Caress Brown, Lashanti Brown, Janelle Jones, Rosalva Medina, Tricia Rosado, Jorge Sanchez, Dujuan Smith, and Diane Soriano comprise the largest group of Illinois State graduate students to receive 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. Their 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 Brown

Caress D. Brown, a doctoral student in higher education administration, was born and raised in Chicago. She earned a bachelor’s degree in insurance from Illinois State University and a master’s degree in higher education administration from Loyola University Chicago. Currently, Brown serves as a student services professional with the City Colleges of Chicago.

As a full-time doctoral student in Illinois State’s Educational Administration and Foundations Department, her research interests include African-American education, African-American women within education, collective liberation, and critical race pedagogy. 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, a graduate student in criminal justice sciences from Chicago, was named this year’s DFI award winner for a second semester. Brown obtained a bachelor’s degree 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. Brown also earned an associate’s degree in general studies with a high honor distinction from city colleges of Chicago. Brown, a final semester master’s student in criminal justice, is a single mother to her 9-year-old son, first-generation student, and nontraditional student originally from Chicago.

Brown was previously a recipient of the Peter V. Vitucci award and is currently a highlighted student in the Redbirds Rising campaign. As a member of the Illinois State University National Honor Society of Leadership and Success and a DFI Fellow, she looks forward to fulfilling the mission of inspiring at-risk youth and aid them in turning their lives around. After graduation, Brown aspires to work as an instructor at a community college.

Janelle Jones

Janelle Jones is a second-year graduate student in the College Student Personnel Administration (CSPA) program. She earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville in 2003 and a master’s of public administration from the University of Illinois at Springfield in 2010. Prior to enrolling as a full-time student in the CSPA program, Jones worked in the criminal justice field for 11 years and was fortunate to gain experience as a juvenile detention officer, probation officer, and assistant superintendent.

Jones is a lifelong resident of Decatur, Illinois, a full-time student, and proud mother of two children. Jones presently serves as the Graduate Assistant for Off-Campus Services in the Dean of Students Office at Illinois State University and also works part-time. Her interest in student affairs was sparked while she worked as a probation officer and she plans to continue exploring ways in which the criminal justice system and higher education intersect. Upon graduation, she aspires to serve in a capacity where she can make higher education accessible and attainable for individuals who have been involved in the criminal justice system.

Rosalva Medina

Rosalva Medina is a doctoral student in educational administration and foundations – Leadership, Equity, and Inquiry (LEI) program. Medina earned her bachelor’s degree in marketing and her Master of Business Administration in international business and entrepreneurship from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Medina lives in Chicago with her husband and two children where she volunteers as a Wish Granter for the Make a Wish Foundation, granting wishes for children with life-threatening diseases.

Medina has over 19 years of experience at the University of Illinois at Chicago committed to the advancement of best practice business administration and financial operations across inter-organizational boundaries and external constituents. In 2016, she joined the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research’s Office of Research Services (ORS) as a sponsored project specialist where she negotiates research agreements involving both federal and private funding.

Tricia Rosado

Tricia Rosado is a doctoral student in Educational Administration and Foundations – Leadership, Equity, and Inquiry (LEI) program has been named a Diversifying Faculty in Illinois (DFI) Fellow. Sponsored by the Illinois Board of Higher Education, the fellowship is intended to diversify higher education faculty. After a highly competitive, state-wide application process, Tricia was one of several Illinois State University doctoral students to receive this fellowship. She received her master’s degree in higher education leadership from Northeastern Illinois University-ENLACE Leadership Institute and bachelor’s degree from DePaul University.

Tricia, a lifelong Chicagoan, is a wife, mother to middle-school boys (twins), and a volunteer at several events a year. Her current work Northeastern Illinois University-Center for College Access and Success as the Assistant Director of the Chicago GEAR UP allows her to work with Chicago Public School students, their families, and teachers, helping students and families to understand the post-secondary process.

Her unique perspective of the obstacles facing first-generation college students (and their families) comes from her personal experiences (she is a first-generation Latina), her work with GEAR UP, and current LEI coursework. As a member of the Illinois State University inaugural cohort in Leadership, Equity, and Inquiry Latin@ cohort, the Illinois Latino Council on Higher Education (ILACHE), and a DFI Fellow, Tricia looks forward to fulfilling the mission of becoming a contributing member of a university.

Jorge Sanchez

Jorge J. Sanchez is a native of Chicago, a son of Mexican immigrant parents, and a first-generation college student. He earned his bachelor’s degree in accounting and marketing from DePaul University, master’s degree in teaching from Chicago State University, master’s degree in higher education policy and Masters of Business Administration, both from Northeastern University Illinois.  He is currently pursuing a Ph.D in education administration and foundations at Illinois State University. His passion for education has driven him to become an advocate for Latino students across all levels of education. He currently works for Lyons Township high school and has teaching assignments at the University of Chicago at Illinois and Elgin Community College.

DuJuan Smith

DuJuan Smith currently serve as the assistant dean of students and community Standards at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), where he manages the student conduct system for 30,000 students and 300 student organizations. He is also a doctoral student in the higher education administration Ph.D program at Illinois State University. DuJuan’s impressive career includes serving as assistant dean of students for Semester at Sea, where he and 600 students traveled by sea to 12 countries in four months. He was the assistant dean of students for University of Houston and coordinator of judicial affairs at Moraine Valley Community College in Palos Hills, Illinois. He holds a B.A. in applied sociology with a minor in black studies and an M.S.Ed in clinical mental health counseling from Northern Illinois University.

Recently, DuJuan was selected as a member of the 2018-2020 cohort for the NASPA Supporting, Expanding, and Recruiting Volunteer Excellence (SERVE) Academy. In 2015, he served as an inaugural member of the Chicago Surge Fellowship, which identifies and accelerates promising African-American and Latinx education talent to enhance their expertise and aptitude, empowering them to transform the education ecosystem. Furthermore, DuJuan enjoys giving back to professional organizations through service as the ASCA Black Male Summit Co-Chair, NASPA NUFP Board of Directors, and the Chicago Scholars Associate Board of Directors. DuJuan is affiliated with the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA), the Association for Student Conduct Administrators (ASCA), Education Leaders of Color (EdLoC), the Association of the Study of Higher Education (ASHE), and the American Association of Blacks in Higher Education (AABHE). He is an active member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated and currently resides on the South Side of Chicago.

Diana Soriano

Diana Soriano is a dedicated academic professional with over eight years of experience, most recently as assistant director of advising and retention at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Business Administration. She is pursuing the doctorate in educational administration and foundations with a concentration in leadership, equity, and inquiry. Diana is the daughter of Mexican immigrants and holds her historical and cultural roots firmly in her heart and her scholarly work. She is committed to social justice work and driven to advocate for equity in educational spaces and research. She was born and raised in the city of Chicago and is a Chicago Public School alumna. She completed her bachelor’s degree in history teaching with a minor in Latin American and Latino studies from the University of Illinois at Chicago. She also earned her master’s degree in instructional leadership with a concentration in policy studies from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Diana’s research and areas of interest include race, ethnicity, gender, class, sexuality, political, and historical education for Latinas in the United States.