Student Persistence


Bess Fuertes

Bess is the Assistant Director of Student Persistence. As a first-generation college student, she received an A.A. from Elgin Community College and went on to earn her B.F.A. and M.A. in Art History at the University of Illinois. Bess has experience as an adjunct instructor and academic advisor at public and private institutions. Having learned from her own non-linear journey, she recognizes that the path toward degree completion looks different for every student. If you’re experiencing challenges as you pursue your education, Bess wants to help you strategize a plan for outsmarting those barriers.

Assistant Director of Student Persistence, 312-369-7929,


Mary Rachel Fanning


Mary Rachel is the Associate Director of Student Persistence and the implementor and manager of Columbia's Navigate platform. She has worked all over the creative spectrum from photographing communities to digital storytelling in refugee camps to translating geek speak for others. She channels her love of tech, stories, and advocacy into advising tools and student communications. Mary Rachel earned an interdisciplinary B.A. from the University of Alabama and a M.F.A. in Media Arts from the University of Colorado-Boulder.  

Associate Director of Student Persistence, 312-369-7344,


Chloé Nailor

Bio coming soon!

Coordinator of Equitable Student Success, 312-369-7387,

Pedro Nungaray

Pedro Nungaray

Pedro Nungaray is the Assistant Director of Equitable Student Success. His career is dedicated to guiding and supporting students through the college experience, particularly students who come from backgrounds that have been historically marginalized and who are first-generation. Pedro earned his B.A. in Justice Studies and his M.A. in Higher Educational Leadership from Northeastern Illinois University. Pedro has experience in managing orientation programs, academic success coaching, and academic advising. During his spare time, Pedro enjoys staying active and trying the best pizza spots in Chicago. 

Assistant Director of Equitable Student Success, (312) 369-7645,


Rachel Smith Horton


Rachel Horton is the Director of Student Persistence at Columbia College Chicago. One of her greatest joys is helping students get back on track toward graduation, after they have experienced a personal or academic setback. Rachel earned her B.A. in Rhetoric at the University of Illinois, her M.A. in English from Loyola University Chicago and her M.F.A. in Poetry from Columbia College Chicago, where she has continued to work since graduation. Rachel has previously served Columbia as a graduate student instructor, adjunct faculty, and an academic advisor. She is now working toward an Ed.D. in Higher Education, focusing her research around the strategies that students of color use to persist and graduate from creative majors.   

Director, 312-369-7621,