HB3438: A Step in the Right Direction Toward Formalizing Institutional Support for Undocumented Students

Jonathan Lopez, PCC Communications and Operations Manager | July 12, 2021

Institutions of higher education in Illinois continue to be confronted with the question of how to best serve the growing number of undocumented and DACA-eligible students on campus. Undocumented students contribute immensely to Illinois' institutions of higher education and to the communities where they live. It is critical that removing barriers they face while pursuing a degree is part of statewide efforts to increase overall college completion rates. The college completion goals of undocumented students are also part of the vital efforts to achieve an educated workforce in Illinois.

Read Jonathan's full analysis at PCC's Medium page.

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Member Spotlight: Meet Tracy Templin, National Louis University

Tracy Templin Tracy Templin, Director of Strategy and Operations at National Louis University

1. What is your current role/title?
I serve as the Executive Director of Strategy and Operations within the Undergraduate College at National Louis University.

2. Where did you earn your degrees and what did you study?
I have earned a Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) from Johns Hopkins University and a Master of Social Work (MSW) from Washington University in St. Louis. I hold a B.A. in English and Sociology from DePaul University.

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

During my freshman year at DePaul University, while I received Pell and state aid and took out loans to help with the cost of attendance, I still struggled with the cost of a private university education and living expenses. The full weight of this financial burden wasn't realized until I began to receive my tuition bills as they mounted up over fall and winter terms. By spring term of my first year, I had decided to leave and transfer to a public university the next fall, offering a more affordable option. At the end of the term, I made an appointment with my professor/faculty advisor in the English department, to inform her I was transferring due to financial constraints. Several weeks later, after the term had ended, I received a notice from DePaul that I had been awarded a grant from the institution that provided additional funding for tuition expenses. Unbeknownst to me, my professor had advocated on my behalf for this grant, which is the reason that I ended up persisting and was able to graduate from DePaul. This experience continues to motivate me each day to be an advocate for students facing similar financial challenges in affording a college education.

4. What excites you about equity work at your institution?
There are so many things! When I first came to NLU, I was drawn to the Undergraduate College's mission is to drive equity in bachelor's degree attainment. This means that the equity work is not just another initiative, but it is central to how we operate and serve students. As we have grown in students, faculty, and staff, I am excited each day to collaborate with, be challenged by, and learn from colleagues who are committed to this work and their own personal journey. While I am excited by how much our College has accomplished and the individual success stories of our students, I am also motivated by our commitment to continuous improvement and challenging the policies, processes, and mindsets that contribute to inequity as we work towards justice on behalf of our students.

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

As a white woman in a leadership role at an institution that is serving predominately Latinx and Black students, I strive to continue my own learning and challenge my own biases as I engage in everyday practices. Through my role, I have had the opportunity to lead and participate on the Core Team that developed our Institution's Equity Plan, incorporating student, staff, and faulty voice as we developed the plan. Another area I am passionate about in my role is developing the capacity and culture in the College to use data through an equity-minded approach to drive action. Equity-minded data use by leadership, faculty, and staff has resulted in the examination of policies, curriculum and instructional practices that may be contributing to disparate outcomes and influenced the implementation of new or revised practices to increase equity across our college.

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Equity in Action - May 2021

Dear ILEA Partners,

In a really difficult year, what has kept us going at PCC is the tireless work being done by all of you across the ILEA network. You have shown incredible resilience as institutions, as leaders, as educators. You have also demonstrated deep commitment to students and your institutional missions. This is apparent in how you have reached out directly and regularly to connect with students; directed financial resources to them; obtained hardware and connectivity to continue online learning; provided for basic needs; changed college policies, timing, and procedures to center student needs; and so much more. This has all been done in an effort to enable students to persist with their college plans in the midst of the many hardships faced by all.

You have also stayed the course on your Equity Plans. The finalizing, publishing, and first year of implementation of the plans have coincided nearly imperfectly with the pandemic. And while much work and rethinking will be required to adjust to our current reality, the foundation has been laid and the work has not stopped. I have heard the stories you have told in our zoom calls. I have seen it in the news articles and read it in your tweets, presentations, and press releases. I have listened to your plans, inquiry, and response as we have looked at data together in our capacity building sessions. I have observed it as you have shown up for Equity Academies, core team meetings, webinars, and more. If anything, the work has accelerated.

We remain clear-eyed, but hopeful about the challenges in the months ahead. The overall decline in college enrollments this past fall has, as expected, continued into the spring. As with the effects of the pandemic, this has not been distributed equally across the higher education landscape. We have seen dramatic declines in enrollments for nearly all student groups, but the far greatest declines have been for students who are Black, Latinx, low-income, over 25 years old, and male. We are also seeing overall declines in enrollment for 18-20 year olds. This has hit many of our community colleges hardest, as they are those that serve the largest numbers of students who have been disproportionately impacted economically and physically by COVID-19. The average declines also mask significant variance across institutions. All of this has caused serious concern about if this will represent an educational pause for these students, or if it will become a lost slice of the college-going population. We cannot let it be the latter.

While many challenges remain that draw our attention, I remain hopeful about the year ahead. In the coming weeks we will celebrate with you as you graduate thousands of students from your institutions. We are awarding 19 Catalyst Grants totaling nearly $230K to ILEA colleges and universities for new approaches you will deploy. We will also highlight your work through the second annual Higher Education Matters campaign (May 10-14). As vaccination rates rise and you make plans to bring back greater numbers of students to campus in the fall, the PCC will continue to expand our programming to support your equity efforts in response to the significant feedback you have shared with us this year. We will enhance and expand our Annual ILEA Summit (November 3-5, 2021), Winter Equity Institute (February 24-25, 2022), and professional development offerings. We will also release the first Annual ILEA Report, document and elevate your work, launch a formal evaluation of ILEA, offer opportunities for dialogue across the network, and release a number of tools and resources on a revamped PCC website for you to utilize and access on demand.

As we look ahead to long summer days, I hope you all have a chance to enjoy some sunshine and reconnect with loved ones this summer. As we close out the most difficult year of many of our work and personal lives, we must prioritize time to care for ourselves, in order to continue to show up for our students and colleagues.

Thank you for your heroic efforts this year. Your work on higher education equity, especially in the midst of a crisis, will be a model for those across the country who will follow in your footsteps.

In partnership for equity,


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Equity in Action

Dear ILEA Partners,

It has been wonderful to see many of your faces on Zoom in February as we conclude our first month of substantial ILEA programming of the new year. While we are grateful for the opportunity provided by virtual events and discussions to continue to engage and move our collective work forward during the pandemic, we miss the opportunity afforded by in-person engagement. The ILEA team is currently considering what our future mix of programming, virtual and in-person, will look like when we are again able to gather in the same space. We would love to hear from you as we develop plans for our professional development and convening supports in 2021-22 and beyond.

In this month of honoring Black history, I want to pose a question for us all to consider as practitioners of racial equity in higher education. How do we place undue burdens on our Black students as we seek to support them better?This remains true even as we acknowledge that today's racial disparities within our higher education system are derivative of historical and ongoing inequities connected to the design and culture of our colleges and universities; structural inequities that exist in our legal, banking, labor market, housing, voting, and other systems; as well as through the unacknowledged and lasting legacy of slavery and Jim Crow. As the events of this and last year have shown, white supremacy and racism remain, and are every bit as American as the stars and stripes. This week, as we surpass the grim milestone of more than half a million U.S. deaths due to COVID-19, which has had a disproportionately devastating impact on communities of color, we must carefully consider what we are asking of our students in the process of becoming more equitable institutions.

Where do we see examples of this happening? One such place is via the FAFSA verification process, discovered through an analysis conducted by the Washington Post. The investigation found that students are more likely to be selected from Black (1.8x more likely) and Latinx (1.4x more likely) neighborhoods for verification, a type of audit process that often requires several additional points of information. This onerous process causes between 11-25% of students selected to drop out of the FAFSA application process altogether, a phenomenon known as verification melt. We know many of those students may never show up at any college as a result.

On our campuses, this may show up in repeatedly asking our Black staff to be the only ones to lead discussions on race or racism. Among our historically white colleges and universities, students and staff of color may be the 'only' or one of the few in their classes, on the committee, or in the department. Continuing to ask the same people to explain how your institutions may not be serving them well, despite years of campus climate surveys and other forms of feedback, places undue burden on those students and staff, and can negatively affect retention. Bringing awareness to these realities and responding with action, is an important part of this work.

What can we do about this? First, this work requires a deep and sustained commitment to self-reflection. This must happen regularly at the level of the individual, the team, and the institution. Second, we must commit to broadening the number of individuals who speak clearly about equity, what it means to our institutions, and why it matters. All ILEA leadership team members and department heads should work to become fluent in the language of higher education equity, and continue to build the army of equity agents within your institutions. Finally, resources in the form of books, case studies, Ted talks, PCC webinars and events, and others exist to support your continued progress on equity. One Chicago-based foundation, College Beyond, framed it this way in a guidebook they produced: Why am I Always Being Researched? This publication examines how a power imbalance exists that influences what we ask students and how.

I encourage you to consider how this may be true within your own institutions. As we survey students to gather critical data, how can we ensure we are removing barriers and not placing additional roadblocks in the way of student success?As we create new required touchpoints with students, how do we make sure these are supportive of their success and not deterrents to their continued persistence? How do we ensure we are not pathologizing students who are overcoming incredible challenges to complete their degrees?

Thank you for all you do every day to change the narrative of historic inequity in Illinois higher education. Your leadership is paving the way for more significant change across the state and nation, and the students you graduate will be those that continue to do better for every subsequent generation.

In partnership for equity,


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Member Spotlight: Meet Marisol Velázquez, Morton College


1. What is your current role/title?

I have the pleasure of serving as the Dean of Student Services at Morton College. Recently, celebrated my 13th year anniversary with the college.

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

Currently, I'm pursuing a Doctorate in Education from DePaul University, earned a Master's degree in Urban Planning and Policy and hold a B.A. in Liberal Arts and Sciences from the University of Illinois at Chicago.

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

Morton College has supported me in more ways than one through my educational journey. I am eternally grateful for the ongoing support that the college has provided. Morton College has been extremely supportive and encouraging by offering not only systems of support, mentorship but also financial assistance through our tuition reimbursement. My colleagues are my biggest supporters and I'm grateful for their guidance and positive outlook. Our President, Dr. Stan Fields is who encouraged me to begin pursing my doctorate. Without his encouragement and mentorship, I would not be in the final phase of my doctorate.

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

Working for a Hispanic Serving Institution where our student body is composed of a large majority of minoritized students, we have a responsibility to institutionalize equity minded practices. I am excited about our equity work because we are not working as individuals but as an institution to remove existing disparities. We have an opportunity to create real impact in our student's lives and the lives of their families. It's truly exciting to experience that together we are challenging a system that for long has disadvantaged our students and community. We are challenging more than the "this is how it was done before" mentality and breaking down barriers that ensure our students graduate and persist. Lastly, witnessing others wanting to be part of equity initiatives gives me confidence that change is inevitable.

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

As a first-generation college student, who worked multiple jobs to afford college, raised by single mother of four, I have lived the same struggles many of our students are currently facing. One of the ways that my role impacts equitable outcomes is by having a seat at the table and sharing my lens with the decision makers to ensure our students' needs are recognized and addressed. Being in my position allows me to develop, introduce and execute equity initiatives such as ILEA. Being part of the ILEA Cohort expands on the institution's commitment to racial equity. The college recognizes the transformation that needs to take place in order to be equity leaders in removing the inequitable conditions ingrained in the fabric of our education system. Our equity plan is our pledge to hold our self and the institution accountable to closing equity gaps.

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2021 ILEA Winter Equity Institute Recap


The Partnership for College Completion (PCC) held its first-ever virtual Winter Equity Institute on February 18-19, 2021, with over 300 staff from 26 institutions in attendance! 

The theme of the Winter Equity Institute was Building Bridges Across Student Services to Foster Social Belonging and the event was designed for staff and practitioners from student affairs, student development, and holistic support services personnel.

The first day of the Institute focused on building holistic supports for students with an equity lens. Highlights included a keynote address titled, "Racial Equity in our Colleges and Universities: An Imperative Call to Action" led by Dr. Frank Harris, III, Professor of postsecondary education and Co-Director of the Community College Equity Assessment Lab (CCEAL) at San Diego State University. 

Other Day 1 highlights included a "Prioritizing Holistic Care in Student Services" panel led by ILEA practitioners Tania Boisson from Oakton Community College, Jacquelyn Werner & Eric Crabtree-Nelson from Harold Washington College, and Dr. Aurélio Valente from National Louis University as well as a session titled, "Strategies for Culturally Responsive Mental Health Support for Diverse Students" led by Dr. Sofia Pertuz, Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer from the JED Foundation. Dr. Harris closed out the first day the Institute with the workshop, "Beyond the Plan: How to Ensure Your Equity Efforts Achieve Their Desired Results."

Highlights of the second day of the Institute focused on building supports for practitioners and professionals of color and featured a "Student Teach-In" session led by members of PCC's Student Advisory Council, Ahmed Elfaki from Kishwaukee College, Lauren Hassen from Moraine Valley Community College, Daliyah Sanders from Harper College, Marketta Sims from City Colleges of Chicago: Kennedy-King, and Marnee Ostoa from City Colleges of Chicago: Harold Washington. The session featured recorded remarks from Gaylen Rivers from Northern Illinois University and Karen Suarez from Oakton Community College.

Other Day 2 highlights included the opening session "The Art of Retaining Women of Color Professionals" led by higher education professionals and founding members of Career Killing Moves, Dr. Paige Gardner, Dr. Kristina Garcia, and Dr. Pearl Ratunil. This was followed by the "Widening the Leadership Pipeline for Professionals of Color" panel led by Dr. Edward F. Martinez from Suffolk County Community College - Ammerman Campus, Jamar Orr from Roosevelt University, and Marisol Velazquez from Morton College.  Dr. Kyle Westbrook, PCC's Executive Director wrapped up the 2021 ILEA Winter Equity Institute with a reflection of the event.

Institute by the Numbers:

  • Total Number of Attendees: 308
  • Highest Session Attendance 
    • Welcome & Keynote (240 attendees)
    • Strategies for Mental Health (150 attendees)
    • Art of Retaining Women of Color (142 attendees)
  • Highest Overall Participation (2-yr): College of Lake County
  • Highest Overall Participation (4-yr): Northeastern Illinois University
  • Top WHOVA Engagers: Scott Friedman (Moraine Valley Community College), Daiana Quiroga-Nevares (Morton College), and Betsi Burns (Loyola University)
  • Institute Evaluation, Quality of the Institute:
    • 94% of respondents rated the quality of the overall Winter Equity Institute as either excellent or very good
    • Of all the Institute sessions, the opening keynote and the Art of Retaining Women of Color Professionals were ranked highest in terms of usefulness to participants' equity work.
    • 100% of survey respondents acknowledged that the Institute was helpful in moving forward their understanding of how to achieve equity in student outcomes at their campus.
    • Top comments:
  • "Great topics! Thank you for the student panel. I hope to see them included in future programming."
    "The presenters were awesome with real stories that relate to the students and families we serve."
    "I loved the enthusiasm, sincerity, and dedication of the presenters!"
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Data for Equity Action

Dear ILEA Partners,

It has been wonderful to see your faces onscreen at our virtual events this fall. Thank you for continuing to prioritize the equity work on your campuses in ways that will strengthen your institutions economically and academically, as places of excellence in which to study, work, and grow.

The year 2020 has been a year of considerable challenge, but we have also discovered many pleasant surprises in our work together. As you have demonstrated, we found that it is possible to continue to build community with all of you, engage in important dialogues, and deliver effective online programming on various equity topics that can increase capacity for this work on your teams. As always, the resources produced by our team have been created in direct response to feedback and requests we receive from you. We thank you for taking the time to share your feedback and reach out to us with individual requests. We continue to value this engagement with you to better target our programming and to ensure its ongoing relevance to your most pressing needs.

As our ILEA institutional research colleagues finalize the submission of baseline data to the NSC PDP and your teams gain access to your dashboards, the PCC team is busy creating opportunities to support you in building data capacity in the coming year. We recognize that on this measure, as with many others, ILEA teams are in different places on the journey to democratizing disaggregated data throughout the institutional decision-making process.

As you consider institutional data, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you regularly share disaggregated data across your institution with various stakeholders (faculty, staff, students)?

  • Does your leadership team or department regularly use disaggregated data to make decisions?

  • Does your team or department regularly use disaggregated data to evaluate the impact of decisions/equity strategies?

  • Do you closely examine  data for ILEA equity populations (Black students, Latinx students, and students who are Pell recipients)?

If the answer is 'no' to any of these questions – what is your plan to get to that point? Additionally, do you regularly collect qualitative data to supplement and provide context to quantitative data?Finally, do you provide opportunities for your team to consider this data and make sense of it? All of these are critical components to building a strong data culture within your institutions.

Though we are all working to impact graduation rates, these measures are lagging indicators. Lagging indicators provide us with a look back at the cumulative experience of students within our institutions. As we collectively implement strategies to eliminate inequities in degree completion by race, ethnicity, and Pell status, the regular use of leading indicators will be a critical tool to get us there.

Leading indicators or early momentum metrics:

  • provide timely, just-in-time data
  • are shorter term measures
  • are actionable metrics that are close to practice
  • are a form of early alert
  • have predictive power, research has shown
  • allow us to test hypotheses and move the equity needle
  • are formative
  • are easier to control

As your teams become familiar with the NSC PDP dashboards – which may look different from some of the institutional data you are used to reviewing because it includes all full-time, part-time, first-time, not first-time student – regardless of when they entered your institution – you can identify the leading indicators that are available to you. These include: first year enrollment, credit accumulation rate, credit completion ratio, gateway course completion, persistence and retention, degree completion, and time to degree as well as the ability to disaggregate by race and first-generation. There is also the ability to benchmark these measures against peer institutions.

We look forward to continuing the data conversation with you through our upcoming data capacity-building opportunities that will be announced next month. These workshops, presentations, and courses will be designed for teams at different points in their development and your participation will be optional.

The New Year will also bring new programming in other areas, tools and resources for use on your campuses, opportunities for collaboration across ILEA colleges and universities, and targeted individual supports. We look forward to sharing more with you.

As we reflect on this year, we feel so inspired by the evidence we have seen in the past couple months alone, of increasing equity organization and momentum on your teams and within your colleges and universities. We hope all of you can take a moment this season to appreciate that progress, too.

We wish you a safe, restful, and rejuvenating holiday season. 2021 awaits!

In partnership for equity,


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ILEA Member Spotlight: Meet Dr. Mary Daniels, Chicago State University


1. What is your current role/title?

I serve as Associate Provost for Academic Innovation and Strategic Initiatives.

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

BA (Political Science), Reed College 

AM (Political Science), University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign 

PhD (Political Science), University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

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

I benefited enormously from faculty mentorship at my college, which was a very academically rigorous environment which attracted many students from highly prepared, privileged backgrounds. For a first-generation student who experienced doubts about my own capabilities and belonging on such a campus, it was so valuable to have a faculty mentor who provided invaluable feedback on everything from my senior thesis to guidance about graduate school, and what a career in academia would involve. Even one person to connect with can make such an important difference—something I've tried to remind myself throughout my own career. At my graduate institution, close friendships and a support network of peers in the program provided camaraderie and help in so many ways—tackling the curriculum, finding an area of specialization, completing the dissertation, and navigating the job market after graduate school. The department provided many valuable opportunities to learn the profession and work with each other through research and teaching fellowships. There was ample support for conference travel and research, which extended to a fellowship year at Oxford University while completing my dissertation.

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

More than anything, the opportunity to contribute to the work of creating access to higher education regardless of race, income, or family background, particularly at a time when Black student enrollment has dropped by 29% in Illinois. As Illinois' only four-year Predominantly Black Institution as designated by the U.S. Department of Education, Chicago State University is laser focused on closing equity gaps. As a part of our 2020 - 2025 Strategic Plan, Chicago State University is committed to building student support scaffolding that increases rates of persistence and reduces the time to degree completion. This work is in motion with the launch this summer of Cougar Commitment, a holistic, data-driven set of strategies to improve student success. A prong of Cougar Commitment is Rise Academy, which gives freshmen a year-long full-tuition scholarship, a summer bridge course, and intensive academic advising. Exciting innovations like this, which bring together faculty, administrators, students, donors and the community, help me to believe that together we will make a difference in creating a society that values education and works to reduce the barriers to entry for everyone.

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

Chicago State University has a comprehensive approach to student success, from developing college-ready high school students to preparing our scholars to succeed in their careers. Further, the University recognizes that investments in our community facilitate student success. As Associate Provost for Academic Innovation and Strategic Initiatives, I play a leadership role in projects across this spectrum, and am privileged to collaborate on projects with our college deans and department chairs, members of President Scott's team, and external allies in this work like the Partnership for College Completion. Recent efforts include collaborating across the university to create our ILEA Equity Plan, where we discovered the relative success of transfer students in on-time degree completion compared to first-time full-time freshmen. We are digging into the reasons for that and simultaneously developing assessment tools to measure the impact of a series of integrated, holistic student support programs that have been put into place. CSU is committed to restructuring higher education to increase access for all learners in our undergraduate and graduate degree programs, through certificate and stackable credential programs, and by removing barriers to entry and completion, wherever they might be.

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2020 ILEA Virtual Fall Summit Recap

The fourth ILEA Summit, held October 21-23, 2020, was our first-ever virtual summit, and was unequivocally a success! Over 350 faculty, staff, administrators from your institutions attended the summit, themed Engaging Faculty Champions in Equity Work. The summit kicked-off with a video welcome from Mayor Lori Lightfoot of Chicago, followed by a keynote address, "Saying Equity Will Not Beget Racial Equity" from Dr. Estela Bensimon, Director of the Center for Urban Education & Professor of USC Rossier School of Education, Center for Urban Education, University of Southern California. Dr. Bensimon also led a session for ILEA presidents and conducted the faculty workshop, "The Syllabus As an Instrument for Racial Equity."Other workshops focused on achieving equitable student outcomes, diversifying approaches for equity and inclusion and faculty hiring through an equity lens and were conducted by Dr. Davis Jenkins, Research Scholar Community College Research Center, Teacher's College, Columbia University, Dr. Noelle Arnold, Associate Dean for Equity, Diversity Inclusion and Global Engagement (EDGE) College of Education and Human Ecology, The Ohio State University, Dr. Kimberly McRae, Faculty Counselor and Instructor, Seattle Central College and Dr. Vik Bahl, Faculty, Green River College.

The Summit included our first Illinois Legislative Panel session focused on the higher education agenda in Illinois. Panel participants included: Dr. Vernese Edghill-Walden, Chief Diversity Officer, Northern Illinois University, Dr. Escortina Ervin, Executive Director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Compliance, Joliet Junior College and Dr. Mary Daniels, Associate Provost, Innovation and Strategic Initiatives, Chicago State University, Representative Chris Welch, State Representative, 7th District of Illinois, Representative Nick Smith, State Representative, 34th District of Illinois and Senator Celina Villanueva, State Senator, 11th District of Illinois.

Dr. Lisa Freeman, President of Northern Illinois University and David Sanders, President of Malcolm X College served as panelists on our first Presidential Reflections panel.They talked about leading equity initiatives on their campus.We also heard from representatives from ILEA schools in "Equity Speaks" sessions, where they discussed the equity planning process on their campuses as well as specific strategies in their plans. Lisa Castillo Richmond, Managing Director, PCC delivered the State of ILEA address on the final day of the summit where she discussed some of the additional equity challenges brought on by COVID-19 and highlighted strategies underway at ILEA institutions to ensure equity.

Summit by the Numbers:

  • Total Number of Attendees: 350+
  • Total Number of Faculty: 134
  • Highest Overall Participation (2-yr): College of DuPage
  • Highest Overall Participation (4-yr): Northern Illinois University
  • Most Faculty Registrations: Harper College
  • Top WHOVA Engagers:
    Dr. Scott Friedman, Moraine Valley Community College
    o Lorri Scott, College of Lake County
    o Gayle Miller, College of Lake County
  • Summit Evaluation, Quality of the Summit:
    47.06% rated it Excellent
    o 47.06% rated it Very Good

Many presentations and supporting materials from the summit can be found in the WHOVA app and will also be available on the ILEA portal in early 2021. For additional information, contact your Equity Program Manager.

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The Importance of Faculty Champions in Equity Work


Creating an equity-minded culture is hard work and takes a community of champions to bring to fruition. It takes commitment from all corners of a campus to ensure student pathways and organizational structures and institutional policies and teaching and learning practices are designed in ways that support more equitable outcomes. As members of the Illinois Equity in Attainment initiative (ILEA) developed their Equity Plans for their campuses, the role and engagement of faculty voices was integral, and the theme of our 2020 ILEA Virtual Fall Summit - Engaging Faculty Champions in Equity Work - aptly reflects this. When we think of champions, we think of people who are willing to advocate for a cause they strongly believe in and want to support. With greater numbers of faculty champions on our campuses, ILEA members and other institutions doing equity work move closer to creating an equity-minded culture focused on making sure all students succeed.

As the Partnership for College Completion gears up for next week's summit, hear from faculty champions at Harold Washington College, Kishwaukee College, and Saint Xavier University on increasing student readiness, empowering faculty of color, and teaching and practice through an equity lens for all faculty.

​Harold Washington College
Asif Wilson, PhD, Associate Dean of Instruction
Sandy Vue, Assistant Director - Research & Planning
Jackie Werner, Associate Dean of Instruction
Maria Ortiz, Faculty
Bernadette Limos, Director - Strategic Initiatives, Marketing & Communications.
​​​Kishwaukee College
Pernevlon Ellis Jr., MA,  
Interim Associate Dean, Office of Instruction, Formerly Assistant Professor of Sociology; classes taught include race and ethnic relations, introduction to criminology, marriage and family, and social problems.
Saint Xavier University​
Gina M. Rossetti, PhD
Professor of English and University Fellow for Student Success; Teach First Year composition classes, introductory literature classes, American literature, and literature/humanities courses in the Honors Program. I have been at Saint Xavier University since 2002.

Partnership for College Completion (PCC): A core belief of the ILEA community is that colleges and universities should move beyond a focus on college readiness among students and instead strive to be student-ready as institutions of higher education. What does this mean to you and your work?

Harold Washington College (HWC): The position of being college ready may negatively place blame on the student as the sole purveyor of academic success. This notion also assumes that colleges and universities are in no need of transformation. Being student ready requires that we, as schools of higher education turn inward to reflect and transform the harmful mechanisms—practices, policies, and structures—that limit the possibility of living our missions.

Pernevlon Ellis, Jr., MA (ELLIS): Leaders of every postsecondary institution must engage in strategic planning that allows for the greatest flexibility to achieve its mission and vision. This requires setting and assessing realistic goals and making data-informed decisions. The ability to respond to trends in data to use resources appropriately to meet the needs of its stakeholders. The data that exists on achievement gaps must inform policy and practices to address the ability of colleges and universities to achieve equity. The mission and vision of each institution I have read can't be achieved with addressing these gaps.

Gina M. Rossetti, PhD (ROSETTI): For me, I believe it means beginning with a foundational value: every student is capable of learning. When we focus on only the student's readiness for higher education, we are attempting to mold him/her into a pre-packaged spot. To offer a more welcoming environment, institutions ought to look at policies, practices, curricula to ensure that all are inclusive for a diverse student body.

Pernevlon Ellis Jr.

PCC: A threat to the long-term success of faculty of color is racial battle fatigue among other factors. In what ways should institutions intervene to empower the success of faculty of color?

HWC: Schools, including spaces of higher education, inherently were not designed with people of color in mind (their histories make this very clear). The supposed invisible offensive mechanisms, as Chester Pierce (1970) called them, are as painful as the physical harm our bodies experience. These assaults not only leave staff, admin, and faculty of color (and other minoritized identities) feeling a sense of isolation, and can have long term negative health outcomes. Professionals of color working in schools of higher education need to feel a sense of belonging, a sense power, and a sense of community if the rates of push out (and unfortunately death) are ever to decrease.

ELLIS: Postsecondary institutions must assess and respond to the structural and cultural barriers to success for its faculty from historically marginalized groups. This includes identifying and addressing the barriers in the process of recruitment, development, and retention. Once barriers have been identified leaders of these institutions must facilitate the inclusion of organizational goals to address these as part of the strategic planning process. This will ensure resources are in place to address the micro insults, assaults and invalidations that lead to racial battle fatigue.

ROSETTI: A couple of approaches can be a faculty mentoring program for faculty mentors of color, which will assist new colleagues in both the tenure process, but also in onboarding colleagues so that they are welcomed into the institution. A second approach is that there must be a commitment from all colleagues at the institution that equity and access are important for all, and that matters are not articulated by faculty members of color. In other words, White colleagues must also engage in an institutional equity scan, identifying with colleagues of color pitfalls and barriers, and working together to eliminate them.

Dr. Gina M. Rossetti

PCC: According to this year's ILEA Fall Summit keynote speaker, Dr. Estela Bensimon, "equity-minded individuals are aware of the sociohistorical context of exclusionary practices and racism in higher education." How can your college or university expand awareness of these exclusionary practices that harm faculty, staff and students of color?

HWC: When William Rainey Harper, president of University of Chicago, began advocating for community colleges in the early 1900s, he was not doing so to expand access and opportunity to those who previously not had. Furthermore, the land the University of Chicago was donated to Rockefeller by Illinois Senator Stephan Douglas, who built his wealth from the unpaid labor of his slaves.

The histories of our school reveal their not-so-nice histories, bound in what bell hooks calls white supremacist capitalist patriarchy. By unearthing the oppressive legacies of our institutions (like the fact that Harold Washington College is built on the site of a jail where indigenous tribes were forced to sign treaties) we may be able to dream, and actualize, a world that doesn't reproduce the historical harm that our schools have.

ELLIS: Motivate employees to work individually and collectively to be a leading culturally competent institution. Encouraging white faculty, staff and administrators to lead these efforts to address the organization's failure to maintain a culture conducive to the retention and success of faculty and students from historically marginalized racial and ethnic groups. They also need to lean less on faculty and staff of color to do this work.

ROSETTI: First and foremost, we need to listen to the experiences of colleagues and students of color, whose experiences at the institution are often quite different than those experienced by Whites. Second, we need to act upon what we learn from such experiences, working together to identify and prioritize how we can address these barriers.

PCC: During this pandemic, how can faculty integrate an equity and inclusion lens into their teaching and practice?

HWC: We do not believe that creating more equitable contexts requires lots of funding, new positions, or consultants. The praxis required for this sort of transformation must be built on love, care, and compassion. A love that bounds seemingly different people together to develop new knowledge, and hopefully a love that can transform oppression in the world and our schools.

We call faculty in to be mindful of the ways in which their planning, instruction, and assessment align to students' lives, communities, and center justice. We call administrators in to be mindful of the potential inequitable and harmful consequences of the decisions they are empowered to make. We call staff in to be mindful that they are educators too, every caring and compassionate interaction the students you serve can have long lasting, and transformational impacts. Together, we all can create the conditions in our schools that honor each other, in all that we have to offer.

ELLIS: Faculty are working diligently to facilitate learning that allows students to achieve the mastery of knowledge and skills expected in every discipline. Information and communication technologies are allowing for great creativity in the delivery of course content. Ensuring that we all engage in positive micro-messaging in our communications with students will be important. Interaction with students should be empowering to help those without it to develop the grit necessary to achieve academic success while enduring the challenges that accompany this pandemic.

ROSETTI: In many ways, the pandemic has intensified gaps, particularly in terms of technology and access to it (whether it is Wifi or personal technological devices that are not shared among family members). As a faculty member, I meet one-on-one with my students throughout the semester, and the same approach can be enhanced via technology. These conferences occur—both as regularly scheduled meetings—but also after assignments where I have seen a student struggle with the project. In reaching out to the student, I show him/her that I care about his/her academic success, and that we can work together to make the success a reality.


Join PCC on Friday, October 16 from 11a-12p CT for our first Twitter Chat: The Importance of Faculty Champions in Equity Work. Follow us @partnershipfcc and use the hashtag #PCCchat.

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ILEA Newsletter – Letter From Our Managing Director

Dear ILEA Partners,

Welcome back to school for a fall semester unlike any other. We have seen your teams up close as they have done whatever it takes to make plans for students to continue high-quality learning, provide new supports for students, and enable them to form social bonds and foster a connection with your colleges – and to do all of this safely both on and off campus. It is a Herculean task and the amount of creativity, innovation, and hard work are evident to all of us. We've also seen quick shifts to alter plans as the semester began and the virus affected students, faculty and staff. We are now beginning to see early reports about the upcoming spring semester, which look to be a continuation of current approaches.

The pandemic has continued to impact lives on and off campus, and has generally contributed to declines in enrollment across the state that cause concern about student access and institutional stability. This summer, campuses saw a significant decrease in enrollments, raising equity concerns, particularly among Black students, rural students, and at community colleges. Early data for the fall suggests that enrollments are down nationally, and among ILEA partners from between 5% and upwards of 20%. However, there are exceptions that give us hope. Northern Illinois University had a 1% increase in total enrollment for fall 2020 over the prior year, driven by an 8% increase in the size of the freshmen class and a 6% improvement in retention of first-year students. The Illinois Board of Higher Education's (IBHE) Stay the Course campaign and the website launched by the PCC this summer, Illinois Colleges Forward, aim to encourage students, parents, and the counselors who advise them that students should continue to pursue their college goals in Illinois whenever possible, even during this extremely challenging year.

Now, more than ever, your ILEA Equity Plans are powerful tools to help address student persistence, completion, and the adverse impacts of COVID-19 on our communities. They provide a roadmap to greater equity in opportunity within your institutions and seek to shine a light on how we can remove unnecessary barriers for students, as well as provide critical supports to those who need them, when they need them. The publishing of 21 institutional equity plans last month represents a significant and deliberate step toward equity in higher education in the state of Illinois, and we congratulate your important step forward. These plans detail approaches to onboarding first-year students, reforming developmental education, diversifying faculty, using data to target interventions, and much more. In the coming months and at the 2020 ILEA Virtual Fall Summit, we look forward to sharing more with you about the strategies within these plans and how we can make connections among ILEA institutions to support implementation and a process of continuous, collective learning and improvement.

PCC was also pleased to announce Catalyst Grants in the amount of $12,000 for all ILEA colleges and universities publishing their Equity Plans this year, as the result of a grant from a local foundation. Please read below and also look for an email from your ILEA Equity Program Manager this week for more information on how to access the Catalyst Grant. We look forward to continuing to identify opportunities for greater philanthropic investment in your equity work.

In the months that remain of 2020, we look forward to seeing you virtually at a number of upcoming events, including at the 2020 ILEA Virtual Fall Summit, which is dedicated to the critical role of faculty in eliminating equity disparities on campus. We have spent a significant amount of time adapting the schedule and session approaches to be conducive to a virtual event, and we look forward to sharing that with all of you. Because we are not bound by physical limitations presented by an in-person event, we encourage you to invite at least 25 faculty and department chairs from your institutions to join us for these sessions. We also hope to see many of you at our ongoing Equity Webinar series and at additional workshops that will be announced in the coming weeks.

We know the demands on your time will continue to be substantial, and we recognize all you do to ensure your students are safe and supported. I hope that despite all of the challenges with which you are faced in this moment, you can enjoy some of the beauty that the fall season offers -- at a safe distance and with a mask, of course.

In partnership for equity,

Lisa Castillo Richmond

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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 www.strivescan.com/virtual.

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 https://csuopenhouse2020.com/.

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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