Black Excellence: Tracy Crump

28 Days of Black Excellence
28 Days of Black Excellence
Black Excellence: Tracy Crump

“I’m a firm believer in love what you do and do what you love”



28 Days of Black Excellence, Tracy Crump

Tracy Crump is an award-winning education thought leader who has devoted her life to helping others realize their potential and succeed. She has more than 30 years of experience as a college student and 14 years as a higher education staff member.

Crump is an esteemed educator and attorney with nearly two decades of teaching under her belt, and she is the author of the book “A.C.E.S for Students: Strategies for Success in the First Year of College & Beyond.”

Crump regularly speaks on mental health in minoritized communities, college preparation, workplace navigation, domestic violence, sexual assault, sexual harassment, and diversity, equity, inclusion, belonging, and justice.

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Tariq El-Amin  00:01
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 00:33

Hello, hello, hello, good people and welcome 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 am your host, Dr. Aisha El-Amin, and I serve as the UIC Executive Associate Vice Provost for Student Success and Belonging. 

So, UIC’s “Black Excellence” podcast was initiated in Black History Month 2022, and we just started off with “28 Days of Black Excellence” that 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 also connecting their historic past 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, appreciate and connect into where you’ve come from. 

And so, with that, I stand in gratitude for the time to have a conversation with our very own Dr. Tracy G. Crump. She is an award-winning education thought leader who has devoted her life to helping others realize their potential and succeed in their endeavors. With more than 30 years of experience as a college student and 14 years as a higher education staff member, I’m in good company, Dr. Crump knows what it takes to make it in today’s ever evolving world. And not only is she an esteemed educator, and attorney, she has nearly two decades of teaching. And she also holds the key to success in the form of her book, “ACES A C E S For Students, Strategies for Success in the First Year of College and Beyond”. Think of it as your blueprint for success. And hopefully you’ll grab it wherever you find your books. Moreover, Dr. Crump delivers inspirational presentations on mental health and minoritized communities, which we know is a huge concern right now. College right now, and has been, but we’re now talking about it, college preparation, workplace navigation, diversity, equity and inclusion, belonging and justice. She also does talks on domestic violence, sexual assault and sexual harassment. And so, as you can see why I stand in gratitude for her giving us some of her time today to share some advice with all of us. So, I’m going to stop talking for a moment and ask Dr. Crump if you can please just kind of tell us a bit about yourself. The year you graduated, your major, where you’re coming from?

Tracy Crump 03:23

Yes, yes! Thank you so much for that introduction, Dr. El-Amin. I am a native Chicagoan. Born and raised on the south side of Chicago, attended Chicago Public Schools. I also, yes, am a UIC alum. I graduated in 2012 with my PhD in Criminology, Law and Justice. My family is deeply rooted in Chicago, and I decided to stay in Chicago so that I can make an impact. I was always taught that I should reach back if ever I had the opportunity. And so here I am. Today I have my own business, Tracy Crump Enterprises LLC where I help students, educators and authors, clarify their goals and resources, sharpen their skills and empower them to strive for success. In addition, I’m also still an educator. And I am also an attorney. So yes, I’m busy.

Aisha El-Amin 04:26

Just a little bit. Just hugely busy! And we have to talk offline because you’ve got a lot of skill sets that I’m in awe of and could definitely connect in with. CPS? What High School?

Tracy Crump 04:41

Hyde Park Career Academy!

Aisha El-Amin 04:47

Okay, okay, so my husband went there. Y’all have a connection. I’m a CVS graduate, so.

Tracy Crump 04:53

Okay, I see. Class of 1993.

Aisha El-Amin 04:58

Oh, we graduated the same year as well.

Tracy Crump 05:02

Okay, yes.

Aisha El-Amin 05:04

I love it. So, tell me now, to be a lawyer too on top of this, like, how did you pick your path and kind of your educational journey.

Tracy Crump 05:15

So, my path picked me. My family came up through the third wave of the great migration. My mother came from Shortleaf, Alabama in 1964 and she was mainly concerned with us graduating, my sister, my brother and I graduating from high school. So, there wasn’t really a huge push to go to college. 

It wasn’t until my junior year that my ROTC professor asked me what I was going to do after high school. And I said, well work, right, naturally, work. And he said, well, you know what, you’re pretty bright. Have you ever thought about college, and I shared with him that no one in my immediate family had ever gone to college. And so, I didn’t really know how to navigate applying, or if I was supposed to take tests. I just didn’t know. And so, he was able to help me find some resources. And I’m calling him “he”, “he” is Sergeant Strong. He was able to help me navigate that process, find the resources that I needed to apply to a Chicago school. 

So, I went to Chicago State University and he knew I was interested in law enforcement and justice and I thought I wanted to be a police officer. So, I enrolled as a criminal justice student. It was challenging being first generation. I didn’t have anyone that I could bounce ideas off of, I didn’t have anyone I could ask questions of. And so, I had a lot of mindset challenges. In order to kind of navigate that process, I needed to know who I was. 18 year old, I didn’t know that. I needed to better understand my motivation, why I wanted to go to college, or why I was attending college. So, it was challenging, but I will say mentorship for me, has been huge.

Aisha El-Amin 07:16

Wow! So, you said Sergeant Strong. So, were you able, so as you transitioned, he helped you kind of find the resources and get there. Did you find other tribes along your way or other mentors along your way? Were you assigned mentors, or did you just find them? And like how, I’m a student and how do I find this mentorship that I’m, in especially first generation, because you highlighted some real challenges that our students face?

Tracy Crump 07:49

Yes, yes. So no, I didn’t have assigned mentors. I literally went to people who I felt were empathetic to my situation, to the journey of a first-generation college student. And one of my first mentors was one of my teachers, Dr. Thompson at Chicago State University. He was a person who I felt was compassionate, who I felt was also passionate about the criminal justice system. And I was also passionate. And so, I shared with him some of my feelings. 

So, it took me being vulnerable in a moment where I wasn’t sure how that vulnerability would have been accepted. So, going out on that first limb, allowed me to bring him into my social network and then I shared with him what I needed, and he pointed me in the direction of other mentors. So, I literally had to be the catalyst for finding my own mentorship. 

Back in the day, right, in the 90s, there wasn’t a lot of opportunity for someone who was first generation, African American female who wanted to go into a primarily male dominated career. To find mentors who shared my experience. And so today is kind of the culmination of my experience. I want to be that face, that voice, that experience, for students who may be similarly situated.

Aisha El-Amin 09:22

Wow, wow! No, absolutely! So, as you think about your time, where did you get your JD from?

Tracy Crump 09:31

My JD? Well, it’s now thee UIC law school. I’m a double alum.

Aisha El-Amin 09:37

You’re a double alum! Okay! So, we gotta bring that out to the conversation. Oh, I love it! After you finished your PhD, now, some would say that’s a lot of schooling already, but you continued, and you also have a JD. So, tell me even in that decision from going from a first-generation student that wasn’t even thinking of college, now to have all the highest degrees known to the world. How did you get from that point to that point?

Tracy Crump 10:07

Yes! So, when you think about criminal justice, it is a system, right? And it has basically three branches, law enforcement, courts, and corrections. Because I was a criminal justice major, my undergrad coursework and my master’s coursework focused heavily on the law enforcement branch and the corrections branch. And so, when I was going through my PhD program, I said, well, yes, I definitely want to be a teacher, but I wasn’t really confident in my understanding of the judiciary. So, I didn’t have a lot of experience there. My internships primarily were law enforcement or corrections. And so, I thought about going to law school, but I was scared. Everyone told me that law school was so grueling, and that you had to be the best of the best to succeed. So, I had to tip my toe. And what I mean by tip my toe is, I actually enrolled and completed a paralegal program, just to see if I could try on law school for a moment and I loved my paralegal program. That helped me to make the decision that yes, I was enough. Yes, I could complete the work. Yes, I was cut out for it. And so, after doing my paralegal program, well, I said after but while, during my paralegal program, I enrolled in law school and I actually finished the same year, both of them.

Aisha El-Amin 11:37

Wow! Now that is, that is…look, you took it on. I really do applaud you for taking on that fear with knowledge, right. So, you went out to seek, okay, this sounds scary but let me try it out. And so that that’s really, really encouraging. Can you talk about some fond memories, even going I mean, through your PhD program, or your JD program that you can look back on and say wow, that was that was really just great for me as a person.

Tracy Crump 12:07

Yes UIC, I have a lot of fond memories with UIC, primarily my mentors there. So, I mean, hands down one of the kindest, most knowledgeable educators that I know, Dr. Beth E. Richie. She was my mentor extraordinaire. Any question I had about whether it was education or career, I was able to go to Dr. Richie and ask her, how do I navigate this. So, mentorship was huge for me. I also had two other mentors. Dr. Stephanie Riger, she was my mentor, because I was interested in domestic violence and assisting survivors, as well as Dr. Lisa Frohmann. Both of those mentors allowed me to see the impact we could make when it came to survivors of domestic violence. So, paired with Dr. Richie’s mentorship of helping me navigate kind of what it means for women to be involved in the criminal justice system or the criminal legal system, and Dr. Riger and Dr. Frohmann, assisting me in helping navigate this advocacy world, I felt I was well prepared for the work that I do today. So, by way of mentorship, I have very fond memories of working with all three of them. Working with Dr. Richie, specifically on her book, helped me to understand the publishing process and what it takes to write your own book. So yeah, very fond mentorship memories. 

With regard to the institution itself, I was a member of, it was called the Student Centers Board then. I don’t know if it’s still called the Student Centers Board, but we did a lot of programming for students and so we were able to bring speakers to the campus and create these educational, invigorating environments that not only were fun, but that were also valuable to our knowledge acquisition. So, a lot of opportunities for that.

Aisha El-Amin 14:23

Wow! Wow! So, look, you have giants as mentors as well. So that, that I’m sure that helped to propel you. Now tell me, and I know, I know, I’m not gonna take up all your time because I think I could talk to you forever. Tell me one or two nuggets of advice that you would give current students, current black students at UIC who are first-generation, who are, you know, possibly from CPS and maybe even Hyde Park you know. They see themselves and they’re like, she got a PhD and a JD, hold on, how. So, any advice that you can offer?

Tracy Crump 15:04

Definitely! Mindset is huge, mindset is huge. As a first-generation student I mentioned before, I really didn’t know who I was. So, self-identity was a challenge for me. I had to do a deep dive on myself, right. I had to better understand what my motivations were. I needed to really think about why I was engaging in everything that I did. And so, it was a constant kind of check in with myself, well, why are you taking this class? What do you hope to get out of this class? What do you want this class to do? Right? What is it the foundation of. So, one of the first pieces of advice that I would give students is to look within, think about what motivates you and find out if there are careers or courses are right, extracurricular activities that you can take that you love, because I’m a firm believer in love what you do and do what you love. And so, if I didn’t get paid for what I did, I still would love it. It’s only because I did that deep dive that I can say that today. 

Another piece of advice is right, emotional intelligence matters. And so, we often need to check in with ourselves to find out kind of what stimuli makes us interact and react in certain ways. And so, what I mean by that is, we need to know how we’re going to respond to the information that we’re being given on a daily basis right all day. Once we’re able to tap into our emotional intelligence and understand how we are responding or reacting or interacting with the world, then that gives us power. It gives us the ability to say yes, I will accept or tolerate this, or no, this is not for me. So emotional intelligence is huge. 

A third piece of advice would be to prepare for your career, right? And what I mean by prepare for your career, careers shouldn’t be something we just dive into. Careers should be something that we research that by way of internships, or if they’re in law school, externships that we try on for a moment to figure out if this is something that I want to do because I wanted to be a law enforcement officer. So I thought. Until my internship, and I found out law enforcement officers are outside a lot, and they have to chase people. And it’s hugely dangerous, right? Not to mention, right, the elements. That’s not something I’m into. So, it wasn’t until I did my internship, that I was like, oh, I need to think about a different career path. And then fast forward to my externship with the Honorable Judge Dara, I loved being in the courtroom. I loved the law clerk feel. And so that’s how I made the decision on my careers. And then of course, I shadowed my professors, and ultimately, right, the professorship won. So, I am teaching now. 

So yes, those pieces of advice are huge for me because it allowed me to set the foundation for my education and my career, and also understand who I was, and what I would best benefit from in being in certain environments.

Aisha El-Amin 18:38

That’s, that’s great, great wisdom, and knowledge and advice. Really, really appreciate it. Now, how do people get your book and maybe reach out to you for a talk or like, fill us in. Don’t leave all the listeners wondering.

Tracy Crump 18:57

Yes, so I am Tracy G Crump everywhere. So, I am Tracy G. Crump on Instagram. I am Tracy G Crump on LinkedIn. I am Tracy G Crump on Facebook. And then my website is So, you can go to the website, I have information for college readiness, educator entrepreneurship, folks who are interested in writing their own books. I have a writing jumpstart initiative that I’m currently engaged in. And then if folks want to work with me, they can go to the website, click the little button that says “work with me”, and bring me in to speak on various topics.

Aisha El-Amin 19:43

Well, thank you for that. I will make sure that that information is put as part of your BIO so that they have it as easy reference as well. Thank you for your time. Thank you for the advice that you’re giving to our current students and thank you for paving the way because I know as a black woman, and all the things that you’ve accomplished, that you paved the way for so many that are behind you, so thank you.

Tracy Crump 20:09

Well, thank you so much Dr. El Amin for sharing this space and for this initiative. It is hugely important for those of us who are alum, those of us who have gone through to pay it forward and to reach back, right, and grab folks and bring them along. So, thank you so much for this platform and for having me today.

Aisha El-Amin 20:27

My absolute honor!

Tariq El-Amin  20:28

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

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