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New director of CHANCE Program eager to inspire hope

November 15, 2021

‘A different level of success’

Adriane Hutchinson knows how powerful it can be to simply help someone.

Adriane Hutchinson has been named the new director of the McKinley “Deacon” Davis CHANCE Program at NIU.

The right support means everything. Hutchinson learned that growing up in a family that didn’t believe anyone should have to pull themselves up by the bootstraps, as the saying goes.

Because not everyone has the shoes to begin with, she says. Through the years, someone always helped her get the shoes. And now she’s determined to do the same for others as the new director of the McKinley “Deacon” Davis CHANCE Program.

It’s the right job for her, she says, and she’s proud to take it on.

She sees so much opportunity in the program, one that has impacted the lives of more than 10,000 Huskies over more than 50 years. And she’s eager to help students see that same opportunity, along with the promise that lies within them.

Because promise lies in all students from all backgrounds, even those who don’t necessarily realize it’s there, said Hutchinson, who previously held positions as dean of Academic Development at McHenry County College and director of Academic Support Services at College of Lake County.

Her personal mission is “to affect positive change in the lives of people.” She wants to inspire hope.

“People may not understand the motivation that’s in them that needs to be brought out,” Hutchinson said. “You can actually coach people into being motivated when they may not seem like they’re motivated at all. A lot of times, people just don’t have the strategies to be successful. Well, that’s our job.”

Recently refocused to further improve retention and promote timely degree completion, the CHANCE Program provides an integrated campus-wide support system to students selected to participate.

Students who could benefit from the program are now recruited by admissions counselors to apply to NIU and identified through the university’s holistic review process, which no longer requires standardized test scores.

With recruitment handled by admissions, CHANCE staff members now have more time to personally guide and coach students, collaborate with academic advisors and participate in professional development opportunities.

Each student in the CHANCE Program is assigned a student success counselor who offers one-on-one support every step of the way. Counselors facilitate campus-wide resources to give students the financial, academic, social and organizational guidance they need to succeed.

“I know the key elements of what it takes to retain students, particularly underrepresented students with diverse backgrounds,” said Hutchinson, whose career in higher education has centered around a passion to create an inclusive experience that leads to success and completion for diverse student populations.

She earned a master’s degree in Public Service Management from DePaul University, graduate certificates in Human Resources and Conflict Management from North Park University and a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Georgetown University.

Hutchinson comes to NIU and the CHANCE Program feeling both inspired and excited. Because of the strong history behind CHANCE, any change or transition might be trying for some, she said, but she envisions even more success for the program and everyone involved.

“I just feel like it can happen,” she said. “We can take this to a different level of success.”

Along with meeting staff, Hutchinson has spent some of her initial days at NIU meeting students. She wants to know their backgrounds, their needs, their interests, their motivations.

One upperclassman told her, “I was in CHANCE.”

“You’re still in CHANCE,” she responded. “You remain in CHANCE until you finish.

“I want to make sure they know just because you went past your freshman year, you’re still part of this CHANCE family. We want to make sure they’re successful all the way through to graduation.”

The generation of students entering and enrolled in today’s CHANCE Program are part of an unprecedented time in history, she said. They’ve gone to class virtually, are more isolated than before and perhaps more difficult to reach in some ways.

“These are students affected by this pandemic, and we still don’t know how long it’s going to last,” Hutchinson said. “I think that uniqueness and sort of that come from behind is going to be exciting when they get to be the example of, ‘Even though I’ve had these challenges, this major crisis in my school experience, I’m still going to earn that degree. I’m still going to excel in my classes. I’m still going to succeed.’”