Chicago Center'sNEW Fearless Leader
When he stepped into the role of Executive Director a year ago, Tyler Hough was drawn in by the 51-year-old legacy of excellence in experiential learning happening at the Chicago Center. And this isn't his first rodeo leading. His knowledge of Chicago, education, and years of experience in higher education and non-profit management prepared him to be the leader the Chicago Center needed in a time of transition.
CC: You grew up in the Chicagoland area. What was it like growing up around the city and why do you continue to make it your home?
TH: My mom’s family is from Chicago and she went to college in Chicago, so the city had a familiar feeling growing up. We’d come up for the holidays, walk down State Street, and almost always visit the Art Institute. I moved to Chicago more than a decade ago and the more I experienced the neighborhoods and learned about communities, the more I fell in love with this amazing city. In my spare time, I run marathons and train along the Lakefront Trail…there’s nothing else quite like it. Chicago’s food and culture scenes are also incredible and are constantly changing!
CC: Tell us about your college experience.
TH: Growing up in a small town about two hours from Chicago, moving to Chicago for college was intimidating at first, but then I realized, like my small town, Chicago’s neighborhoods are like many smaller communities and towns inside one big city. My undergraduate studies focused on urban politics, education, and policy and my thesis examined public funding for higher education. There’s plenty of times where I joke that I majored in student activities and campus life; from Greek Life and student government to an admissions tour guide and university academic governance, my time in college was very transformative, and my experiences in Chicago played a large role.
"My overarching goal for this year (and years to come) is to continue building relationships and helping share the message of the Chicago Center."
All About Me
CC: Why higher education?
TH: Growing up with limited financial means, I knew earning a college degree was the expectation but the reality of paying for my degree was difficult. For me, my degree and undergraduate experience were pivotal in changing my life’s trajectory and one of the many reasons I’m passionate about higher education, student access, and the power of experiential learning. I specifically recall a vivid conversation with a mentor in college when I learned about careers in higher education administration. And over the years, through professional experience and graduate study, I’ve learned a lot, created some change, and continue to leverage the power of higher education for our students and campus partners.
CC: Do you remember the first experience you had with the Chicago Center? What drew you to want to join the Board of Directors?
TH: The Chicago Center has been around for more than 50 years and we have the incredible honor of partnering with community leaders to weave together stories and perspectives that bring our amazing city to life. I owe so much of who I am to urban, liberal arts education and experiential learning and wanted to be part of that story. When I joined, the Chicago Center was also at a unique inflection point to respond to new external challenges and opportunities, and that excites me.
We asked Tyler about his favorite...
“A goal without a plan is only a wish.” Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
All-time would be The Fred Factor, but most recently, it was Caste.
A Good Year
CC: What are your reflections on the past year with the organization?
Three things: First, our commitment to providing the very best student experiences and urban living and learning is as strong as ever. I’m excited to share these experiences with more students and campuses. Second, everything we do is based in relationships. From our relationships with community partners and neighborhood leaders to our campus faculty and liaisons, I continue to be inspired by their stories and commitment to our students’ success. And lastly, what a privilege it is to be a steward of this half-century-old organization and the numerous ways we get to build on this legacy and heritage.
CC: What are your goals for the Center in the next year?
TH: My overarching goal for this year (and years to come) to continue building relationships and helping share the message of the Chicago Center. The more folks we invite into our work–alumni, students and faculty partners, community leaders, instructors–the greatest opportunity we have to make the biggest difference. Our alumni are eager and interested to be engaged and reconnect with the Center. The COVID-19 pandemic provided us with the opportunity to rethink and strengthen learning, and we’re seeing new and exciting ways to partner with faculty to make urban, experiential learning more accessible. And lastly, I think continuing to learn and grow with the organization as we continue to reflect upon our work and how we carry this important mission forward.