With the launch of its new Association Resource Center, Northern Illinois University is looking to make its services and resources available to the association community.
ARC is a Web portal through which meeting planners and executives can get in touch with NIU’s research services, subject-matter experts, conference facilities, educational programs, and student body. The initiative stems from NIU Outreach, an arm of the university charged with connecting NIU to the community, explains Ross Ament, director, association relations at NIU Outreach. Ament, a former association executive, has been working with the nonprofit community since he joined the school three years ago.
For meetings and events, the university has three on-campus convention centers certified by the International Association of Conference Centers—Hoffman Estates, Naperville, and Rockford—all of which can be used during the day for meetings. In addition, NIU has meeting planning staff who can be hired to plan events; a full-service registration system, with a call center; pre- and post-event services; and on-site management services. The meeting services can be used for any event, not just those at NIU facilities. Also, the university has a speaker’s bureau, allowing association planners to tap into NIUfor their meetings.
Through ARC, associations can also work with NIU on staff training and education (including e-learning), content development for meetings and programs, and staff retreats and workshops for association executives. Further, associations can use NIU’s expertise to conduct research, such as economic impact studies, member surveys, and trend analysis.
Finally, ARC can connect associations to NIU students for internships, membership, and career development. In turn, the college makes students aware of the value of associations. “Once students get their degree, they go out into the real world, and what is the best entity to continue to provide professional support?” asked Ament. “Your association.” The college would like to develop an association fair, which would be like a career fair, except that it would showcase associations, not employers. That’s down the road, says Ament.
“Universities are knowledge centers, and associations need to be very adept at knowledge management, so let’s work together. That’s what NIU wants to do,” says Ament.
NIU has worked with several associations in recent years, including the Illinois Society of Association Executives and the Society for Human Resource Management.
ARC’s services are priced a la carte, and fees vary based on the service, explains Mary Collins, product manager, NIU Outreach. However, some of the services, like those related to student connections, are free of charge.