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NIU announces major administration changes

DeKALB – Northern Illinois University President Douglas Baker divided the university's Division of Finance and Facilities and emphasized international student affairs in sweeping changes announced Friday.

Most of the administrative changes will have minimal financial impact and were made after Baker spent about three months talking with students, faculty and alumni, reading background materials and observing university operations, Baker said. Baker replaced former NIU President John Peters when Peters retired June 30.

"The institution has so many areas of excellence," Baker said Friday. "I'm buoyed by it every time I interact with students, faculty and alumni. These structural changes will help us strengthen the institution and help us move forward."

The Division of Finance and Facilities was divided into the Division of Finance, which will be led by a new chief financial officer, and the Division of Administration. In the Division of Administration, Steven Cunningham will continue to oversee human resources, facilities, risk management and other business operations.

Cunningham was named acting executive vice president of finance and facilities March 8 after his predecessor, Eddie Williams, took a leave of absence after Williams and a low-income housing development he owns were named in an FBI search warrant served on NIU’s police department. Williams retired May 31.

Meanwhile, Sean Frazier, who was hired as athletic director in mid-July, now is responsible for managing the Convocation Center and Huskie Stadium.

Dividing that division wasn't an effort to decentralize the power and responsibilities, Baker said. Rather, most administrative structures across higher education separate budgetary and operations functions, he said.

The Division of Finance and Facilities was beset by internal troubles in 2012, beginning in July, when Associate Vice President Robert Albanese and Convocation Center Director John Gordon resigned in the face of misconduct allegations, which reportedly involved inappropriate use of public employees and property.

Albanese was one of three people who later pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor in connection with the “coffee fund,” an off-the-books repository for proceeds from the sale of university-owned scrap metal and other materials.

Other than facilities and operations, other changes are aimed at coordinating NIU’s information technology and marketing efforts and strengthening NIU's international student community.

Overall, NIU has fewer international students than Baker expected for an institution of its size, but he expects enrollment will increase significantly in the next couple of years.

Baker moved Executive Vice President and Provost Raymond Alden to the newly created position of vice president of international affairs and named Deborah Pierce associate vice president of international affairs.

Given NIU's proximity to Chicago, NIU needs to grow into a global university, Baker said.

"I think that's a very potentially enriching thing for not only the student body but the community," he said.

Other changes announced Friday include:

• Lisa Freeman, vice president for research and graduate studies, will be interim executive vice president and provost; a national search to fill the role permanently will begin soon, the release said.

• The Division of University Relations will be renamed the Division of Marketing and Communications, focused on NIU’s marketing activities. It will be led by Vice President Kathryn Buettner.

• A new chief information officer is being sought to head the Division of Information Technology Services. A search committee has been formed to hire the new administrator, who will report directly to Baker.

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