News & Media

Executive Director’s Note

By Julia Michaels

As we move into the holiday season, I’m reflecting on the importance of our relationships and how it’s the people we know who matter most to us. It’s worth remembering that change is a social process; it happens when people persuade each other to think about the world differently. Big ideas only get you so far, you need willing individuals to carry them out.

That’s the theory behind Powered by Publics – it’s about building relationships of trust among people at universities so that we all transform together.

That’s why our third strategic priority for Powered by Publics is to develop common opportunities for cross-cluster learning, sharing, and action in common thematic areas. We’re organizing these “learning hubs” around topics you, our members, prioritized at last year’s Powered by Publics Design Challenge in San Diego: Affordability, Holistic Student Supports, and Teaching & Learning – with Equity and Data elements integrated throughout. We heard from you that you wanted more structured opportunities to engage with other clusters (not just your own) and these hubs will provide an overarching framework for organizing these opportunities and synthesizing knowledge for broader dissemination. Some of you were interviewed by your cluster managers to help us develop this idea, and I thank you profusely for that time.

I recently sent out a Save the Date for this year’s Powered by Publics convening, which will technically take place in the new year on January 11, 13, and 14, 2021. Registration for the virtual convening series will be sent out after the Thanksgiving holiday.

A rough agenda:

  • Welcome and Overview (1/11, 3:00-3:20pm Eastern Time)
  • Using Disaggregated Data to Improve Equity Gaps: Results of Core Data Metrics Collection and Cluster Breakout Discussion (1/11, 3:30-5:00pm Eastern Time)
  • Learning Hub “Unconference” Sessions on Affordability, Holistic Student Supports, and Teaching and Learning (1/13, 3:00-4:00pm Eastern Time)
  • The Equity Imperative (1/14, 3:00-4:00pm Eastern Time)

Establishing these learning hubs will also help us integrate elements of continuous improvement into our work. One cluster has piloted this approach: The Improvement Science cluster, led by the University of Texas at Austin. They are two years into their work using improvement science to identify key drivers of student success in first year learning communities and advising (both are within the learning hub area of “Holistic Student Supports”) and has begun testing change ideas on campus. Check out their latest brief, authored by APLU’s Tia Freelove-Kirk, to learn more.

Lastly, I want to thank three Powered by Publics members for sharing their cluster’s work during a session at our APLU Annual Meeting last week: Dr. Renique Kersh at Northern Illinois University (representing the High Pell Cluster), Dr. Patrick Turner at New Mexico State University (representing the Western Land-grant Cluster), and Lisa Carlson at South Dakota School of Mines and Technology (representing the Tech/STEM Cluster). Although their session was just a snapshot of all the great work happening in the clusters and at institutions, they each spoke learning hub topics of Affordability, Teaching & Learning, and Holistic Student Supports, respectively. A special thank you to our APLU staff cluster managers Alcione Frederick and Lynn Brabender for organizing the session, and for their exemplary support of each cluster’s work.

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