Student Enrichment Services director plans for new role

Tyler Pager, Breaking News Editor

Kourtney Cockrell spent years helping to bridge the achievement gap between minority and non-minority students in Evanston schools. Now, she is bringing that experience to Northwestern to help support low-income and first-generation students.

Cockrell is the first director of Student Enrichment Services, a new office created this academic year. Cockrell, who began the position in late October, said she was drawn to it because of her experience working with students from “nontraditional backgrounds.”

In addition to Project EXCITE, the program she oversaw in Evanston schools, Cockrell also spent more than seven years with the nonprofit The Posse Foundation, where she helped build their alumni network.

“I could see a huge need to support our students here who were actual undergrad students coming from low-income backgrounds, coming from first-generation backgrounds,” she said. “It just was a natural fit given the work I had done with both Posse and Project EXCITE.”

Cockrell said her goal for the new office is to help students with their academics and personal and professional growth. She said the office will work to establish partnerships with a variety of other campus resources such as NU Career Advancement, the Center for Student Involvement and academic offices.

“It’s kind of the idea of becoming a first-stop shop, but not a one-stop shop and really making sure all the great programs are funneled through my office so that we’re able to make those resources as accessible as possible,” she said.

Cockrell said she aims for the office to be a hub for low-income and first-generation students. She said one of the office’s first events will be an open house during Winter Quarter where students will have an opportunity to meet Cockrell and learn more about the office.

Cockrell is also working on launching a website for the office, which she said will serve as a resource for students and share stories of students, faculty and staff who come from low-income or first-generation backgrounds. In the future, Cockrell will serve as the adviser for NU’s Quest Scholars Network.

Amanda Walsh, president of NU’s Quest Scholars, said she is “incredibly impressed” by Cockrell and already has weekly meetings with her. Walsh was a member of the search committee and said her biggest concern during the search was finding someone whom students could trust.

“She serves as a mentor. She serves as counselor,” the Communication junior said. “The crux of this office truly is the director’s ability to make people trust them and make people feel that they can put their lives on campus in her hands, and that is exactly what she is able to do.”

The headline of this article was updated for clarity at 2 a.m. on Tuesday. 

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