Medill contribution furthers Student Enrichment Services’ efforts for low-income students

Christine Farolan, Spectrum Editor

A donation of 13 laptops from the Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications is the latest in a series of efforts by Student Enrichment Services to provide resources to students on campus.

Dorina Rasmussen, director of student life at Medill, said she serves on a faculty advisory board for SES and learned that students often come to the office when their equipment has failed and they can’t immediately afford to replace it. The donated computers will be loaned out to low-income and first-generation students.

“Especially knowing that a lot of our students utilize their laptops and software, we know what it’s like to have that need,” she said. “We want to make sure that students don’t lack the access to technology needed to be successful here.”

The laptop loan program started last year in response to student need, SES director Kourtney Cockrell said. SES and NU Information Technology began with five laptops. About 10 more were donated by the School of Education and Social Policy and a subsequent handful were given by Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, she said.

“As I was interacting with students … laptop access was a big issue,” she said. “We started really small and we’ve grown now with this new gift from Medill.”

Cockrell said students request laptop loans at least two to three times a month. The laptop is given to them for a quarter, then returned to NUIT over break to wipe them and check for viruses. Students can then “re-check out” the laptop the following quarter if needed, she said.

Laptops are the most in-demand item for low-income and first-generation students, followed closely by general academic supplies and textbooks, Cockrell said. The office also offers new winter gear to these students.

“If we’re not able to provide basic needs to all students from the beginning, how can we expect to create a truly inclusive environment?” she said.

SES is the product of organizing by students from Quest Scholars Network in response to student need. The office was created in October 2014 after Quest Scholars shared their experiences and struggles as low-income or first-generation students with administrators. SES regularly meets with Quest Scholars to discuss student needs and how students can become more involved with the administration, Cockrell said.

Amanda Walsh, president of NU’s chapter of the Quest Scholars Network, stressed the continued close relationship between the Quest Scholars and SES, noting that any gift to SES directly benefits students who need it.

“This service in particular is hugely important,” the Communication senior said, referring to the laptops on loan. “A donation like this allows students to be able to participate in their classes without incurring extra financial stresses.”

Cockrell said schools’ support for SES is “inspiring,” though the office’s services are merely the first step. In the future, she would like to see laptops being included in the financial aid package, a policy change she is currently working on.

“There’s still so much to do,” she said. “We know that this laptop loaner program is a Band-Aid solution for a much larger issue.”

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @crfarolan