Skip to main content

Ten Illinois State graduate students receive prestigious State of Illinois fellowship

Ten graduate students at Illinois State have been named 2020 Diversifying Higher Education Faculty in Illinois fellows: Caress Brown, Jamillah Gilbert, Jackie Jouett, Rosalva Medina, Tricia Rosado, Jorge Sanchez, Dujuan Smith, Diane Soriano, Stacey Wiggins, and Jewel Woodard.

“I am happy to say that Illinois State University is well represented with ten graduate students as DFI recipients, from various disciplines. Not only does this show the passion and desire these students have for educating the youth of Illinois, but their dedication to changing the climate of higher education in Illinois.” – Noelle Selkow

The prestigious fellowship, Diversifying Higher Education Faculty in Illinois (DFI), is sponsored by the Illinois Board of Higher Education and seeks 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.” The fellowship program was launched in 2004 by the Illinois General Assembly as a way to address disparities in educational attainment by race, ethnicity, income, and region.

“The DFI selection process is rigorous,” says Interim Director of the Graduate School, Dr. Noelle Selkow. “Application materials are extensive including essays describing education and career plans, professional goals, and multiple letters of recommendation.I am happy to say that Illinois State University is well represented with ten graduate students as DFI recipients, from various disciplines. Not only does this show the passion and desire these students have for educating the youth of Illinois, but their dedication to changing the climate of higher education in Illinois.”

Meet the 2020 Illinois State University – Diversifying Higher Education Faculty in Illinois Fellows

Picture of Caress Brown

Caress Brown

Caress D. Brown is a doctoral student in higher education administration. She 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.

Picture of Jamillah Gilbert

Jamillah Gilbert

Jamillah Gilbert is a two-year recipient of the DFI Fellowship, and she is in the second year of her doctoral program in the Educational Administration & Foundations department.  She is a proud member of the Leadership, Equity & Inquiry Charter cohort.  Her research interest is in curriculum and attention to diversity, inclusivity, and equity in special education pre-service teacher prep programs.

Gilbert taught at Heartland Community College, Greenville Christian College, and Illinois Wesleyan University, before joining ISU’s Redbird Family six years ago.  She is currently serving students through her position as Assistant Director of Curriculum in University College.  She resides in Normal with her four adult children and husband.

Picture of Jackie Jouett

Jackie Jouett

Jackie Jouett is from Waukegan. She is entering her second year in the Communication Sciences and Disorders Audiology (AuD) program. Jouett received a Bachelor of Science degree from Purdue University. She hopes to focus on increasing the BIPOC representation in the field of Audiology and bring awareness to the field by mentoring high school and college students.

Picture of Rosalva Medina

Rosalva Medina

Rosalva Medina is a doctoral student in Educational Administration and Foundations – Leadership Equity, and Inquiry (LEI) program at Illinois State University. She was born in Morelos, Mexico and raised in Chicago. She is a third-year Diversifying Higher Education Faculty in Illinois (DFI) Fellow. Her research interests include abuelita epistemology, funds of knowledge, and cultural wealth models in education. Rosalva earned her Master of Business Administration in International Business and Entrepreneurship and her Bachelor of Science in Marketing from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC).

Medina has over 20 years of experience at UIC 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 Sponsored Programs (OSP) as a Sponsored Project Specialist where she negotiates research agreements involving both federal and private funding.

Medina has volunteered for the past 15 years as a Wish Granter for the Make a Wish Foundation, granting wishes for children with life-threatening diseases. She lives in Chicago with her husband and two children.

Picture of Tricia Rosado

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. After a highly competitive, state-wide application process, Rosado 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 a bachelor’s degree from DePaul University.

Rosado, 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, Rosado looks forward to fulfilling the mission of becoming a contributing member of a university.

Picture of Jorge Sanchez

Jorge Sanchez

Jorge 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 Master 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 in Illinois and Elgin Community College.

Picture of Dujuan Smith

Dujuan Smith

Dujuan Smith is currently a Ph.D. candidate in Higher Education Administration at Illinois State University. His dissertation explores the Anti-Black lived experiences of senior-level Black men administrators at Historically White Institutions (HWI). Outside of his research, he serves as the Associate Director of Graduate Advising for The University of Chicago Professional Education. He also serves as the Co-Founder and Healing Strategist for the Seven7h Element Incorporated, an organization that facilitates healing opportunities in safe spaces for Black men impacted by trauma manifested from hurt people and broken systems. He recently served as the Assistant Dean of Student Life for Semester at Sea in Spring 2020, where he traveled by sea to 4 countries in 3 months with 600 college students. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the voyage abruptly ended in South Africa in March 2020.

His impressive career includes serving as the Assistant Dean of Students at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), Assistant Dean of Students for the University of Houston (UH), and Coordinator of Judicial Affairs at Moraine Valley Community College. DuJuan 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 (NIU). He studied abroad in Ghana 2002 and 2003, where he had a transformative experience seeing the “Door of No Return” inside the Cape Coast and Elmina slave dungeons. Smith returned home with a sense of pride, purpose, and deep commitment to serving underrepresented communities through engagement, empowerment, and exposure.

Among his volunteer achievements, he is a 2019 – 2021 Diversifying Higher Education Faculty in Illinois (DFI) Fellow as well as a member of the 2018-2020 Cohort of the NASPA Supporting, Expanding, and Recruiting Volunteer Excellence (SERVE) Academy. In 2015, he became an inaugural member of the Surge Fellowship (Chicago), which identifies and accelerates promising African American and Latinx education talent to enhance their expertise and aptitude while empowering them to transform the education ecosystem. Smith is also affiliated with the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA), the Association for Student Conduct Administrators (ASCA), Education Leaders of Color (EdLoC), and the Association of the Study of Higher Education (ASHE).  He is a proud member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated and currently resides on the South Side of Chicago.

Picture of Diana Soriano

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 a doctorate in educational administration and foundations with a concentration in leadership, equity, and inquiry. Soriano 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. Soriano’s research and areas of interest include race, ethnicity, gender, class, sexuality, political, and historical education for Latinas in the United States.

Picture of Stacey Wiggins

Stacey Wiggins

Stacey Wiggins lives in Bloomington with her husband and two daughters, ages 17 and 15. She graduated from Illinois State University with a bachelor’s in social work in 1994. Since that time, she has been working in social services, specifically at Bloomington Housing Authority for 24 years.  Wiggins has experience with crisis intervention, professional development training, grant writing and self-sufficiency coordination. In 2019 Wiggins resigned from the Housing Authority in order to attend Illinois State full time to pursue a master’s degree in order to be qualified to teach in higher education.  Stacey says that returning to school has been exciting and challenging but she has no regrets. She is grateful for her family, friends, and awesome classmates for their support.

Jewel Woodard is honored to be named as an Illinois Diversifying Faculty in Higher Education Fellow. She is from Zion, where she currently holds the pageant title Miss Zion. She applied for this fellowship after realizing that it aligned with some of her short- and long-term goals. As a second-year master level social work student, this fellowship was an excellent opportunity. It will not only cover the cost of her master’s degree; however, it will also provide funding for doctoral-level education. She says she is extremely blessed to be presented with this opportunity as she will be able to develop the tools, skills, connections, and resources needed to work in higher education. She is so excited about the upcoming school year as it is her final year and she will be completing an internship.