BY Joe Saucedo, Senior Partnerships Manager

Joe Saucedo
Senior Partnerships Manager

With much of 2022 in the rearview mirror, it seems like an opportune time to reflect on all this collective group of equity-minded practitioners and scholars continues to achieve. It feels like just yesterday the world was turned upside down and all plans of doing business as usual, including the implementation of institutional equity plans, were out the window. In many ways it was just yesterday and yet I can’t help but remind myself of the need to acknowledge, recall, and recognize the wins along the way – big or small. For it is in the process of reflection that I along with my colleagues at PCC can derive the immense gratitude for your continued commitment to serving students and making lasting change in the face of tremendous obstacles. 

In the spirit of recognizing the wins of the past year, PCC celebrates the first in-person convening of the ILEA community-at-large last month at the College of DuPage. Nearly 200 colleagues in attendance engaged in learning, networking, and re(orienting) ourselves to the goals of the Initiative. The energy was palpable and the knowledge sharing from our various presenters illustrated once again the power of peer-based learning and the importance of community. While institutions overall continue to recover from declining student enrollment, there are several within the cohort who have weathered this issue successfully by deploying a variety of interventions. These include targeted outreach to students, maintaining test-optional policies, reassessing financial aid options to make college more affordable, and accompanying students and families at every step of their decision-making process. 

This spring, institutions developed and submitted comprehensive developmental education reform plans, in compliance with HB2170, to ensure that disparities in student achievement in gateway English and Math courses are not perpetuated across race or socioeconomic status. Among the 48 community colleges, 11 ILEA partner institutions submitted plans that specify the co-requisite model of reform as the model of choice to ensure more students of color are provided with critical academic support resources while enrolling in credit-bearing gateway courses. These plans coupled with the holistic focus on equitable student outcomes serve to foster the conditions necessary for students to feel seen, heard, and valued. Additionally, our colleagues from College of Lake County and College of DuPage walked us through their comprehensive efforts to reform design and delivery of developmental education as part of this year’s ILEA Summit. 

The massive employee turnover reaching many employment sectors coming out of the pandemic has also affected higher education institutions. This was evident by the number of first-time attendees at the ILEA Summit and the ongoing need to welcome and onboard new partners to the work around equity. In light of the transitions taking place behind the scenes at your campuses, our team at PCC celebrates those still active on campus and who continue to show up. Through conversations with core teams this year, we’ve learned about various ways that partners are putting into practice evidence-based strategies shared at ILEA and other professional learning forums. For example, faculty and staff recruitment efforts have been adjusted at some institutions to integrate more cultural competency training of search committees, job descriptions are being modified so that diverse applicants are more likely to apply, and spaces for affinity groups to come together and build solidarity continue to be cultivated with an eye toward healthy campus climates. On the faculty side, we continue to hear from colleagues who have redesigned their course syllabi with a lens toward equity and holistic support. 

Whether you’ve launched or participated in a book club this year or successfully recruited personnel to better reflect your student populations, we appreciate you and remain humbled by the tireless ways you and your colleagues demonstrate care. Of course, it is critically important to note how care for others is just as necessary for ourselves if we are to continue advancing in this work. As the saying goes, it is hard to pour from an empty cup and we at PCC certainly encourage you to fill your cup this holiday season and winter break. Catch up on Netflix, come back to the books in your queue, reconnect with family and friends. In whatever capacity you are able to reset and recalibrate, we support you and resolve to do the same so that together we take on a new year with greater strength, focus, and might.