PCC Board: Welcome to the Partnership's Next Executive Director, Lisa Castillo Richmond

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Dear PCC Partners and Friends:

We are pleased to announce that Lisa Castillo Richmond, the Partnership for College Completion's (PCC) current managing director, will serve as the next executive director of the organization, effective August 1, 2021. The appointment comes following weeks of engagement by the Board with external stakeholders, including college and university presidents, public officials, students, and investors as well as members of PCC's staff, to understand the future needs of the organization as it enters its next phase of development.

Lisa arrives at the role bringing years of experience in higher education access and success, systemic reform, and a deep commitment to racial and socioeconomic equity. With a wealth of experience managing nonprofit education organizations and initiatives, local and national program teams, and fundraising and development efforts, Lisa's work has focused on organizations in launch and growth phases, as well as work with PK-12 systems, colleges and universities, and government agencies.

Prior to joining PCC to help launch the organization in 2016, Lisa served for four years as the Executive Director of Graduate NYC (GNYC), a collaborative college readiness and completion initiative of the City University of New York, the NYC Department of Education, and the NYC Mayor's Office. She also previously served as the Vice President of Program for the national office of the "I Have A Dream" Foundation and as Senior Vice President of Program for Junior Achievement of New York.

Under Lisa's leadership as PCC's Managing Director, the organization developed its signature technical support effort, the Illinois Equity in Attainment Initiative (ILEA). Launched in 2018, ILEA today provides support to 26 colleges and universities across the state that are working to eliminate racial and socioeconomic disparities in degree completion on their campuses.

A native Illinoisan and the first in her family to attend college, Lisa holds an M.A. in Education & Social Policy from New York University and is currently a doctoral student at Loyola University Chicago.

The Board congratulates and welcomes Lisa in this new appointment and extends its deep gratitude to Dr. Kyle Westbrook, PCC's Founding Executive Director. Instrumental in building the organization into a powerful voice for equity in the state of Illinois, Kyle guided the organization in reshaping the narrative of Illinois higher education to focus on what is possible for all our students, their families, and our communities. As he moves into the next phase of his career, the Board sends its warmest well wishes.


Beth Swanson 
Board Chair

Liz Thompson
Board Co-Chair

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PCC Executive Director Letter June Higher Ed Policy Quarterly Newsletter

PCC Executive Director Letter June Higher Ed Policy Quarterly Newsletter
Kyle Westbrook, Ph.D.

Perhaps James Baldwin's most-quoted saying is that "not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed if it is not faced." Explicit in this quote is a call for courage. Implicit in this quote, given the context within which it was written, the early days of the Civil Rights Movement, is a call upon the nation to reckon with its messy, violent, and uneven past and finally wrestle with what scholar Eddie Glaud, Jr. aptly calls, the "Value Gap" or the ways in which our country values white lives above all others. This legislative session, through the leadership of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus, our state took an initial step towards facing the inequities in higher education funding and then changing them. The passage of Senate Bill 815, thanks to the tenacity, energy, courage, and collaborative spirit of Senator Kimberly Lightford, and Representative Carol Ammons, finally allows conversations about public finance of our state's public universities to happen in the open and, as importantly, will produce recommendations for how our state should center equity in the way our state's higher education system is funded.

Similarly, through the leadership of Illinois Legislative Latino Caucus and Senator Karina Villa, and House Representative Maura Hirschauer, Illinois took a major step towards ensuring that our states undocumented students are well supported on their respective campuses through the passage of House Bill 3438 requiring public universities and community colleges to designate a undocumented resource liason, and encouraging campuses to create undocumented resource centers on campus.

Taken together, these two pieces of legislation mark important steps towards facing and changing the things that need to be changed in our state's public colleges and universities. There is still much more work ahead, especially with regards to increasing the overall appropriations to our state's higher education system, but we are heartened by the steps that our legislature is taking to reverse the decades-long, downward trajectory of higher education in Illinois. Like with the passage of SB 815 and HB 3438, our collective voices; students, higher education leaders, advocates, community organizations, and others will need to boldly and aggressively make the case that investment in our state's higher education system and its students is as high a public priority as investments in early childhood and K-12 education. Indeed, only when we begin to see our state's education system as one, can we as a state truly build the kind of education system that will prepare our students to meet the challenges of the 21st Century.

In Partnership, 
Kyle Westbrook, Ph.D.
Read PCC's latest Policy Quarterly today.


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PCC Executive Director Introduces New Higher Ed Policy Quarterly Newsletter

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Kyle Westbrook, Ph.D.

One of the most repeated phrases of the last year is that COVID-19 has laid bare inequities in our society. Those inequities may be news to some but have long been the lived realities of millions of people in the United States and in the state of Illinois. Factors that have become apparent to some (inequitable access to digital resources, the financial vulnerability of even moderate income families, inequitable access to health care and education) have limited the possibilities of generations of Illinoisans. Those limitations can only be lifted and equity promoted through concerted effort by leaders at all levels.

The recent shift in federal policy towards open and unapologetic discussions of equity coupled with aggressive leadership from Illinois elected officials, most specifically, the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus, give us reason to be hopeful. However, with the nation's public health crisis showing signs of improvement, we have to remain vigilant that the inequities we've all been talking about since the pandemic's onset and the racial reckoning brought about by the killing of George Floyd, don't recede from our consciousness. We cannot afford for Illinois to once again settle into a predictable pattern of complacency and outright ambivalence towards the ways in which our systems privilege some and disadvantage others.

The Partnership for College Completion was founded in part on the belief that public policy plays a critical role in increasing equity and positively impacting the life outcomes of the tens of thousands of black, brown, and low-income college students in Illinois. Thus, PCC will continue to work with our state's elected officials to at times support and other times challenge them to enact policies that will lead to increased access and success for students in our state. We are excited to offer our first policy newsletter detailing important developments in our state and national policy landscape that we believe are important to creating the right conditions for student success and increased equity in our state.

In Partnership, 
Kyle Westbrook, Ph.D.
Read PCC's first Policy Quarterly today.


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