National Louis University to launch new, hands-on M.S. Program in Design Thinking and Entrepreneurship

The program aims to train a new generation of equity-minded business leaders by promoting women’s entrepreneurship.

In the Fall semester of 2020, National Louis University will launch a brand new Master of Science program in Design Thinking and Entrepreneurship. Aiming to capitalize on the recent growth of women-owned businesses and start-ups, particularly among African American and Latina women, while also recognizing that significant gaps in funding and opportunities continue to exist between female business owners and their male counterparts, the curriculum, experience, and activities of the program will be geared specifically toward women’s entrepreneurship.

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A Message From Our President: NLU Stands With Our Community

Dear NLU Community,

It is with a heavy heart that I write to you today. I am so saddened by the trauma, pain, sorrow, rage, frustration, and hopelessness that so many in our community and across our country are feeling. Over the last several weeks, we have witnessed the senseless, unconscionable murders of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Breonna Taylor in Louisville and Ahmaud Arbery in Brunswick, as well as numerous other acts of violence—lethal and not—against Black people in our nation. We know by now that these are not isolated incidents, but are part of a familiar pattern. They are part of the fatal, wearisome injustice of the society we live in, reflecting the chronic inequality and racial divisions that have deep roots in the United States, and that continue to scar this country. This inequity has been further highlighted with the impact of the COVID-19 epidemic, which has disproportionately impacted our communities of color. This past week, the long-simmering rage and frustration over all of this boiled over.   

Although we don’t all like to admit it, People of Color—and let’s be frank, especially Black people—live lives of relentlessly hostile scrutiny, and they have been telling us so for centuries. We have not listened very well, and we certainly have not sufficiently acted to change it, and we should all be feeling troubled by this. This problem belongs to all of us, as does the solution. We all have to own it, but especially leaders and those in positions of authority and influence.

In response to George Floyd’s death former President Obama stated that “….we have to remember that for millions of Americans, being treated differently on account of race is tragically, painfully, maddeningly ‘normal’ — whether it’s while dealing with the health care system, or interacting with the criminal justice system, or jogging down the street, or just watching birds in a park.”  “Maddeningly normal” cannot be what we accept. 

I am feeling uneasy because the truth of injustice and inequity is ringing loudly in my head.  And while we cannot support or condone those who choose violence to hijack the message and the cause, it is critical that the message is not lost. 

The NLU family stands united against senseless acts of hate and the systemic racism that produces and perpetuates them. As an institution of higher education, we have an obligation to fight ignorance and intolerance, model inclusivity and embrace the power that diversity represents. We must stand together with everyone suffering from racism and inequity. Hate and violence cannot be part of our community.

We must support peace while we impatiently strive to be better than we are and do the hard work to be more just, more inclusive, and committed to equity. We must build a future where life is not devalued and bigotry is eliminated. And we must do all of this while empowering our democracy and supporting civility, so that together, through education and open dialogue, we may move towards a more just society.

NLU community, we grieve together today, and let us honor our grief by working to bend the arc of justice. There is much to be done and it is up to us to harness the full power of our extraordinarily diverse community. Through transparency, collective solidarity, and open dialogue, we can work toward healing the wounds of division and growing as a community, a city, and – hopefully, one day – a country.  

In the coming days I know that our entire community will be grappling with raw emotions, and I ask that we all work hard to support each other but especially our Black community.  Below I am attaching some resources that may be of help for our students, faculty, and staff in the coming days and weeks. 

This coming Wednesday, June 3, NLU will host a virtual Conversation Corner on the topic of racial injustice that anyone may attend. Join us in this safe space to discuss the injustice, protests, killings, brutality, hurt, anger, stress, etc. and what we all can do to help ourselves and our community feel empowered.

We encourage you to seek support as you need it.  Reach out to friends, family, and mental health professionals who can offer a listening ear, and please know that support is always available.

  • For students: NLU has partnered with Skylight Counseling Center to offer a variety of counseling resources. Students seeking counseling should leave a message to request an appointment at 312.261.3636 or 847.947.5656 or email
  • For faculty and staff: Below is information for our Employee Assistance Program with Perspectives. Perspectives offers confidential assistance to employees and their families 24/7. Perspectives Online is a great website that provides information, resources and tools for a vast number of issues, ranging from parenting and child care to health and wellness, career development, workplace training and more.

Overall suggestion to faculty and staff right now:Adjust your expectations to fit these unique circumstances and be mindful of what is doable for you and your students. Identify what course content is most essential, what to prioritize, and what to let go of. What is really necessary for students to learn during this time of despair, fear, rage and uncertainty? Streamline and simplify as much as possible. Look at this term as Trauma Teaching – do no harm.


Nivine Megahed, Ph.D.


Advancing College Equity Through Adaptive Learning: Teachable Lessons from the NLU Case

As the new reality of the pandemic continues to sink in, colleges and universities are beginning to rethink some basic assumptions about how they conduct classes and deliver instruction. Particularly, administrators and faculty are reflecting on how they might optimize their technology and resources to best accommodate a virtual learning environment – the new norm in an educational sector whose traditional modus operandi has been shaken to its foundations.

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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 Is Highlighted for The Continuing Effort in Supporting Prior Learning Assessment & Adult Learner Lifecycle

Joseph Levy, Executive Director of Assessment and Accreditation and Tracy Costello, Assistant Director of Prior Learning Assessment of NLU believe that adult students need to feel validated and know their experience and knowledge has value and worth. Consequently, they are taking the proper steps to ensure these students are acknowledged. In The EvoLLLution online newspaper, Levy and Costello’s discuss considerations for ensuring student success through PLA programs, while also highlighting example practices at NLU. Prior Learning Assessments (PLA) allow a student’s experiential learning to be evaluated for potential credit award while recognizing and validating the non-traditional learning they bring with them to college.  

Through trial and error and finding the right balance of support, Levy and Costello have developed effective PLA options for undergraduate and graduate students such as credit by exam, credit by portfolio, credit by licensure and certifications, and course by arrangement to support students’ whose experience surpasses the coursework needed for completion of certain courses within some programs. These assessments are described in detail in the article and more information can be found on NLU’s PLA website.

With student support in place, Levy and Costello also created outreach initiatives that support and encourage adult learners including a PLA video showcasing students of PLA, redesigning the NLU website to provide testimonials, and program specific information fact sheets to demonstrate the PLA process (e.g., undergraduate examples here). By doing so, these efforts educate and reinforce PLA programs to students, faculty and staff, and are excellent examples for other institutions to consider. “At NLU, our institutional legacy is defined by its mindfulness in ensuring access to a diverse student body. With this in mind, we have made it our mission to provide equitable PLA opportunities for all students, supporting their unique individual backgrounds” state the innovative creators Levy and Costello. Read the article in The EvoLLLution online newspaper and learn more about NLU’s PLA services at

These results, as well as other workshops from various adult education groups will be discussed at the CAEL (Council for Adult and Experiential Learning) Conference “Plug in: Energize Adults Pathways to Success” at the Palmer House on Wednesday, November 6 to help support and promote the continuing efforts for PLA options for adults in and around the Chicagoland area. NLU is sponsoring the event, and the conference is opened to anyone would like to attend. More information can be found here.

NLU’s Viola provides Keynote address at China Community Psychology Conference

After two faculty members from China attended the Society for Community Research and Action (SCRA) conference hosted by National Louis University in June, they were enthusiastic about asking Associate Professor, Dr. Judah Viola, to attend and present as the keynote speaker at the 5th annual National Conference of Community Psychologists at Hebei Normal University in Shijiazhuang, China. The keynote address, How Community Psychologists Support Health and Wellness in the United States and What Relevance this has for Community Psychology in China summarized the range of applied research and action that U.S. based community psychologists are involved in today and presented community-based research findings from Dr. Viola’s work in Chicagoland and across the country.

(Dr. Judah Viola with Dr. Houchao Lyu, Southwest University and Dr. Jiehua Huang, Guangzhou University in Shijiazhuang China)

The address described the health and social issues of chronic disease prevention and management in a variety of settings ranging from government agencies and universities, to private companies. Dr. Viola provided an overview of the work happening across the United States in collaboration with coalitions to prevent obesity, training people with disabilities and their parents to partner with schools and local officials to more fully include people with disabilities in community settings, and supporting men who are coming out of drug treatment or jail to rebuild relationships with their children. The presentation provided quantitative and qualitative data that will help China-based community psychologists to design, evaluate, and adapt similar projects described in Dr. Viola’s presentation. The research collaboration begun this summer aims to support relevant cultural, social, and health related issues across the globe.

“I was thrilled to represent NLU and U.S. community psychologists as we had a vibrant exchange of ideas with colleagues from across over 20 universities in China.  The visit will continue to bear fruit as I collaborate with Chinese community psychologists on cross-cultural research and engage National Louis students in this work going forward,” Dr. Viola stated regarding this opportunity for collaboration. Dr. Viola exemplifies NLU’s mission by sharing innovative ways to engage in the support health and wellness locally and globally. You can learn more about Dr. Viola’s research and scholarship here:

Voting on National Louis University Campus Up in 2018

National Louis University, along with 1,000 other institutions, participated in the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement (NSLVE) through the Institute for Democracy & Higher Education. The study provides reports to participating colleges and universities, like NLU, which use them to support political learning and civic engagement, as well as to identify and address gaps in political and civic participation. National Louis University reported that student voting on campus was up in last year’s election, increasing to 47.9 percent in 2018 from a rate of 39.1 percent in 2014. The full campus report can be viewed here.

The report is part of the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement, or NSLVE, conducted by the Institute for Democracy & Higher Education (IDHE) at Tufts University’s Tisch College of Civic Life. The study shows that nationwide,the voting rates at participating college campuses doubled on average compared to the previous 2014 midterm. In 2018, the Average Institutional Voting Rate (AIVR) among campuses in the study was 39.1 percent, nearly 20 percentage points higher than 2014’s average turnout rate of 19.7 percent. Turnout increases were widespread, with virtually all campuses seeing an increase over 2014.

This report is vital to NLU, indicating an increase in the dedication and engagement of the political sphere by our students. The report provides NLU administrators the data review to implement innovative ways to engage students on a deeper, larger level. National Louis University is committed to educate, promote, and support students’ engagement and commitment to vote. To learn more about this study and other NLU civic engagement within the community, visit the NLU Civic Engagement Center.

NLU Faculty In Action: Gates Foundation Data-informed Instruction Case Study Supports Underrepresented Students

Five National Louis University faculty members partnered with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in a new case study that explored instructional strategic “best practices” and “strengths-based approaches” for supporting students inside and outside of the classroom using data informed learnings. Tara Bryant-Edwards, Lisa Downey, Bethany Harding, Doug McCoy, Margeaux Temeltas, and Stephanie Poczos contributed their expertise to the study.

The case study spotlights the usage of data to support teaching, including faculty content meetings that help with instructional planning to meet learning objectives, individualizing instruction, and interventions to promote success with at-risk students. The case study uses specific data such as the “early-warning sign data” to provide critical support for students to persist towards graduation. These data points promote collaboration amongst other colleagues and departments to give undergraduate students the best chance at success.

The data described in the case study support faculty intervention and allow for intentional adjustments in best practices for the classroom, while also assisting in reaching students on a holistic level. The data provide faculty members the ability to make accommodations in the classroom lectures, to utilize resources on campus in the classroom such as the writing support team and student success coaches, and to create individualized plans to help break down assignments in manageable sections.

This case study led by NLU faculty and sponsored by the Gates Foundation is another step the institution is taking to support undergraduate students, ensuring the best practices are being applied in and outside of the classroom. The methods described in the case study support the use of technology, data-driven instruction, individualized instruction, faculty collaboration, interaction with students, and active classrooms. The case study can be found here.

Jason Stegemoller, Associate Professor, Has Been Appointed as Part of the Illinois Advisory Council on Bilingual Education (IACBE)

Jason Stegemoller, Associate Professor and chair of ESL/Bilingual Education, has been appointed as part of the Illinois Advisory Council on Bilingual Education through the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE). The purpose of the Advisory Council on Bilingual Education is to advise the State Superintendent of the ISBE on issues which relate to the educational needs of students whose first language is not English.  With NLU as a Hispanic-Serving Institution and Professor Stegemoller’s major aspect of work at NLU, teaching and serving as chair for ESL and bilingual education coursework, the advisory council position aligns well.

“I accepted this position because I am proud of the policy context for bilingual education in Illinois,” stated Professor Stegemoller. “I am excited to be part of the council that advises on policy and rules on bilingual education in a context that recognizes the assets of bilingual students. We have upwards of 400 students taking ESL and bilingual endorsement courses each term. I hope to have an impact on policies related to teaching emergent bilingual students, and preparing educators to teach them.”

The Advisory Council consists of 17 members whose experience or knowledge of the various programs of bilingual education are instrumental within the community and in institutions of higher learning. The goal of the Council is to review educational issues including certifications, finance, and special education within a bilingual setting. The group will meet 4 times a year to review, discuss, and rules pertaining to bilingual education within the state.

More information, including reports, other members, and public comment policy can be found here.