Northern Illinois University

NIU Office of Public Affairs

James Brunson
James Brunson

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News Release

Contact: Mark McGowan, NIU Office of Public Affairs
(815) 753-9472

October 14, 2008

Non-profit group recognizes NIU’s diversity

DeKalb — Northern Illinois University is in the company of some of the nation’s top colleges and universities when it comes to encouraging and fostering diversity.

Minority Access Inc., a non-profit organization that identifies, honors and publicizes institutions committed to diversity, honored 36 colleges and universities Saturday, Sept. 27, at the National Role Models Conference in Arlington, Va.

Others on the list include the University of Illinois, the University of Michigan, the University of Southern California, Purdue University, Ohio State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

“We’re very excited about it,” said James Brunson, assistant vice president for diversity and equity in Student Affairs. “To be mentioned with the University of Michigan, Ohio State University, the University of Southern California, along with many other prestigious institutions, is a feather in our cap. We are moving in a direction crucial to NIU’s success.”

Among the NIU efforts that helped to earn recognition:

  • The Asian American Center’s Peer Mentor Program assists first-year Asian-American students with their transition to college. Students are paired with mentors during summer orientation.
  • The Latino Resource Center recruits Latino students, raises the retention rate of Latino students and provides cultural, social and academic programs that enhance the quality of life for Latino students.
  • The Alumni Association is developing an Asian American Council dedicated to the recruitment, retention and graduation of Asian-American students as well as the recruitment and retention of Asian-American faculty and staff.
  • The Unity in Diversity Steering Committee promotes and funds activities designed to acknowledge, educate and celebrate the diversity of the campus community relative to race, gender, sexual orientation, culture, religion and physical ability.
  • The Student Diversity and Equity Board provides opportunities for students to cultivate their leadership abilities on behalf of their constituency group or for themselves. The goal is to establish an inclusive community for all students and campus partners.
  • The American Roundtable Series coordinates a cross-cultural discussion on topics that educate, improve cultural literacy, enhance understanding of one another as citizens of the world and facilitate a greater dialogue between diverse individuals.
  • The Bridge Builder Program represents collaboration with the Multicultural Curriculum Transformation Institute and student organizations. Faculty members with scholarly interests in diversity topics provide opportunities for dialogue with student organizations that agree to participate for year.
  • The Diversity and Equity Awards Gala recognizes efforts of NIU students that promote an inclusive campus community.
  • The Diversity and Equity Office sponsors “Dialog on Diversity, Race and Conflict,” which provides opportunities for student organizations to share their racial/ethnic experiences and cultivate their leadership abilities. Participants can develop or sharpen skills in intercultural and cross-cultural communication, conflict resolution, ethical decision-making, social justice awareness and diversity education.
  • The Diversity and Equity Office also provides diversity training for professional and student employees through its “Enhancing Inclusive Campus Communities” series and ongoing training programs for staff in Housing and Dining.
  • The Center for Latino and Latin American Studies serves faculty and students through a variety of research and cultural programs. The center offers a minor in Latino and Latin American Studies, a graduate concentration in Latin American Studies, research grants for affiliated faculty and graduate students, undergraduate scholarship, a speaker series, cultural programming and outreach activities.

“We have some best practices here that Minority Access found insightful to promoting diversity,” Brunson said, “not only to our campus but by putting us in direct comparison with some major players throughout the country.”

NIU’s “Dialog on Diversity” program, which kicked off this fall, will involve more than 250 student organizations over the next three to five years. Student leaders have already participated, Brunson said, and returned to their groups energized.

Around 30 students from the various groups will join in each session to talk frankly about issues of race, gender, sexual orientation and more, Brunson said. About 30 sessions are planned each year.

“We’re helping to prepare these students for a global community,” he said. “No institution in the country is doing anything remotely similar to this.”

The Minority Access, Inc. recognition also provides NIU with some national exposure, Brunson said.

“It lets individuals know that when they’re looking for institutions to consider as places to come and work or study, this is a place that is welcoming and willing to celebrate diversity,” he said.

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