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NIU develops leadership and community at 2018 ILACHE conference

April 9, 2018

On Friday, April 20, NIU students and staff members will join approximately 400 Latinx leaders from throughout the state for the 26th Professional and Student Development Conference of the Illinois Latino Council on Higher Education (ILACHE) at Illinois State University.

The theme of the conference is “Latino Resistance in Higher Education: A Legacy of Struggle,” and it will feature keynote speaker Estela Mara Bensimón, a professor of higher education at the University of Southern California Rossier School of Education and director of the USC Center for Urban Education.

Dr. Vernese Edghill-Walden, NIU chief diversity officer, says, “The ILACHE conference is a great way for our students to network with other students, faculty and staff in the state. ILACHE is a wonderful organization committed to access and equity for Latinx students in the state of Illinois. The Office of Academic Diversity, Equity and Inclusion is happy to help sponsor NIU students to attend this important conference.”

Susana Das Neves, an NIU doctoral student and long-time NIU employee, is the conference chair and serves on the executive board as ILACHE vice president of academic and professional development. She is excited to introduce a number of new elements to this year’s conference to expand community involvement and professional development.

“This year, for the first time, we will have an ILACHE Academia para Padres offering workshops in Spanish for the parents of high school and college students who attend to support their children,” she says. These workshops are jointly sponsored by the UIC School of Medicine Academia de Padres and Universidad para Padres, a community outreach program in DeKalb county coordinated by Das Neves and sponsored by the NIU Center for P-20 Engagement.

Das Neves is looking forward to bringing Universidad para Padres participants and their children who are juniors and seniors in high school to the conference. Together, the families will be able to learn about the college preparation process and pursue self-development and growth. “This honors one of ILACHE’s core values,” she says, “which is comunidad – community.”

Das Neves is also looking forward to the conference’s first professional and graduate school fair, as well as a special presentation of the film Dolores Huerta that is open to the public. She sees ILACHE as an important voice for the Latinx community.

“As a Latina who works with Latinos/Latinas in the community and in higher education, I can bring to the table issues and concerns that we see happening in K-12 education, which affect Latinos/Latinas in the pursuit of post-secondary education and beyond,” Das Neves says. “While ILACHE advocates for equality and equal representation of Latinos/Latinas in higher education, we also advocate for other issues that affect the K-12 pipeline to postsecondary education, whether that’s undocumented students, immigration laws that impact access to higher education or changes in legislation that affect students and families, as well as higher education faculty and staff.”

Sandy López, assistant to the director of the NIU Center for Latino and Latin American Studies, is another NIU Huskie who is actively involved in the conference. López, an ILACHE executive board member and the organization’s webmaster, says, “I am honored to be a part of an organization that works collaboratively with colleges, universities and other stakeholders to increase the access, retention and advancement of Latinx students, faculty and staff in Illinois higher education institutions.”

Dr. Christina Abreu, director of the NIU Center for Latino and Latin American Studies, says, “The Center for Latino and Latin American Studies is especially excited about this year’s ILACHE conference because organizers have recognized one of our undergraduate students, Laura Vivaldo Cholula (political science major and Latin American studies minor, NIU class of ’18), as the recipient of the Emerging Leader Award. Laura works tirelessly on behalf of undocumented students on campus, and she also serves on the center’s Student Advisory Council. We are very proud of her!”

The annual ILACHE conference has a special place in Cholula’s heart. “The first time I attended an ILACHE conference,” she remembers, “the workshop was facilitated by NIU Latinx students. That workshop made an impact on me because it helped me choose to enroll at NIU, and it connected me to students who would help my transition from a community college to a university.”

NIU students who are interested in attending the ILACHE conference at Illinois State University this year should contact Sandy López at [email protected]. More information about the conference is available at