Black Excellence: Harrell Jordan

28 Days of Black Excellence
28 Days of Black Excellence
Black Excellence: Harrell Jordan

“It’s just about paying it forward. You gotta pay it forward.”

Harrell Jordan


Harell Jordan, 28 Days of Black Excellence
Harrell Jordan

Harrell Jordan is the associate dean for faculty at Chamberlain University’s Chicago campus. In this role, Jordan ensures instructional quality within the classes of Pharmacology, Adult Health, Mental Health and Community Health. Jordan also chairs the campus’ appeals committee and serves as the advisor of the Student Government Association and mentors new faculty members.   

Jordan earned a PhD at the UIC College of Nursing and graduated in May 2023, the first Black male student to complete the program. The focus of his dissertation was on the health-seeking behaviors of Black/African American men and the impact masculinity may play in preventive health care utilization. Jordan has an undergraduate degree from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and a master’s degree from DePaul University.  

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Recording of Dr. Martin Luther King  00:09

[Applause] Believe in yourself and believe that you’re somebody.

Clips from 1995 movie “Panther”  00:17
That we study and master a bunch of different things.
Why are you here? 
Study and master a bunch of different things.
I’m proud to introduce our new Minister of Information.

Aisha El-Amin 00:26

I’m Dr. Aisha El-Amin.

Tariq El-Amin 00:29

Welcome to Black Excellence.

Aisha El-Amin 0:32 

Hello, good people. Hello and welcome. Welcome back to some, to University of Illinois Chicago’s “Black Excellence” podcast, sponsored by the Office of Student Success and Belonging, in partnership with the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Strategic Marketing and Communications.

I’m your host, Dr. El-Amin, and I serve as UIC’s executive associate vice provost for student success and belonging. UIC’s “Black Excellence” podcast, initiated in Black History Month 2022. We started off with “28 Days of Black Excellence” and this highlighted the history and legacy of exceptional black faculty, students and staff that call UIC home. During this month, we talked to graduates in all walks of life, from entrepreneurs to politicians, and they offered inspiration and sage advice while connecting their historical paths to our contemporary times.

However, UIC’s cup of black excellence runneth over. And so, we continue this podcast with the understanding that you cannot know where you’re going until you understand and appreciate and connect into where you’ve come from.

And so, I am really excited to have a conversation with, now Dr., Harrell Jordan, who is a UIC alum, and is doing phenomenal things currently serving as the associate dean of faculty at Chamberlain University’s Chicago campus. And I’d like to introduce Dr. Jordan to all of our listeners and ask him to kind of tell us a bit about himself and what which college he graduated from, and what year and all of that good stuff. 

Harrell Jordan 2:17 

Sounds good. Sounds good. Well, hello everyone. As you stated, my name is Dr. Harrell Jordan at this point. Thank you so much for having me on your podcast. Just to give a little bit about my background, I attended undergrad at U of I in Champaign-Urbana. At that time, I was a community health major, and I was concentrating on pre-med. So, at that point, I wanted to be a pediatrician. God had other plans for me.

I took the MCAT, my junior year of undergrad and received a less than desirable score. So, I decided to make the transition to see what else I can do with the information that I currently had. I got into a post-bacc. program, which is with Dominican University, where it was geared towards just giving me some extra tools and class time to get me more prepared to A, retake the MCAT, and B, to apply to medical school again. So, I went to the post-bacc. program, took some classes, met some doctors, had like, some experiences at other hospitals where I was able to observe different fields, so, like anesthesiology, surgery, things of that nature. And I took the MCAT again, about a year and a half into the program, because that was the plan, and I got the exact same score as the first time. So, that in itself, kind of gave me the indication that maybe there’s a different route that I need to take. Not saying that it didn’t need to be health care, but maybe not medical school.

We also had a class at that time called Topics in Medicine, where it gave us the opportunity to look at other fields even outside of the MD route. And there was a nurse practitioner that came to speak to us at that time and I thought, why not, I’ll try that. So, I looked into master’s entry programs because at that point that was another bachelor program. So, I have two bachelor’s degrees, one from U of I, one from Dominican University. And I looked into a master’s entry to nursing practice program at DePaul University. My GPA was high enough and I took enough classes so that I didn’t have to take the GRE to get in. I got in, and I started in fall of 2013, at which point, because it’s a master’s entry program, that meant that I needed to take all of the nursing classes as well as the classes that would make it a master’s degree. So it was intense. It was full-time. I was in school five days a week and I could only work a little bit on the side. So my loans started to increase. But, while in the program, I had so many different opportunities, one from clinical where I kind of figured out what I did and didn’t like in terms of bedside healthcare. I knew I didn’t want to do med-surg. And then I had my next med-surg rotation and I still knew I didn’t want to do that. And then I got to mental health and that was kind of interesting for me, so I was open to doing that. But you never know, because the world is your oyster at that point when you’re still in school.

Then I got to pediatrics and hated it. So this entire time, I was trying to be a pediatrician and I got to a peds rotation and realized that liking kids and like babysitting a child is not the same as caring for a little infant in need at that moment. I am 6’3″, almost 300 pounds sometimes, and to try to put an IV in a little kid that was not going to be my specialty.

While in the program, I also had the opportunity of becoming a graduate assistant and that gave me the opportunity to teach labs or assist with teaching health assessment labs and speaking in terms of student engagement as well. That opened the door of teaching to me.

So prior to that experience, I never thought of myself as a teacher, but it came very naturally. It definitely put me in a mindset of being able to meet people where they were and explain complicated situations or concepts in a simple way so that people could grasp it. And my peers as well as those that those students that came after me, really seemed to take heed to the way that I taught the material. So that opened up the world of academia and at that point, I knew that that’s what I wanted to do and I put nurse practitioner to the side.

Then came an opportunity to do what’s called a Bridge to PhD program. This is how I ended up being connected to UIC. The Bridge to PhD program came to DePaul and was able to — they gave us a presentation to kind of sell us on the idea of hey, right from here, you can go directly into UIC’s PhD program, and we can partner you with the appropriate advisor. And I remember there was a man in nursing who pointed directly at me and said, we need more of you in academia. And I took that charge. That really resonated with me considering I was only one Black male, in a class of 60 nursing students at that time. And I can count the number of Black male instructors I’ve had, probably on one hand, since grammar school. So that gave me the oomph that I needed to do what I felt was necessary to extend my education and become an example, is really why I did what I did. So graduated from DePaul, I worked in the emergency room on the West Side of Chicago as a nurse full time, loved it gained all of my experience from there but, I knew I immediately wanted to go into clinical instruction. So, I became a clinical instructor with DePaul, and I also became a clinical instructor at Morton College while pursuing my PhD at UIC. So, started that program and finished up recently. 

Aisha El-Amin 8:16 

Well, first of all, Dr. Jordan, let me thank you for your vulnerability.

Harrell Jordan 8:22


Aisha El-Amin 8:23

I think oftentimes people see someone like you and say, ‘Wow, I want to I want to be just like him,’ but not understanding that you went through a journey of your own right?

Harrell Jordan 8:33


Aisha El-Amin 8:34

And changing what you wanted to do and not doing well on tests, I think that’s something that resonates with many of our students, right, and what they’re going through so thank you for being vulnerable and sharing your story.

Harrell Jordan 8:47


Aisha El-Amin 8:48

What are some of your fond memories you know, during your journey? I hear the advice piece, I think that’s, and for folks that don’t know you do, you do, you do a lot of work with that, still carrying that, being the Black male in a sea full of dominant, you know, it’s a dominant female profession. And so, I would love to hear some of the memories that you have as you went through that program. 

Harrell Jordan 9:18 

So, when I became a nurse or the PhD program? 

Aisha El-Amin 9:22 

Both. Both would be interesting.

Harrell Jordan 9:25 

Sure. Let’s see some of my fond memories from nursing school… You know, I also have a relationship with God, so I know that things happen for a reason. And in those things happening the way that they happened, certain things were aligned the way that they should have been, and I had an opportunity to do a clinical rotation with the director of our nursing program. I guess they were short-staffed and he stepped in to be a nurse or clinical instructor at that time for us. This is the hospital was RIC, I believe he worked there in that moment.

And that was the best clinical experience I ever had. One, because it was a male nurse, so typically, I wasn’t coming in contact with male nurses. But two, he kind of like walked me through and showed me the ropes of what it meant to be a nurse on that unit and I learned the most that I could possibly learn about being a nurse then. Of course, he’s director of the nursing program so he knows exactly what I should know and how I need to operate. It could be very intimidating, considering his level at that time.

But, I mentioned that graduate assistant position before, and I needed to get a letter of recommendation from a clinical instructor. So I went to him for that and if you have the director of nursing commenting for you, that’s obviously why I got the job. Very fond memory, in addition to just the friends that I was able to cultivate there as well, there are two in particular that to this day, because that was in 2013, we still communicate, we still hang out even though we live in different areas. We’re just a support system for each other, very fond of them. 

Aisha El-Amin 11:16 

Now you talk about those that mentored you. I know you’re doing some mentoring yourself. Can you talk a little bit about kind of what you’re doing around mentoring, kind of paying it forward? 

Harrell Jordan 11:27 

Absolutely. So, one, I’m currently an associate dean of faculty at Chamberlain. And in being in my role, I’m the only Black male faculty here as well and I’m used to being the only, or the first, in wherever I go. So with that in mind, there are a lot of cohorts that I see come into Chamberlain where there’s often only one Black male graduating, or there are a couple that might start off and then they end up falling away due to financial reasons, family reasons, what have you. I make it a mission of mine to grab them as soon as I can, as soon as they come into contact with me, just to give them that extra support.

So, speaking life into them, while also kind of holding them to the fire as well. Like, ‘Hey, you can’t do it this way. Hey, there’s a different way we can go about this. I can teach it to you in a way that you need to understand it so that you can apply it better.’ And I often do that just on my own, no one really like makes me do it but I really have a yearning to reach out to individuals who could benefit from someone at my level, to also let them know this is possible. To let them know that not only can you make it from here, because this is a bachelor-level program, you can get your master’s, you can get your doctorate, the world is your oyster after you make it out of here. So, I definitely take that on and mentor in other capacities, too. 

Aisha El-Amin 12:55 

I really appreciate that. I think that is… when we have made it to a space, it is our obligation to help others that look like us and are not in these spaces to also figure out how to get through those waters.

You mentioned mentorship, you mentioned God as key things to help your success. Can you offer some advice? You have some folks that are considering going into a PhD program, considering nursing… some folks who may have not done well on the MCAT, what advice would you give them right now if they’re listening? 

Harrell Jordan 13:37 

Absolutely. One, what’s for you is for you. So, if you feel that it’s been put in you to be a nurse, or you feel that you want to continue your education, the world is your oyster and everything is possible as long as, well for me, as long as you have God.

There are going to be rough days. I’m not going to lie to you and say that they don’t come. There are going to be times where you want to quit. I had many times that I wanted to quit in every program, mostly the PhD one. But, despite those times, I had to get a scripture to stand on. The scripture that I ended my dissertation with was James 1:4, “Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” Perseverance means that you’re going through something, something is going to happen, trials are going to be there. But you’ve come too far to quit.

I had to finish this. Like, if there was no other reason to finish this besides that scripture, it was because I would have come too far. I’ve spent too much money and too many other people are relying on me to be that example. I didn’t know, while I was in the program that I was the first African American male to graduate from it. I didn’t know that until maybe a bit over halfway through and I think I asked the question, just based on the way some things were falling into place, whether or not this was the case.

So, just thinking about paving that way for other people, I knew I had a charge to make it happen. For other people that may not know how to get into this field: just ask questions, it’s also important to just be an open palette, it’s important to make sure that you communicate, and networking is everything. So the saying goes ‘closed mouths don’t get fed.’ I also couldn’t have made it through this program if I didn’t communicate with other people around me. So although they weren’t necessarily Black men all the time, I had to make friends or make support systems to ensure that I can make it through. And I also found another group of or two women in our PhD program who could relate. It’s always important to at least get someone that can relate to you too. Someone that’s going to push you someone that’s going to give you the drive or the oomph to make it when you don’t feel like you can make it anymore. And we have definitely been that for each other. My one friend graduated before me, I graduated in May, we have another one coming out, probably either this year or next May. So, it’s just about paying it forward. You gotta pay it forward. 

Aisha El-Amin 16:30 

Wow, what an inspiration! “Closed mouths don’t get fed.” It is, lean in on your faith, lean in on your people that’ll help pull you through, and persevere, don’t give up. Our new chancellor, Chancellor Miranda, said everyone deserves to succeed here. So, what that success looks like is different for everyone.

Thank you for being the first. I know what comes along with being the first. You have opened up doors, you have broken down ceilings, and so your being the first allows a pathway for others to come in. So thank you for that.

Thank you for your dedication and mentoring folks that are right behind you trying to get to where you are. And thank you for being part of the UIC family in sharing your story to inspire others that are both looking at UIC or here and struggling to find their footing. I appreciate you Dr. Jordan. 

Harrell Jordan 17:35 

Thank you so much. Thank you. 

Tariq El-Amin 

Thanks for joining us! Find more inspiring and informative conversations with UIC alum, faculty and staff at That’s

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