Rolonda Washington and Loryn Kimbrough
Rolonda Washington (left) and Loryn Kimbrough are 2019-20 winners of the state's Diversifying Faculty in Illinois Fellowship Award.
“This award provides preparation and support for under-represented students to become faculty and administrators in higher education in Illinois.” Peggy Valdes Director of Roosevelt University's McNair Scholars Program

Graduate students Loryn Kimbrough and Rolonda Washington opted to return to college recently for master’s degrees at Roosevelt University in order to buttress chances for success in professional careers.

Beginning in the fall, both local women will be doing just that with an eye toward preparing for future careers in higher education as the 2019-20 winners of the Illinois Board of Higher Education’s Diversifying Faculty in Illinois Fellowship Award.

With a goal of increasing the number of minority full-time tenure track faculty and staff at Illinois’ two and four-year public and private colleges and universities, the coveted program annually helps more than 100 minority students who demonstrate financial need to obtain advanced degrees.

“There is very little financial support available for graduate students in need,” said Peggy Valdes, director of Roosevelt’s McNair Scholars Program and a Roosevelt administrator who will be helping to prepare the two new graduate fellows for entry upon graduation from Roosevelt into the field of higher education.

“This award provides preparation and support for under-represented students to become faculty and administrators in higher education in Illinois,” Valdes said. “We are proud that our students were chosen to be part of this program.” 

Kimbrough, 35, a Master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling student from Blue Island, Ill. wants to be a college professor.  Washington, 23, a Master’s in Public Administration student from Chicago’s South Shore neighborhood, is aiming to become a higher education counselor and program administrator.

Both will receive an estimated $12,000 award from the state of Illinois thanks to recommendations from mentors they met while in college.

“It is rare that a professor has the pleasure of having a student like Loryn Kimbrough in the classroom – a student whom you feel at times could and should be teaching the class,” said Nevin Heard, an assistant professor of clinical counseling in Roosevelt’s College of Education.

He has supported Kimbrough’s development of a professional student organization, the Association for Black Counseling Professionals. “It is a blessing for me to get this kind of support from a Roosevelt professor and to receive this award, which is putting me on track for a PhD program and a career in teaching,” said Kimbrough.

“Rolonda Washingon is smart, persistent, personable, inquisitive and intensely committed to improving the situation of African Americans in this country, and I think she has very high potential to secure a full-time position in a state of Illinois institution of higher education,” added Thomas Burr, an Illinois State University associate professor who recommended his former student for the fellowship.

"I am very much honored to receive this fellowship,” added Washington. “I hope it prepares me well to become someone who is there to help her community.  I very much want to give back to students just as those I have known in college have helped me,” she said.

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