Caress Brown, Lashanti Brown, Deksiyos Desta, Tricia Rosado, and Michelle Wortel all received fellowships from the board of directors of the Diversifying Higher Education Faculty in Illinois (DFI).

DFI is a program that seeks to address disparities in educational attainment by race, ethnicity, income, and region. The program’s goal is to “increase the number of minority full-time tenure-track faculty and staff at Illinois’ two- and four-year, public and private colleges and universities.” DFI awards fellowships to individuals from “traditionally underrepresented minority groups” as defined by the Illinois Public Agenda for College and Career Success.

Caress D. Brown

Caress D. Brown ’08 is a doctoral student in higher education administration from Chicago. She earned a Bachelor of Science in insurance from Illinois State University and a Master of Education degree in higher education administration from Loyola University Chicago. Currently, Brown serves as a student services professional at Malcolm X College.

As a full-time doctoral student in Illinois State’s Educational Administration and Foundations Department, her research interests include African-American education and critical race theory. Driven by her revolutionary spirit, Brown is committed to transformative education and aspires to become a scholar-activist through teaching, research, and leadership in Illinois higher education.

Lashanti Brown

Lashanti Brown ’16 obtained a Bachelor of Science majoring in criminal justice. Prior to earning an academic scholarship to Illinois State, Brown made the president’s list at Malcolm X community college with a 4.0 GPA. Recently Brown earned an associate degree in general studies with a high honor distinction from city colleges of Chicago.

Brown, a second semester master’s student in criminal justice, is a first-generation student and nontraditional student originally from Chicago. Brown was this year’s recipient of the Peter V. Vitucci award. After graduation, Brown aspires to work as an instructor at a community college. She wants to be a positive role model for at-risk youth and aid them in turning their lives around.

Tricia Rosado

Tricia Rosado is a doctoral student in educational administration and foundation-leadership, equity, and inquiry (LEI) program. Rosado earned her Master of Arts in higher education leadership from Northeastern Illinois University-ENLACE Leadership Institute and her Bachelor of Arts from DePaul University. Rosado, a lifelong Chicagoan, is a wife, mother to twin middle-school boys, and a volunteer at several events a year.

Her current work as a senior program manager in Chicago GEAR UP allows her to work with Chicago Public Schools students, their families, and teachers, helping students and families to understand the postsecondary process. Her unique perspective of the obstacles facing first-generation college students (and their families) comes from her personal experiences as a first-generation Latina, her work with GEAR UP, and current LEI course work.

As a member of the Illinois State University inaugural cohort in Leadership, Equity, and Inquiry Latin@ cohort, the Illinois Latino Council on Higher Education, and a DFI Fellow, she looks forward to fulfilling the mission of becoming a contributing member of a university.

Michelle Ortiz Wortel

Michelle Ortiz Wortel is a doctoral student in educational administration and foundations-leadership, equity, and inquiry. Her previous education includes a bachelor’s degree in English from Northern Illinois University and a master’s degree in education leadership in higher education at Northeastern Illinois University.

She currently serves as the assistant director of financial aid at the Chicago Office of Financial Aid at Northwestern University. Wortel’s university experience spans over 16 years—having also worked at both the University of Illinois at Chicago and Northern Illinois University.

Her commitment to higher education extends outside of Northwestern, as she volunteers for the Illinois Association for Financial Aid Administrators (ILASFAA), where she currently serves as a committee chair. Wortel has lived in the Chicago area her entire life, and currently resides in Berwyn, just west of Chicago with her husband and two boys, ages 1 and 7.