2017 Award Citation
Higher Education Program
Terry E. Williams Distinguished Alumna Award
Aliza Gilbert, PhD 2009
Aliza Gilbert has been a College Counselor at Highland Park High School since 1998. Prior to arriving at Highland Park, she was Associate Director of Admissions at Lake Forest College. She has served on the Outreach Advisory Committee for the Common Application and the Counselor Advisory Board for the University of Illinois. Aliza is a member of the Illinois Association for College Admission Counseling (IACAC) and has held multiple positions on the IACAC Executive Board. She is also a member of the National Association for College Admissions Counseling (NACAC) and is a past Chair of the NACAC Committee on Inclusion, Access and Success Access.
She holds a B.S. in Elementary Education from The University of Illinois at Chicago, an M.A. in College Student Personnel from Loyola University, Chicago and a Ph.D. in Higher Education from Loyola University. Aliza is a recipient of the NACAC Human Relations Award and the City of Highland Park Humanitarian Award. In 2017 she was recognized with a Counselors That Change Lives Award.
Her dissertation, “Dreamers and the College Dream: A Case Study Analysis Examining the Influences of High Schools and High School Agents”, a timely and insightful study found that: college-bound undocumented students exhibit mixed levels of perseverance and resilience in academic achievement, family and peer support, and paying for college; undocumented students are largely invisible within the school community and as a result, lack accurate information about admission and financial aid processes, as well as scholarship opportunities and requirements; and that undocumented students are largely unaware of federal and state legislation and policies that impact their college options. Her study also found that while undocumented students do not engage in school-wide college counseling programming, they respond favorably to targeted outreach and partake in specialized programmatic efforts. Additionally, although high school agents (teachers, school counselors, and xiii college counselors) express strong support for undocumented students in their pursuit of a college degree, they hold numerous incorrect beliefs and lack pertinent information regarding undocumented students’ postsecondary opportunities.
For many, Dr. Aliza Gilbert is considered to be “the expert” on anything and everything pertaining to college admission for undocumented students. It is her passion and area of expertise. Aliza’s commitment to helping high school students pursue their higher education goals was a key part in earning her the award nomination. As a college counselor at Highland Park High School for the last 17 years, Aliza has helped thousands of students. She believes, “We are all members of a global society, and as members of that society we are better served when our citizens are educated.” With an eye toward supporting that philosophy, Aliza has worked hard to guide students through the challenging process of applying for college and for scholarship opportunities.
No one works harder than Aliza to help college-seeking students. She does this by offering her knowledge, compassion, and enthusiasm to anyone who asks – to her own students, of course, but also to state and local legislators, to undocumented students who will never know her, and to counselors trying to assist undocumented students through a process that was not built with them in mind.
We admire and are grateful for Aliza’s years of outstanding service to the field of higher education.