By Julia Michaels, Executive Director, Center for Public University Transformation
Is it 2021 yet? I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling exhausted by the challenges of this year, with so many still on the horizon. As you welcome students back to your campus for Fall term – in person or virtually – I wish you all strength in navigating the logistics of keeping everyone in your community safe while providing high-quality and inclusive instruction.
As we struggle, we also grow. Nationally, we’re beginning to reckon with the systemic racism present in our society for hundreds of years. Public universities are key allies in this fight when they create opportunities for those who are oppressed, and many of you reading this are leading or supporting transformation on your campuses. Justice cannot wait, which is why Powered by Publics made equity its number one strategic priority.
APLU is nothing without its members. Each of your universities has a unique mission and role in your local communities. But together, we can speak with one voice. If we view equity as our collective responsibility, we will give minoritized, low-income, and first-generation students the best possible chance at prosperity. That said, APLU exists within a network of many others working toward these same goals, and we acknowledge the groundbreaking and essential work of our peers, including but not limited to AASCU, AIHEC, UNCF, Excelencia, and Complete College America. This month’s newsletter features some highlights from our ongoing collaboration with these distinguished organizations through the Intermediaries for Scale program.
This week we celebrated the 130th anniversary of the Morrill Act of 1890 with a virtual event attended by more than 600 higher education leaders, policymakers, and business leaders. This event showcased the extraordinary story of our 1890 universities and their many contributions. Twelve 1890s universities are members of Powered by Publics and integral to the success of their transformation clusters. I’d like to acknowledge these members here and thank them for their leadership: Alabama A&M University, Alcorn State University, Central State University, Langston University, North Carolina A&T University, South Carolina State University, Southern University System, Tennessee State University, Tuskegee University, University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, Virginia State University, and West Virginia State University.
With so many urgent challenges ahead, it will take effort to keep our collective eye on long-term transformation in higher education. As my new APLU colleague Alcioné Frederick put it so well, the clusters are a space for working “ON” our universities, as opposed to working “IN” daily operations. Our monthly cluster meetings are a chance for university leaders to pause and take a step back from the day-to-day, reflect on transformation, and learn from their counterparts at peer institutions. Unlike a conference or webinar, these meetings are consistent, regular opportunities to build our networks and support each other. Thank you all for continuing to show up as leaders and for your tireless commitment to student success.