Tuesday, April 20, 2021
During the Wednesday, April 14, 2021, Learning Council meeting, members provided feedback on the Honors Design Team recommendations as well as on the draft definitions of several equity-related terms. The group also debriefed on the anti-racist conversation from the March meeting, engaged with an update on the Focused Inquiry Team (FIT) equity-minded practices, and converged on strategies that advance equity, impact planning goals and learning.
Honors Design Team Recommendations
Melonie Sexton, professor, psychology, provided an overview of the Honors Design Team work, and the Council was divided into breakout rooms to examine the emerging recommendations Subgroups included advising and recruitment, building community, co-curricular, curriculum, and scholarships and recognition. Council members appreciated the emphasis on equity and plans to keep opportunities across the campuses consistent. They also sought clarity on the following questions: How can we connect community/workforce to the co-curricular activities? Honors would have meaning to us and other academic institutions, but how might we make it an asset to employers, etc.?
Feedback on Equity Definitions
Katie Tagye, director, organizational design and development, and Lauren Thomas, professor, mathematics, and Osceola Faculty Association president, shared the working definitions of several equity-related terms that were drafted by the Developing and Integrating Equity Mindedness in the Employee Experience Team. The Council was then divided into breakout groups to discuss and provide feedback on the definitions of terms such as “equity,” “diversity” and “sense of belonging.” The Developing and Integrating Equity Mindedness team, in partnership with senior leaders, is updating the definitions based on the feedback gathered and developing a communication strategy with which to share them with the Valencia community.
Debrief on Anti-racist Conversation from March Meeting
Referencing the Learning Council’s last meeting and discussion, Stanton Reed, accounting professor and Learning Council co-chair, asked the Council to share its thoughts about the implications for the College using “anti-racism” as a lens through which to advance our equity goals.
Lateshia Martin, manager, student services, indicated the new framework allows us to “dig deeper, identify where we are going, measure whether it’s sustainable or needs to be reconsidered.”
Joe Richardson, vice president, student affairs, shared that we are sending the message that “we are willing to look at and examine policies and make changes.”
Meanwhile, LaVonda Walker-McKnight, faculty, New Student Experience, said “I’ve struggled with the use of antiracist at the exclusion of other scholarly definitions around racism. It’s a great perspective, but implies that people of color are the cause for the systemic structures that have been created and does not adequately place focus on power structures that have historically excluded people of color from all aspects of the ‘American Dream.’”
Julix Cordova Rivera, student services advisor, added that the framework’s implementation was “crucial for our culture to be willing to create the space to be raw to get it wrong and have the space to get it wrong and find the way to continue to improve. It’s a personal space first before a group space.”
Equity-minded Practices Focused Inquiry Team (FIT) Update
Shara Lee, campus director, faculty and instructional development, provided an update on the Equity-minded Practices Focused Inquiry Team work and asked the Council to share its thoughts on the following question via a JamBoard session: What is one thing related to equity-minded curriculum pedagogy, and indicators that, if our Brief didn’t address it, you’d worry we missed it? Sample responses include “student agency in developing/engaging with curriculum and pedagogical practices,” “learning support tools like the course syllabus,” “non-numerical indicators like narratives,” and the “false” growth mindset.
Converging on Strategies that Advance Equity, Impact Planning Goals and Learning
Lauren shared that the Institutional Planning Teams are getting ready to create concrete strategies to align with the goals that we formulated in our Strategic Impact Plan. She then challenged the Council to look at the SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis from the March meeting and think about what might be the priorities for strategies anchored in their group’s area of focus (Expanding Professional Development, Integrating Student Support, and Focus on Institutional Policies) that advance equity and learning within our Impact Plan.
The Council also reviewed their groups’ SWOT analysis and worked to identify a strategy on that list and apply drive to that strategy or create new strategies altogether. Then, the groups were asked to converge on that list and decide on the five or six crucial items crucial to pass on to the Institutional Planning Teams using Jamboard.
Nichole Jackson, director, learning assessment, summarized the discussion of group that focused on expanding professional development as a concrete strategy. Specifically, she shared the importance of updating the essential competencies to include equity and making sure there is a collaborative effort and some momentum about the ideas of professional development crossing across different categories of employment. Vasudha Sharma, professor, chemistry, also in that group expressed a need to gather collective energy around the idea that engaging in professional development is not just about checking a box, but that it should intentionally be used in pedagogy and that a system should be in place to ensure accountability for this practice for both faculty and staff.
LaVonda expounded on integrating student support — providing holistic student support. This strategy needs to ensure that students feel connected to each other and to the College, which could require increased communication between departments. She also shared that we need to be mindful that this isn’t a volunteer system and that this needs to be dedicated work that is championed and which honors the strengths of the people participating in the work. Training and development will be one of the biggest investments in this area.
Nelson Sepulveda, director, student development, described the team’s ideas regarding a focus on institutional policies. Specifically, he stressed the need to identify faculty members who can serve as mentors to students as well as the importance of being more intentional and deeper in our connections. Nelson also said we should make sure that faculty have an opportunity to teach the New Student Experience and that they are prepared and know how to access resources available at the College.
The next Learning Council meeting will be held on Thursday, May 6, 2021, from 2-5 p.m. via Zoom.