All posts by NLU Senior Communications Manager

College Recruitment During COVID-19: How National Louis University is finding creative ways to connect with prospective students

New students at NLU’s Undergraduate College Orientation, August 2019

By: Rebecca McDermott

For high school seniors across the nation, their final semester has unraveled in a way they could have never imagined. The milestones that mark their transition from teenager to young adult have one by one been taken away. No prom, no college visits, no graduation ceremony.

For colleges and universities, recruiting their incoming class is going to look and feel different. Approaching this recruitment season with grace, patience, and empathy is essential, and National Louis University (NLU) is leading their efforts with these values embedded into each decision.

A recent national survey reports that one in six high school seniors who were expected to attend a four year college in the fall may change their plans. Additionally, three in five seniors are rethinking their first choice college.

Students who had previously committed to a university are now weighing if their college option still makes sense during the COVID-19 pandemic. As millions of Americans continue to file for unemployment, the financial situation for families across the country is dramatically shifting. Students who are healthy and able are taking jobs where they can to support their household, or are paying more attention to their immediate financial needs.

Being closer to home and taking out fewer student loans may start to emerge as important factors for students finalizing their college decision. National Louis University’s Undergraduate College has always been committed to keeping tuition affordable. Students who qualify for the full MAP and Pell Grants after filing FAFSA have a $0 out of pocket cost for tuition. The need for a college option that students can pay for without taking out student loans will likely be more in demand than ever.

Finding an option that provides high value at an affordable cost will also prove imperative. NLU’s focus on career development and professional experience offers an opportunity for students to achieve that high value without taking out student loans.

Campus visits and admitted student days are typically large recruitment events that help seniors get a better feel for a school and make their final decision. With students unable to visit campus, National Louis University has found creative ways to connect with students and help them feel comfortable with their enrollment process.

Virtual information sessions, drop-in hours, and virtual Admit Days will be lively, engaging substitutes for campus visits. These events are opportunities to chat with different NLU departments live and have questions answered immediately. Engaging with students conversationally at these events and being patient with questions and uncertainties around technical issues are essential for assuaging the anxieties many prospective students are feeling at this time.

While live virtual events can be helpful for students, there are many who do not have consistent internet access at home. Students who are balancing work with school and taking care of their family may find themselves too busy or overwhelmed to login for a live event. This is where NLU’s YouTube playlist and social media have also proven essential for connecting with high school seniors.

NLU’s New Student Enrollment Playlist on YouTube features videos that walk students through their enrollment milestones step-by-step. Students can start with a pre-recorded information session, watch a walkthrough of the online application, and be guided on how to access their award letter and submit their tuition deposit. Several videos are available in both English and Spanish to reach more students and their families and help them feel comfortable completing steps to enroll at NLU from home.

On social media accounts, NLU has shared several student testimonial videos to help show prospective students why others chose NLU as their college selection. Instagram and TikTok have allowed a unique connection between students and their college options. Students can engage actively with NLU through Instagram story trivia quizzes and Q & A sessions. They also have the opportunity to watch short campus tours on Instagram TV.

Obviously, this is not the spring semester any student imagined for themselves. It is tough to focus on the future when circumstances change daily. However, many students are still planning to continue their education. These high school seniors were born in the wake of 9/11 and are graduating high school during a global pandemic. These resilient students can and will persevere.

National Louis University is going the extra mile to make sure students feel ready and empowered to take the next step into their future and enroll for college. Students showing the fortitude to continue their education in the face of today’s unprecedented situation remind us that this incoming class will be more than strong enough to meet the challenge.  

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.

Continue reading »

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?

Continue reading »