Ruth Duckworth's "Serenity" statue seen agains a blue sky and wispy white clouds

Northeastern Illinois University welcomes three DFI Fellows

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Northeastern Illinois University is hosting three Diversifying Higher Education Faculty in Illinois (DFI) fellows during the 2020-21 academic year. This State of Illinois program is designed to increase the number of minority, full-time, tenure-track faculty and staff who work in the state’s public and private colleges and universities. 

This year’s Northeastern fellows are:

  • Paula Andrea Sanchez Garcia, Chemistry
  • Karen Guadarrama, Higher Education Leadership
  • April Walker-Starr (B.A. ’15 Social Work), Social Work

“I am very proud of our students who have been awarded these prestigious fellowships—congratulations to them!” Northeastern College of Graduate Studies and Research Dean Michael Stern said. “I am also extremely grateful to Angela Vidal-Rodriguez and Alejandra Prieto-Mendoza for working with our applicants on their applications and promoting and administering the DFI Fellowship Program. I am particularly heartened that the State of Illinois has continued to fund this important fellowship program during the coronavirus pandemic and the difficult fiscal circumstances we find ourselves in currently.”

The DFI Fellowship Program was launched in 2004 to address low rates of African American and Latinx faculty in the state’s two- and four-year institutions of higher learning. The program emerged out of two separate programs: the Illinois Consortium for Educational Opportunity Program (ICEOP) and the Illinois Minority Graduate Incentive Program (IMGIP).

Stern believes the DFI Fellows program is important not just to Northeastern, but for the makeup of the nation’s professoriate.

“For the state it promotes a stronger pipeline to get a more diverse group of professors so students feel that they have role models in their classrooms,” Stern said. 

The State of Illinois provides DFI Fellows with a stipend. Northeastern takes that commitment one step further by also providing tuition and fee waivers for its fellows.

“A lot of our students need some financial help to successfully complete their programs,” Stern said. “This allows students to really focus on their programs without having to work an extra job, or not work at all, and helps them get started on the long journey to become professors.”

Applications for the 2021-2022 DFI Fellowship Program are expected to open in December.