For Veronica Herrero, education has played a major role in her life along with helping her achieve her dreams as a first-generation college graduate. In August, Herrero was appointed to the Illinois Board of Higher Education.
Herrero has been an NIU Board of Trustees member since 2017 and currently works as the Chief Strategy Officer at the City Colleges of Chicago. She said being someone who is heavily involved in the Illinois education system, she was excited to bring her prior knowledge to the IBHE.
“I have made it my purpose in my professional life to make sure that students are able to make it because they've earned it, they deserve it and they have a right to have it,” Herrero said. “As well as to really get more students to meet their potential and achieve their dreams.”
Herrero has also served as the chief program officer of One Million Degrees, a non-profit organization that supports low-income community college students, and as the deputy officer of Student Support and Engagement at Chicago Public Schools.
Herrero was appointed to the IBHE in August by Gov. J.B. Pritzker as the vice-chair of the Public University Governing Board. She said she’s excited to work with the members who are on the board.
“They’re all individuals who are there for all the right reasons,” Herrero said. “They're there because they want to help shape and improve higher education in the state and with the students in mind.”
The IBHE board consists of 16 members who oversee higher education in the state. There are 10 public members, one faculty member from a public university, one faculty member from a private university, the chairperson of the Illinois Community College Board, the chairperson of the Illinois Student Assistance Commission and two student members.
Since her appointment to the board, Herrero said she has been focused on creating a master plan, a list of priorities for institutions in the state, budgeting for the different higher education systems and looking for the next executive director of the IBHE.
“At IBHE we’re there to make sure that the quality of education our students are receiving is the highest quality, and that our students are truly prepared to be economically mobile,” Herrero said. “I believe that all of [the board members] feel very strongly about this.”
Herrero said one of the main things board members are working on is equity within the master plan – ensuring each student receives what they need to be successful throughout college.
Being on the Board of Trustees has helped recognize the impacts of the budget impasse and the decrease of funding within higher education, Herrero said.
She said with the shortage of funds in previous years, the new IBHE board is feeling hopeful they’ll create a funding model that makes sense for the success of the students and institutions.
Herrero said the work that NIU does, has kept her very grounded and she hopes to bring that perspective to the IBHE.
“I truly believe NIU is a special place because, with my fellow trustees, as well as President Lisa Freeman, I believe they’re leaders in the state when it comes to creating policies and plans that truly keep our students at the center and have the best interest of our students,” Herrero said.