For Susana Das Neves, education is a family endeavor. Das Neves, who is a first-generation college graduate, calls her mother “an honorary recipient of all my degrees.”
“Even though she didn’t go to college herself, she always supported our educational aspirations through encouragement and advocacy,” she said. “I want to help other families build on the knowledge and resources they have to do the same thing for their children.”
Das Neves came to Northern Illinois University in 1996, first as a bilingual counselor for the CHANCE Program, later as assistant director of the Latino Resource Center, and finally as an advisor in the Academic Advising Center.
In 2016, she became a full-time doctoral student in the Department of Counseling, Adult and Higher Education. With a research focus on providing educational supports to Latino families, Das Neves developed a Parent University (Universidad para Padres) program in DeKalb County, housed in the NIU Center for P-20 Engagement and in partnership with the DeKalb and Sycamore school districts.
Most recently, Das Neves has stepped into a role as director of Migrant Education Services at NIU and coordinator of migrant education services for the Illinois Migrant Education Program, a federally funded program of the Illinois State Board of Education.
Das Neves takes a holistic approach to education, which supports students and parents alike as individuals and life-long learners. For her, parent engagement is a key component of creating a college-going culture.
“When we talk about college readiness, the immediate thought is student college readiness,” she said. “But we need to think about parent college readiness as well. If a student is the first one in their family to go to college, or the first one to graduate from high school, it’s not only an accomplishment of the student but of the entire family.”