CCICS mural

News & Features

Friday, June 20, 2014

Northeastern senior Natasha Overton has a master plan. She will graduate in 2014 with her heart in arts education and her mind on the future:

2015 – Enter a master’s degree program

2018 – Graduate with a master’s degree

2020 – Return to Northeastern to teach and start a local, comprehensive arts program

A self-described introvert who left the restaurant industry after coming to Chicago, Overton credits her experience at Northeastern Illinois University’s Carruthers Center for Inner City Studies as the key to becoming the person she wants to be.

“Before Northeastern, I had never met professors that I had personal relationships with,” Overton said. “It’s a very awakening experience. I found a piece of me, a part of me that was unexplained. They really make you feel comfortable with exploring identity.”

Known as CCICS, the Carruthers Center for Inner City Studies was established in 1966 as a premier African-centered institution in higher education. The Center established a scholar/activist tradition that is rooted in the surrounding South Side neighborhood community of Bronzeville.

Overton is a Bronzeville activist, volunteering for organizations that help grow neighborhood businesses. She is also the president of UTATU Collective, a student organization that supports cultural activism uplifting Black communities.

As a senior focusing her studies on inner city studies and art, Overton wants to highlight black artists in her work and help create a black aesthetic. She has had a chance at this once, helping in the creation of a mural curated at CCICS. Depicting the 160-year history of the neighborhood, the mural, titled “UpSouth,” is part of the Bronzeville Neighborhood Research Project. This kind of community involvement propels Overton into her vision of leading a comprehensive arts education program at CCICS.

“I want to get more children involved in community projects so they have a link from high school to college,” she said.

Overton has studied at both CCICS and on the main campus. She says her experience has shaped her perspective on life and has helped her connect more deeply to people on a basic, human level.

It was nearly five years ago when she first sat in on a friend’s class at CCICS. Her best advice to her former self and any prospective students is to relax and be open to the college experience. She says Northeastern is a great nurturing environment.

“It creates a safety net for students to explore different ideas and perspectives, to develop your humanity.”