2023 Recordings & Resources

The 2023 Summer Institute on Equity in the Academic Experience was hosted by the American Talent Initiative and Georgetown University who shared responsibility for the planning and programming.

We are pleased to acknowledge the meaningful partnership of Penn State University (especially Penn State Harrisburg for serving as a leadership site) and the ATI Community of Practice advisory group with representation from Muhlenberg College, The Ohio State, and University of Pittsburgh.

Daily Provocations

Design for Equity or Perpetuate Inequity

Dr. Olufemi Ogundele, Associate Vice Chancellor of Admissions & Enrollment, provides vision, strategy and leadership in the recruitment and evaluation of California’s public flagship. 

We Have It All Wrong: Human Relations At The Heart of Scaling Strategies

Dr. Paul J. LeBlanc, President of Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) has grown the university from 2,800 students to over 160,000 learners and has made it the largest nonprofit provider of online higher education in the country.

Student Success Redefined

Dr. Amelia Parnell, Vice President for Research & Policy at NASPA, Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education, leads many of the Association’s scholarly and advocacy-focused activities. Amelia writes and speaks frequently about topics related to student affairs, college affordability, student learning outcomes, and institutions’ use of data and analytics. 

If we recognize that systems generate behaviors, we must acknowledge that systems do not move with actors and architects. This provocation explored the system of college admission post the George Floyd summer and with the looming SCOTUS decision on affirmative action. In a time of highly polarized education communities are looking for more than just words, they are looking for action and justice. This session discussed what it means in undergraduate admission to design for equity or perpetuate inequity.

Our scaled systems of care – K12, healthcare, mental health, and yes, higher education – have it backwards, using technology, efficiency, and productivity as drivers of scale, often seeking to minimize the centrality of human relationships to any transformational experience in any of those systems. As a result, we pay too much for dismal results. We need to flip the script, starting with relationships and holding them at the heart of the work, while scaling the heck out of everything else.

In 2018, Dr. Parnell wrote a thought piece (new window) to expand the discussion of how colleges should define student success. She suggested that in addition to retention, persistence, and graduation, college professionals and others should consider four key indicators of students’ progress. Higher education has experienced myriad changes and challenges over the past five years and in this provocation, Parnell proposed an updated set of descriptors of students’ most important milestones.

2023 Interactive Sessions:

Day 1: Getting going

Daily Welcome

Dan Porterfield, President and CEO of the Aspen Institute, recorded an inspiring welcome – an exhortation, in fact – to launch the Institute and acknowledge the labor and love that we bring to the work ahead.

(1.1) Navigating DEI Resistance

(1.2) Soft v Radical Reform toward Educational Equity 

(1.3)  Learning at Iowa: A Campus-Wide Framework to Increase Students’ Academic Success

In 2020, institutions of higher education issued statements reaffirming their commitment to
diversity, equity, and inclusion on their campuses. Yet, evidence suggests that resistance to equity-minded change efforts – such as creating a culture of inclusion to support the recruitment
and retention of diverse students, faculty, and staff – continue to persist in higher education. This diversity science panel explored individual and organizational level factors driving diversity
resistance, and action-oriented approaches to manage resistance to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Kecia M. Thomas – Dean of the University of Birmingham College of Arts and Sciences and Professor of Psychology

Roderick Lee – Associate Professor of Information Systems Harrisburg, Penn State Harrisburg

Levon Esters – Vice Provost for Graduate Education and Dean of the Graduate School, Penn State University

If equity work is ultimately situated in larger systems of inequality and marginalization, then what should real long-term transformation look like? Vanessa Andreotti, an education leader, talks about the difference between “soft” and “radical” reform. Soft reform, she says, asserts that “the system is basically fine, and we just need to fine tune it and bring more people into the tent.” Radical reform begins with the premise that “the system is basically rigged” and if we want “real transformation, we have to change the rules.” This interactive discussion and workshop begins with this distinction and asks what it might look to actually “change the rules”? What kinds of strategies could be enacted that would have the goal of moving institutions and their equity work toward more radical reform?

Randy Bass – Vice President for Strategic Education Initiatives, Georgetown University

Tim Eatman – Dean of the Honors Living-Learning Community, Rutgers University

Learning at Iowa is a campus-wide learning framework that is aimed at transforming the culture of learning on the University of Iowa campus by helping students learn how to learn, thereby reducing the effects of educational opportunity gaps. Learning at Iowa weaves throughout campus empirically supported learning methods from cognitive science, distilled around the “Three Ms”: mindset, metacognition, and memory. The project involves several campus partners (e.g., instructors, advisors, students) from a variety of contexts (e.g., classrooms, advising, residence halls). Across these contexts, the project seeks to provide consistent messaging and recommendations about learning for students. The presentation included examples of Learning at Iowa content and initial qualitative assessment.

Shaun Vecera – Psychology Professor, Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences and Learning at Iowa, University of Iowa

(2.1) The Early College Model: Expanding access by combining high school and college

(2.2) Student Success Assessment 101 

(2.3)  Advancing Equity Agendas in Today’s Political Climate

Early college high schools are a test case about whether we can combine aspects of the postsecondary and secondary systems to expand access to college for more students. This workshop presented an overview of the early college model and included a description of implementation at a highly selective university. The session presented findings from rigorous impact studies that show that the model has positive impacts on students.

Julie Edmunds – Program Director at the SERVE Center at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro

Erin Horne – Assistant Dean for Professional Education and Accreditation in the College of Education at North Carolina State University

Drew Ware – Principal at Wake Stem Early College High School

This workshop presented the basics of assessment in the context of higher education student success. Amanda Brodish and April Belback defined and described student success assessment cycles and measures used by the University of Pittsburgh. You are able to identify outcome measures to map back to your own unit, program, or context.

Amanda Brodish – Associate Vice Provost for Data Analytics, University of Pittsburgh

April Belback – Director of Undergraduate Advising and Mentoring, University of Pittsburgh

In this panel, Dr. Lenore Rodicio and Dr. Harrison Keller talked about work to advance equity in states where the social and political climate makes explicit discussions of race and ethnicity complicated, with potential for policy, legal, and financial repercussions. Despite these challenges, both have found common ground with a broad range of stakeholders that have allowed them to advance student-focused and evidence-driven perspectives and make real gains toward educational equity goals. They explained how they navigate the complexity of their ecosystems to effect change at systems and state levels.

Harrison Keller – Commissioner of Higher Education and chief executive officer for the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board

Lenore Rodicio – Senior Fellow, College Excellence Program, The Aspen Institute

Day 2: Digging in

Daily Welcome

President of Penn State University, Neeli Bendapudi, gave a warm welcome on day two of the institute, reminding participants about the essentiality of this work always – but even more so at this critical junction in our history.

(3.1) De-siloing Equity Work Across the Institution

(3.2) Leading from the Middle: Designing and Implementing Innovative Strategies Below the Fold

(3.3) Professional Learning Design for High Impact Equity Initiatives

Colleges and universities are inherently siloed along many dimensions (disciplinary lines, between teaching and scholarly work), but the silos that isolate equity work are even greater. The causes of this are numerous – e.g., the perception of equity work as outside the core mission of institutions, the late insertion of equity offices and titles into existing structures – but regardless of the origins, the consequence is that the siloes serve to disempower equity work and equity allies. Learning how to de-silo equity work and to connect across silos when de-siloing isn’t possible is necessary to achieve our goals. In this workshop, participants stepped through a design framework that paired individual reflection with broader conversation to define the present-day “business as usual” state, imagined a future “alternative paradigm” where equity work is interconnected and integrated, and finally explored how to transition from the present to the future by planning for an impactful intervention.

April Belback – Director of Undergraduate Advising and Mentoring, University of Pittsburgh

Heidi Elmendorf – Director, Hub for Equity in Education; Associate Professor of Biology, Georgetown University

Randy Bass – Vice President for Strategic Education Initiatives, Georgetown University

In this session, participants were guided through the development of a culturally engaged, inclusive advising toolkit in order to highlight the opportunities and challenges that come with “leading from the middle.” As part of this workshop, participants engaged in discussions about how DEI campus projects can be successfully developed, implemented, and assessed. In this way, participants carefully examined what goes into designing and implementing a DEI initiative in a highly decentralized organizational ecosystem.

Javier Jimenez Westerman – Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Georgetown University

Stephon Hamill – Advising Dean, Georgetown University

Professional development – or “professional learning” – is a powerful tool for addressing equity and advancing success for all students. Professional learning has been called “essential equity infrastructure,” the key to engaging front-line educators in the action-oriented partnerships needed to implement equity-focused practices with quality and at scale. This workshop highlighted research demonstrating the impact of professional learning “done well,” and introduced an actionable design framework for high impact professional learning. Sharing resources and modeling co-constructed techniques, it invited participants to consider the assets of their home campus and to work with their team, designing ways to effectively integrate professional learning into their Equity Institute plans.

Lydia CdeBaca Cruz -Coordinator; Mexican American Studies, Adjunct Professor of Humanities and Composition and Literary Studies, Austin Community College; Achieving the Dream; University of Texas

Bret Eynon – Associate Provost (Ret), LaGuardia CC; Achieving the Dream

(4.1) The Path Forward for Diversity in Higher Education

(4.2) Building College-to-Careers Pathways that Support All Students

(4.3) Considering the AI impacts on Equity in Education

This panel discussed the impending Supreme Court decisions on affirmative action in higher education. It explored the history of the cases challenging diversity efforts at Harvard and UNC-Chapel Hill. It discussed the expected impact of the decisions, including for diversity in the k-12 context, and what legal options remain for retaining diversity as a goal in higher ed admissions.

Shaakirrah Sanders – Visiting Professor of Law, Penn State Dickinson Law

Janel George – Associate Professor of Law; Director of the Racial Equity in Education Law and Policy Clinic, Georgetown Law

In this panel, leaders discussed their findings from two recent research projects that examine what research and large-scale data analyses tell us about which pathways and programs are the most impactful in helping improve employment outcomes for students, how the impacts of interventions are expected to vary across different student groups, and what investments are necessary to close gaps in educational and economic opportunity and attainment by race/ethnicity, gender, and socioeconomic status.

To see the original research and reports, please visit:

Kerry McKittrick – Associate Director, Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy at Harvard Kennedy School

Zack Mabel – Research Professor of Education and Economics, Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce

AI tools are going to reshape academic processes of all kinds, as the pace of change accelerates. This session looked at these challenges through an equity lens, asking two fundamental questions: how might AI tools advance the work of equity? And how might they make inequity worse? It took a look at these questions from both the short term (adaptation and integration of current tools) and the medium and long-term (innovation that will offer new approaches that would not have been possible before.) The goal of the session was to help participants learn what kinds of innovations and conversations will help ensure that AI tools and capabilities are in the service academic equity.

Michael Meaney – Head of Learning Growth, Multiverse

Craig Meyer – Associate Professor of English & Director of the Writing Program, Jackson State University

Mohammad Khalil – Senior Researcher, Centre for the Science of Learning & Technology

Day 3: Sharing Out

Daily Welcome

Equity Institute organizers – Heidi Elmendorf, Randy Bass, and Susannah McGowan – invited all to drive the equity work in the year ahead.

(5.1) Mattering, Equity, and Student Success

(5.2) Working Towards Bias-Free and Inclusive Curricula: Using a Bias Checklist in Health Professions Education

(5.3) The Personal & Professional Cost of Doing Equity Work

In this interactive session, two recent undergraduates and two faculty members invited participants to consider the key terms in the session title—mattering, equity, and student success—in relation to the problem, barrier, or goal teams brought to this institute. Each leader shared why they had shifted their focus from the widely embraced construct of belonging to the less-common construct of mattering, and offered definitions of mattering from the literature. Drawing on a research project that explored the experiences and perspectives of “new majority” students in several different institutional and programmatic contexts in higher education, they offered glimpses of what mattering feels like and enables for these students from historically underrepresented groups. Participants explored how mattering might catalyze rethinking and inform ongoing efforts, and everyone discussed as a whole group next steps in promoting mattering for equity and student success.

Alison Cook-Sather – Professor of Education and Director, Peace, Conflict and Social Justice concentration and Director, Teaching and Learnin, Bryn Mawr College

Kaylyn (Kayo) Piper Stewart – Recent Graduate of Sociology, Education and Africana Studies, Bryn Mawr College

Heidi Weston – Recent Graduate, Secondary Education Teaching, Elon University

Peter Felten – Executive Director of the Center for Engaged Learning, Elon University

Bias, shame, stereotyping and stigma are pervasive in healthcare, with detrimental effects on our learners as well as on the health of our patients and communities. This workshop helped educators better understand the importance of equity, diversity, and inclusion in curricula, recognize best practices to support inclusive teaching, and examine curricular items that can be reviewed by the Upstate Bias Checklist.

Susan Cheng – Senior Associate Dean for Diversity and Inclusion Deputy Title IX Coordinator, School of Medicine, Georgetown University School of Medicine

Ishani Joshi – Medical Student at Georgetown University School of Medicine, Georgetown University School of Medicine

Sarah Kureshi – Associate Professor in the Department of Family Medicine, Vice Chair for Education, Georgetown University

For many individuals working in the educational equity space, the cost of doing this work is high. The volume of work is ever-growing and becoming increasingly more difficult, yet still remains marginalized on many campuses. The pain of our students and our colleagues becomes our pain. The challenges of today are all too familiar to many of us who share identities with our students and who experienced – and are still experiencing – inequities in education and the workforce. So how do we take care of ourselves? What does it look like to “put on your own oxygen mask first” to ensure that you are not only practicing self-care but so that you can continue to be there for others who are important in your personal and professional lives? In this session, Dr. Jo Ellyn Walker, led a conversation to help participants explore the challenges and discuss pathways that can help us take the best possible care of ourselves and those around us.

Jo Ellyn Walker – Associate Director for Diversity Initiatives – CAPS, Georgetown University

2023 Team Project Highlights

“Fostering Belonging”

The college team formed an interdisciplinary group to develop strategies for fostering a deeper sense of belonging among and increasing the ultimate success of low-income college students. Recently, Marist College has seen an increase in the percent of Pell-eligible students and financial support dedicated to their success. However, some subgroups of low-income students who have received financial and academic support report low rates of belonging on the college campus and low-income students more generally have lower first-year retention and 6-yr graduation rates than their more affluent peers. With the proliferation of financial support, it is necessary to develop coordinated and focused academic and student affairs-based supports. The college team explored strategies such as peer mentoring, increasing participation in high impact practices, comprehensive advising, and faculty and staff development with the goal of increasing low-income students’ sense of belonging and retention and graduation rates.

“Mentorship / Social Capital”

Group 1 / Mentorship: Build a strong foundation for consistent, inclusive, outcomes-oriented mentorship programs at Hope. This is not about building more mentorship programs; it is about strengthening (and possibly streamlining) the ones that already exist, with a focus on high-impact practices.

Group 2 / Social Capital: Expand students’ cultural and social capital in the Hope College experience. The college team thought through ways to help strengthen Hope students’ network of relationships that provide support, information and opportunity.

“24 Teams Tackling Equity Issues”

Diverse teams from across Penn State participated in this year’s Equity Summer Institute. Penn State fielded 24 teams from 16 Penn State campuses and units. Read more here!

2023 Participating Institutions

Read more about the 2022 Institute