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Kicking Off 2021 at the Powered by Publics Virtual Convening

Each year, APLU convenes campus teams from all Powered by Publics members for an annual conference dedicated to cross-cluster learning, sharing, and networking. Due to COVID-19, our 2020 conference was delayed and delivered virtually on January 11, 13 and 14, 2021. Though our time together was short, the opportunities for engagement were rich: campus teams took advantage of the event to connect the dots between their cluster’s work and others, and discuss progress toward our shared goals of increasing degree completion and equity for low-income, first-generation, and students of color.

Using Disaggregated Data to Improve Equity Gaps
During the opening session, campuses took a deep dive into the data from our first National Core Data Metrics collection, which took place in Summer and Fall 2020 with more than 85% of Powered by Publics institutions reporting. The data reflect 8 core metrics (encompassing enrollment, retention, degrees, and 6-year outcomes), disaggregated by 15 student subgroups (including race/ethnicity, Pell, gender, and entry status). Key themes from the breakout discussions included:

  • The Core Data Metrics collection was substantive, and the national dataset will have value to institutions as a baseline for comparison with peers. It may also play a useful role in advocacy at the state and federal levels. The data are limited as they reveal inequities but don’t tell us what’s driving them. It’s a snapshot, and future collections will allow for trend analysis over time.
  • Campuses would love to see additional measures tracked, including student employment outcomes, financial aid and cost data, first-generation students as a subgroup, Classification of Institutional Programs codes, and qualitative information about student belonging, campus climate, and regional context. There are tradeoffs, however, between having the best data and keeping the collection burden reasonable for IR offices.
  • One breakout group proposed a research study to evaluate the impact of COVID-19 and the transition to remote education on student perceptions and satisfaction. Enrollment trends have also varied widely post-COVID, with some campuses seeing large increases and others large declines.

Watch this short video with Denise Nadasen, who shares her reflections on the Core Data Metrics and institutional takeaways from the process.

Learning Hub “Unconference” Sessions on Affordability Holistic Student Supports, and Teaching & Learning
To achieve the desired outcome of having informal, peer-led discussions across clusters, APLU utilized an “unconference” format for the three concurrent sessions on Affordability, Holistic Student Supports, and Teaching & Learning. Campus teams volunteered ahead of time to lead the breakout discussions, and participants joined these conversations based on their interests. These stimulating conversation spaces tackled topics from setting institution-wide affordability goals, to teaching in times of trauma.

Watch this short video with Tia Freelove-Kirk, who shares her reflections on the unconference sessions.

The Equity Imperative
The conference closed with an energizing session on equity, facilitated by Dr. Sumun L. Pendakur, a nationally recognized expert in higher education and equity. Dr. Pendakur led the group through reflection on some of the “detours” that we often make in our pursuit of equitable outcomes for students. She gave us tools for identifying those detours and re-directing ourselves back on track in a way that’s inclusive yet challenging. Attendees learned that no matter their position at the university, they all have a role to play in realizing a more equitable future.

Watch this short video with Alcioné Frederick, who shares her reflections on the equity session.

What’s Next for Powered by Publics?
The results of the virtual convening will inform our overall objectives for the year, which we’ll review with the lead presidents for Powered by Publics next month. In the meantime, we hope attendees found value in the convening, and encourage everyone to debrief with their clusters and campus teams. Stay tuned for other virtual connection opportunities as we launch our cross-cluster Learning Hubs this Spring!

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