Recent months have highlighted long-standing inequities within our nation’s postsecondary education system. The barriers facing historically underserved student populations are not limited to the admissions and enrollment process, but extend throughout the academic experience. For the members of the American Talent Initiative (ATI), an alliance of high-graduation-rate colleges and universities committed to expanding access and opportunity for low- and middle-income students, combating inequities that exist throughout the student lifecycle is essential to fulfilling our collective goals. Today, we are excited to announce that 35 ATI members have joined ATI’s newest community of practice focusing on academic equity, a continuation and expansion of many engagement points with members on this topic. 

This community of practice builds on the efforts of senior leaders at Georgetown University and the University of Texas at Austin, who, in June 2019 co-hosted a meeting, The Summer Institute on Equity in the Academic Experience, with the American Talent Initiative (ATI). This three-day meeting brought teams from 18 ATI members together to work on specific projects that advanced academic equity on their campuses through focused discussions on innovations in academic policies, curricula, and/or pedagogies. The institute’s structure provided ample time for team-based work as well as the opportunity to collaborate with other institutions and expert guests. 

Members in attendance focused on projects that demonstrated the myriad structural barriers that contribute to academic inequities on college campuses, and the priorities and approaches to dismantling those barriers. For example, Georgetown’s team designed an institutional equity audit of policies, processes, and campus units to address systemic inequities in students’ academic experiences. UT Austin’s team aimed to deepen students’ sense of belonging and well-being in order to improve the student experience. The University of California-Santa Cruz advanced its plans for Project REAL (Redesigning for Equity and Advancing Learning), an initiative that works directly with self-selected instructors and their teaching teams (e.g. graduate student teaching assistants, and undergraduate learning assistants) to redesign key courses in the undergraduate curriculum, beginning with STEM gateway courses and expanding to other fields.

While we were unable to host a second Institute this summer due to the pandemic, ATI members have continued to signal the importance of a focus on academic equity, and, in light of national events, these conversations feel more urgent than ever. 

In the coming months, members of this community of practice will engage in a series of activities, including topic-focused webinars, presentations from national experts, and working groups with peers, culminating in a second Summer Institute in 2021. As students who have been historically underserved across the country experience new and complex challenges around access to resources, wraparound services, adequate learning environments, and financial support, we hope that this community of practice will help institutions address both longstanding and new academic equity concerns in the months and years to come. 

Thirty-five ATI members, listed below, have joined the community to date. If you are interested in learning more, please reach out to Elizabeth Banes at Elizabeth.Banes@ithaka.org. 

ATI Academic Equity Community of Practice Member Institutions:

  • University of Texas at Austin
  • Georgetown University
  • Emory University
  • The Ohio State University
  • Lebanon Valley College
  • University of Dayton
  • University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • University of California-Santa Cruz
  • James Madison University
  • Muhlenberg College
  • Princeton University
  • Pomona College
  • Rutgers-New Brunswick
  • University of Iowa
  • Baylor University
  • Vassar College
  • Pennsylvania State University-Main Campus
  • Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
  • University of Richmond
  • University of Washington-Seattle Campus
  • Washington University in St. Louis
  • Middlebury College
  • Colgate University
  • Hamilton College 
  • University of Pittsburgh
  • College of the Holy Cross
  • University of Pennsylvania
  • Allegheny College
  • Hope College
  • Barnard College
  • Williams College
  • Duke University
  • Claremont McKenna College
  • Stanford University