Lisa Castillo Richmond

Letter from Partnership for College Completion Executive Director Lisa Castillo Richmond

It is commencement season. The performance of the rituals we so look forward to when all the hard work pays off. This is a time that represents so many things to our students, their families, and ourselves: a culmination, transition,  celebration, new beginning, growth, accomplishment. For the first time in more than two years, our colleges and universities are celebrating their first in-person spring commencements. We aren’t the same as we were back when our last group of graduates crossed the stage. The toll of the past few years has been heavy. We work differently. We conceptualize time differently. We prioritize what is important to us, reject what is not serving us well, and feel even more urgency to fix our broken systems so that college in Illinois is affordable, and far greater numbers of our Black and Latinx students can access college and complete the degrees they work so hard to earn. 

We know the significance of a college degree – of all of the incredible commitment, sacrifice, hopes, and dreams that were poured into that accomplishment – by the graduates, their families, and their support networks within and outside of their colleges. There are only a few moments in life like this and not being able to gather and celebrate these time-honored traditions fully with your loved ones hurts. Because of these hardships and the loss of so many celebrations, the beauty of commencement season shines even more brightly this year. 

At PCC, we are also celebrating the culmination of another year advancing equity higher education, along with many new beginnings. We have returned to the office this spring and welcomed new team members. We will continue to add critical positions to build PCC’s capacity to deliver on a number of significant priorities in the year ahead.  We have also continued to build PCC’s Board of Directors to represent the diversity of our students and to engage their expertise to propel our mission forward. We are just starting to attend in-person meetings with partners and take road trips to Springfield and campuses across the state. In June, we will gather for in-person programming for the first time since 2019 to celebrate the accomplishment of 18 of our ILEA college and university leadership teams completing the PCC & Aspen Equity Academy for ILEA Presidents & Cabinets during the 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 academic years. 

PCC is entering a period of growth, as a confluence of factors are contributing to new opportunities to advance racial and socioeconomic equity in higher education here in our state. PCC is positioning itself to take advantage of these opportunities across all areas of our work, including through policy and advocacy, institutional learning and professional development, state policy implementation, data and research.  Next year we will reconvene in person and offer new ways of connecting to our initiatives. Collaboration with our many partners across organizations, institutions, and agencies will be more important than ever. Our coalition and campaign to advance equitable, adequate, and sustainable funding for public universities will expand and accelerate. We will deepen our efforts to support Illinois and its institutions in implementing the Developmental Education Reform Act to deliver on the promise of racial equity made through its passage into law. We will continue to support and march alongside our ILEA colleges and universities in their ongoing pursuit of institutional equity in experiences and outcomes for their students, while we tell the story of their efforts through the release our first annual report of the ILEA Initiative. We will explore the expansion of these supports to more colleges and universities across the state as more institutions actively pursue equity change. PCC’s work to build equitable and accountable systems, structures, advance legislation, and deploy resources in support of racial and socioeconomic equity in our higher education system is just getting started. 

Onward in partnership,

Lisa Castillo Richmond