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Undergraduate Student Lifecycle

Northwestern is committed to building a culture in which all students can successfully navigate the University and prepare for their futures. Thus, as the undergraduate student population became increasingly diverse, several schools and units made changes to better support students who identify solely or jointly across first-generation, low-income (FLGI) and historically underrepresented minority (URM) identities.

To expand upon these efforts, in 2019, the Provost committed to an institutional priority and charged the Undergraduate Student Lifecycle Committee with developing a strategy and framework for a continuum of support for these students. The committee, which was made up of faculty, staff and graduates, , which were approved by the Provost in 2020. The committee’s work formally concluded in 2023, but certain projects are ongoing.


Implemented Lifecycle Recommendations and Ongoing Work

The committee explored a range of initiatives to support students and foster a more inclusive academic community. Listed below are highlights of the implementations that have been made since 2019 as well as descriptions of work that is ongoing and evolving to ensure student success.

  • The Office of FGLI Initiatives was created to support campus collaboration on strategies and policies for undergraduate students who identify as first-generation and/or lower-income.
  • Books for ’Cats allows students with high financial need (as determined by the financial aid office) to borrow select textbooks at no cost.
  • Knight Community Scholars (KCS) supports selected FGLI students with four years of individual and group advising, community-building opportunities, workshops, and programming.
  • Compass, a cohort-based, year-long peer mentorship program, connects FGLI students with trained 2nd, 3rd, 4th year student mentors to enhance the undergraduate experience.
  • The Inclusive Teaching Practicum, a three-week cohort-based online program for instructors of all levels, backgrounds, and teaching contexts, was developed to deepen understanding of how faculty’s identities, positions, and practices impact course climate and student learning, and to reflect on how they may interrogate and de-center dominant perspectives and content.
  • The Principles of Inclusive Teaching were published to serve the needs of all students, regardless of their backgrounds or identities, and to support their engagement with subject material.
  • Beginning in the 2023-2024 academic year, students will have the opportunity to select Continuous Housing as an option that provides housing from September through June, including Winter Break. Costs for students with high demonstrated financial need will be covered by Undergraduate Financial Aid or the Office of the Provost.
  • In the summer of 2020, Northwestern made a pledge to advance inclusivity and equity through staff hiring practices as a component of broader social justice initiatives. In spring of 2021, University leadership announced a new university-wide policy on diverse candidate slates (DCS).
  • The Office of Institutional Research activated an internal workgroup in early 2023 focused on evolving the ways Northwestern collectsstudent demographic data. For official institutional purposes, student demographic data, race/ethnicity included, are classified in groupings aligned to federal requirements. However, over the past year, efforts are underway across university, state, and federal levels to ensure that the demographic data that is collected about students is aligned in the best way possible to reflect the personal identities of students.
  • A 2022 study assessing healthcare coverage at Northwestern concluded that several changes have been made to improve student access to quality healthcare, including moving from an opt-in to an opt-out process for the NU-SHIP. As of 2023, work has focused on improving communications about health insurance requirements for students and parents and increasing in-house CAPS capacity.
  • Research was conducted to understand the current state of support for Undocumented/DACA Status Students and identify unmet student needs. Leaders developed a cross-functional workgroup that began meeting in spring 2023 to make progress on several issues, including: enabling better communications across staff functions; creating more expeditious processes for students to seek legal support; and staying abreast of legal changes.
  • The Office of the Provost is leading an effort to establish a Supporting FGLI Student Success Initiative. In 2023, these efforts involve gathering quantitative and qualitative data to assess the current FGLI student experience and identify student success indicators (as well as barriers) to monitor continued progress.


Lifecyle Recommendations 

A review of the recommendations that guided the aforementioned work.

Over the course of the 2019-2020 academic year, leaders in the undergraduate schools, the Office of the Provost, Student Affairs, and the Associate Provost for Diversity and Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer were involved in creating these nine Lifecycle Recommendations.

  1. Coordinate and expand faculty diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts. Unify disconnected efforts that lead to redundancies and gaps. Develop a coordinated structure to distribute information, design professional development programs, support mentoring and provide space to foster an inclusive academic community.
  2. Develop faculty incentives. Identify, incentivize and reward faculty contributions that support this student population at the individual, departmental, school and institutional levels. Collect baseline data on current faculty engagement and reward exemplary practice; develop strengthened incentives like designated faculty time.
  3. Prioritize diverse hiring and promotion.Diversify the faculty through careful hiring practices and quantify, recognize and elevate contributions of existing faculty. Create and disseminate DEI guidelines for faculty searches and emphasize increasing diversity.
  4. Implement institutional changes that streamline infrastructure and increase communication across the institution. Designate a role to lead a coordinated, cross-unit response to data regarding students that identify across FGLI/URM identities. Identify and evaluate steps to lower costs for students; conduct ongoing evaluation of policies and procedures that impact students’ sense of well-being, belonging and ability to navigate the University.
  5. Increase communication with early- and regular-decision students before they matriculate. Build out and focus on new student and family programming and first-year experience programming. Make information for students who identify as FGLI/URM more easily accessible on Northwestern’s website. Develop materials for guidance counselors specific to the needs of these students. Streamline and improve communication with current students and staff; expand outreach between admitted students and current students and/or staff who are knowledgeable about the FGLI/URM experience of Northwestern; and develop more events for students and families.
  6. Develop and expand programming that provides four-plus years of support. Centralize, coordinate and expand pre-enrollment and mentoring with the support of a new role within the Office of the Associate Provost for Undergraduate Education. Develop a course or workshop on the hidden curriculum; draft a universal syllabus statement or Canvas module on resources. Expand and extend the range of programs and opportunities to support students later in the lifecycle; include peer mentoring and community-building programs to enhance access to resources.
  7. Create community scholars’ program.Develop a cohort model for students that identify as FGLI/URM that would support selected students from matriculation through graduation. The program would provide a sense of community and comprehensive support as well as access to a range of proactive, targeted support services from existing units across campus. Faculty and staff who will serve as Community Scholar Liaisons must be provided with additional opportunities to specialize in supporting Lifecycle students.
  8. Create community-building space.Dedicate a central, welcoming and accessible space that becomes a hub for students and the faculty who support them. Provide enhanced space for Student Enrichment Services (SES) and hoteling spaces for departments and programs that serve Lifecycle students. Engage students in developing the space and partner with other initiatives and units with similar goals, such as Academic Support and Learning Advancement (ASLA) and the future Academic Resource Center (ARC).
  9. Provide professional development.Create professional development resources for all faculty, staff and students, including specific opportunities to understand the experiences of this population of students. All faculty and staff should participate in professional development that aligns with University diversity, equity and inclusion goals.