In early August, APLU and 12 other leading higher education organizations convened virtually as Intermediaries for Scale to deepen coordination and collaboration to support 2-year and 4-year institutions across the country as they pursue educational equity for low-income, first-generation, and students of color. The convening provided a forum for discussion on timely topics, including systemic racism in higher education, digital learning infrastructure, and tech-enabled learning. The convening was designed by and for the Intermediaries, and hosted by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Catalyst:Ed.
Highlights from the convening included:
- A presentation and discussion of the Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation (TRHT) campus centers, led by Tia Brown McNair, Vice President in the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Student Success at AAC&U. The Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation (TRHT) project involves 24 institutions, including eight APLU member institutions, focused on breaking down racial hierarchies and “dismantling the belief in the hierarchy of human value.” This effort, funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, is supported by a framework and implementation guide to lead design teams in narrative change around racial healing. Participant impressions of the session included that it was “positive and inclusive,” and “essential to achieving equitable policy and practice.”
- A consensus that dismantling the belief in racial hierarchy is “essential to achieving equitable policy and practice in higher education.”
- A design-thinking session called The Importance of Learning to Name what you Cannot See, in which participants familiarized themselves with a student persona (e.g., first-generation, veteran student who is a single mom), identified needs specific to that persona, and explored how university policy and practice might be adjusted to meet that student’s specific needs. The session was particularly powerful as it asked participants to empathize with students possessing different intersecting identities and think about barriers specific to those identities. Inequities became evident in policies and practices, in student economics (food and housing insecurity, finances, transportation), course scheduling, virtual instruction, and pedagogy in the classroom.
- Application of criteria to assess anti-racist higher education policy, developed by Dr. Estela Mara Bensimon in The Case for an Anti-Racist Stance Toward Paying Off Higher Education’s Racial Debt. Applying the 4-point criteria to each policy can help university leaders identify whether that policy is racist or anti-racist.
Participants left with some key questions and areas for further learning and exploration:
- How can we move from talking about equity to dismantling inequitable policies and practices?
- How might land-grant institutions specifically engage in equity reform, and what is APLU’s role in leading this charge? The land-grant universities were originally created with the working class in mind, but barriers remain for low-income students and racial minorities. Might land-grant institutions engage in crafting a new mission for the 21st Century that will advance justice for these student populations?
The Intermediaries for Scale is comprised of 13 organizations that serve transforming colleges and universities as connectors, advisors, and strategists. These organizations have demonstrated commitment and experience in supporting institutions as they reduce college success disparities by race and income; promoting continuous learning and improvement using data; and identifying, implementing, and evaluating significant campus-level changes in policy and practice. Collectively, these groups work with or represent nearly three-quarters of the nation’s public two- and four-year institutions. The intermediaries are:
- Achieving the Dream
- American Association of State Colleges and Universities
- American Indian Higher Education Consortium
- Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities
- Complete College America
- E3 Alliance
- Excelencia in Education
- Growing Inland Achievement
- Jobs for the Future
- John N Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education
- Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
- UNCF (United Negro College Fund)