One of the goals in Educating Illinois is for Illinois State University to recruit a diverse group of students. An initiative, launched in 2008 by the Office of Admissions, does just that.

Diversity is important to Illinois State because the University “encourages community and a respect for differences by fostering an inclusive environment characterized by cultural understanding, ethical behavior, and social justice,” as Educating Illinois states. Also, “the University endeavors to provide opportunities for all students, staff, and faculty to participate in a global society.”

You Can Do ISU brings high school juniors and seniors from across Illinois to campus every fall. The program targets school districts and community groups that serve large populations of would-be first-generation college students, students from underrepresented minorities, like African-Americans and Latinos, and students from lower socioeconomic statuses. The program is similar to Open House, but with a focus on the admissions and financial aid process.

Lindsay Vahl

Lindsay Vahl

“Because for many students those are the barriers,” said Lindsay Vahl, ’06, M.S. ’09. An assistant director of Admissions, Vahl is also coordinator of the You Can Do ISU program.

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Many of the students who participate are loan-averse and think they can only attend community college, Vahl said, when they are more than capable of completing a four-year degree.

“It’s not just about ISU,” she said. “Yes, it is about recruiting a solid population of students in general, but also providing the opportunity to let them know that college is accessible.”

The daylong event features a tour of the residence halls, sessions on financial aid and admissions, and a free lunch where students are able to talk to staff and faculty members from across campus.

The lunch also features alumni speakers who share their ISU experiences and how the school prepared them for where they are now. Past speakers have been Peoria Public Schools Assistant Principal Brandon Caffey ’96,’00, M.S. ’02; State Farm Vice President Willie Brown ’73; lawyer Julie Jones ’90; Campus Dining Services Director Arlene Hosea ’82, M.S. ’84; School of Teaching and Learning field coordinator Maggie Im ’96, M.S. ’01; former Trustee Jaime Flores ’80; and Illinois State Police Lt. Ardis Cross ’00. After lunch, attendees hear from student organization representatives and see student performances.

“That’s kind of a highlight for the students to see the activities and what they can do,” Vahl said. “That allows them to make another connection.”

The program is funded through donors, including Professors Emeriti Charles and Jeanne Morris and Trustee Anne Davis ’64, M.S. ’76, as well as general budget monies. Costs include student lunches and grants to schools that bus students to campus.

The program has grown from 80 students the first year to more than 700 students last year, Vahl said. It has made an impact on recruitment, with 11 percent of the seniors who attended last year’s event enrolling in the University this year.

“I think it’s getting our name out there. I think it’s giving the students more opportunities to consider Illinois State,” Vahl said. “Basically the campus visit is what really sells people on Illinois State. If we can get them on campus, the higher the likelihood they will enroll.”

This year’s event is scheduled for November 1. For more information about You Can Do ISU, contact Vahl at (309) 438-5769 or