“Failure is not bad. Failure paves the way for everything you can achieve in your life.”
– Nikita Johnson, Achieving the Dream DREAM Scholar, Lorain County Community College.
“Listen to your students. Listen to that voice that may just be a whisper but wants to scream.”
– Estefany Palencia, Achieving the Dream DREAM Scholar, Westchester Community College.
As I was trying to reflect on this year’s Achieving the Dream, DREAM 2021 Conference, I paused.
I stared at the snow falling.
I paused some more.
Then I drifted into a reflection of the words of several DREAM Scholars.
Nikita’s and Estefany’s words struck me the most. As an Adjunct Professor at two very different Community Colleges, I see the “Estefanys” in my classroom. I hear their whisper.
I see the “Nakita’s” entering my virtual classroom focused on taking past failures to achieve new goals. I see them working hard and overcoming obstacles few people ever have to experience.
Sadly, I’ve also seen students who “gave up” – or who didn’t have the support network outside of the classroom – or, in some cases, don’t have the funds for wifi access or a computer. As I reflected on former students – I feel I failed those students who needed our support the most, even though I tried every avenue to reach out and help.
This past year has challenged faculty, staff, and administrators to think differently. To be strategic in the planning process in all operations of the college. To think out-of-the-box in providing culturally responsive learning experiences. But more than anything else, the past year has pushed us to address racial equity in higher education. This year’s Achieving the Dream Conference supported those initiatives – providing resources for not just two-year institutions worldwide but higher education partners, like TargetX, part of the Liaison International family.
The DREAM 2021 conference focused their virtual conference around five core themes:
- Centering Racial Equity – Being intentional and action-oriented in removing racial inequities that impede social justice.
- Anchoring a Bold, New Access Agenda – Creating on-ramps for adult learners, disconnected youth, and unique populations to achieve socioeconomic mobility in the communities the college serves.
- Leveraging our Localness – Developing innovative partnerships that build thriving and equitable communities.
- Listening in New Ways in the Age of Big Data – Embedding resilience, sensemaking, and agility into the culture of our institutions and radically moving the student voice into the middle of redesign.
- Fostering Teaching and Learning Excellence – Creating new opportunities for professional development and leveraging evidence-based practices that support student learning.
Throughout the virtual conference, attendees learned how to address racial equity and create culturally responsive learning experiences. We heard from two-year institutions across the country that developed programs and initiatives to tackle issues inside and outside the classroom. TargetX, a Silver Sponsor of the event, sponsored a concurrent session by Sinclair Community College – a recent winner of the Achieving the Dream Leader College Distinction Status, the highest designation offered to institutions.
In the concurrent session, Planting the Seeds: Growing Our Own to Remove Racial Inequities for Faculty and Students,” the presenters, comprised of mostly faculty, discussed three programs at Sinclair that have made racial equity central to faculty recruitment and student success. One of the programs, The Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation, assists colleges in efforts to increase underrepresented minority student recruitment, retention, persistence, and attainment in STEM programs. Ultimately, the program supports students by providing financial stipends to attend activities and tasks associated with making them successful.
One of the best virtual higher ed conferences I’ve attended in the past year was filled with nationally renowned speakers, like Dr. David Treuer. Treuer, a Pushcart Prize Winner, New York Times bestselling author, and Professor of English at the University of Southern California, provided his reflection on imagining and making native futures. As an Ojibwe Indian from Leech Lake Reservation in northern Minnesota, Treuer shared his parents’ story through an inspiring yet eye-opening discussion on the need for inclusion in education – especially within a diverse faculty perspective. Truer stated, “I’ve never had, at any level, a Native teacher… Still, education is something being done to us, not being done for us.”
The three-day event opened my eyes not just as a faculty member but in a way that encourages me to push forward the Community College mission and vision. Community Colleges continue to play an important role in breaking the barriers to student access and success. At TargetX, my colleagues and I are committed to helping not just our clients but all of higher education in developing equity-minded, inclusive, and culturally responsive Recruitment and Student Success initiatives – no matter the student.
To support higher education institutions, especially Community Colleges, in early 2020, TargetX launched the Community College Suite. This one-of-a-kind CRM focuses on the uniqueness of Community Colleges and allows institutions to ensure every student has the opportunity to receive an education – and assuring every student is a success.
It is TargetX’s goal to help two-year institutions achieve the mission and vision of Community Colleges across the country. As Dr. Karen Stout, President & CEO at Achieving the Dream, stated of Community Colleges, “We have a responsibility to effect change in a meaningful way – in our classrooms, on our campuses, and in the communities we serve.” TargetX and the entire Liaison family are here to help make that change possible.
To learn more about TargetX and our Community College Suite visit our dedicated Community College site today!