Learning Council Puts Its Equity Lens to Work

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

The Learning Council convened on Thursday, February 4, 2021, to continue the group’s capacity building in advancing racial equity; apply members’ current racial equity knowledge and ability in several ways, including institutional plan ideation; and engage with updates on the Council’s commissioned work.

The group began the meeting by congratulating Executive Vice President and Provost and President, Osceola, Lake Nona and Poinciana Campuses Kathleen Plinske for being selected as Valencia’s fifth president and promptly began discussing the book “How to be an Antiracist” by Ibram X. Kendi. This was the Council’s final discussion of the text, which members had begun reading in July 2020.

After a general discussion of the text, the Council members broke into small groups to discuss how to identify racist ideas and practices in their daily work as well as opportunities for antiracist efforts. Participants responded to questions in the Zoom chat, and many discussed the need to review current policies and practices as well as to better leverage student data.

Lauren Thomas, professor, mathematics, and Osceola Faculty Assembly president, said her group discussed the need to have data that “accurately reflect the demographics our students so that when initiatives/programs are created, they are specifically created for those groups.”

Shari Koopman, professor, English, proposed a “common read” focusing on equity for incoming students. She also suggested embedding “SEED-like” activities in PIVOT 360, Valencia’s leadership program, to expose administrators to equity concepts.

Vasudha Sharma, professor, chemistry, also wondered about mechanisms that would allow faculty to intentionally assess their own practices on racial equity.

Work Proposal Feedback

The Learning Council was reminded of the draft criteria that were generated in December 2020 for work proposal review, ones that further emphasize equity and learning. Council members will consider the extent to which each work proposal makes explicit how equity-minded practice is a lens through which research and work will be completed and will ask specific questions about learning, such as: What is the primary goal and/or learning outcomes?

Wendi Dew, assistant vice president, teaching and learning, provided an update on the Classroom-based Early Alert Work Plan and asked the Council for feedback. Responses were varied, and some suggested focusing on students who have completed 15 credit hours.

“One of our main strategic strategies is to increase the number of students achieving 15 credit hours. How could faculty know which students in the class have achieved this goal?” asked Sonia Casablanca, professor, business, and interim dean of career and technical programs, at the Osceola Campus. “Can the rosters show a code to identify these students so faculty can provide more support if needed?”

Lateshia Martin, manager, student services, asked if all stakeholders would have viewable access to early alerts provided by Valencia’s client relationship management system (CRM). To the question, Wendi answered that “part of our work will be to identify the type of alerts we will use, their purpose and intended outcomes.”

Following that discussion, Leonard Bass, dean, learning support, provided an update on the Post-COVID Learning Support Model Work Plan and asked the council for feedback. Ideas provided in the chat included questions from Aida Diaz, professor, Spanish, who asked if students could participate in a forum in order to discuss tutoring services.

Supporting the Institutional Planning Process

Isis Artze-Vega, vice president, academic affairs and Learning Council co-chair, walked Council members through the College’s Impact Plan goals. She challenged the group to brainstorm strategies that both advance our targets in each goal area and advance learning. In small groups, council members discussed the following questions, adapted from the institutional planning forums:

– What institutional actions might be preventing students from reaching their goals and learning as much or as well as they could?

  • What institutional actions might be causing barriers for Black and Hispanic students?

– What are all the ways we might support our students, toward both our access, graduation, transfer and career credentials goals and more/better learning?

  • What are all the ways we might support our Black and Hispanic students toward these inseparable goals?

Honors Design Team Feedback Request

Robyn Brighton, director, strategic learning initiatives, shared that the Honors Design Team crafted six criteria in response to data collected through campus forums, surveys, interviews and various activities. Since initially sharing the criteria with governance and on-campus forums in February 2020, the work team is seeking input on the extent to which the criteria will guide the design team in achieving equity by design. Learning Council groups suggested that the design team identify metrics with which to hold ourselves accountable and observed that, as currently stated, the success criteria sound more like traditional notions of “diversity” and “inclusion” than “strategically ensuring equity.”

To help clarify the latter, the group turned to the metaphor of “access” and “diversity” as “an invitation to the dance,” “inclusion” as “an invitation to the dance floor,” and “equity” as co-creation, “choosing the music/teaching the dance moves”, adapted from Tia Brown McNair, vice resident in the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Student Success and executive director for the Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation (TRHT) Campus Centers at the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U).

Micro-progress Updates

Nichole Jackson, director, learning assessment, provided an update on Learning Outcomes Assessment (LOA), including the fact that the group partnered with the College Curriculum Committee (CCC) to look at course outlines through an equity-minded lens. Almost all general education courses and several others are coming to the February 2021 CCC meeting for feedback.

Wendi also provided an update on the Academic Integrity Standing Committee. The team, Wendi said, has spent “a lot of time thinking about student and faculty perceptions and experiences with academic integrity during the pandemic.” The team is working through this complex issue and is committed to providing resources and support for both faculty and students. Wendi will provide additional updates as the work progresses.

She also provided an update on the Equity-minded Practices Focused-Inquiry Team (FIT), indicating the team will work in four phases:  Phase 1: February –  Literature review; Phase 2: March – Synthesize and evaluate literature and institutional practices; Phase 3: April –  Core recommendations and creation of the brief, Phase 4: May – Submit brief.

Isis also reminded the group that the Withdrawal FIT and Start Right: Late Start work is on pause.


Stanton Reed, professor, business and accounting, and Learning Council co-chair, shared that the council will continue to work on capacity building in advancing equity, as well as building a deep connection to the institutional planning process and reminded members of development opportunities.

The next Learning Council meeting will take place on Thursday, March 4, 2021, from 2 – 5 p.m. via Zoom.

To view a PowerPoint of the February meeting, click here.

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