University of Nebraska appoints Mary Paulett Niemiec to lead online education efforts
University of Nebraska President James B. Milliken announced today that Mary Paulett Niemiec has been appointed as NU’s associate vice president for distance education and director of University of Nebraska Online Worldwide. Niemiec currently serves as executive director of external education at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where she is responsible for developing, directing and promoting the university’s online, blended and professional development programs.

Niemiec’s appointment at NU begins Aug. 15. She will provide leadership in achieving the broad goals of University of Nebraska Online Worldwide, the university-wide distance education platform that has experienced significant growth since it was launched in 2010. Goals include:
  • Serving the people of Nebraska and beyond through expanded online education opportunities;
  • Growing online enrollment nationally and internationally by developing a leadership position in online education;
  • Growing revenue from online programs; and
  • Leveraging the collaboration among the university’s four campuses in the development, administration and marketing of distance education programs and courses.
“I am very pleased that Mary Niemiec will lead the University of Nebraska’s efforts in online education,” Milliken said. “While we have made significant progress in growing enrollment in our online programs, developing new programs to meet market demands and increasing collaborations among our campuses, there is still much work to be done. Mary Niemiec has the skills and experience necessary to help expand the reach and reputation of the University of Nebraska’s online programs so that more students in Nebraska and around the world have access to the high-quality, affordable education we offer.”

Linda Pratt, NU executive vice president and provost, said: “We were impressed with Ms. Niemiec’s experience with helping academic programs bring online degrees into being, her knowledge of the technical side of distance education, and her ability to work with varied groups of people across campuses.”

Niemiec has been at the University of Illinois at Chicago since 1990, serving in numerous capacities, including leadership positions in external education and international affairs. She has served in her current role since 2005 and previously was interim associate provost for external education, a role in which she provided leadership for the campus’ instructional outreach and online education mission. She has delivered numerous presentations at conferences and workshops sponsored by the Sloan Consortium, a leading national organization focused on high-quality online education, and in 2010 and 2011 she served as conference chair for the Sloan Consortium Blended Learning Conference and Workshop.

Niemiec holds a bachelor’s degree in social work from Southern Illinois University and a Master of Public Administration from the University of Illinois at Chicago.

“I am thrilled to be joining the University of Nebraska,” she said. “The opportunity to be part of a team focused on bringing high-quality education offered by this world-class university and its four campuses to more students is exciting.”

“Much has already been done to establish a collaborative infrastructure for distance education, and I look forward to working with the University of Nebraska’s academic leaders, faculty and professionals to achieve the vision and goals for Online Worldwide,” Niemiec said.

Online Worldwide offers more than 80 degree, certificate and endorsement programs in a wide range of fields to serve the needs of students in Nebraska and beyond. In 2009-10, students generated about 88,000 credit hours in online courses offered through the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, University of Nebraska at Omaha and University of Nebraska at Kearney – a nearly 30 percent increase over the previous year. Unduplicated headcount enrollment in distance education programs at UNL, UNO and UNK also grew almost 30 percent from 2008-09 to 2009-10.

Students generated another 10,000 online credit hours through the University of Nebraska Medical Center School of Allied Health Professions in 2009-10, though these figures are not included in the overall growth figures because comparable data for the previous year was not available.

Milliken said that continued growth in online education will be a key strategy for the university as it seeks to help grow a more educated workforce for Nebraska. Milliken pointed out that about 265,000 Nebraskans have completed some college but have not earned a degree, and online education is an excellent opportunity to reach those students who may not be able to attend traditional on-campus courses.

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