A Letter from the Executive Director

Dear ILEA Partners,

Welcome to another new academic year that, paired with the colorful change of the seasons here in the Midwest, has always filled me with hope and excitement for the year ahead as both a student and an educator. I am so pleased to be writing to you in my new capacity as the second Executive Director of PCC, succeeding our founding ED Dr. Kyle Westbrook last month. I am honored to have the opportunity to lead PCC’s talented team in this next chapter, while continuing to expand our work with you – our committed college and university partners – as you make progress on our shared aspirations for greater racial and socioeconomic equity across Illinois’ higher education system.

This year, the PCC will continue to expand and enhance our ILEA Programming and supports in response to your feedback. We have further developed programming for the ILEA Equity Academy for Presidents and Cabinets and will offer an opportunity for all ILEA teams to join or continue their engagement. We have an excellent lineup of speakers on deck for the ILEA Annual Summit on November 3-5, 2021 and the Winter Equity Institute in February 2022. We will continue to offer support in building your institutional data capacity and will begin new Learning Communities for cross-institutional discussion and collaboration through the Equity Circles for Change. Stay tuned for additional announcements in the coming weeks regarding new opportunities for professional development to build team efficacy on equity efforts, new tools and resources, and opportunities for dialogue within and outside of the ILEA Initiative.

In this newsletter, we share a new feature within the spotlight section called Equity in Practice, which will elevate the institutional equity work begin implemented on your campuses. We look forward to using this as one of multiple places where these stories will be shared. We have also renamed this section Applied Equity in Higher Education in which we will use this space to highlight the urgency of our equity efforts and the concrete actions necessary to remove institutional barriers and target supports so all of our students have an equitable opportunity to earn their degrees. This is equity as action, practiced as a verb.

As we celebrate Hispanic Heritage this month, I want to draw attention to why we must pair our equity work with action for our Latinx students. Hispanic Heritage has been recognized and celebrated in the U.S. in some form since the late 1960s, with the September 15 kick-off chosen for its connection to the timing of independence of several Latin American countries. Most of you will host virtual and in-person events this month to recognize the celebration, as nearly all ILEA institutions are Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs – 17) or emerging HSIs (5). Among all Latinx undergraduates in Illinois, 42% attend ILEA colleges and universities. Collectively, just over one-quarter of all of your students are Latinx – representing more than 40,000 potential future Latinx graduates of your institutions[1], with many more following in their footsteps each year. That represents an incredible opportunity and responsibility for your equity efforts to result in tens of thousands of degrees for Illinois’ Latinx students.

Your work on this front matters a great deal. Latinx adults are underrepresented among associate and bachelor’s degree earners in every state.[2]According to the Education Trust, only 20.4% of Latinx adults in Illinois have a college degree – a 30 point disparity with White adults. In Illinois, Latinx students represent 24.9% of associate degree seekers, earning a grade of A- from the Education Trust in terms of proportionality to the state’s population, and 18.8% of bachelor’s degree seekers, earning a grade of C-. In terms of degree completion, as we know, we fare worse. In terms of how well the percentage of degrees awarded to Latinx undergraduates reflects the racial and ethnic composition of the population in Illinois, we receive a D for associate degrees conferred and an F for bachelor’s degrees.[3]

We know that representation matters and many of your Equity Plans reinforce this point as they include strategies to achieve greater diversity among faculty, staff, and administration. Even still, in 2018 Latinx women and men make up only 6% of all full-time faculty in the U.S.[4]

With 22 ILEA institutions that are current or aspiring HSIs, we can and will do better in serving our Latinx students and ensuring that our hiring, promotion, and tenure practices for faculty and staff move us toward greater representation of the rich diversity of our students and state.

As the semester is now well underway, I hope will all find time for reflection with your teams on the first year of Equity Plan implementation, make adjustments, and set ambitious goals for the year ahead. The team at the PCC is doing the same as we celebrate five years since our founding and three years since the launch of ILEA. I also hope you can find time to enjoy this most beautiful season and to read an excellent book by a Latinx author (book lists here, here, and here), perhaps while curling up with something warm to drink and the requisite apple cider donut.

In partnership for equity,



[1] Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE) Enrollment & Degree System http://www.ibhe.org/EnrollmentsDegrees/

[2] Broken Mirrors: Latino Student Representation at State Public Colleges and Universities (Education Trust) https://edtrustmain.s3.us-east-2.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/10123122/Broken-Mirrors-Latino-Student-Representation-at-State-Public-Colleges-and-Universities-September-2019.pdf

[3] State Equity Report Card – Illinois http://stateequity.org/state/illinois

[4] National Center for Education Statistics https://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/indicator/csc

twitter bird 200x200 Connect with me on Twitter at @Lili_Castille and let’s discuss what Latinx authors we’re reading this month!