All posts by NLU Senior Communications Manager

In Uncertain Times, Ensuring Equity in Higher Ed Is Critical

As the events of the last month have made abundantly clear, COVID-19 is shaking up our entire way of life. Right now, even as the emergencies of the present consume our attention, we must not lose sight of the future.

A recent report shows the national gap in graduation rates between Black and white students at 25%; between Hispanic and white students it is 15%. The disruptions this pandemic is introducing are poised to exacerbate an already troubling college completion gap. Students from minority backgrounds are more likely to experience severe challenges to their persistence and eventual graduation.

If we are in fact entering a “new normal” of remote learning, what can educational leaders do to advance equity and help disadvantaged students flourish in a radically unstable moment?

Above all, this means going the extra mile to ensure our students have everything they need to maximize their chances of success in extreme circumstances. This is even more urgent for our students who live with social and economic stressors ranging from care for family and extended family to tenuous economic stability. During this uncertain time, basic fears for health and safety are now added to the list.

National Louis University is already invested in taking these important steps to ensure that all students have access to college success.

Some students may not have a suitable remote learning platform available at home. Moreover, they may be in a household with no steady income as a result of the economic impact of the virus. National Louis University has developed an emergency fund for current students who have been affected by the ever-changing economic situation. The goal is to assist students as much as possible across the whole range of needs, from technology acquisition, to tuition assistance, to food and income support – meeting these basic needs are vital to student success and are quickly eroded in a crisis of this magnitude.

If you would like to donate to the fund, please click here. Or, click this link to be directed to the application page (authentication required).

To date, about $60,000 have been raised through the Emergency Fund and is being awarded to current students who apply for the aid. The application process ensures that funds are delivered with an equity lens, upholding fairness while making sure students’ basic needs are met. Also, in order to provide further relief to students during this time, NLU has partnered with mRelief to help with food resources for students and their families.

Going forward, students will need personalized, empathetic attention more than ever. In short, ensuring equity is paramount. But how do we put the ideal into practice amidst a raging pandemic?

It is critical to be flexible enough to accommodate students’ unique technological and personalized learning needs. National Louis University has launched a Continue Learning support center for students that provides resources on how to adapt to successful online learning, counseling services, and learning support.

Students are also encouraged to utilize the new virtual Student Support Help Desk, a single point of contact to help students quickly find the specific help they need. The Help Desk is staffed during regular business hours. As a kind of virtual concierge service, this will allow students to have one place to go that will direct them to the specific person or department they need to speak with.

One of the most urgent tasks right now for any school is to continue nurturing a sense of belonging. Remote teaching methods are critical here. The feeling of being with others in the same space, even if only virtually, is essential to maintain that intangible but vital feeling of participating in a community of learning. For underserved students, especially, some level of synchronous learning is very important to maintain.

National Louis University students continue to meet virtually with their classmates and professors, as well as with advisors, student services, enrollment, coaches, and student finance representatives. This connection is essential for helping students maintain their relationship with NLU and for preserving the feeling of participation in a thriving community of learning. Radical hospitality on the part of NLU staff and faculty can drive belonging and continued togetherness, even though we are apart.

Ultimately, we are dealing with a shift to a new educational paradigm. Acting on equity at every level can help ensure we adapt to this challenge nimbly. Every student deserves an equal shot at success – and, above all, we don’t want to lose any students who might have gone on to invent a vaccine for the next global pandemic.

NLU Alum Earns NAACP Roy Wilkins Renown Service Award Darrell Williams '16 selected by Office of the Secretary of Defense for recognition of his contribution to equal opportunity

(This story was submitted by Darrell Williams and written by Marcus Johnson, public affairs specialist at Defense Information Systems Agency)

NAACP Board Members with NLU alum

NAACP Board Members pose with NLU alum Darrell Williams as he earns NAACP Roy Wilkins Renown Service Award

Darrell Williams, chief of military personnel in the DISA Operations Center, received the Roy Wilkins Renown Service Award during the 109th National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) National Convention in San Antonio July 17.

The award recognizes individuals who distinguish themselves by promoting the tenets of civil and human rights, equal opportunity, human relations and public service.

Williams earned the prestigious award for promoting civil rights, and was honored alongside fellow recipients from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard and National Guard Bureau.

Continue reading »

Chasing the Stars [VIDEO] Alum’s mix of astronomy and education is out of this world.

Some people spend their whole childhood chasing after gold stars in school. Michelle Nichols ’02 wasn’t interested in the stickers on her tests — she was looking up at the night sky.

Nichols’ life-long passion for astronomy took off when she first saw the 1980s PBS series “Cosmos: A Personal Voyage,” narrated by American astronomer Carl Sagan.

“It changed my life,” she recalled.

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Doctoral Grad Was in #EdTech Before it was Trending NLU Alum spent decades transforming education with technology

John SonnenbergBefore the days of hashtags, smartphones and streaming services, John Sonnenberg ’11 was an educator with a vision for how tech can transform the classroom.

“I got into this technology stuff in the early 80s before schools even had technology directors,” he said.

Sonnenberg’s talents didn’t end at modems and floppy drives. This techie’s passion for innovation matches his experience in the classroom. “I’ve done almost everything in education,” he explained. Continue reading »

Teaching Young Children Among the Trees NLU alum instructs Washington preschoolers in fully outdoor classroom

Teaching students indoors, teaching students outdoors — as long as it’s early childhood education, Judy Derpack ’96 is in her happy place.

For Derpack, it all started inside a National Louis University (NLU) classroom on a campus near her hometown of Naperville, Ill. NLU fit her passions perfectly.

“The school’s philosophy best matched mine. I really wanted an early childhood degree rather than the elementary education degrees at other universities,” she explained.

Continue reading »

Superintendent Caught Teaching Bug from Preschoolers School district administrator got her start as a classroom volunteer

Caletha White ’17 is the new superintendent of schools for Park Forest-Chicago Heights School District 163 in Park Forest, Ill. beginning July 1, 2018. Well before this new position or even her career in education, White was just a mother volunteering in a preschooler classroom.

The energy of 3- and 4-year-old students and their eagerness to learn was contagious, and it led to White’s career change away from human resources and into education. “The imagination, creativity and excitement of early learners was amazing and I wanted to nurture that passion in children by creating classroom environments that are windows to the world,” she explained. Continue reading »

Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) Recognizes NLU Alum’s Employee Excellence Darrell Williams '16 becomes first DISA employee to win two agency awards in the same year

(This story was submitted by Darrell Williams and written by Wendy Liu, public affairs specialist at Defense Information Systems Agency)

Darrell Williams, Mentor of the Year

DISA Director, VADM Nancy Norton top, poses with NLU alum Darrell Williams as he wins Mentor of the Year

DISA and Joint Force Headquarters – DOD Information Network (JFHQ-DODIN) employees around the world recognized outstanding performance and excellence by military and civilian individuals and teams during the 2017 calendar year.

This year, National Louis University alum Darrell Williams received Mentor of the Year and his branch won Human Capital Support Services Team of the Year.

The annual awards ceremony took place March 29 at DISA Headquarters and was broadcasted using Global Video Services, the agency’s video-teleconferencing solution offered as a DOD enterprise service, allowing employees across the agency to participate. Continue reading »

Seven Critical Ways to Save Money as a College Student If you can stick to these tips, you’ll give yourself a financial head start after graduation

By India Cooley, Student Finance Representative

Let’s face it now rather than later. The workload alone in college is stressful enough, and when the financial component of college life is added to that, you as a student may experience high anxiety and feel overwhelmed. You will eventually land that dream job and all that stress will be a blur, but for now here are a few tips that will help prepare you for success. Continue reading »

Metra Employee Trains His Sights on Writing Student Spotlight: Jarrett Sardin

(This Student Spotlight was originally included in the M.S. in Written Communication program monthly newsletter, Write On! If you’d like to receive the newsletter, please email

Write On! proudly focuses on some of the talents, skills and accomplishments of our very own students. This Student Spotlight is on Jarrett Sardin. He talks about how the M.S. in Written Communication program has helped him in his job with Metra.

NLU student Jarrett SardinWO! When did you begin the M.S. in Written Communication program?

Jarrett: I began the program in the winter of Jan 2016.

WO! What have been some of your favorite classes in the program and why?

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Now Playing: NLU Student’s Live Lit and Music Showcase Student Spotlight: Stephanie Rogers

(This Student Spotlight was originally included in the M.S. in Written Communication program monthly newsletter, Write On! If you’d like to receive the newsletter, please email

Write On! proudly focuses on some of the talents, skills and accomplishments of our very own students. This Student Spotlight is on Stephanie Rogers. She is married, mother of a teen son and the creator/ producer of Story Jam, a local live lit showcase.

Student Stephanie RogersWO! When did you begin the M.S. in Written Communication program at National Louis University?

SR: I am on the slow train in this program! I started two years ago, and I’m only halfway through.

WO! What have been some of your favorite classes?

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