How the University is cultivating an intercultural learning environment through student support
CHICAGO (January 25, 2017)—Walking alongside students—academically, emotionally, and spiritually—this defines North Park University. The faculty and staff at North Park are guided by a core principle: exemplary student support and access, which improve a student’s experience and create a sense of persistence toward graduation. Support comes in many forms, from cohorts to affiliations with nonprofits like One Goal, Bottom Line, Noble Network of Charter Schools, and the Associated Colleges of Illinois. The end goal is simple, says Vice President for Student Engagement Jodi Koslow Martin, “We are contributing towards ensuring all students have access to a college education.”
What Support Looks Like
North Park’s professors and advisors take cues from students to understand pathways to success and respond to specific areas of need. In this ‘responsive model’ support can look different from student-to-student. For some, it comes in the form of scholarships, for others, it’s about embracing the relationships North Park has formed with nonprofits and community partners, and for others, who benefit from a close network, there are on-campus cohort groups like COMPASS which align skills, abilities, and interests.
Lucia Tejada, North Park senior and biology major, spent nine days just prior to her freshman year in the University’s COMPASS program. “Support is there from the beginning and advisors want you to succeed as a person,” says Tejada. Those first nine days created a long-term sense of community for Tejada where she has grown from being a participant to now serving as a mentor in the program.
Taking a Stand for Our DACA Students
The core commitment behind all these support efforts—granting personalized pathways for each student—prompted North Park’s President David L. Parkyn to sign a Statement in Support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program and our Undocumented Immigrant Students. This statement, spearheaded by Pomona University in California, has already collected over 600 signatures from college and university presidents from an array of institutions including private, public, faith-based, and community colleges in 44 states and the District of Columbia.
“DACA has become a higher education issue, especially as the doors to higher education have widened,” says Koslow Martin. At North Park, deep learning comes from being in an intercultural environment formed by students from many backgrounds. “In the spirit of generosity and hospitality, supporting DACA aligns with our mission and Christian approach to advancing efforts in accessing higher education,” adds Koslow Martin.
Tejada, also a DACA student, says the North Park community has been there for her throughout her college journey, “I’ve received support from the very beginning.” Tejada adds, “There are people at North Park who are there for you and help you no matter what.”
Committed to granting higher education to a diverse student population, President Parkyn states, “North Park signed the Statement in Support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program and our Undocumented Immigrant Students to influence the continuation of DACA and encourage our government leaders to keep DACA in place.” This action is well received on campus. Sophomore psychology major and president of the Latin American Student Organization (LASO) Genesis Rivera-Lucero expresses her appreciation towards President Parkyn signing the letter, “I am grateful President Parkyn has chosen to show his support.”
Ensuring DACA Student Success
North Park plays an active role in positioning all students for success with academic preparedness and transition programs, and providing necessary pathways where DACA students have the same access to earning their college degrees. The campus community, including faculty, staff, and student peers remain fully committed to welcoming and supporting DACA students. “North Park’s faculty and staff are well-prepared to work with students who are undocumented and meet the criteria of DACA,” reassures President Parkyn.
Tejada, who’s been in Chicago since 2011 and was 10 years old when she came to the United States, encourages all her classmates to know the resources available to them. “It’s good to use the teachers and staff as much as you need them because they will be there for you,” says Tejada.
Partnering with the Community to Support DACA Students
While the application for admission to North Park neither solicits nor requires notification of DACA status, the University has programs in place that address academic preparedness for higher education coursework. And for those DACA prospects who do declare their status, North Park works alongside community partners to remove financial barriers that undocumented students often face when attending college.
When Tejada was just a day away from paying for her tuition at a local community college in Skokie, she received a call from North Park saying that she was being offered a scholarship. “North Park is willing to take DACA students and help financially which made a difference in my whole college career,” says Tejada.
Specifically designed to serve the undocumented student population interested in earning a college degree, North Park partners with Noble Network of Charter Schools through Pritzker Access Scholarships. In this collaborative program designed to help meet financial needs, students attending and graduating from Noble Network of Charter Schools are eligible to qualify for the Pritzker Access Scholarship. In this way, North Park University enrolls students who receive scholarships from the Pritzker foundation, which account for the financial aid that would have come from Pell federal grant dollars and state MAP grants. With this nearly full-ride scholarship, students must maintain a minimum of a 2.5 GPA in college. This kind of partnership with local high schools comes naturally to North Park as it reflects the University’s desire to attract and retain students from the city of Chicago.
Students Standing by their Fellow Classmates
Rivera-Lucero says learning the stories of DACA students has moved her. “Knowing what my friends and classmates have experienced has made me want to stand up for change.” And having relationships with student advisors who keep their doors ‘always open’ to discuss their thoughts together, helps Rivera-Lucero to keep going as she leads the Latin American Student Organization. “There’s so much we can do with our voices as part of the student community,” says Rivera-Lucero. She adds, “I am grateful to collaborate with faculty and staff.”
For Further Support
Cities like Chicago are deeply rooted in immigrant communities, which contribute to North Park’s vibrant student body. North Park DACA students, alongside their peers, represent the University core values as Christian, City-centered, and Intercultural. Rivera-Lucero agrees, “To uphold the urban and diverse as part of North Park’s core pillars is to keep our DACA students part of our community,” asserts Rivera-Lucero. And, getting to graduation all starts with making a college education accessible—it’s about providing the pathways to higher education. “The fact I was able to go to college at a private school was huge,” says Tejada.
For some students, this pathway starts much before the first day on campus and for others, it’s having support services available once already enrolled. Just months away from graduating, North Park’s soon-to-be-alumna Tejada is interested in being a marine biologist and is starting to think about graduate school. Her first stop is North Park’s career development office, where she’ll be working on getting her resume ready for the next stage in her career.