The Resurrection Project’s La Casa Residence Hall and Resource Center | Courtesy of Dominican University

Expanding its reach into Pilsen, Dominican University in River Forest announced plans for a new campus to help bridge equity gaps as a Hispanic serving institution while using the city of Chicago as a learning ground for students. 

The private Roman Catholic university, which has been a Hispanic serving institution since 2011, announced the project in August. It is working in partnership with The Resurrection Project (TRP), which is dedicated to providing affordable housing, financial education, and immigration services to the Pilsen neighborhood. 

The university will occupy Resurrection’s La Casa Residence Hall, 1805 S. Paulina St., Chicago, and the neighboring Resource Center, 1815 S. Paulina St., to create a place for a variety of programs as well as on-campus housing for students. 

The new campus will offer a variety of programs including a cohort-based associate’s degree, credit and non-credit workforce development certificate programs, and select graduate programs amongst others. 

Barrington Price, vice president for student success and engagement at Dominican and executive officer for the new Chicago campus, said there will be four work-ready certificates available for careers in legal studies, CNA, cyber security, and translation and interpretation.

According to Price, the school is dedicated to closing equity gaps and continuing to deliver quality education to students. The partnership with TRP will help build the university’s reach in Pilsen.

“What is beautiful about this partnership is that The Resurrection Project has been so instrumental to not only the Pilsen neighborhood but surrounding neighborhoods,” Price said. “We want to be and become an anchor institution. So by learning and walking alongside The Resurrection Project, we think we can learn how best to do that.” 

With a student population which is over 70% students of color, Dominican strives to create opportunities for advancement and increase the social mobility of students. 

Part of the new venture, according to Price, was increasing access to Chicago Public School and charter school students. 

The new Chicago location also serves as an immersive backdrop, providing students with endless opportunities to learn with a “city-as-a-classroom” approach. 

“We want students to see themselves in the curriculum that we teach,” Price said. “And we want to use the neighborhoods from which they come from to teach them the concepts we know will help them now and into the future.” 

According to Price this can include partnerships with local organizations and creating opportunities for students to learn hands-on from people already in the field. 

“We want to provide space and opportunity for all students who are interested in this type of engaging education,” Price said. 

News of the campus expansion came a few weeks before Dominican announced it welcomed 42 new students through its ongoing partnership with TheDream.US Scholarship program, which provides college scholarships to undocumented students. 

According to a Aug. 30 press release from Dominican, the scholarship recipients included 37 first-year students and five transfer students. Additionally, three current Dominican University students also received the scholarship.  

“As a university with a legacy of educating first-generation college students and the children of immigrants, Dominican University is proud to welcome this new class of TheDream.US scholars and support them as they realize their dream of a college education,” said Genaro A. Balcazar, senior vice president of enrollment and marketing strategy at Dominican in the press release. 

Majoring in psychology, Dreamer Arely Ramirez, was able to transfer to Dominican for her junior year. 

“When I found out there was a scholarship I could get for solely being an immigrant, I applied, letting God take the wheel — and so much more came out of that than what I expected,” Ramirez said in the press release. “I not only gained a scholarship, but I gained the security that I can be somebody in life.” 

As Dominican continues to embrace students of diverse backgrounds, their new campus will provide on-campus housing opportunities, offering a 100-bed facility for students to learn within arm’s reach of their classrooms. 

While the campus was mostly move-in ready, Price said it is undergoing a few updates to get it ready for students for the Fall 2024 start, which they estimate will have about 80 students in its first semester. 

“We are really excited about it. We are very interested in serving students. We want to join the community and see the assets of the community as something we can come alongside with, learn from, and add to in ways that are responsive to what the community is driving us to do.”

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