Northern Illinois University

History of NIU intersects with humanistic trajectories of people around the world. The university was founded as a response to the largest mass migrations in human history during the last part of the 19th century. More than 11 million people left American rural areas to towns and cities while 25 million people, mostly Europeans, migrated to the US to escape poverty and religious persecutions. NIU was founded in 1895 as part of ‘normal schools’ to prepare young women and men to become teachers, to be “trained in the accepted ‘norms’ of pedagogy and curriculum”. They would later serve as frontline educators for young people who seek life beyond farming. Today, NIU has nearly 17,000 students, 4,204 are graduate students. Half of NIU students are non-whites and diversity and equity are core values of NIU education.

NIU educational programs closely mirror the HaB Manifesto. Through community-engaged pedagogies, the university empowers students and supports educators to explore co-curricular, out-of-classroom experiential learning with communities within and outside the US. To transform students to be life-long learners, responsible citizens, and global leaders responding to evolving needs of various communities, especially those that are at the margins of the society, is one of the goals of NIU, which closely aligns with HaB principles. NIU has a permanent Office of Student Engagement and Experiential Learning, which has achieved the Carnegie Foundation ‘Community Engagement’ classification. Using local communities as classroom, students learn the meaning of public and public education fostering ties and helping each learn from the mutual collaboration and engagement.

NIU looks forward to continuing our collaboration in the next five years for HaB 2.0. Our designated educator for HaB is Professor Tharaphi Than, Associate Professor at Department of World Languages and Cultures and Associate at the Center for Southeast Asian Studies (CSEAS). CSEAS with its expansive networks with other SEA centers across the US and educational institutions in Southeast Asia will provide institutional support to further HaB activities. NIU has already supported previous HaB activities including ‘Revitalizing the Civic Role of University’ workshop in Mandalay in 2017, ‘HaB Methodologies’ seminar at the University of Yangon (YU) in 2019, and ‘Decolonizing Methodologies’ at YU in 2019. CSEAS also enabled experimenting of HaB methodologies in ANTH 408/508 course incorporating SEAsian refugee-run groceries as a site of learning into the module. The ‘in situ’ learning is compatible with NIU experiential and service learning and we are pleased to expand such innovative learning through the College of Liberal Arts courses. NIU has funded several trips of Prof. Than for HaB activities.

In the future, NIU will explore co-teaching with community leaders from refugee communities particularly Karen and Chin minorities around NIU. Students and educators will use both NIU and community centers as learning sites and explore themes and co-design course contents together using HaB four sites particularly food and word. NIU is already a facilitator between HaB and Mandalay University and will continue to support HaB programs particularly student and faculty exchange and curricula co-development centering various locales around the world in traditionally US-focused courses. To further institutionalize HaB, NIU will designate incoming dean of the college of liberal arts, Robert Brinkmann, a professor of geology, environment and sustainability. Further commitment to HaB is of particular importance amid the ongoing challenge of global pandemic surrounding COVID-19. The pandemic has exposed the unsustainable and inequitable infrastructures of global North purporting to benefit many but only advancing the interests of the few.  Meanwhile Asian and African countries such as Taiwan and Senegal that have strong investments in public healthcare and education systems emerge as public champions whose public models the world has yet to emulate. HaB and NIU can mutually strengthen each other institutionally and intellectually co-building pedagogical models that will equitably engage with and benefit every individual and reinvigorate the meaning of public and public education.

Contact Persons

Prof. Robert Brinkmann (professor of geology, environment and sustainability), incoming Dean of the College of Liberal Arts

 Prof. Tharaphi Than, Department of World Languages and Cultures; Associate Professor at the Center for Southeast Asian Studies (CSEAS)