The Partnership for College Completion (PCC) is preparing to convene the Illinois Equity in Attainment Initiative (ILEA) community for 2nd Annual Equity Institute, running February 24-25, 2022. The theme of this year’s Equity Institute, Leveraging This Moment to Sustain Equity-Mindedness in Higher Education, is derived from the collective movement across partner institutions to remedy the inequities that have long excluded Black, Latinx, and lower-income students from opportunities to thrive. The Institute will feature administrative leaders, mental health practitioners, social justice educators, historians, and faculty engaging in promising practices that have proven to turn the tide on student success for minoritized students. They will also speak to the very real implications of navigating higher education while tending to the health and safety of students, staff, and faculty during a public health crisis such as COVID-19.

The leadership team at Richard J. Daley College recently discussed ways the institution has adapted to meet challenges created by the pandemic to ensure students receive timely student services and quality instruction.

Daley leadership img
From right to left:
Janine E. Janosky, Ph.D, President;
Patricia Aumann, Director of Strategic Initiatives;
Erika de la Riva, Director of Research and Planning;
Silvia Villa, Interim Director of Continuing Education

The COVID-19 pandemic continually underscores the disparate outcomes that affect lower-income, Black, Indigenous, and people of color. What specific supports have been offered to minoritized students at Daley College so they remain on track to earn their credentials?

Throughout the pandemic, Richard J. Daley College staff and faculty worked to ensure that students received the same quality instruction, effective assistance, and support services as they had prior to the pandemic. Students were affected by a variety of issues including job loss, lack of child care, illness and family illness, among other issues that impacted their ability to remain on track to earn their credentials. In addition, the move to online/remote classes was a challenge for those who had not taken (students) or taught (faculty) course in that modality previously. In light of these challenges that disproportionately affected lower-income and students of color, a variety of initiative were implemented to help support the student retention and success. 

One recently implemented initiative, the College launched is a Virtual Student Services (VSS) portal that offered student support services in a virtual, synchronous environment. Meeting through Zoom helped students remain connected to staff at the College and feel they had a way to reach out for immediate assistance. Through the VSS portal, College departments worked to ensure that all students continued to be afforded the same quality service in an online/remote format as it pertains to registration, advising, financial aid, and other student support services as they would typically have received an in-person setting. The college was able to reinstate in-person services for our students beginning in summer 2021; however, with the success of the VSS, we decided to continue to offer online/remote service options for our students, because the flexibility has been beneficial to students and it supports the Daley goals of accessibility and inclusion.

The move to online affected other departments that have supported students in being successful. Student Activities, Career Services, Tutoring, and Transfer Services all developed programming that could be offered online including offering opportunities to connect with transfer colleges and potential employers, which are critical to assisting students in being retained and meeting their academic and career goals. Various offices added multiple communication methods with students including text messaging, so they could maintain connections with them that would normally occur on campus. Our tutoring department specifically offered virtual open house events to offer opportunities for students to connect with their services in the online environment. Student Activities offered events online including performances and also interactive project-based opportunities such as group painting activities.

Throughout the pandemic, the College’s Student Development Department worked with our Department of Instruction as well as other areas to rebuild student retention rates. We are continuing these efforts, with the hard work and dedication of our staff and faculty, including focus on strategic implementation of new programs including re-designed New Student Orientation (launched in fall 2021) and a new Tiering retention program (launched in spring 2022).

During the pandemic, in Advanced Manufacturing we continued to be creative and find ways to serve students.  We continued to evolve and learn what worked to continue online/remote classes while working to comply with the evolving regulations.  Initially we held lectures online/remote and divided the classes into small groups to offer the hands-on lab components of the classes while enabling the social distancing and compliance with masking and sanitization which was critical at the time.  Manufacturing is a very hands-on set of skills and this enabled us to still teach those skills to our students. 

For our violence reduction initiative with our Weekend Warriors, we operated with the students in person on-site on-campus while the manufacturing instructors were remote and provided lectures over Zoom into the on-campus classes.  This way the students could still be in an appropriate setting for learning with Wi-Fi and computer support and distanced from the environment that might lead to further violence, while still being allowed to benefit from the instructor’s interaction over Zoom and the small group lab activities.

For many students at community colleges, their family plays a central role in their ability to pursue a degree or transfer. How are families of students valued as vital members of the Daley College community?

Richard J. Daley College is committed to building on the strengths of our community and recognizes that families play a significant role in the success of all of our students, especially our first generation and minoritized students. During our information sessions, our admissions team and administrators collaborate with our local high schools to provide students and families with information regarding the process to apply to college, the college experience, and financial aid. For traditional-age students, integrating parents into recruitment and registration efforts is essential for a seamless transition into college. Parents are welcome to attend student orientations. In addition, we offer bilingual sessions for Spanish speaking parents.

Once students have completed the FERPA Authorization Release form and granted their parents/family to access their student records, academic advisors and financial aid advisors are poised to develop a relationship with the students and work with their families as requested by our students. Financial aid advisors work closely with students and their families to demystify the financial aid process including walking them through completing the FAFSA application and identifying ways to fund the student’s college education, as well as address any concerns parents/families and students might have.

Our academic advisors develop relationships with our students and support them to learn about their learning styles and develop an agency to advocate for themselves and succeed in college. For those who have FERPA authorized access to their parents/families, our academic advisors and transfer director work with the student and their parents/families across critical milestones across their academic career including transfer goals. Along with providing students the resources they need to plan a successful transfer to a 4-year institution, our transfer center also provides workshops and information sessions to connect students with their dream school.

At Daley College, families of our students are valued and included in the admissions process. Daley colleges has a diverse student body and with this in mind several initiatives have been included for students onboarding the college. Many of our admissions process and procedures are translated to the top seven languages that our students represent. In addition, when COVID disproportionally impacted the Southside of the Chicago where Daley college seats, we developed access to WIFI, Zoom training and virtual Zoom offices.

On campus, we staggered campus hours and digital kiosks so student could safely register for classes. We have developed our family college night with a focus on the FAFSA application process. We hosted an admissions process with our community non-for-profit organization to learn about the admission process and procedure in the college, so they can assist families that participate in their programs.

Non-traditional students were provided with evening admissions and registration workshops, while also including community partners. Transition Tuesday allowed students to meet staff and resources across campus during evening hours. Three programs have been built to attract students that reflect the demographics of the college. These programs include community health workers (Spanish certificate), early childhood certificate, and manufacturing basic certificate program. For adult learners with degrees from academic institutions outside of the USA, students were invited to an introduction workshop to understand the requirements for translating their degree and having it certify in the USA.

In regard to outreach, Daley college build built a block-by-block initiative as a way for our staff to be in the community and encourage community members to register for the first time or return to college. Block-by-Block consists of mapping out local businesses, community organizations, and parks, and then the Daley college van visits these locations to promote our campus. These visits are during peak outreach timelines during the semester.

Also, how are employees—staff and faculty—integrated as valued community members?

Faculty and staff at Richard J. Daley College are given different opportunities to participate in a variety of committees at the college. In addition, faculty and staff are highlighted in the campus wide meetings – where over 100 staff participate on a monthly basis.  The college has several leadership committees. These committees are created with opportunities in mind to grow mid-management leadership into senior leadership roles. The Committee on Inclusion has representation from across the college with faculty and staff from different areas of the college, so that they can contribute from different lenses.  One example of the value to the Daley faculty and staff is the process to include faculty and staff involve in the hiring process. Many different units of faculty and staff are included in search committees to identify the final pool of candidates. In addition, top selected candidates are invited to open forums with core faculty and staff to meet and interview the candidates. The President’s Executive Council Plus leadership allows our mid-management to be involved and also contribute to the overall strategy for the campus’ institutional effectiveness.  Finally, Daley college has instituted a data and research committee, comprised of mid-management membership and senior leadership, to develop a culture of data decision making with a lens of equity and access.

What have been the most positive outcomes that resulted from developing Daley’s Community Advisory Board during the pandemic? How do you plan to sustain the momentum moving forward?

The Community Advisory Board (CAB) is made up of a wide variety of community leaders, 20 in number, who are engaged in partnering with Daley College and in promoting the mission and goals of the College to their constituents and stakeholders.

Recently, Daley College’s Community Advisory Board (CAB) met in May 2021, in December 2021, and in January 2022. The most positive outcome that resulted from developing the CAB during the pandemic was the opportunity to partner in identifying community urgent needs and in partnering to offer solutions to address those needs. Given our collaborative successes in meeting community needs, this momentum is continuing.

As part of the implementation process for the Daley College 5-Year Strategic Plan, assessment and evaluation plans are being developed for each strategy and tactic. With this, the evidence will be available for community engagement efforts beginning in 2022. Currently, there has been collection of information about shared programming and partnerships but adding more formal evaluation plans will enable the college to ensure success of efforts over time.

Learn more about the ILEA.