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Dr. Shinn: Let’s Shift Focus From Diagnosing Kids’ Disabilities To Helping Them Learn Prof keynotes at distinguished conference on educating children with disabilities

Mark Shinn

Mark Shinn, Ph.D.


When children struggle in school, the trend for about the past 35 years has been to test them and give them a diagnosis, such as a learning disorder, a behavior disorder or a special needs student.

That hasn’t been effective in helping these students, NLU’s Mark Shinn, Ph.D., told many of the nation’s premier researchers and policymakers in the special education field this week. Continue reading »

REACH Awards Given to Five Alumni for Refusing To Accept Status Quo They've worked, against the odds, to make things better

reach-gala113National Louis went all out when it awarded five alumni its Reach Award at the Field Museum on May 19. The gala Reach reception, dinner and awards ceremony took place under the watchful gaze of “Sue,” the most complete Tyrannosaurus rex ever discovered.

But it hasn’t always been gourmet food and fancy place settings for the five honorees. They have persevered in the real world to make things better for local people and  communities. Continue reading »

Cousins Who Didn’t Know They Were Both NLU’ers To Graduate Together They didn't realize both were attending National Louis

Jannae Jenkins and Darlene Cook

Jannae Jenkins Simmons, left, and Darlene Cook are first cousins, but were unaware they were both attending NLU until a surprise meeting. They will graduate together in the same Commencement ceremony June 20.

Darlene Cook went to National Louis’ Commencement Fair on May 27 to get information about the graduation ceremony and have her picture taken in a cap and gown. While she was waiting in line for the photo, however, she got a huge surprise.

“I looked up and there was my first cousin,” she exclaimed.

Continue reading »

Husband and Wife Graduate Together—For the Second Time They'll walk at NLU's Commencement June 20


DanaRobertBurrisCan higher education be romantic? While some couples need long walks on the beach or a glass of wine beside a crackling fire, Cupid shot his bow right through a syllabus at Dana Jocic Burris and Robert Burris.

The two met when they were undergraduates at Bradley University in Peoria, Ill. They walked in the same Commencement ceremony to get their undergraduate degrees — his in secondary education and hers a double major in family and consumer sciences and marketing. With the diplomas out of the way, they got married in July 2010. Continue reading »

Columnist Cites NLU Veterans Program As National Model Student veterans' engagement rates, employment rates are rising

veteranschart-380x380NLU’s Veterans Program is getting national attention for its results.

Michael Schindler, a columnist for, an online news partner of The Seattle Times, referenced NLU in a column about offering military-connected students resources to help them succeed.

“Studies show that when community-based resources collaborate with college-based services, veteran involvement and graduation success rates improve considerably,” he wrote May 31. Continue reading »

NLU Prof Won Fulbright, Chairing Prestigious Caldecott Awards Dr. Junko Yokota credited with most diverse Caldecott book honors ever

junko yokota at wroclaw university

NLU’s Dr. Junko Yokota poses in front of the University of Wroclaw, Poland, where she is teaching on a Fulbright award.

NLU’s Junko Yokota, Ph.D., is having an amazing couple of years. Newspapers all over the world — in Korea, Turkey and Poland—are writing about her.

In 2013, she was chosen to chair the jury to determine the winners of the 2015 Caldecott  children’s book award. If you’ve ever browsed children’s books, you’ll recognize the Caldecott as one of the top honors in this category of literature.

Continue reading »

Students Present Community Service Projects to Mexican Consul Those who had scholarships from Mexican government completed requirements

By Monica Ramos


Itzel Hernandez, from left, Mitxi Ortiz, Claudia Moreno, David Rios and Juliana Alejandre spoke about their community service, a component of receiving their IME awards.

The government of Mexico created the IME Scholarship Program in 2005 in order to raise the educational levels of the Mexican and of Mexican-descent population living in the United States. Since then, Mexico has awarded 10 million pesos (about $643,000) annually to non-profit social organizations or educational institutions with education and training programs or support to higher education, for Mexican immigrants interested in starting, continuing or completing their studies.

On June 4, the 2014-2015 IME (Instituto de los Mexicanos en el Exterior) Scholars presented their community service projects as part of the last phase of IME becas. NLU students, families and Rebeca Aguilar, Coordinator of Education programs in the Consulate General of Mexico in Chicago were present. Dr. Ignacio Lopez, NLU’s Vice provost, welcomed the participants and highlighted NLU’s commitment to community engagement and student leadership. Monica Ramos thanked the scholars on their professionalism and the good work on representing NLU in the community. Rebeca Aguilar spoke very highly about the students and the impact they had in the different programs in which they participated.

MexicanScholarsIMD06042015NLU students presented videos and testimonials about the service they provided to the Mexican community. At the end of the ceremony the participants celebrated the success of the IME program with traditional Mexican food.

Meet an NLU Student Veteran: Pilar Arteaga Hopes to transfer Navy work in logistics, inventories to civilian business world


After serving 20 years in the U.S. Navy, Pilar Arteaga is preparing for her second act. She returned to Chicago in the summer of 2014 and began attending NLU in the fall. She is on track to graduate in the winter of 2015 with a B.S. in Business Administration. Her 11-year-old son Nathan previously embraced the life of a military child, but has settled in to living in Chicago and excelling in school. Pilar talked with us about why she went into the Navy two weeks after high school graduation, where she traveled and what she plans to do with her degree.

What prompted you to enter the military?
I struggled academically and was having some problems at home when I graduated high school. I decided to enter the military two weeks after my graduation day. I planned to serve for about four years, but that timeframe extended to 20 years. Continue reading »

Golden Apple Awards Presented To Two NLU Alums Fields, Thomas Get Surprised in their Classrooms with Prestigious Awards


Sonya Fields, Ph.D., a second grade teacher at Chicago’s Dixon Elementary, is presented a Golden Apple award.


Sonya Fields, Ph.D., and Fontane Thomas became the latest in a long line of National Louis University alumni to receive the Golden Apple Award for Excellence in Teaching. The Golden Apple Foundation, based in Chicago, chose them from more than 600 nominations of Pre-K through 3rd grade teachers throughout Chicago and suburbs.

Golden Apple officials surprised the teachers by entering their classrooms during the school day to present the awards. Fields teaches second grade at Arthur Dixon Elementary School in Chicago’s South Side Chatham neighborhood, where 90 percent of her students come from low-income homes.  Thomas teaches pre-K students, mostly English Language Learners, at Stephen K. Hayt school in Chicago’s North Side Edgewater neighborhood.

Golden Apple officials also recently named NLU alums Laurie Mayer, Amy Orvis and James Schoepski as Golden Apple winners in the Rockford, Ill. area. These three, together with Fields and Thomas, combine to make 67 NLU alums in the Chicago and Rockford areas who have won Golden Apples in the foundation’s 30-year existence. <story continues below photo>


Fontane Thomas, a pre-K teacher at Chicago’s Hayt Elementary, poses with students after receiving the Golden Apple award.

“National Louis is so proud of our alumni who have been recognized with the prestigious Golden Apple Award for Excellence in Teaching,” said Alison Hilsabeck, Ph.D., NLU provost and former executive dean of NLU’s National College of Education.

“The National College of Education has a history of partnering with schools to immerse our future teachers in the classroom environment from day one. This early entry in the classroom and experiential preparation truly is making a difference as our students lead their own classrooms.”

According to Golden Apple, its mission is to inspire, develop and support teacher excellence in Illinois. Each Chicago-area award winner receives a tuition-free, spring quarter sabbatical to study at Northwestern University, and a $5,000 cash award.

Each Rockford awardee receives a cash award and a professional development stipend, a desktop computer for their classroom, a laptop, and a professional development scholarship.

Student Speakers Aim To Inspire At Commencement Rencher, Patel To Speak; Martinez, Lawson To Speak

graduationmortarboardsGraduating students and their families will hear the stories of a fellow student’s perseverance when they attend National Louis University commencement exercises.

For Illinois students, commencement will be held  Saturday, June 20. Wisconsin commencement will take place May 29, and Florida commencement will be June 12.

In Illinois, Sabrina Rencher, who is obtaining her B.A. in Criminal Justice, will be the speaker for the College of Professional Studies and Advancement (formerly known as both the College of Management and Business and College of Arts and Sciences) commencement.

Poonam Patel, who is obtaining her M.Ed. Specialized Endorsements, will speak at the National College of Education commencement in Illinois. Vanessa Hurtado, who will receive her B.A. in Elementary Education, will be the singer and perform the national anthem.

In Florida, the speaker will be Nancy Martinez , who obtained her Ed.D. and is participating in commencement with 16 other students from the first doctoral cohort at NLU Florida. Kendall Louise will sing the national anthem at the ceremony.

In Wisconsin, the student speaker will be retired U. S. Army Sgt. Garry Lawson, who is obtaining his Educational Specialist in Educational Leadership degree. In 2014, he was recognized by the Department of Defense Troops to Teachers program as one of 48 exemplary teachers across the country that year. He is a Special Education Teacher for Milwaukee Public Schools.

NLU alum D’shaunta Stewart, who holds an M.Ed. in Teaching, Learning and Assessment,  is back for a return engagement at the Wisconsin commencement after singing the national anthem at last’s year’s graduation.

The university called for students to audition for the speaker roles a few months ago, and a committee evaluated speakers based on their speaking quality, articulation, grammar, stage presence, the degree to which they presented inspiring messages and other factors.

Students are not paid to be speakers; however, Jose Marroquin, associate director of NLU’s Student Services Department, said they often use the speaking engagement as professional development, and many list it as a distinction on their resumes and LinkedIn profiles. They’re also honored as part of the party on the platform at commencement exercises.

“Students who audition tend to be seeking some sort of public speaking experience, or they may have a non-profit, church or volunteer group they’re trying to get exposure for,” Marroquin said.

“Many of them also tend to have a strong personal story, such as ‘I wasn’t meant to pursue higher education but I did, and I persevered.'”