National Louis University (NLU) joined the Illinois Equity in Attainment (ILEA) initiative to further its vision of becoming a national leader in driving equity in bachelor’s degree attainment and employment. NLU’s model for undergraduate education addresses many of the systemic and institutional factors contributing to the gap in bachelor’s degree attainment, including affordability; flexible and convenient scheduling; broad access admissions requirements; clear course pathways to reduce time to degree; active and personalized classroom experiences through a flipped/blended model; holistic, data-informed support with personalized coaching; and embedded career preparation. While NLU’s undergraduate model is designed to address barriers to college completion, the ILEA Equity Plan was designed around targeted strategies needed to address the unique needs of individual populations of students, including low-income, Latinx, and Black students.
One of the goals in NLU’s Equity Plan was to integrate Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) into the student experience, including NLU’s physical space, student life events, and academic support services. This goal was realized through the establishment of the Unity Commons, a space designed to support student identity development, personal, academic and career success, all while building students’ sense of belonging on campus. As both a safe space and a brave space, the Unity Commons provides a dedicated forum for living our values of diversity and equity, and building a culture of inclusion through exhibiting art, hosting speakers and events, and advancing courageous dialogues. Through the PCC’s Catalyst Grant, NLU was able to support a Social Justice Leadership Retreat.
Social Justice Leadership Retreat
The Social Justice Leadership Retreat offered programming to support the empowerment of leaders through topics such as: the danger of labeling/telling a single story; integrity; creating shared success; and a pledge to lead beyond the retreat with a foundation in social justice. The retreat was held over three days at the Loyola Retreat Center in Woodstock, IL. Outcomes of the retreat were successful, with 100% of students stated that they would recommend the experience to other NLU students, 92.3% of students indicating that they could identify at least two things they would do after the retreat to create a more equitable society and 92.3% of students stated that they felt better connected to the NLU community as a result of attending the retreat. In addition:
- 92.3% of students either strongly agreed or agreed that they felt that as a result of participating in the Retreat, they were able to recognize the role of power, and power structures in relation to leadership.
- 92.3% of students either strongly agreed or agreed that they felt that as a result of participating in the Retreat, they are now able to apply concepts of social justice including equity, equality and social responsibility to their decision-making.
- 76.9% of students either strongly agreed or agreed that they felt that as a result of participating in the Retreat, they are now able to apply concepts of social justice including equity, equality and social responsibility to their decision-making.
“After learning about leadership and social justice through the catalyst program, I think differently about what leadership means. I know now that anyone can be a leader. If I continue to believe in the possibility and make a commitment to take action (like our 30 day challenge). I am practicing my leadership skills. I want to make a difference in our society, I see the wrongs that need to be right. I see the steps to get there.”Student Testimony
Learn more about National Louis University’s equity work today.