Chartered in 1895, Northern Illinois University first opened its doors in 1899 as the Northern Illinois State Normal School solely to prepare college-educated teachers.
They have grown into a world-class university that attracts students from around the globe while still primarily serving Illinois.
Yet two traditions established Sept. 12, 1899, remain paramount today. They are deeply committed to preparing teachers and providing an excellent and affordable higher education to Illinois families, some of whom have never sent a child to college before.
A demand for more – and better – public schools is what prompted then-Illinois Gov. John Peter Altgeld to expand the “normal school” system he always had championed.
For the 146 women and 27 men in the inaugural class, their first vision of Altgeld Hall must have seemed like a dream: A European-style castle built on the vast Midwestern plains for a cost of $230,000.
Over the next century, enrollment grew 145-fold as the campus spread to 755 acres and became home to nearly 60 major buildings and 25,000 students. World War II and the wars in Korea and Vietnam accelerated enrollment as returning veterans put their GI Bill benefits to work.
Northern became Northern Illinois State College on July 1, 1955, and Northern Illinois University on July 1, 1957.
The Illinois General Assembly granted NIU its own governing board in 1996. Regional education centers in Hoffman Estates, Naperville and Rockford were built to offer many of NIU’s programs at times and locations designed to accommodate the needs of its vital service region.
The vision of Northern Illinois University is to be the premier student-centered, research-focused public university in the Midwest, contributing to the advancement of knowledge for the benefit of the people of the region, the state, the nation, and the world.
With this vision, the mission of the University is to promote excellence and engagement in teaching and learning, research and scholarship, creativity and artistry, and outreach and service.
In pursuing their vision and fulfilling their mission, the University values:
-A community of diverse people, ideas, services, and scholarly endeavors in a climate of respect for the intrinsic dignity of each individual
-Access for a broad spectrum of students to high quality undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs that prepare them to be lifelong learners and productive, socially conscious citizens
-Engaged teaching and learning that evolves from the synergy of research, artistry, and service
-Research and artistry in creating, transmitting, expanding, and applying knowledge
-Student success supported through academic and co-curricular programming and activities
-The application of current technology in enhancing and broadening all institutional endeavors
-A system of shared governance that incorporates input from faculty, staff, and students in decision- and policy-making
-Commitment to a public purpose addressing regional, state, national, and global challenges and opportunities