At Harold Washington College (HWC) we know that many of our students do not complete. We know that our students of color and our low-income students disproportionately fail our Math and English courses or do not return for classes in subsequent semesters. We know that there is much to be done on our campus to meet these challenges and we’ve tackled this through intentional work to promote equitable practices and processes among faculty, staff, and students targeting comprehensive systematic and curricular improvements.

At HWC this has taken the form of three key projects: the Equity Syllabus Working Group; the Equity and Justice Leadership Seminar; and the College Success Working Group.  Below are descriptions of each project:

Equity Syllabus Working Group

Three faculty met to create an Equity Syllabus Template (EST) that would be available for all faculty to use in their courses. The EST contains the same information as a traditional syllabus (instructor information, course objectives, learning outcomes, and pacing of course) but presents it in a way that students can access more easily and recognizes the assumptions often made about college courses. For example, instructors are encouraged to write bios of themselves rather than just contact information to help students feel welcomed and to provide “personalized learning statements” to pique students curiosity.  The lead faculty presented the EST at the Faculty Development Week. Faulty across disciplines used the EST in both fall and spring.

Equity and Justice Leadership Seminar

Framed through Culturally Sustaining Pedagogy (Paris and Alim, 2017), the HWC Equity and Justice Leadership Academy (ELJA) seeks to provide participants with learning experiences rooted in several categories: a) the systemic nature of inequalities, b) power and privilege, c) the role of education in both reproducing and disrupting inequities, d) asset-based pedagogies, e) deficit pedagogies, and g) humanizing relationships of love, care, and compassion. The HWC EJLA met two days a week for two hours for one month during the summer with seventeen participants from across the college.

College Success Working Group

College Success is a three-credit course that provides support for students through an introduction to Harold Washington College services and skill development, such as note-taking and time management. It also works to help students connect their academic journeys with careers. The working group met throughout the summer to develop activities and assignments that met course objectives that focused on issues of equity for students alongside soft academic skills and goals for college. Five faculty members, as well as the Associate Dean of Instruction, also met throughout the summer and made recommendations to the department that were implemented by instructors in the Fall and Spring terms.

The work supported by the Catalyst Grant takes on two elements that are essential to systemic education change, practices and pedagogies. The Equity Syllabus Template, new assignments and activities for college success provide real and concrete ways for faculty to lessen inequities for students. Faculty learned new pedagogies that provide the foundation for the new equitable practices. Most importantly, the projects supported by the grant directly and transparently shift the focus of the disparity in student completion, away from students and on to our college at the administrative and faculty level.

Harold Washington College is one of 25 Illinois higher education institutions that is a member of the Illinois Equity in Attainment initiative. Learn more about ILEA today.