Despite this massive reduction of waiting time, the personal level of detail for each application has been maintained. Rollins has also worked to redesign

the university’s marketing and correspondence to prospective students. In the past, students would receive much of NIU’s information at once. This was overwhelming for many students, especially first-generation students. Now students receive deliberative information that is manageable and more fluid to the student so that they understand the exact steps that need to be achieved to successfully be admitted to enroll at NIU. This greatly reduces the stress that comes with applying for college. It also allows the university to give more detailed information to students and better support them throughout the process. Rollins continues to work tirelessly to improve the experience of all students at the university, from application to graduation. She encourages all students to take full advantage of being in college and to experience everything that the university offers. College is the perfect time for students to experience new religions, activities, ideals or even just food.

Family Connection NIU --winter 2016  

In this edition of the Family Connection magazine is our “Home of the Traditions” section where you will find unique stories and experiences...