ILEA Member Spotlight: Meet Brandon Nichols, Ed.D, Olive–Harvey College

1. What is your current role/title?

I currently serve as Vice President, Academic Affairs.

2. Where did you earn your degrees and what did you study?

Sociology – BS, University of Illinois – Urbana-Champaign,

Clinical Psychology – MA, Argosy University (American School of Professional Psychology) – Washington, DC,

Counseling Psychology – Ed.D, Argosy University (American School of Professional Psychology) – Washington, DC

3. How did your college/university support your success in earning your degrees?

Mentorship and socialization opportunities were essential to my development, growth, success. For minoritized students, mentoring is often considered a crucial resource to foster support systems of role models and to garner the academic success. At my undergraduate and graduate institutions, mentor groups, extended new student orientation for students of color, social organizations, and guidance counseling for undeclared majors provided structure and knowledge gaps in navigating a path for successful completion.

4. What excites you about equity work at your institution?

It is gratifying to empower students in reaching their full potential by removing barriers that have historically impacted minoritized students. At Olive-Harvey College, we use a high-touch approach to engage every student to meet their needs to ensure success and completion for all students seeking a credential.

5. In your role, how do you impact equitable outcomes for your students?

As Vice President of Olive-Harvey College, I am grounded in a person-centered and mission-driven approach, through a civic and equity lens. I am currently a member of the College's Illinois Equity Attainment Committee and supporter of the College's Equity Plan. The Plan details specific strategies to support academic success, social integration, and student completion. To support student completion efforts through equity, the College has developed tactics to refine classroom instruction, measuring learning, co-curricular learning, and civic. In my role, I am in support equity through the following​:

  • Faculty development of culturally responsive pedagogy and teaching

  • Multiple measures of learning assessments and tests to align with student learning preferences through face-to-face and hybrid modes of instruction

  • Social integration and exploratory co-curricular opportunities through field and work-based learning experiences

  • Civic engagement through public service events and social justice support (i.e. voter registration, trash clean-up, and community townhalls)

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COVID-19 & Admissions: Webinar Highlights and Resources

Revisit or Share the Webinar Recording Here: 
COVID-19 Impacts on Entering College Freshmen in 2020


"Our flexibility during this time will make things better and make things bearable for students." - Tonishea Terry-Jackson, Dean of Enrollment Management, Kennedy-King College

While Covid-19 continues to have broad impact on how institutions are operating and delivering education to current students, currently, most panelists said the pandemic has not had a significant impact on their institution's admissions processes and timelines. Still key deadlines are being treated with fluidity as institutions explore how they can best serve admitted and prospective students in a virtual environment.

Moving Ever More Online, More Flexible
From Admitted Student Day at National Louis University, to financial aid counseling meetings at Arrupe College of Loyola University of Chicago, to Northeastern Illinois University's freshman orientation sessions and summer bridge program -- programs and services for admitted and prospective students are being shifted online. At National Louis, for example, admitted students and their families can visit YouTube for tutorials on navigating the student portal, understanding their award letter, and more.

Seeing the Silver Lining
The hope is that once institutions have adjusted to the disruption caused by COVID-19, leaders can take a step back and observe the opportunities created by this challenging time, said Dr. Carlos Gooden, Director of Admissions and Recruitment at Chicago State University. Practices that institutions traditionally have been unable or unwilling to do – well, now they are considering.


Resources Shared During Webinar
Strive Virtual College Exploration Week
Monday, April 20 - Thursday, April 23, 2020: 300+ colleges from 44 states and 10 countries. There will be 96 sessions over 4 days, and there will be day and evening options. The panel presentations cover a range of topics for juniors and underclassmen. It is free and open to students nationwide. Registration for students and parents is now live at

Illinois Board of Higher Education, Illinois Community College Board, and Illinois State Board of Education Dual Credit Guidance PDF.

Chicago State University
Chicago State's April virtual open house is April 16, 2020. The first open house is 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. and the second open house is 3:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. You can learn more at

City Colleges of Chicago
This April, the City Colleges of Chicago Board approved academic policy changes in light of the COVID-19 situation to provide some relief to students and help them complete their coursework in a timely fashion. Read the resolution here.

National Louis University - NLU Eagle Dream Scholarship
The Eagle Dream Scholarship gives undocumented students who plan to enroll at NLU the chance to receive $5,000 per year to help fund their education.

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COVID-19 Resources for ILEA Partners

As all of you are deploying much needed services and support to students, as well as making the shift to remote instruction and operations in response to the coronavirus pandemic, the PCC team has crowdsourced a variety of resources from higher education-oriented sources and media to offer you supports for teaching online, maintaining a focus on equity—particularly for our most vulnerable student populations—and addressing students' basic needs while navigating this new environment. Through this page, find news articles, webinar information, blog posts, and other resources for supporting students.

COVID-19 Resources for ILEA Partners
Access the COVID-19 Resources for ILEA Partners here.  

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Important Update Regarding ILEA Programming

March 16, 2020

Dear ILEA Presidents & Leadership Teams,

We hope you are well and able to focus your energies on the health and well-being of your communities, as public life slows considerably. In this quickly evolving situation with COVID-19, we write to you again with updates about our programming.

At this time we will be holding the publication of institutional Equity Plans until a future date. We want to honor the significant efforts involved in the development of these plans over the last year and thus generate commensurate attention when they are released publicly. We will engage with your teams as a new plan for release develops.

Additionally, we will postpone the Awards & Special Announcements webinar scheduled for March 31 at 10AM until a more appropriate time. We look forward to a celebratory event when the timing is right.

The PCC will be responding to this public health situation with information and recommendations for students, colleges and universities, philanthropy, advocacy partners, and elected officials. We will be working closely with your teams as this work develops.

During these troubling and uncertain times, your partnership is more important to us than ever. Please remain virtually connected and consider us a resource to call upon. You all remain close in our thoughts.

Warm regards,
The Partnership Team
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Important Announcement Regarding ILEA Summit 3/31

Over the past few weeks the PCC has been closely monitoring and responding to the evolving situation with the COVID-19 (coronavirus). Our goal has been to protect the health and safety of all of our partners and to be a responsible participant in this collective global public health challenge.

Unfortunately, that has caused us to announce today that we are cancelling our March 31, 2020 Spring Summit at Northeastern Illinois University in order to work collectively to keep participants safe and prevent and slow the spread of the virus. We plan to work with ILEA teams and presenters to reschedule this event at a future date when it is safe to do so.

We will, however, plan to continue with a one hour webinar on 3/31 at 10AM that will be dedicated to ILEA awards and announcements.

Please feel free to reach out to the PCC Team at any time with any questions or concerns. Thank you and best wishes to all of you as you navigate these challenges on your campuses.
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ILEA Equity Webinar Series 2019-2020 Calendar

Please check back periodically for updates and additions to this schedule.

​Date & Time ​Presenter(s) Description
​February 11, 2020
12:00pm – 1:00pm

Please join us at this website:

​Jordan Herrera

Director of Social Services and the
Advocacy Resource Center – Amarillo

​Eradicating Student Poverty Barriers Hindering Academic
Success at Amarillo College

This webinar will present Amarillo College's systematic
approach to addressing poverty barriers. AC's No Excuses Poverty Initiative is the connector between campus programs, services and projects designed to support students, boost graduation and transfer, and increase student persistence. AC's Advocacy and Resource Center is the hub of our initiative. Growing from serving less than 1.5% of our student enrollment in 2012, the ARC assists 21% of our student enrollment in 2018. During academic year 2017/2018, the ARC assisted nearly 2,000 students in over 5,000 student visits. Even with this remarkable growth, AC continues to revolutionize our initiative by using data analytics and technology to drive social services connections before students even begin classes.
​March 11, 2020
12:00pm – 1:30pm

Please join us at this website:

​Bridgette Johnson

Director, Black/African American
Cultural Center – Colorado State

​Leading Equity-Minded Success for Black students at Colorado State University

This webinar will present the Black/African American Cultural and Center's approach to holistically serving Black students using its 4-prong approach: cultural programming, academic enhancement, mentoring, and leadership development. During this webinar, Bridgette Johnson (Director) will highlight specific programs that have positively impacted retention for Black students at CSU. Additionally, the webinar will describe the amazing opportunities and contextual challenges that come with leading a Cultural Center for Black students. Cultural Centers were created to serve specific student groups, thus, equity in student success is their mission. This webinar will present one center's approach to holistically serving Black students using culturally responsive programming and university partnerships.
​April 22, 2020
12:00pm – 1:00pm

Please join us at this website:

​Lydia Mantis

Undergraduate Instructional Support
Leader – National Louis University
Phuong Thai-Garcia, Undergraduate
Instructional Support Leader –
National Louis University

​Supporting Student Learning through Faculty Coaching at
National Louis University

This webinar will present National Louis University's Undergraduate College (UGC) faculty coaching model. Participants will learn about the history of UGC, its commitment to college access and career pathways, the classroom visit and debrief model, and how insights gained from this process drive faculty professional development. Learn how this mode develops responsive instructors who engage a wide range of learners.
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State of ILEA Recap

At this year's fall summit, the Partnership's Managing Director Lisa Castillo Richmond delivered our inaugural State of ILEA address, The State of ILEA: From Planning to Implementation, providing a status update on the initiative, highlighting the work being done by ILEA member institutions, and reviewing upcoming plans for the cohort. Highlights from her address included:

  • The Case for Our Approach

Illinois has the 4th largest graduation gap between Black and White students at four-year colleges & universities. (Source: National Center for Education Statistics, IPEDS, Graduation Rates 2015)

Illinois ranks 39th out of 44 states in the Latino-White attainment gap for adults and 35th out of 41 states in the Black-White attainment gap for adults. (Source: The Education Trust, The State of Higher Education Equity, 2018)

  • Welcome to New Schools

o Elgin Community College, Chicago State University, Loyola University, Kishwaukee College, and College of DuPage are now ILEA partners.

o The ILEA cohort now consists of 28 public and private nonprofit colleges and universities. The breakdown is as follows: 4 public universities, 8 private colleges and universities, and 16 community colleges.

o The ILEA cohort represents nearly 217,000 undergraduates (38% of total enrollment in the state) including 44% of total Black student enrollment and 67% of total Latinx student enrollment.

  • Equity Plan Update – Twenty-one equity plans have been submitted and several are forthcoming

Full drafts of members' equity plans are due December 18, 2019, but that date is flexible based on each institution's process. All finalized, publishable equity plans will be due to the PCC on Wednesday, March 18, and will be posted on PCC's website on March 25, 2020. PCC will notify local media to announce the publication of your equity plans. We encourage you to post them on your institution's website as well. As a reminder, these plans are living documents and should be updated annually as ILEA colleges and universities learn from and move forward their efforts. PCC will share a process and template for annual review and reflection of institutional Equity Plans.

  • 10 common strategies have arisen across equity plans: First-year mentoring programs; New financial supports for students; Addressing basic needs and non-academic supports; Creating or better supporting student organizations related to student identity/belonging/culture; Reforming first-year courses & sequences; TRIO programs and targeted wraparound supports; Academic advising reforms; Reforming developmental education courses/placement; Creating population specific success committees and councils; and Providing faculty professional development. We look forward to a great session at the 2020 Spring Summit where these plans will be discussed as a community.

  • 2019 to 2020: Planning to Implementation

Strategic importance of data and the centrality of IR in the campus equity conversation

o Build capacity for diagnosis (meaningful disaggregation) and capacity building on data (critical analyses)

o Be open to seeing new things in the data including looking at the impact of early momentum indicators such as credit accumulation, gateway course completion and persistence momentum (term to term, year to year)

  • What's Next

o ILEA Equity Academies for Presidents and Cabinets and Faculty launching in 2020

o Deep dive meetings on specific topics related to strategies in equity plans being explored

o Use of NSC dashboards in 2020

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Meet Asif Wilson, Harold Washington College

1. What is your current role/title?

I currently serve as Associate Dean of Instruction at Harold Washington College. While I support the general instructional operations of our college, I directly support tutoring, dual credit and dual enrollment, first year experience courses, developmental education, and community outreach. I started my career as a middle school social studies and science teacher and moved into pre-service teacher education after five years in the classroom. While the Associate Dean appointment was not necessarily in my career trajectory, I am grateful to be in a position where I can introduce and support racial equity initiatives that, we hope, lead to less harmful conditions for our students.

2. Where did you earn your degree(s)? Types of degree(s) and field(s) of study?

I hold a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Illinois at Chicago. My research looks at the intersections of race, place, and pedagogy. I am very interested in exploring how race, class, and gender impact schooling, education, curriculum, and instruction. I also hold a M.Ed. in Educational Studies and B.A. in Elementary Education.

3. How did your college/university support your success in earning your degree(s)?

When I was hired as the Dean of Instruction, my colleagues at Harold Washington were instrumental in supporting me through my journey to complete my doctorate. They offered me the support and encouragement I needed to maintain my work responsibilities and write my dissertation. I was also fortunate enough to be supported financially by my institution through their tuition reimbursement program.

4. What excites you about equity work at your institution?

Before he died, Tupac (2009) wrote a poem titled "Roses in the Concrete." The rapper (2009) ends the poem with "long live the rose that grew through the crack in the concrete when no one else even cared" (p. 3). For me, Tupac highlighted two equity-based claims:

On the one hand, that the roses are roses—our students come into our schools with many assets. Tara Yosso (2005) argues that all students bring in a variety of assets, what she calls "community and cultural wealth", into schools that often go under-utilized. In my opinion, part of our work in moving towards more equitable outcomes for students is recognizing, utilizing, and sustaining interactions with students that are rooted in their strengths. From this positionality we view the roses as just that…roses.

Additionally, this positionality may support a shift in our equity analyses away from individualized ones that blame students for their academic failure towards the institutional structures and processes that create the conditions that our students participate in—the concrete. For me, it is imperative that we center our attention on fracturing the concrete conditions in our schools that create barriers and harmful conditions for our students, especially those that have been historically marginalized by our schools.

I am happy to hear that so many institutions are working to better define equity on their campuses and developing initiatives that meet said visions. I am, however, cautious, to congratulate these initiatives as they often-times paint a deficit picture of our students while avoiding interrogation of the structures and processes of our schools that may be creating inequities. I encourage schools attempting to engage their campus communities in creating more equitable outcomes for their students to continue to develop support systems for students but to be more reflective, turning the mirror towards the concrete conditions that our students may not find the cracks in.

5. In your role, how do you impact equitable outcomes for your students?

While I think I've impacted a number of equitable outcomes for our students, I'll highlight two initiatives here.


The first is our Discover course. As chair of the Department of Interdisciplinary Studies, where our "college success courses" live, I have led the over-haul of our course offerings. After spending time with our students, I realized that unfortunately, community colleges remain a "second option" for many of them. For a variety of reasons, (counselors, cost of attendance, societal stigma, school evaluations, family, etc.), many students feel as if their attendance at Harold Washington College is secondary, less than, to attending a four-year university. On top of that, our placement test places most of our students into remedial courses. These two experiences/structures may have a negative impact on how our students see themselves and their sense of belonging. I, in collaboration with our wellness center and faculty, set out to create a course for our developmental education students that could cultivate their hope, what Paolo Freire (1970) defines as agency—seeing ourselves as capable—and navigation—navigating complexities when they arise. Discover is a one-credit hour, trauma-informed, healing-centered course that all of our developmental English students currently take.

Data reported by students before Discover (start of semester survey) indicated that Discover students are dealing with a great deal of stress while attending college. This data also suggested that they struggled to navigate the complexities of life and school. Data reported by students at the conclusion of Discover (end of semester survey) indicates that a) the classroom environment was constructed and maintained to support students hope (Freire, 1970); b) Discover supported students' self-recognition of their confidence (agency); c) Discover helped students connect to themselves, their classmates, and the college (personnel and resources); d) Discover helped students better navigate complexities (stress) in and out of school; and e) students hoped for elements of Discover to be included in other classes/areas of the college.

Research shows that when students feel more confident in themselves, feel like they belong, and have a support system in and out of school, they perform better. Discover is creating that sense of confidence, belonging, and collaboration needed to support our students' success while also creating the space for them to name their pain, connect their pain to others to see that they are not alone, and develop tools in their toolbox to move beyond, and start healing, from their pain. It is our hope that Discover no longer exists one day. It is our hope that asset-based, healing-centered praxis of Discover is embedded into every area, (every inch of the concrete) and process of our college.

Collective Care for the Care-Givers

While institutions may be getting better at supporting the holistic needs of our students, in my opinion, we still have not considered the conditions that better support the care givers—those of us charged with supporting our students' success. If our students have pain, we do, too!

Roughly two years ago, I invited faculty, staff, and administrators working with developmental education students to start attending bi-weekly meetings to better understand what asset-based pedagogies were and how they might support our interactions with our students. We called this committee T.E.A.M. (Transitional Education through Affective Methodologies). Approximately 19 people attended each of our meetings. After spending nearly a year together our work took a turn. It was the end of the spring semester and, as we always did, we opened up our meeting with check-ins—a ritual where every individual in the space could share their personal reflections related to how they were feeling physically, intellectually, emotionally, and share any needs they hoped the group could provide. During this particular check-in, almost every T.E.A.M. member shared a story of exhaustion, pain, and burn-out. We knew that we had to turn our gaze away from the students and towards ourselves. We knew that we could not survive under the existing conditions that were burning us all out.

For one year, about twelve of the original 19 members dedicated two-hours every other week, to T.E.A.M. During our time together we focused on three areas related to collective care: breaking bread, engaging in healing practices, and political education. These acts of collective care represent "an extended family, where members are intimately connected and routinely perform acts of compassion on behalf of one another" (Dockray, 2017, para 12).

While these healing-centered collective care efforts were used for our own well-being, they seemed to impact how we interacted with students, supporting this paper's claim that if we care for each other more we will, as a result, have a stronger capacity to care better for our students. At the conclusion of T.E.A.M., one member wrote "Students come to us (as we may come to work) with many life experiences, both positive and negative, that shape their learning and development. T.E.A.M. allowed us to learn about how to support students and provide them a space to name and frame their experiences" (end of semester reflection, May 2019). Here, we see the symbiotic nature of T.E.A.M—both as a space for us to focus on ourselves, but while doing so we were also focusing on our students.
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NSC Postsecondary Data Partnership Update - December 2019

Many thanks to Moraine Valley Community College, National Louis University and Roosevelt University for submitting 3-5 years of their baseline data to the National Student Clearinghouse (NSC) by the November 8, 2019 second ILEA submission deadline. As promised at the fall ILEA Summit, schools submitting by the November 8 deadline were entered into a drawing for a $1,500 donation to their student emergency/persistence fund. Congratulations to Roosevelt University, the winner of this drawing! Congratulations are also in order for ILEA's newest member, the College of DuPage (joined October 2019), which will also win a contribution to their fund for having the quickest turnaround for data submission in November.

Currently, the following eight colleges and universities have submitted their data to the NSC. Congratulations to Northern Illinois University, Kishwaukee College, Moraine Valley Community College, National Louis University, Roosevelt University, College of DuPage, Elgin Community College, and Northeastern Illinois University. Your dashboards are being prepared by NSC for release this month.

The final data deadline submission to the NSC for the ILEA cohort is December 31, 2019. Please contact your program manager if you will not make this deadline or if you have questions about submitting data.

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Three ILEA Schools Make Aspen’s Top 150 List

Three ILEA Schools Make Aspen’s Top 150 List

CHICAGO, November 20, 2019 — The Partnership for College Completion congratulates ILEA members Elgin Community College, Joliet Junior College, and Moraine Valley Community College for their selection as eligible institutions to compete for the 2021 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence. The $1 million prize awarded every two years by the highly-regarded Aspen Institute recognizes high achievement and performance among community colleges in the United States. With a focus on student success, the Prize highlights institutions with outstanding achievements in four areas: student learning, certificate and degree completion, employment and earnings, and high-levels of access and success for students of color and low-income students.

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