Nick Tucker, Associate in Liberal Arts ‘71, is a career coach who is helping the next generation of graduates prepare for their careers. In a recent interview, Nick shared his perspective on the transition of Kendall’s programs to NLU.
Q: What was Kendall like in your day?
A: When I attended Kendall, it was a junior college in Evanston geared to diverse students from working-class families. It was a commuter school, although dorm rooms were available for those who could afford them. I grew up in Evanston, so I lived at home while attending Kendall full-time. To help defray tuition costs, I also worked full-time at Marshall Field & Co. as part of Kendall’s work-study program, which included classes in business issues. Back then there was no such thing as student loans.
Q: What are some of your favorite memories from your time at Kendall?
A: In my fine arts classes we went on field trips to the opera, theater, museums, and more. This introduced me to so much of what Chicago offers, and I developed a strong interest in jazz.
In Religion class, a classmate and I went down to an impoverished area west of the Loop and interviewed people about their religious beliefs and life in general. We passed out packs of cigarettes as a way to start the conversation.
During the Kent State protests of 1970, Kendall and Northwestern students all walked out together for two or three days. Our teachers encouraged nonviolent action. It was my early introduction into speaking up for what is right—to freedom of speech.
Q: Have you followed Kendall’s evolutions over the years? How has it changed, from your perspective?
A: Kendall is a totally different institution now. It started to evolve in the late 70s, when it added four-year degrees. Then in the 80s, it transitioned away from the core competencies of the previous era into a focus on its culinary and hospitality programs. I watched this from arm’s length, living in Hong Kong for a while. At an alumni event a few years ago, things got “re-Kendalled,” and I was invited to join the alumni board. I wanted to give back to the school that had given me my first chance in higher education.
Kendall’s changes have paralleled an evolution in higher education. Today, programs tend to be more career-focused, and students are much better prepared for their job searches. Not everyone needs a four-year degree. An associate degree plus technical training or certifications are enough for certain roles in the healthcare and IT professions, for example.
Q: What was your initial reaction to the proposed transition of programs from Kendall College to National Louis University?
A: At first, I was concerned that the Kendall name would disappear. But I’m selfishly glad they are keeping the name—it’s the right move. Kendall’s brand, with its strong programs and famous alumni— like the James Beard Award winners—will boost NLU’s name as well.
I knew of NLU when it was National College of Education in Evanston. I have friends from high school who went there. It was a school that taught teachers to teach, and it provided career opportunities to those with mental or physical challenges. I find it rather ironic that two former Evanston colleges are coming together—each with a similar mission, both committed to the local community and having a strong national and international presence in higher education.
It seems a natural evolution at this moment in time for Kendall and NLU to partner. Laureate was a benefit to Kendall—just look at the students, how international they are. Kendall’s footprint is much larger now. But it’s a logical change for Laureate, a worldwide company, to give the institution back now to a local entity like NLU.
Q: How do you think this transition will benefit current Kendall students?
A: Having more associate degrees to choose from will benefit students, given current problems with student debt. A broader range of classes and degrees will be especially helpful for students who don’t know what they want to do—it gives them a chance to discover what is out there.
Q: If you were a current student, how do you think you’d be feeling about this transition?
A: I would be asking myself, What will my diploma say? Do I have to rethink my educational track?
It’s bittersweet. We long for yesterday, but we can’t argue with the passing of time. Everything must evolve, and schools are no different; higher education is no different.
Change is ongoing in any dynamic organization. It’s not good or bad. Will there be fallout? There always is. But I see in my work as a career counselor that good things come out of change. We never stop learning. And instilling the love of learning is something Kendall did for me.