Coming together in a circle to communicate is an ancient form of gathering.  Circles can be a powerful means by which group members can listen, share, inquire, and brainstorm.  Circle practices support authenticity, creativity, and trust.  With that in mind, we created Equity Circles of Change (EC4C) as a programming support for ILEA members to network and come together around a focused topic. 

For AY21-22, our EC4C focused on “Creating Equitable Outcomes at Hispanic-Serving Institutions.”   During these 90-minute sessions, members of the Illinois Equity in Attainment Initiative (ILEA) community gathered to discuss emerging trends and practices for changing campus culture and creating structures for staff and faculty to succeed and support underrepresented students. Through EC4C, we have created a community of trust and a wider circle to discuss race, disparities, and what it takes to create equitable outcomes in higher education.

We asked Patricia Aumann, Director of Strategic Initiatives at Richard J. Daley College, and Lynette Correa-Velez, Director of Career Services at Joliet Junior College, to share their experiences with the EC4C.

Tell us a bit about yourself and your personal journey with equity work in higher education.

Img of Patricia Aumann
Patricia Aumann, Director of Strategic Initiatives at Richard J. Daley College

Patricia Aumann: My professional background includes work in the not-for-profit sector and in various higher education settings. In my current role, I am able to draw on my experiences in strategic planning, project management, grant writing, communications, and student development. I am currently excited to be working on the dissertation phase of my doctoral program. My personal journey with equity work in higher education started with my own educational experiences as a first-generation, low-income student. As a professional and a lifelong learner, I have made it a goal to keep developing my practice through research and reading so that I can contribute to breaking down barriers and supporting success and opportunity for every student.

Lynette Correa-Velez: I am a bilingual, Latina #CriticalCareerCoach and #ResumeSurgeon co-empowering diverse individuals with intersectional identities across the U.S. for over 19 years with a DEIAB-centered lens. Therefore, I’m a current doctoral student in the DEI in Education with a focus on the Human Resource Development program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. I have received over 15 awards and honors for my life’s work in career coaching/development in higher education and beyond.

Can you describe what participating in an Equity Circle means to you personally and professionally.

Lynette Correra-Velez, Director of Career Services at Joliet Junior College

Aumann: Participating in the Equity Circle provides a safe and engaging space to work through ideas with colleagues from various institutions. It helps me expand my personal research and ideas by sharing in discussion with practitioners from diverse experiences with shared commitments to equity. Together, I feel we strengthen each other by sharing ideas and practices as well as research and data. This experience has given me new resources, support and expanded frameworks to apply to my work.

Correa-Velez: It has meant the world to me, personally and professionally, to participate in EC4C these past few months. I feel a sense of belonging in an inaugural, virtual community that I didn’t even know existed in higher education. It has expanded my network and notion of what it means to be in a community with equity- and justice-centered professionals in higher education. And for that, I am eternally grateful, especially to Dr. Ervin who referred me to EC4C

What does servingness mean to you and how do you approach your role at your institution with a lens of servingness?

Aumann: To me, servingness in higher education means being focused on how best to meet the needs for equitable student access and supporting success and completion for all students. I approach my role with that lens and it helps me as I work to support efforts to move the college’s mission, strategic goals and equity plan forward. I have the privilege of working cross-departmentally on projects, and I try to bring value in ways that support a focus on servingness as we work on reducing barriers and creating a supportive campus environment. I appreciate the opportunity I have at Daley College to consider alternative solutions and perspectives and encourage involvement from all group members in conversation and planning so we have a diversity of strengths focused on our work to improve access to higher education and our student outcomes.

Correa-Velez: Servingness means that I co-create a culture of care, kindness, collaboration, and transformative leadership always. As a first-generation high school and college graduate, with an Afro-Latina family, I approach my role and work knowing that it’s my life’s purpose to assist people from all walks of life to equitable access to career-related resources and opportunities so that they can live a better quality of life through their respective career paths.

Not a member of ILEA but interested in learning how you can participate in opportunities like these? Click here to learn more about our College and University Partnerships work and contact our staff.