I am sitting in Boston at the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) Annual Conference as I write this note. NASPA is not only a great organization that supports 13,000 members at over 1,400 campuses in the U.S. and the world, including many of our institutions in Illinois, but it is also one of the first higher education organizations to embrace the work of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Justice, and Belonging (DEIJB). 

April is also the month of months for observances and milestones. On the observance side, we celebrate the following in higher education: National Student Employment Week (NSEW), World Creativity and Innovation Day, Earth Day, Administrative Professionals Day, (#AdminProfessionalsDay), Take Your Kids to Work Day, Financial Literacy Month (#FinancialLiteracyMonth, #FinLitMonth), National Internship Awareness Month, Workplace Conflict Awareness Month, and Mathematics Awareness Month.

On the milestone side, almost every college and university campus will be hosting events to celebrate student achievements, participation in organizations, giving awards for noted academic and co-curricular experiences, and preparing for graduation.  Colleges and universities will also be celebrating and recognizing employees for years of service, participating in tenure and promotion processes, and saying goodbye to colleagues who are retiring and preparing for graduation. We know you feel the energy of any of these observances and milestones. In advance, we apologize if we left off a key observance or milestone that matters to you. Please let us know and we will include it going forward.

It truly has been a tough three years for all of us and for higher education since the start of the pandemic. But, for many of you reading this and for all of us at PCC, it has been a long endemic as well, fighting structural barriers and systemic racism in our classrooms, in our committee work, within our board rooms, in our communities, and across our hallways, quads, and even our parking lots. We have lost family, friends, students, neighbors, and colleagues.

Through our work at PCC, the connections we have built with you across institutions along with external partners and state agencies, we have created a network that withstood all these forces and continues to be a network to be reckoned with across the Chicago region, across the state of Illinois, the Midwest, and the country. Together, we have changed policies, revised practices, supported students on a shorter path through Gateway completion of Math and English, and are looking at equitable funding formulas for our state and building parameters for institutions to implement HB5464 (building equity plans). This list is exhausting, and we have reason to be wary. But we also have reason to act with urgency, integrity, and pride. We must also recognize and reflect on our own personal trauma, professional trauma, and the trauma of our students as well as our communities.  As the English proverb goes, “many hands make light work.”  And, as Margaret Atwood said, “You’re never going to kill storytelling because it’s built into the human plan. We come with it.”  Finally, I reflect on the words of Alan Turing, “We can only see a short distance ahead, but we can see plenty there that needs to be done.” 

Happy April, everyone. We are happy to be on this road to healing and to celebrate what we have accomplished with our colleagues, friends, and families across Chicago, the state of Illinois, the Midwest, and the country.  We remain hopeful about the possibilities of what we will do together as we move forward.

In partnership,

Paula Hanley, Senior Partnerships Manager