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Social Justice Leadership Program

Program Overview

The Social Justice Leadership Program (SJLP) is for incoming freshmen and transfer students who want to spend their first two semesters at NEIU in a program that emphasizes social justice. The program includes enrollment in one (for freshmen) or two (for transfer students) courses related to social justice in the Fall semester, and either one or two additional courses related to social justice in the Spring semester (depending on the student’s preference). In the Spring semester, the courses include leadership training and provide hands-on experience enacting social change. Many of the courses included in the program satisfy additional graduation requirements; the program is designed to not slow students’ progress toward graduation. 

A major benefit of the Social Justice Leadership Program is that students who are accepted into the program receive an award to pay for all unmet costs of their campus housing for both the Fall and Spring semesters (“all unmet costs” refers to the remaining housing costs after all of the student’s financial aid is applied). All students live on the same floor of the Nest, NEIU’s residence hall, in a Living Learning Community.

In addition to the course work and community living arrangements, students in the program will benefit from co-curricular activities, including a monthly event for all SJLP students such as a guest speaker, a special group activity on campus, or an off-campus group outing. Students also have an option to participate in an Alternative Spring Break trip beyond Illinois to learn more about social justice and to participate in service activities. 

The Social Justice Leadership Program is a superb way to get your bearings at NEIU while also getting your bearings in complex social issues. 

Eligibility Requirements

To be eligible to apply for the Social Justice Leadership Program, students must meet the following criteria:

  • Be an admitted first-time freshman or transfer student in an NEIU degree program
  • Have a FAFSA (or RISE Act State Alternative Application) on file with NEIU
  • Maintain a full-time course load of at least 12 credits per semester
  • Enroll in one or two social justice-related courses for both fall and spring semesters, as advised
  • Meet individually with the SJLP Coordinator three times per semester (beginning, middle, and end) to discuss your academic progress, needs for support, and future plans

Application Process

There is no cost attached to this program or to its application. Applications are accepted each year beginning on April 1 and close on July 30; no new students are admitted to the program other than at in August, at the start of the Fall semester. 

For the Fall 2021-Spring 2022 academic year, the Social Justice Leadership Program is able to accept 25 freshmen (0-29 college credits) and up to 15 transfer students. There is a two-step application process: completing an application form and participating in a 20-minute virtual interview. The application process is expected to be competitive, but prior academic excellence and social justice experience are not strong determining factors in who will be accepted. Instead, acceptance criteria include a strong interest in learning more about social justice, a commitment to participate in the program fully, a commitment to earning a GPA of at least 2.5, and housing needs. No recommendation letters are required. Students of color and other marginalized identities are especially encouraged to apply. Students who are undocumented are also encouraged to apply but are asked to self-identify their status to allow the university to budget for any awards received by undocumented students with an alternate funding source. 

You may begin your application for the Fall 2021-Spring 2022 Social Justice Leadership Program by clicking on the link below. Once you have submitted your application, you will be contacted within a few days to schedule an interview. Interviews will be conducted whenever there are ten or more applicants who have completed the written portion of the application. Within a week of your application, you will be contacted with a decision indicating either that you have been accepted into the program or that you have been placed on a waiting list, in case there are still open spots remaining in the program at the end of July. All decisions will be announced by August 1.  

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All award decisions will be made by the SJLP Coordinator and the members of the SJLP Advisory Council. Decisions will be made on a rolling basis throughout the summer until all spots in the program are filled.

If you have any questions about the SJLP prior to beginning your application, you may contact the SJLP Coordinator by emailing Dr. Vicki Byard at You will receive a reply within a few days.