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DeKalb, IL – NIU once again has ranked among the most LGBTQ+ friendly colleges and universities in the nation.
Setting the bar for LGBTQ-inclusive polices, programs and practices nationwide, Campus Pride recently named NIU to its 2023 Best of the Best LGBTQ-friendly Colleges and Universities List. One of only two Illinois universities to be recognized, NIU earned 5 out of 5 stars and the highest percentage scores on the Campus Pride Index.
The acknowledgement—the latest in a growing list of accolades—elevates efforts made throughout campus to ensure Huskies feel welcome, included and valued both inside and outside the classroom.
Those efforts involve everyone—from leadership to faculty, staff and students.
“In the current climate, in which LGBTQ+ identities have become political talking points and laws are being weaponized against LGBTQ+ people, the commitment to creating campuses that welcome and protect LGBTQ+ students cannot be taken for granted,” said Campus Pride Founder, CEO and Executive Director Shane Mendez Windmeyer. “The colleges and universities that made our list this year deserve this recognition for the efforts they have made and continue to make.”
A free online tool used by prospective students to search a database of LGBTQ+ friendly campuses, the Campus Pride Index is the premier LGBTQ national benchmarking tool for colleges and universities to create safer, more inclusive campus communities.
Campuses are scored on eight LGBTQ-friendly factors, including housing, campus safety, academics, student life and recruitment and retention efforts.
While NIU is proud of the recognition, university leaders emphasized that efforts to continually enhance the student experience so that all Huskies have the freedom to be their whole, authentic selves remain ongoing.
“There are so many people that work hard to make this happen,” said Molly Holmes, director of the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center (GSRC) and advisor to the LGBTQA Residential Community.
“We are a very relational campus, a place that cultivates not just the basic necessities for students, but provides an institution of care,” Holmes said. “You don’t have to be in survival mode here. You can thrive.”
Both the GSRC and the popular residential community—where students receive support as they connect with each other, faculty and staff—were among the many valuable resources highlighted as part of the Campus Pride Index’s NIU profile.
However, NIU’s recognition serves as a testament to so much more. Along with programs and resources offered specifically for LGBTQ+ students, it recognizes the university’s campus-wide commitment to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion as a whole.
That commitment is reflected in partnerships throughout campus to cultivate allyship, the robustness of NIU’s diversity and cultural resource centers and numerous other initiatives.
Most recently, faculty and instructors have been given more opportunities to transform pedagogy to be queer and trans-inclusive.
Working with the Center for innovate Teaching and Learning (CITL), Holmes and Katy Jaekel, Ph.D., director of NIU’s Center for the Study of Women, Gender and Sexuality (CSWGS) and an associate professor in the Department of Counseling and Higher Education, have developed a CITL Supporting LGBTQ+ Students Toolkit.
An updated syllabus statement also has been created, which allows for instructors and faculty to support proper names and pronouns.
“We’ve tried to focus in on not just recruiting students, but also on keeping them here with pedagogical strategies to make sure they feel as comfortable as possible in all spaces,” said Jaekel, whose current research looks at how queer and transgender students navigate college experiences.
“These resources are meant to supplement what we already have and provide a more in-depth classroom context.”
NIU also continues to add to its list of gender inclusive restrooms, and enhance opportunities for staff and students to be intentional allies.
The university’s achievements would not be possible without growing collaborations and partnerships between offices, departments and centers throughout campus.
“We’re better together,” said Jaekel, a trans-identifying faculty member. “The fact that we are making progress in these increasingly contested times is amazing. It calms my fear that I’m not in this alone.
“I’m really proud of the leadership we have that continues to allow us to move forward and are in this with us.”
The Best of the Best ranking is the latest in a string of recognitions.
The university was named the most LGBTQ+ friendly college in Illinois in 2022 by BestColleges, which uses the Campus Pride Index and its own ranking methodology emphasizing college affordability and academic metrics, including admissions, enrollment, graduation and accreditation, to determine rankings.
After earning 5 out of 5 stars on the Campus Pride Index in 2022, NIU also was named to Campus Pride’s 2022 Best of the Best Colleges and Universities for LGBTQ+ students.
The full list of campuses featured in this year’s Best of the Best are listed in alphabetical order by state and organized according to region.
Adelphi University, Garden City, NY
Ithaca College, Ithaca, NY
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey-New Brunswick, New Brunswick, NJ
The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA
University of Maryland, College Park, College Park, MD
University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA
University of Rochester, Rochester, NY
Augsburg University, Minneapolis, MN
Indiana University, Bloomington, Bloomington, IN
Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS
Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, IL
Oakland University, Rochester, MI
Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN
The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH
University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL
University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire, Eau Claire, WI
University of Wisconsin – Green Bay, Green Bay, WI
University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee, Milwaukee, WI
Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis, MO
New England Region
Tufts University, Medford, MA
University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Amherst, MA
University of Vermont, Burlington, VT
Elon University, Elon, NC
George Mason University, Fairfax, VA
Guilford College, Greensboro, NC
Northern Kentucky University, Highland Heights, KY
University of Louisville, Louisville, KY
San Diego State University, San Diego, CA
Southern Oregon University, Ashland, OR
University of Colorado at Boulder, Boulder, CO
The full Campus Pride 2023 Best of the Best list is also available online at CampusPride.org/BestoftheBest.
Northern Illinois University is a student-centered, nationally recognized public research university, with expertise that benefits its region and spans the globe in a wide variety of fields, including the sciences, humanities, arts, business, engineering, education, health and law. Through its main campus in DeKalb, Illinois, and education centers for students and working professionals in Chicago, Naperville, Oregon and Rockford, NIU offers more than 100 areas of study while serving a diverse and international student body.
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