The Show Goes On: Growing an Ecosystem Devoted to Academic Equity
2022 Academic Equity Summer Institute
The 2022 Summer Institute would not have been possible without the many individuals who devoted their time, energy, and expertise, including Susannah McGowan, Heidi Elmendorf, Randall Bass, and Brittany Tosano Gore of Georgetown University, and Richard Peters of Xavier University of Louisiana. We extend our deepest gratitude to their dedication to the ATI Academic Equity Community of Practice and their ongoing work to advance equity in the academic experience.
In 2019, 18 colleges and universities from across the country came together at Georgetown University for the inaugural Summer Institute on Equity in the Academic Experience, devoted to surfacing strategies and programs to help ensure the success of students from underrepresented backgrounds. Three years later, the number of participating colleges has nearly tripled (50), with over 400 institutional representatives joining the 2022 Summer Institute on Equity in the Academic Experience last month to advance this mission.
Jointly hosted by Georgetown University and a national coalition of colleges and universities, in collaboration with the American Talent Initiative (ATI), this year’s Summer Institute opened its curtains from June 13-15 for 70 different teams, who came with goals to advance institution-specific equity projects and connect their work to broader, access, success, and equity-related efforts. Over the course of three days, practitioners from ATI members, community colleges, and historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) convened both virtually and in-person at 10 leadership sites nationwide to develop plans to realize those goals. In support of the three thematic pillars of the summer institute, attendees explored how to expand the ecosystem of stakeholders involved, map their strategic progress, and connect conversations on campus around this work. For a full list of attending institutions and leadership sites, please see the appendix.
The Summer Institute builds on the work of the 39 ATI members participating in a community of practice (CoP) focused on academic equity. Launched in Fall 2020, the ATI Academic Equity CoP continues its commitment to creating equitable academic communities, meeting regularly to discuss topics ranging from the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on underserved students, staff, and faculty to the importance of cross-campus efforts to equity-focused institutional priorities.
Below, we highlight key takeaways from the event and a more detailed overview of insights from the various sessions.
- Participation in the 2022 Summer Institute was notably higher than past iterations, signaling high levels of interest in and commitment to advancing equity in the academic experience.
- Developing a culture of redesign is key to building student success. Focusing on the student and their experiences, in addition to building relationships and forging connections with students, are crucial to ensuring students’ success. Furthermore, creating a sense of student belonging starts with the recognition that practitioners and leaders create through implicit, continuous signaling that students don’t belong.
- In order to create change, institutional buy-in is imperative. The first step is creating a healthy context for honest exchange about DEI issues, and supporting belonging begins with listening. In doing so, understand that uncomfortable conversations are unavoidable. Most importantly, there must be a shared sense of responsibility and sense of inclusion amongst stakeholders to collectively solve the issue at hand and work towards a solution.
- Connecting work with other equity work and initiatives across campus and the institution-wide framework allows for a more effective implementation and scaling.
- Data collection and analysis is critical to help support equitable change on campus. Both real-time and long-term data trends allow institutions to create structures to support student success and contribute to the cultural changes practitioners and leaders are seeking at their institutions. Work with campus partners to facilitate data interpretation and effect change, both proactively and in response to events.
- It’s important to stay hopeful and have grace. Doing equity work is a long journey. Make small strategic choices to get to your goal post, but don’t forget to practice self-care along the way.
Each day of the Summer Institute, attendees participated in three types of sessions: provocations (national gathering of participants to provoke conversations), roundtables (space for discussion and practice sharing on important equity-specific issues), and workshops (opportunity for hands-on work on equity projects, strategies, and methods). Along with independent work time and coaching sessions, teams also shared their equity plans with peers, coaches, and participants for feedback at the end of the Institute.
Day 1: Getting Going
The Institute opened with a provocation from Dr. Timothy Eatman, dean of the Honors Living-Learning Community at Rutgers University, on ways to expand the imagination on how to achieve equitable outcomes for students. To inspire culture change, Dr. Eatman reinforced the importance of “getting out of our academic-ness,” forging community-wide connections and engaging with diverse stakeholders outside one’s institution, and celebrating the power of the arts and humanities. Building on Dr. Eatman’s provocation, attendees participated in roundtables and workshops to begin their work at the Institute. Roundtables focused on navigating institutional changes, using data to inspire specific action on equity issues on campus, and centering equity in enrollment management and admission strategies. Meanwhile, workshops encouraged attendees to explore high-impact practices and use data tools and models to identify interventions to increase retention. Attendees from university systems additionally focused on how to integrate inclusive pedagogy across their partner campuses. Outside of sessions, institutional teams met for team time, attended coaching sessions, and connected with others at their local leadership sites.
Day 2: Digging In
Dr. Timothy Renick, the founding executive director of the National Institute for Student Success at Georgia State University, kicked off Day 2 with a provocation on the counter-intuitive logic behind closing equity gaps. In questioning common sense wisdom when it comes to equity, Dr. Renick acknowledged institutions will find the barriers that stand in the way of student success are often ones created by institutions and practitioners and investing in equity initiatives that help increase student retention can serve as revenue generators. Following the provocation, institutional teams participated in two workshop blocks centered around the theme of “digging in.” The first workshop block addressed how institutions could create contexts of belonging, build equitable and successful transfer pathways, and use process improvement as the basis for an integrated student service model. The second workshop block prompted attendees to connect the dots, whether it be between teaching and inclusive excellence, preparation and success in STEM gateway courses, or diversity-related learning outcomes and institutional equity priorities.
Day 3: Sharing Out
On the last day of the Institute, participants focused on the first-generation student experience, exchanging practices in roundtables related to relationship-rich undergraduate experiences, managing bias reporting and racial and ethnic justice transitions, and navigating faculty resistance. Dr. Mary Wardell-Ghirarduzzi, vice president for DEI and chief diversity officer at the University of the Pacific, delivered the final provocation on institutionalizing the idea of love in order to do anti-racism work. In terms of what institutionalizing love looks like in practice, Dr. Wardell-Ghiraduzzi suggested a framework that humanizes the American higher education space and embodies the spirit of change, hope, and collective liberation. Finally, in line with the day’s focus on the theme of “sharing out,” institutional teams engaged in cross-campus feedback conversations to refine their draft equity-focused project plans and explore other opportunities to advance their equity work back on campus.
While the Summer Institute has once again drawn its curtain, the show goes on in our efforts to advance equity in the academic experience. True to the Institute motto “come with a goal, leave with a plan,” institutions will bring back to campus institution-specific equity plans full of inspiration and lessons learned from the diverse educational ecosystem to sustain equity at the center of institutional strategies, planning, and conversations. We look forward to continue gathering Summer Institute participants through ATI’s Academic Equity Community of Practice throughout the upcoming academic year and beyond.
We gratefully acknowledge Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Gray Foundation for their generous support of this year’s Summer Institute. If you have any questions about the summer institute or ATI’s Academic Equity Community of Practice, please reach out to Sunny Hong at Sunny.Hong@ithaka.org. Please follow this link to access shared resources for the ATI Academic Equity CoP.
Appendix: Leadership Sites
Claremont McKenna College
George Mason University
Pennsylvania State University, Harrisburg
Rutgers University – New Brunswick
The Ohio State University
University of Iowa
University of the Pacific
University of Pittsburgh
Xavier University of Louisiana
Appendix: Full List of Participating Institutions
College of the Holy Cross
Community College of Philadelphia
Georgia State University
HACC Central Pennsylvania’s Community College
Indiana University – Bloomington
Johns Hopkins University
Lebanon Valley College
Northampton Community College
Pennsylvania State University, Abington
Pennsylvania State University, Berks
Pennsylvania State University, Brandywine
Pennsylvania State University, College of IST
Pennsylvania State University, College of Medicine
Pennsylvania State University, University Park
Pennsylvania State University, World Campus
Pennsylvania State University, Schreyer Institute
Reading Area Community College
Texas A&M University
The Catholic University of America
The George Washington University
University of California, Davis
University of California, Los Angeles
University of California, San Diego
University of Central Florida
University of Dayton
University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC)
University of Maryland, College Park
University of North Texas
University of Notre Dame
University of the District of Columbia