Douglas Boughton to serve as Director of the School of Art and Design

Douglas Boughton to serve as Director of the School of Art and Design

Doug BoughtonDouglas Boughton, Ph.D., who had been serving as Acting Director of the NIU School of Art and Design since the fall of 2020 has accepted the position on a permanent basis. It is Boughton’s second stint as director of the school. He also served in the role from 2008 to 2014.

Boughton is also Professor of Art Education. He has served in significant international leadership roles as World President of InSEA (International Society for Education through Art), and Chief Examiner Visual Arts for the International Baccalaureate Organization. He was Foundation Director of the National Art Education Research Council of the Australian Institute of Art Education, and Consulting Professor in Art Education to the Institute of Education in Hong Kong.

He is a member of the Council for Policy Studies in Art Education (USA), is Chair of the Distinguished Fellows of the NAEA, an honorary life member of the Australian Institute of Art Education (now Art Education Australia) and the South Australian Visual Arts Education Association. He has won the NAEA Higher Educator of the Year Award (2017) and the Illinois Higher Educator of the Year (2015). In 1997 he won the Studies in Art Education Invited Lecture Award for consistent contributions through published literature to the direction and scope of the profession, in 2006 he won the USSEA Edwin Ziegfeld Award for his outstanding contribution to international art education.

Boughton has close to a hundred publications including articles and book chapters, a monograph, and three co-edited books on the topics of art education curriculum policy, assessment, and multiculturalism (including books and articles published in nine languages, (Chinese, Hungarian, Korean, Portuguese, Turkish, Dutch, German, Greek, and Slovenian). He has given keynote addresses and invited lectures in twenty-five countries throughout Europe, Asia, South America, North America, South East Asia and the Pacific regions.

His research interests include: assessment, curriculum, risk taking and the creative process, and international issues in art and design education.

Graduation Stories: Angie Redmond, MFA Paining, Museum Studies certificate

Graduation Stories: Angie Redmond, MFA Paining, Museum Studies certificate

Angie Redmond received her MFA in Painting with a museum studies certificate, and was one of many NIU students who were able to attend an in-person graduation ceremony over the weekend. Angie’s story was featured in the master’s degree commencement video.

Also featured in commencement videos were Music’s Izabella Gieron and Theatre and Dance’s Jill Belluomini.

NIU students partner with WNIJ reporters to tell stories with data

NIU students partner with WNIJ reporters to tell stories with data

A collaboration between public radio station WNIJ and students in NIU’s data visualization courses helps to build student portfolios and improve reporting in the region.

In 2020, NIU graduate student Bharat Kale prepared graphics to accompany WNIJ reporting in collaboration with the ddiLab joint effort of the Department of Computer Science and School of Art and Design

In early 2016, local public radio station WNIJ obtained a data set related to overdose deaths in a northern Illinois county. WNIJ reporter Jenna Dooley (who has since become the station’s news director) recognized that the data was important but was unsure how to make sense of it and use it to inform the station’s reporting on the issue.

“Since we’re located here on NIU’s campus, I decided to draw on our connections with the university. I contacted Michael Papka, who specializes in data visualization, to ask for his help,” says Dooley. “We met several times over the course of the semester to explore the data, and I used that to inform the questions we asked during the newsgathering process.”

This semester-long collaboration resulted in a series of on-air reports, accompanied by a digital presentation of user-friendly graphs, maps and other data visualizations. But even more importantly, it marked the start of a partnership between WNIJ and the data visualization courses first taught in NIU’s Department of Computer Science, and later in the School of Art and Design, as well.

Taught by Joe Insley (School of Art and Design) and Michael Papka (Department of Computer Science), these interdisciplinary courses teach students to transform data into images, applying programming, art and design skills across a wide range of domains. The partnership with WNIJ allows students to use their knowledge in a real-world setting and build their professional portfolios.

“Working with Jenna and her team of reporters has been a great experience for our students,” says Insley. “They get to see their work have a positive impact in a professional setting. Not only do they see how their final visualizations provide insight to the reader, but also how their exploratory visualizations can help inform the reporters as they are developing the story. Contributing to an interdisciplinary team is a valuable real-world experience.”

Speaking of real-world experience – it turns out that working with real data can be a complicated and messy process.

“The stories Jenna (and now a wider WNIJ team) bring us are timely and contain all the things we expect our students to see when doing data visualization outside the classroom,” says Papka. “This means the students see how messy data can be, how it can be formatted wrong or be incomplete. They can see that the answers are not known in advance, and that unexpected results can guide the news team but also require verification that the results are correct.”

In recent years, students have worked with WNIJ reporters on a wide range of stories that are enhanced by the use of graphics. Topics have included local voting trends, video gaming revenues and traffic stops. During the course of the semester, students are given a project outline and a data set. They develop graphics, and the WNIJ reporters and students explore the data together. WNIJ shares the students’ final products on the station’s website, crediting the students so the work becomes part of their professional portfolio.

While the NIU students gain real-world experience, learning to communicate effectively and see a project through from start to finish, WNIJ also benefits from the collaboration.

“The marriage of data visualization and journalism increases accuracy and makes the story more relevant,” say Dooley. “The ‘why’ is often the most compelling aspect to the narrative version of the story. Data visualization helps identify the ‘what,’ which enables the reporter to ask their sources ‘why’ the topic matters in their lives.”

For example, in the spring semester of 2021, WNIJ Reporter Chase Cavanaugh reported on the loss of revenue many Illinois cities experienced due to the closure of video gaming terminals during the pandemic. NIU students put municipal revenue numbers into graphics that showed just how dramatic this decline was. Cavanaugh joined the virtual class on several occasions to offer feedback on the graphics and then shared with the students what he had learned after interviewing several local officials, who described how this affected their bottom lines.

The finished product hit the airwaves on March 16 and included a digital slideshow featuring the student-produced graphics.

“Although traditionally public radio is an audio medium, more and more listeners are coming to us through our website and mobile app,” says Dooley. “This data visualization partnership allows us to make better use of all the tools at our disposal to communicate clearly with our audience.”

The partnership also includes the NIU Data, Devices and Interaction Laboratory (ddiLab), where art and computer science students work side by side on data visualization projects, and it has influenced the Journalism 354 class Dooley teaches in NIU’s Department of Communication, where she shares the data visualizations to show students how to use data to inform stories and better communicate with audience members.

Dooley and Papka both emphasize journalistic ethics and standards of accuracy in their teaching because, in the words of Papka, “Data visualization provides a way to convey a lot of information in a condensed and concise way, but also provides an opportunity to mislead people.”

“If a visualization seems too good to be true or includes too far an outlier, it is incumbent upon the reporter to double check for accuracy,” Dooley tells her students. “Maybe there is an explanation for the outlier and that becomes the focus of the story. Just as often, a piece of the data is incorrect or missing and needs to be updated in order for the visualization to be correct.”

WNIJ 89.5 FM is one of two non-commercial public broadcasting radio stations managed by Northern Public Radio, the broadcast arm of Northern Illinois University, and provides independent, local, national and international news. The mission of Northern Public Radio is to enrich, inspire and inform adults in northern Illinois through programs and services that share ideas, encourage thought, give pleasure and create community.

Learn more at

This story originally appeared in the May 18, 2021 edition of NIU Today

Still time to sign up for summer online arts camps

Still time to sign up for summer online arts camps

The NIU Community School of the Arts is offering online summer camps for kids ages 11-19 (grades 6-12).

Have fun and make lifelong friends while exploring your love of performing and visual arts. Faculty, staff and alumni from the College of Visual and Performing Arts will help you experience life as an artist and meet mentors in the arts.


Theatre Arts Camp Junior (grades 6-9) and Senior (grades 9-12)

Experience theatre warmups, workshops, production rehearsals, a talent show ands a final online performance with NIU Theatre faculty member Kendra Holton and her amazing camp staff.


Visual Arts Camp

Meet talented high school artists and work directly with NIU alumni artists and arts educators to improve foundational design skills, explore new media and methods, learn to prepare a college portfolio and more.


NIU Jazz Camp

Work with NIU jazz faculty Geof Bradfield, Bobby Broom and others to improve understanding of jazz music and history and polish performance and improvisational skills on your instrument.

Register today for Summer in the Arts camps in music, theatre and art online.

CVPA faculty serve as mentors on College of Engineering and Engineering Technology Senior Design Day projects

CVPA faculty serve as mentors on College of Engineering and Engineering Technology Senior Design Day projects

Every year seniors in NIU’s College of Engineering and Engineering Technology engage in a year-long design project that involves creating or improving commercial products or industrial processes. They are mentored by faculty and industry professionals to get hands-on, real-world experience. This year, three of those projects were the result of proposals written by College of Visual and Performance Art faculty who then served as project mentors.

Gregory Beyer, professor of music and director of percussion studies worked with “Team 35” as they designed a berimbau, an Afro-Brazilian percussion instrument, traditionally made with one string.

Yuko Asada, musical instrument technician, assistant director of the NIU Steelband and director of the Community School of the Arts Steelband worked with “Team 51” as they sought to create a method to mechanically forge the construction fo the steelpan, a process that when done manually can be physically taxing.

Kelly Gross, instructor in the Art Education department in Disability Studies and Technology, mentored “Team 44” on creating a photography system for persons with physical differences.

Design of Berimbau Instrument

“I am delighted to report that the year of work in pursuit of developing a two-string model of an Afro-Brazilian berimbau, a traditional one-string musical bow, has produced remarkable results,” Beyer said. “Not only have we created an instrument that allows one performer access to a wider and more complete compass of pitches, we have also developed an instrument with a unique timbral profile.”

Team 35 was made up of CEET seniors Michael Joseph Abukhader, Matthew J Hasto, and Clayton Lee Smith.

Mechanical Forging for the Construction of a Standardized Steelpan Instrument

Part of NIU’s world-renowned Steelpan Studies program involves the actual building of the instrument, and Yuko Asada sought help from Engineering to help automate the process. “Steelpans are all hand made,” she said. “The most high tech tools we use are pneumatic hammers. It takes a long time for us to create steelpans, and it also causes a lot of strain on the wrists, hands, arms, really the entire body to make them. An automated process would make it faster and easier, and it would also cut down the time that we’re exposed to the noise and vibration as we make them.”

The design team created a machine that used an increment forming process to build one of the small pans. Asada was pleased by the results, though the process still needs some fine “tuning.”

“The issue we encountered is that each note isn’t isolated, so when you strike a note the surrounding area rings,” she said. “So there are some things that can be improved, but as a first step it’s very exciting.”  She said she hopes next year another senior design project team will take on the next step in the process to get closer to the long-term goal of being able to mass produce steelpans which will allow us builders to concentrate on tuning the instrument.

Asada said she was very impressed by the knowledge of the Engineering students and how easy they were to work with. “Being able to work with students from another college and work with those who have the knowledge I don’t have was something I really enjoyed.”

Team 51 was made up of CEET seniors Gabriel Gandara, Nicholas Grimes,  and Josefina Buan.

Photography System for Persons with Physical Differences

Gross submitted a proposal for a senior design project to create an adaptive tripod for wheelchair users. Gross helped set up interviews with the design team and wheelchair users to provide specifics about the factors to consider in developing a tripod that meets the users exact needs.

She worked to familiarize the design team with the kinds of equipment the photographers would be using and the challenges that issues with lack of hand strength or range of motion provide and would need to be factored into the design.  The design team used all of that information to create a prototype mount for a tripod controlled by a remote.

Camera Mount

Gross said the next step in the process will be to create functionality to control the tripod’s movements through a phone app instead, similar to the way users are able to control their DSLR phones.

“One of my goals with this project, which was met was to open their minds in terms of engineering in terms of accessibility,” she said. “The conversations they had with wheelchair users and people with physical disabilities really helped them understand limitations. In terms of moving forward as engineers and thinking of accessibility in the arts and in all aspects of life, I think the project was really successful.”

Team 44 was made up of CEET seniors Daniel Avila, Daisy Hernandez, and Malak Zayed.