Meet Nick Branson, College of Lake County

Friday, 07 June 2019

What is your role at the College of Lake County?
I have served as the Assistant Director of Institutional Effectiveness, Planning, & Research at CLC since 2012. As CLC works to centralize and institutionalize our student success work, I will be serving as the Assistant Director of Student Success Strategy and leading a newly formed Student Success Team.

How did your college/university support your success in earning your degree(s)?

I feel very fortunate for the higher education experiences I have had, but my experience was not without challenges that many students face in finding a path and navigating a complex system. I entered Loyola University Chicago as a first-generation college student, uncertain of whether it was a good fit for me or what career path I would want to pursue. I chose it primarily because I was offered a much-needed scholarship to attend, but am very grateful for the wonderful educational experience that followed. When I found my passion in studying sociology, poverty, and urban issues, I also found faculty members who were not only great instructors, but great promoters of experiential learning opportunities. It was through my instructors that I learned about studying abroad, an internship opportunity, and a community-based research fellowship. These were life-changing experiences for me that motivated me to complete my Bachelor's degree and find work that benefits my community. Without the faculty connecting me to these opportunities, I would have never found them and am not sure where my path would have led. I completed a Master's in Social Sciences at University of Chicago next, and now several years later am working to complete a Ph.D. in Research Methodology back at Loyola. Today, I find support at Loyola, but also am grateful for the great support I have from my colleagues at CLC as I continue on my educational path.


What excites you about equity work at your institution?
I am always excited to be closely connected to the equity work at CLC. For me, the ultimate reason we do this work is what excites me. The ability to leverage educational experiences we provide as a community college to truly improve the lives of our community members is a huge motivator. I am passionate about the role we play, and that education in general plays, in addressing social and economic inequities.


With the current work at CLC, I am also most excited that we will be applying an equity lens to the broad, institutional improvements we plan so that we can impact the most students. It is important for us to use evidence of inequity to identify, design, and implement full-scale, personalized, and culturally-relevant strategies. We want to focus on systemic changes that will benefit all of our students, and especially our underserved students. As we take this approach, our equity work is not separate from, but rather becomes our student success work.


In your role, how do you impact equitable outcomes for your students?
In my background in institutional effectiveness, I have served to voice the data stories of our students' experiences from an equity perspective. Starting with our data has been a critical step to helping the college community understand and see the disparities in outcomes across racial-ethnic groups, age groups, gender, socio-economic status, and other categories. We have also collected data to assess our efforts and determine how they are or are not working for students of different backgrounds. As a researcher, I find that it is also important to directly experience the programs and hear the students' voices so I work to observe programs and lead focus groups with students to more thoroughly understand our work. Evaluating what we do is a critical process to finding what is working and modifying what is not so that we can have the greatest impact on our students' success.


It is not enough, though, to simply communicate the data about our students. Our outcomes compel us to take action, and I am excited to be working with our ILEA team and Student Success Team to develop strategies based on our evidence. My biggest impact for our students' success will not be through building awareness, but through partnering with faculty, staff, and leaders at CLC to leverage data in the process of creating an environment where all of our students can succeed.

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