PCC’s annual Illinois Equity in Attainment (ILEA) Summit is an opportunity for practitioners and leaders from 25 partnered institutions to connect and discuss how to serve students more equitably through a series of presentations and breakout sessions. This year’s event took place at the College of Lake County in Grayslake, III., on Friday, Nov. 3.

Pascale Charlot, the Managing Director of the College Excellence Program at the Aspen Institute, kicked off this year’s summit at College of Lake County with a keynote address that challenged the over 175 attendees to consider the value they are providing students throughout their time on campus and after they earn their degree. 

“We’re challenging institutions to go deeper with the lens of equity and access…if you start with the end in mind, if we deliver value, it changes everything in every phase of the process,” Charlot said. 

Despite recent headlines and news questioning the value of a college degree, Charlot implored practitioners to recognize that it is incumbent upon an institution to ensure students and communities see the positive impact that higher education can have on their lives. 

“Supporting students to enter and complete high-value programs can help your institution deliver on its promise of ensuring post-completion success, thereby rebuilding trust with your students and with your communities,” Charlot said. 

Following the keynote speech, university presidents and their teams had the chance to engage further with Charlot in a private session. Other attendees had the chance to hear presentations from several colleges within ILEA, including Moraine Valley Community College discussing its DEI work, Daley College presenting transformative student narratives, Olive-Harvey College’s transformational journey of the community college, and how Saint Xavier University eliminated developmental math. 

Attendees then returned to the main stage to hear a presentation from PCC’s Senior Manager of Research and Policy Mike Abrahamson and Government Affairs Manager Danielle Stanley on the affirmative action report PCC released in mid-August. Abrahamson also presented on the state of higher education funding in Illinois as the Commission on Equitable Public University Funding gets closer to making its recommendations to the state legislature. 

“When you disinvest in colleges and universities, they have no choice but to direct those costs to students,” Abrahamson said of recent years in which the state decreased funding to MAP and overall funding to state colleges and universities. 

Following informal networking during lunch, attendees were able to choose between several Birds of a Feather sessions, such as student outcomes and momentum data metrics, course curriculum redesign, DEI centers and programming, and basic student needs.

The day continued with the traditional State of ILEA speech from PCC Executive Director Lisa Castillo Richmond, in addition to presentations from the Illinois State Board of Higher Education and the Illinois Community College Board. 

“Equity work is critically dependent on leadership–leadership that is broad and carried out by people all across the institutional campus,” said Richmond, describing how everyone on a college campus is responsible for upholding its equity mission. 

The day concluded with a student panel led by Equity Program Manager Mercedes Terrazas and featured PCC Student Advisory Council member Katarina Haro, a student at Harper College; and Daniel Blaine, the Student Trustee at the College of Lake County. Both Haro and Blaine described the personal and financial hardships they’ve dealt with as students while lending advice to attendees on what they can do to better serve students like them. 

“Don’t let a student have their hardships derail them,” Blaine said. “Meet students where they’re at. Know that there are students who want to get involved but they’re so stressed about getting their work done.”