The International Baccalaureate® (IB) is a non-profit foundation that offers educational programs characterized by their rigorous standards for teaching and learning. High school students in the IB Diploma Program (for students aged 16-19) get a breadth and depth of knowledge in six subject groups within a curriculum that emphasizes creativity, research, essay writing and community service. With 43 authorized IB schools and more than 20,000 IB students (total, in programs from Primary to Diploma), Chicago Public Schools (CPS) is the largest IB network in the United States.

DePaul attracts 40-50 IB students each year, almost 10 percent of the total CPS IB diploma graduates.

“We actively recruit IB graduates because of the diversity of the IB population in CPS and because IB students have the academic skills and behaviors to do well in college,” says Brian Spittle, an assistant vice president in Enrollment Management and Marketing and director of the Center for Access and Attainment. Of the CPS IB students enrolling at DePaul in the fall of 2015:

  • 51 percent were female
  • 78 percent were the first in their families to go to college
  • 78 percent were eligible for the federal Pell grant
  • 51 percent were Hispanic
  • 10 percent were African American
  • 55 percent met all four of DePaul’s mission-related profile criteria (Chicago residence, low-income, first-generation and underrepresented minority)

“So many more universities are now trying to attract IB students, but over the past 15 years our Center for Access and Attainment has developed a deeply-seated, nationally-recognized and strategic commitment and connection to IB,” says David Kalsbeek, Senior Vice President, Enrollment Management and Marketing. “And that commitment really draws these high performing students to DePaul.”

“Our relationship with DePaul is great,” says Sharyl Barnes, the IB program coordinator at Curie Metropolitan High School. “DePaul understands and respects the kids’ academic journeys. A lot of our IB students choose to go to DePaul because they feel welcome there and because DePaul champions their success.” Jessica Stephenson, IB program coordinator at Prosser Career Academy, agrees: “DePaul makes college possible for these kids. Administrators meet one-on-one with students who want to go to DePaul and figure out how to make it happen: They go the extra mile, every time. That’s exceptional.”

Once they’re here, CPS IB students perform well academically. The six-year graduation rate for the class entering DePaul in 2009 was 84 percent, a number higher than the overall institutional average. “The IB program changes the way people think about the potential for students coming out of poor neighborhoods,” says Spittle. “It’s the other side of the story.”

DePaul supports IB students and programs in many ways.

For IB students, the university offers pre-college programs that introduce them to DePaul and that help them complete the college application process, including:

  • A week-long oral history workshop on migration, In Our Own Words, guides IB students from immigrant families in an exploration of national and cultural identity. They spend a week on campus, get personal attention from professors, interview their own families and learn their histories, and then share their stories through multi-media presentations. “The students get a taste of higher education and campus life, and we invite their families to the presentations,” says Spittle. “It’s a very rich experience for everyone.”
  • A four-day IB Summer Academy, administered by CPS and hosted by DePaul, gives IB students assistance in the college admission process. Valentina Gonzalez, a senior studying psychology, appreciated that opportunity: “DePaul is a very IB- friendly school, and the university reached out to us. During the Summer Academy, I learned everything I needed to know about applying for college and about scholarships and financial aid. By the end, I felt really comfortable here.”

Once they’re at DePaul, many IB students participate in the McNair Scholars Program, which prepares low-income and/or first-generation-college students for doctoral programs and faculty careers. DePaul is one of only 154 colleges and universities nationwide to have a McNair program. Also, the College of Education offers an IB educator certificate for students thinking about teaching in IB schools, a clear sign of the importance of IB generally and of the university’s appreciation of the transformative aspects of an IB program at the high school level.

For IB teachers and administrators, DePaul hosts regional conferences and professional development workshops, as well as providing spaces for IB meetings and events.

“The university has done a tremendous amount of outreach for IB students and programs,” says Mary Enda Tookey, IB coordinator at Lincoln Park High School, the first IB school in Chicago and in Illinois.

“When we held a Creativity Action Service Fair, that was at DePaul. When we offered a three-day workshop for writing essays for college applications, that was at DePaul. When we hosted Great Lakes regional meetings for sharing best practices, that was at DePaul. The university has a real and inclusive commitment to working with these kids.” Stephenson echoes that sentiment: “I can’t say enough about the people at DePaul who have bent over backwards to understand the CPS IB program and who have offered us anything we need to make this program work.”

Spittle adds that “once we get the IB students through the front door, they benefit from the same attention we pay to every student.”

For Jorge Meraz, a sophomore in the business school, that has meant small classes, easy access to great teachers, and many opportunities for internships. “I’m making great connections,” he says. Marisol Villesenor, a sophomore majoring in psychology, says that when she came to DePaul, she was ready for the work load, yet appreciated the fact that people were welcoming: “If I needed help, I knew who to go to; I knew people were there for me.” Taja Ferguson, an Egan Hope Scholar studying sales leadership, sums it up: “I’m impressed by how much faculty care about helping me get the future I want.”