Black Excellence: Marvin Slaughter

28 Days of Black Excellence
28 Days of Black Excellence
Black Excellence: Marvin Slaughter

“Make mistakes. Perfection is a myth. Go out for every opportunity, internship, extracurricular activity, leadership position, anything that interests you. Take the time to understand yourself, be introspective, be purposeful, find your interest and think about your purpose early.”

Marvin Slaughter


Marvin Slaughter, a UIC alumnus who was raised in Markham, Illinois, is a fervent advocate for UIC students. He’s a senior portfolio manager at the University of Chicago’s Inclusive Economy Lab, the chairman of the Illinois African Descent-Citizens Reparations Commission, and a member of the UIC Alumni Board advocacy committee. He also researches and publishes on topics of economic stratification, intergenerational mobility and preparatory justice. He is specifically interested in the role of higher education in ameliorating the racial wealth gap, with a particular interest in wealth accumulation and upward social mobility for Black Americans. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in political science and economics, with honors, from UIC and holds a master’s degree in public policy with certificates in policy analysis and municipal finance from the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy.

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Tariq El-Amin 0:01   

Welcome to Black Excellence at UIC Office of Diversity, Equity and Engagement with Dr. Aisha El-Amin.

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  0:34   

Hello, hello, good people. I am Dr. Aisha El-Amin, and I welcome you to UIC’s podcast highlighting Black excellence. This podcast was started about a year ago. And I continue to have guests that inspire me, that educate me, that motivate me. And I hope as an audience that it does the same for you. This has been a journey of love, and I am glad that you are on this journey with me. I am honored to welcome our guest today, we have, who has some great connections. It’s really funny. I have a story about just seeing him the other day, and I was like, wait a minute, what have you been up to? Marvin Slaughter, and he’s a senior portfolio manager in the College and Career Success portfolio at the University of Chicago Inclusive Economy Lab. And outside of his work, he researches and publishes on topics of economic stratification, intergenerational mobility and repertory justice. So, there’s a lot of great things that I know about Marvin, but I just want to have him first introduce himself. Tell us about your connection to UIC and kind of what you’ve been up to, what was your major, the year you graduated and, like, all that good stuff.

Marvin Slaughter  2:09   

Sounds good to me. Well, first, I would like to just say thank you, Dr. El-Amin, for the invite. You know, I love UIC. As an alum, as a student, you know, I showed that love in a lot of the advocacy work I did. Like Dr. El-Amin said, my name is Marvin Slaughter. I graduated in 2019 with my B.A., I was a political science/economics double major. After graduating from UIC, I went on to, you know, receive my master’s in public policy at the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy. I’m originally from the South Side of Chicago. I grew up in the south suburbs known as Markham. I’m second-generation college student, second-generation UIC Flame. Go Flames! I have a younger sister who is a graduating senior. So, our entire family is very much so UIC-centric. Like you said, I am currently the senior research portfolio manager at the University of Chicago’s Inclusive Economy Lab. I’m also the chairman of the Illinois African Descent Citizens Reparations Commission and a member of the UIC Alumni Board on the advocacy committee. 

Aisha El-Amin  3:14   

So, you have not been busy at all is what you’re saying right. [Laughter]

Marvin Slaughter  3:17   

No, no, not, not, not, not very.

Aisha El-Amin  3:22   

You’ve been super busy. Wow. So, I have to, I have to dive in and ask you about this family tradition. So what, like the Flames through and through? Did you influence your sister’s decision or did she kind of make that decision on her own? 

Marvin Slaughter  3:37   

That’s a great question. I would like to say, well I would hope that I had nothing to do with it. And I hope that she made this decision entirely on her own. But I think after she saw the type of experience and the support that I received while I was at UIC, that it kind of, it tilted her here versus Urbana. 

Aisha El-Amin  3:57   

So, we’re gonna give you some of that credit. I will give it to you, even though you’re not giving it to yourself. So, thank you for that. So, tell me this — How does it, you talked about some of your fond kind of memories of UIC and supports that you had. Can you talk through what that looked like? 

Marvin Slaughter  4:20   

Yeah. Well, you know, I always end up talking about the Student Advocacy Coalition and kind of the story around co-founding the Student Advocacy Coalition with three other students. Allison Oldey, who was a graduate student at the time, Yasmine Rasouli and Jay Kerching, three friends of mine. We all saw the need for advocacy for students surrounding MAP grants during the budget impasse at the time.

Students were not receiving MAP grants and there’s a, you know, a good amount of turmoil going on on UIC’s campus with regards to maintenance, upkeep and whether or not professors were going to be staying at UIC or not. So, we created this organization to tell the story from a student perspective, to really get legislators involved and let them hear our voice with respect to what was going on on the ground and how this was negatively impacting the ability for students to get that educational attainment.

You know, I have so many other amazing stories. We put on, you know, civic forums on issues that were important to students. We hosted the Lieutenant Governor’s roundtable discussions at all three campuses and talked about diversity and retention and recruitment. You know, we participated, well I participated in the civic engagement core group, with Professor Dick Simpson and with Spencer Long and the director of IPCE, Joe Hoereth, and Mick Crumbock and others. And we really were able to kind of come together and create an award-winning civic engagement plan which was, you know, amazing, an amazing experience to have as a student. You know, in addition to that, just on a day to day having amazing conversations with great professors. The dean of the Honors College, Dean Keen, we had our weekly conversations about everything from our religious interpretations to just the current happenings of the day.

And I would definitely say that another one of my most memorable moments was running for student trustee. You know, being able to kind of put together a slate of people, Deshaun Bowens and Frederique Desrosiers, I want to give a shout-out to two of my running mates. You know, we really tried to put together a campaign that was student-centric, that really centered the voice of the students, but also had, you know, a little bit of influence on what was happening on a systems level, and how that might impact, you know, organizations and the student experience. So, I was really proud of that effort and those are a couple of the things that really helped to define who I am as a person today. I know that I wouldn’t be here today without people like yourself, you know, Provost Poser, who you know, I was on her council for a while. And, you know, Marty Gutierrez, Mick Crumbock and Dr. Phyllis Hayes and Kendall Parker and Dean Keen, and Dr. Hoereth. And, you know, I can go on and on and on. But you know, these are people who have seriously and positively impacted my life, and I definitely would not be who I am today without them. 

Aisha El-Amin  7:24   

Marvin, I love that. And I love all the shout-outs. Because like, yeah, these, I know like you know, that these are folks that, like their heart, they lead with their heart, and that’s impactful. So, did you know when you first started at UIC, like, I want to start these organizations, I want to run for trustee. Did you come in knowing that, or like, was there an evolution to that? 

Marvin Slaughter  7:50   

No. I came in as a pre-nursing student. And after a conversation, after orientation, I had a conversation with my mother, and she was like, do you really want to do nursing? And I was like, you know, it’s employable. My mom’s a nurse so there’s that as well. But ultimately, you know, I really just wanted to help people. And I didn’t really know how I wanted to help people.

So, you know, I switched over to undecided my first semester. And I don’t think many people have heard this story, but I struggled immensely with mental health during the second semester of my freshman year, for a stretch of about the first eight or so weeks of the semester. I received, you know, news of my friends passing every week for that first eight weeks. And, you know, it was just a really difficult time that I, that I couldn’t overcome without, you know, love, caring and guidance of, you know, my faculty, fellow, my mentors, and my friends. But, you know, most importantly, I don’t think I would have made it through without channeling that pain into something meaningful. And this is around the same time when, you know, we’re moving back in and I see friends are moving out, I’m like, you know, what’s, what’s going on? And they’re like: Oh, I didn’t get the MAP grant this semester. And, you know, in my head, I’m like, OK, that’s disturbing, like, you know, I just got here, you know a semester ago, we built a friendship, we played Uno, you know, every weekend, we are trying out all these amazing restaurants, you know, we’ve built the relationship and now you’re telling me that you’re no longer going to be able to afford to stay at UIC because of a grant that you were promised by the state is not going to be funded.

And that’s kind of what threw me into the advocacy space with the university and really got me interested in, you know, how does politics work? So, studying political science, and then I wanted to understand how the money works. So, I started studying economics and I’m like, all right, I’m gonna have iron clad arguments when I go to Springfield and nobody will be able to tell me anything. Because I want to make sure that I can, you know, be a pit bull for my folks, for the people I care about. 

Aisha El-Amin  9:59   

Man, that’s what’s up! So, you saw a need, and you filled it. That is, yeah, that’s the most meaningful kind of work. When you, you know, you see a need, it’s impacting you, and you feel it. And thanks for sharing the challenge with us. Because I think oftentimes we hear about all the success. Like you, you know, you’ve come in and you’ve done all these things, you started these things you engaged, you went on to get your master’s degree you at U of C now, but we don’t hear the challenges, right? And so thank you for being vulnerable in this space and sharing that. As folks like your sister, who’s a senior now, listen to this, and are kind of in the thick of it. Maybe they’re thinking about UIC. Maybe they’re in their first year, maybe they’re trying to finish up and don’t know if they can make it to the finish line. Are there pieces of advice that you can offer? 

Marvin Slaughter  11:01   

Oh, most definitely. I would first say take this opportunity to find your why. Because when times get hard, you can always lean on your why you know, your purpose, your reasoning, to give you that strength that you need to kind of carry forward. Make mistakes. Perfection is a myth. Go out for every opportunity, internship, extracurricular activity, you know, leadership position, anything that interests you. Take the time to understand yourself, be introspective, be purposeful, find your interest and think about your purpose early. It’ll begin to kind of help you as you start to seek these opportunities.

We don’t succeed in a bubble. The truth of knowledge-seeking and educational attainment is that it was meant to be done in community. So, don’t keep your knowledge to yourself. You know, share it with anyone willing to listen. But as you share, be open to critiques and criticisms. There are plenty of academic theories that are based in and on the very lived experiences of people from the Black community. Just because academics add fancy vernacular doesn’t mean that their theories are new or more legitimate. So challenge your professors. Learning is bi-directional. And much of what we understand about the world is based on beliefs and assumptions that inherently hold some anti-Black perspectives. So, you know, feel free to challenge freely. I guess the last thing I would say is, don’t let a cold world harden you. The world can be unkind, but don’t let this world’s coldness impact what and who you are called to be. And those will be the biggest pieces of advice I have for new incoming students. 

Aisha El-Amin  12:50   

Those are huge pieces of advice. I sit here and I know our audience can’t see the smiles and grins on my face. I am just in awe of you. I am so proud of all the things that you have done, the things that you’re doing and the things that are ahead of you to do. And you are absolutely right, that perfection is a myth. And we don’t do this work alone. Please know that UIC continues to be by your side, in you know, in your front cheering you on and your back pushing you on. And so thank you for giving back to the students at UIC even today. 

Marvin Slaughter  13:33   

Not a problem, you know, UIC really is a place that, you know, I’ve gotten my start. I learned about who I am, I learned what my purpose for life is. And ultimately, you know, when I was at UIC, the campaign slogan for my slate was legacy. And it was about legacy building. And, you know, I had a conversation with Dean Keen in the Honors College and Interim Chancellor Reyes earlier this week, and we kind of talked about, you know, the idea of legacy, and how, you know, it’s our job, you know, as students to think about, you know, why do you do what you do? Are you going to be able to build something or accomplish something that is going to enable, strengthen, equip and encourage those who are coming behind you to continue to build? And that is exactly what I’m striving to do. So, you know, for any student who is going to hear this podcast, you know, feel free to reach out to me. I’m very easy to find, you know, I am here to pour into you, to support you and to make sure that you, you know, experience the level of success that you want to experience while at UIC and after graduation. 

Aisha El-Amin  14:47   

So Marvin, how can they reach you? 

Marvin Slaughter  14:49   

Yeah, so you can reach me at my email, my UChicago email And that’s probably the easiest way. You can also find me on LinkedIn. And I look forward to you know, answering any questions, you know, providing any resources, making any connections that I can. Because ultimately, it’s not a me thing. The reason why I do the work that I do is so that I can positively impact the collective. So just as long as you know, you want to strive for better, that you want to reach for greater, I will be here to support and help you accomplish that goal. 

Aisha El-Amin  15:32   

So, you all have heard it here. So those thousand emails that you get Marvin, you know that they have heard it here that you are there to lean on to offer advice, and I know that you’re true to that word. And so please do use our dear brother Marvin as a resource. And we thank you, thank you for your time. Thank you for your wisdom and thank you for the collective efforts to make us better.  

Marvin Slaughter  16:02   

Thank you. 

Tariq El-Amin 16:02   

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

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