Scenes from Black Lives Matter street mural painting

Scenes from Black Lives Matter street mural painting

Students, faculty, staff and community members joined together on Thursday, Oct. 1 on Castle Drive to enjoy music from the NIU Black Choir, percussion and jazz ensembles of the NIU School of Music and a performance by students in the NIU School of Theatre and Dance, and to paint “Black Lives Matter” on the street between Davis Hall and the east lagoon. The event was presented by the NIU Center for Black Studies and the College of Visual and Performing Arts. 

NIU to host art for social justice event to paint Black Lives Matter at the university’s entrance

NIU to host art for social justice event to paint Black Lives Matter at the university’s entrance

The Northern Illinois University Center for Black Studies and the College of Visual and Performing Arts are hosting an art for social justice event, “Art and Soul.”  The event will be held Thursday, October 1, from 1 to 4 p.m. at the main entrance of the university on Castle Drive. The Huskie Bus Line buses will be rerouted from noon Thursday until Friday morning.

The entire community is invited to join together to help paint “Black Lives Matter” on Castle Drive.  Paint, rollers, and brushes will be supplied.

Participants will be limited to 50 at any one time, but attendees may join in at any time throughout the afternoon to make their mark and show their commitment to social justice.

Safety measures will be followed. Masks must be worn. Wipes will be used to clean the brush handles and rollers after each use.  Safety protocols will be facilitated by members of the Center for Black Studies and students in the College of Visual and Performing Arts.

In addition to the group painting, there will be performances and speakers throughout the event, including the NIU Black Choir, jazz ensembles, percussion ensemble, dance improvisation, and readings from a variety of texts.

“The paint used is water-based and non-toxic,” said Paul Kassel, Dean of the College of Visual and Performing Arts. “It is expected to last through the rest of the fall semester. Though the image may fade, our commitment to social justice and to a strong Huskie community will remain vivid and strong. We believe that one answer to a hateful act is an act of affirmation of our values. It is in that spirit that this event is being held—to testify and signify to all that NIU holds an unshakeable belief that Black Lives Matter.”

For more information, contact the College of Visual and Performing Arts’ Donee Spizzirri at

Listen to some of our greatest hits as you run the Virtual Corn Classic

Listen to some of our greatest hits as you run the Virtual Corn Classic

The relatively new tradition of hearing songs performed by members of the NIU School of Music as you run the course of the annual Corn Classic continues this year, even as the race has gone virtual.

The Corn Classic, now in its 40th year, allows runners to choose between a 10K or 5K race. In recent years the course route has included the NIU campus. This year, runners can participate virtually and run or walk the race anywhere, any time between September 19 and 27. Though 5K and 10K routes are marked if you want to run the actual course on your own.

You can sign up for the race online, and you don’t even have to miss the thrill of hearing the NIU Steelband, Huskie Marching Band or music from the NIU Jazz Studio. A one-hour race podcast which features music, messages from NIU President Lisa Freeman and DeKalb Mayor Jerry Smith, and a little history is available for download.

You can even listen to the podcast without downloading it.

Enrollments up in CVPA and at NIU overall

Enrollments up in CVPA and at NIU overall

After months of dire predictions nationwide for fall college attendance, Northern Illinois University announced Tuesday that total enrollment is up for fall 2020.

Students are back on campus at NIU, where 8% growth in the freshman class helped the university post enrollment gains this fall.

According to the official census on the 10th day of attendance, total enrollment for fall 2020 climbed to 16,769, up 160 students (1%) from 2019. Driving that growth is a freshman class of 2,047 (up 8%), and a six-percentage-point improvement in retention of first-year students.

“NIU increased total enrollment during this challenging and dynamic time by attracting a freshman class that is strong in number, talent and diversity, and by welcoming back continuing undergraduate, graduate and law students who appreciate the quality and affordability of our educational experience,” said NIU President Dr. Lisa C. Freeman. “It is deeply gratifying that students were able to look beyond the uncertainty of these last several months and recognize that NIU offers a tremendous combination of access and excellence.”

The College of Visual and Performing Arts continued a recent trend of its own. The college saw a 1.8% increase over 2019, which continues a steady climb that has seen undergraduate enrollment grow by 3.9% since 2017. The School of Art and Design has increased enrollment 3.4% over the last three years, the School of Music is up 7.1% since 2017 and the School of Theatre and Dance increased 7.8% this year over last, part of an enrollment increase of 15.3% since 2017.

“The enrollment growth in the college and the schools is further evidence of how important the arts are to the next generation of students,” said Paul Kassel, Dean of the College of Visual and Performing Arts. “They want to hone their talents and know we offer great training with outstanding teachers, artists, and scholars.  We’re thrilled with the new class that has joined us and are excited to partner with them as they develop their gifts and then offer them to the world.”

With this year’s jump, NIU surpassed their 2020 total enrollment goal put forth in its Strategic Enrollment Management plan and recorded its third straight year of growth among incoming freshmen. The university also set five-year highs for total number of applicants, number of applicants who met acceptance criteria and the number of applicants who confirmed interest to the university. All of that indicates that the university’s Strategic Enrollment Management Plan is working.

“Since we approved the plan in January 2019, we have dramatically changed how we approach potential students,” said Sol Jensen, NIU vice president for Enrollment Management, Marketing and Communications. “We are identifying potential Huskies earlier in their high school careers, communicating with them more frequently and more strategically, and raising our profile through more aggressive and targeted advertising. It is satisfying to see those efforts already yielding results.”

Improved undergraduate retention is another key facet of NIU’s Strategic Enrollment Management plan, and this fall’s numbers reflect significant progress in that regard. Overall retention of first-year students climbed 6 percentage points (to 78%). That was driven by significant growth in the retention rates for students of color, as African American, Latinx and Asian students were all up by at least 10 percentage points from a year ago.

Those improvements are attributed to NIU’s commitment to removing barriers to college graduation for all students, including improvements in how the university identifies and assists students struggling to make the adjustment to college, said Executive Vice President and Provost Beth Ingram. “The approaches we’ve developed and implemented — before and during COVID-19 — to support our first-year students enabled them to thrive and re-enroll at NIU,” she said. “Just as importantly, these measures should also help us maintain the improvements in retention and student success going forward.”

Improved retention rates helped drive up enrollment at NIU this fall.

One area where numbers slipped was among new transfer students, which declined to 1,504 (a decrease of 7%). The drop reflects continued declines in the region’s community college population.

Looking at the characteristics of the incoming class, NIU continued to have success recruiting students of color, particularly Black students. While colleges and universities across the country, including Illinois, have seen declining enrollment rates for Black students, NIU recorded its fifth straight year of increased African American enrollment in the freshman class. This year, 35% of entering freshmen are Black (up 2 percentage points), the highest that figure has been in university history. Latinx enrollment also grew, accounting for 23% of the incoming class (up 3 percentage points).

This year’s incoming class also boasts a strong academic profile. The average high school GPA among new freshmen was 3.32 — the second highest it has been in 11 years — and the percentage of applicants with GPAs of 3.5 or better grew by 16%.

Some of that increase can likely be attributed to the university’s new Huskie Pledge. Implemented this past year, the program guarantees that all tuition and fees will be covered by grants and scholarships for any Illinois students with high school GPAs of 3.0 or better and whose families have incomes of $75,000 or less.

The good news extended to graduate and professional enrollment. The NIU College of Law grew for the third straight year, up by 33 students (12%). Among all other graduate and professional programs, enrollment held steady at 4,185.

In all, Dr. Freeman said, this year’s enrollment numbers are cause for great optimism and pride.

“This is one of the most diverse and talented incoming classes that we have ever recruited, and we hope that this sets the trend for the years ahead,” she said.

Latest key moments in NIU’s first 125 years feature iconic arts initiatives

Latest key moments in NIU’s first 125 years feature iconic arts initiatives

All year long, Northern Illinois University is celebrating our 125th anniversary and NIU is working its way through key moments in the university’s history.

establishment of cvpaIn the latest installment, two important milestones in the arts at NIU are featured.

The 1973 creation of the College of Visual and Performing Arts, which brought three entities that were departments at the time, art, music and theatre arts under one umbrella and added dance. They were then renamed the School of Art and Design, School of Music and School of Theatre and Dance.

Also in 1973, the School of Music’s Al O’Connor led the charge to establish the first collegiate steelband program in the nation at NIU. The NIU Steelband and the NIU Steelpan program have gone on to world-wide acclaim.

Still time to support Huskies United

Still time to support Huskies United

There is still time to support Huskies United, a day of giving for everyone who loves NIU to show their Huskie pride and move NIU forward. The online giving event is running for a total of 1895 minutes in honor of NIU’s opening in 1895 in this, the university’s 125th anniversary.

Alumni, faculty, staff and friends of the university make a significant contribution to our students’ success every day. Many impact students’ lives through generous philanthropy. There are four areas of need that you can donate to during Huskies United. You can give to student scholarships, the Huskies United Fund, the Student Emergency Fund and/or Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

Retired School of Art and Design faculty member Dorothea Bilder will make a $10,000 gift to the College of Visual and Performing Arts student scholarships when 100 gifts are made to the college through the Huskies United event.

This morning, inspired by the outpouring of support from their fellow Huskies, Carol and Jerry Zar have pledged $100,000 through the Huskies United event to support NIU and our hard-working students! In addition to being proud Huskie alumni and having successful careers at NIU, the Zars’ exceptional commitment and generosity to NIU includes establishing five endowed funds to benefit students and faculty. They recognize the importance of moving forward together during these challenging times.

Giving to the CVPA student scholarships fund helps students like Ina Murphy:

Contributions of all sizes make a difference. Please join NIU to help ensure students’ success. Huskies. Never. Quit.