Roosevelt’s Superwoman: Nancy Litke

Nancy Litke was the director of the Academic Success Center for 23 amazing and successful years, before deciding to retire student of all backgrounds would swarm into Litke’s office for both academic and life advice. Litke may be leaving Roosevelt, but her impact towards each student and her amazing vision for diversity and inclusivity for the Academic Success Center will be cherished and uphold with all of us.

We had a chance to sit down with Roosevelt’s legend, Nancy Litke:

Q: What’s your favorite TV Show and why?

NL: I love the kind of late-night TV shows, such as Trevor Noah. I really miss Jon Stewart, shows like that. I think that in this ridiculous political climate it’s really fun to hear other people make light of it and it makes everything a little less serious.

Q: Do you have any hobbies, if so, when did you start them?

NL: Well, I’ve always been a closet jock [laughs]. I play a lot of tennis; I’ve been doing that for a long time.  I love yoga, so I do that a lot. I like to travel. I like to just be outside. Lately, I’ve been really into my little garden, and I’m sure now I’ll find some new things [laughs]. I don’t know what that will be but I’m looking forward to seeing what the universe has to offer.

Q: Where have you traveled to?

NL: A lot of different places in the states; gold coast, my brother lives in Seattle, I have a lot of family in L.A, Califonia… I really, really love northern California, San Francisco. But I’ve also gone to Europe quite a bit. My husband travels a lot for work so we have tons of miles and we have family in Italy and that’s kind of our favorite place in the entire world.

Q: If you could live in any fictional world, what world would you live in and why?

NL: I’m not a big reader of sci-fi or dystopia novels and things like that, but I think it would be fun to be in the Alice in Wonderland world for a bit, you know, where nothing is how it’s supposed to be. That might be a little fun for a while. Or even a Jane Austen novel might be fun for a while, but only if I was a man though, not if I was a woman [laughs].  They have a lot more fun.

Q: What’s your life motto?

NL: I think it’s ‘you get back what you give.’ That’s a really simple equation that states you can’t expect to get anything more than what you give. Often times when you give, you get so much more in return. So I think if people stick with that, life would be pretty simple.

Q: What was your college experience like?

NL: I had no idea what I was doing. I was first generation. I didn’t know anything, so when I got there I was just like “oh, well let’s have fun.” Academics weren’t really pushed in my house, so I just kind of fooled around. So by the end of my sophomore year when they told me I had to pick a major, I was just stunned because I had no idea what I was going to do. So I just quit school.

However, my plan was to stay on campus and work. My parents said that’s a great idea, but you will not get any support financially, and I didn’t expect it otherwise. So I worked like a dog to pay my rent and all my friends were going to school for just three to four hours a day and I worked for nine hours a day, so I thought “okay, I have to go back to school and figure this out.” I knew I wasn’t a business person, and I knew I was going to be more service-oriented. I thought education, but teaching didn’t interest me, so I leaned towards special education. However, I also didn’t know about my options because I didn’t have someone walking me through college and all the things around me that I could have done. That’s why I think these mentor programs and first-generation programs are really important.

Q: As a student, what was the funniest thing you tried to get away with or got away with?

NL: Well, I didn’t get away with it, I got caught. Back in the day when I went to school, you couldn’t go into boy’s dorms, and you just couldn’t do that. So I got caught in one [laughs]. I think that was one of the funniest things I tried getting away with, but I only lasted one year in the dorms. I got out as soon as I could.

Q: From start to present, what has your journey at Roosevelt been like?

NL: Well, I’m not much of a planner, so getting this job kind of happened to me by chance.  My background is in special education, but I never wanted to be in a classroom. That was just not interesting to me. So I worked in a psychiatric hospital, rehabilitation, but mostly on the educational side, teaching the kids that were hospitalized so when they left the hospital, they wouldn’t be so far behind. Then, I was working in DePaul part-time when my kids were little as a learning disability clinician like in our LSSP program. I saw the job for the director of a similar program over here at Roosevelt.

So when I first started, I was just part-time having the LD program. I wasn’t here very long before I was given all students with disabilities. At that point, when I was handed the list, it only had seven names on them, and that was all there was. Now, we have 200 students. From there, I got really interested in programming for our students that were struggling, not necessarily for just students with disabilities, but just our under-resourced kids. Then, I was given the tutoring center and the academic success center was created after.

A couple of years later, I could see that we were losing our kids and many were barely sliding by, so we put together the Peer Mentor Program as a way to have more hands-on with helping students navigate the university. Basically, when I first started working here I needed a job, but before you realize it this place just gets to you and then it becomes more than just a job. The history, the mission, the people who have gone to this school before, you realize that this is much more than just a job.

I can say that, even though I’m leaving, and on my own volition, I’ve loved every minute of it. I’ve been really lucky to be one of those people that love their work. It was never painful to come here every day, well, maybe a little bit some days [laughs]. When I look back at all the programs I was able to put together, I am really proud of them. Especially with the sense of community that was built, but never planned for, it just feels organic. And [we have] a great community of diverse students that come to this office. I think this is so cool because it’s not like we planned to build a community, but I think that is the strongest part of the program. Everyone talks about creating diversity, but you know in a way you have to have an environment that’s welcoming and open, you can’t force that. So I think to me that is the coolest thing that has happened as result of these programs.

Q: What do you want students to take away from you?

NL: Ugh, I’m going to cry now [laughs]. To believe in themselves.  More than anything, one of our mottos in the office is we’re going to believe in you until you believe in yourself. We believe that students have the ability to do whatever they want, but students don’t have that confidence, academic confidence, so I really want students to own that.