Blackburn Recognized for ‘Doubling Down’ on Efforts to Strengthen Supports to Students Pursuing Degrees


Doctor Margaret Lawler getting awarded for her efforts in supporting the students at Blackburn College.
By Office of Marketing & Public Relations
On July 5, 2022

As colleges and universities across Illinois brought another academic year to a close, the Partnership for College Completion (PCC) today recognized a group of institutional leaders working to eliminate racial and socioeconomic disparities in college completion on their campuses. In June, PCC celebrated the inaugural graduates of its Equity Academy for Presidents and Cabinets during the EAPC Equity Recognition Luncheon at The Metropolitan Chicago. The program recognized leadership teams from 18 Illinois colleges and universities that embarked on a one-to two-year journey to gain additional support in the long-term implementation of their equity plans. Through the EAPC, developed in collaboration with the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program, Institutional presidents and other key leaders have learned about how to improve communication around equity efforts, improve data transparency and data use, and grow their plans for addressing student success disparities to scale.

Margaret Lawler, Ed.D., Executive Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion; Chief Diversity Officer; and Title IX Coordinator at Blackburn accepted the award on behalf of the college.

Presidents and cabinets eligible to participate in the EAPC included members of the Illinois Equity in Attainment initiative (ILEA). Through the ILEA initiative, PCC offers direct support and resources to community and four-year colleges across the region and state. These colleges and universities have publicly committed to PCC’s goals to eliminate achievement gaps and aggressively prioritize increasing completion rates within their institutions.

Using a combination of intensive and just-in-time professional learning opportunities, PCC works with these partner colleges to implement the actions and strategies identified by each institution in their respective Equity Plans to develop and to fully scale effective practices. By having equity plans in place, these institutions are well-positioned to serve as models to other institutions in Illinois following Governor Pritzker’s signage of HB5464 earlier this month, requiring all public colleges and universities to develop and implement equity plans and practices to increase the access, retention, completion, and student loan repayment rates for student groups historically underrepresented in higher education.

Today, ILEA’s reach extends to 25 colleges and universities ( 17, 2-year and 8, 4-year), serving 129,432 students seeking an associate or bachelor’s degree and representing 46% percent of all Latinx undergraduates in Illinois and 35% of all Illinois’ Black undergraduates.

“Our ILEA partners represent the diversity of higher education options in our state and those that are most deeply committed to taking action to address historic inequity on their campuses. We’re pleased to recognize these 18 presidents and their leadership teams today for doubling down on their commitment to equity, and moving from rhetoric to action,” PCC Executive Director Lisa Castillo Richmond said.

For more information on the EAPC or ILEA, email PCC Senior Communications Manager Bravetta Hassell at

The Partnership for College Completion (PCC) champions policies, practices, and systems that increase college completion and eliminate degree completion disparities for low-income, first generation, and students of color in Illinois – particularly Black and Latinx students.