July 5, 2018

Loretta Ragsdell ’75 recently earned the National Council for Higher Education's first Higher Educator of the Year Award. She addressed the National Education Association's representative assembly earlier this month.

Loretta has taught students from pre-school to college and currently teaches English and writing at City Colleges of Chicago (CCC). A self-identified "guerilla educator," Loretta claims that she teaches at every opportunity that she can, including at the grocery store, the laundromat and retail stores.

At CCC, Loretta serves as president of the part-time faculty union and has advocated for respect and fair wages for her adjunct and part-time colleagues. This spring, the union won a 2010-2020 contract providing for yearly retroactive bonuses and more professional development.

"Loretta exemplifies what we want higher education in America to be," said NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia at the assembly. "She has worked with thousands of students of color, many from low socioeconomic backgrounds who often are the first in their families to go to college, helping them to reach their fullest potential."

In her speech to the assembly, Loretta claimed that public higher education faces formidable challenges today, including threats to tenure and academic freedom, the growth of for-profits and exploitation of part-time faculty. She reminded delegates that universities are special places, not retail outlets, and that the pursuit of knowledge is fundamentally different than buying patio furniture.

Read more: RA Honors Higher Educator of the Year