This year, NIU is celebrating its 125 anniversary and the Center for Nonprofit and NGO Studies is also celebrating 10 years. 60 years ago, NIU organized into colleges, including ours, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. This spring’s graduation celebrations were going to be historic. But the pandemic interrupted all of that. Instead, classes quickly moved online and we had virtual celebrations.
The Center opened in 2010 and graduated our first majors in 2012. Our majors then graduated with degrees in Community Leadership and Civic Engagement (CLCE) but by 2015 we changed our Center’s name and the degree name to match, Nonprofit and NGO Studies. This spring, we graduated 16 students with this interdisciplinary degree and we couldn’t be prouder of who they are as students, and the difference we know they will make in the world.
On May 8, we gathered virtually to celebrate their accomplishments. We sent pizzas to some of our students and President Freeman joined us in our virtual pizza party. It is an honor and privilege to lead this program, and maybe especially at this time. I have seen resilience in the face of fear, courage in the face of adversity, and flexibility in the face of the unknown. These are all qualities that will serve them well as they enter nonprofit careers.
Nonprofit staff are serving on the front lines of this pandemic in hospitals, senior care facilities, homeless shelters, and food distribution organizations. We have all heard amazing stories of selflessness and ingenuity that this pandemic has brought to light.
On what should have been her graduation ceremony, Sucely Garcia began her Americorps service with the Northern Illinois Food Bank by distributing food. This is just one example of the public service ethic our NNGO students have.
Our students inspire me every day. I hope they inspire you too. Be well.