CHICAGO, February 24, 2023— Dr. Adrianna Kezar, Dean’s Professor of Leadership, Wilbur-Kieffer Professor of Higher Education at the University of Southern California, and Director of the Pullias Center for Higher Education led a workshop on leadership change hosted by the Partnership for College Completion in February. Leadership teams from 22 colleges and universities in the Illinois Equity in Attainment Initiative (ILEA) joined the event. ILEA colleges and universities are working to eliminate racial and socioeconomic disparities in college completion on their campuses through equity planning and initiatives. Kezar is a national expert on governance and leadership in higher education focused on transformative change leadership using lessons drawn from her comprehensive research study involving more than 100 practitioners from 40 campuses across the nation.

Dr. Kezar underscored the importance of levers available to higher education faculty, administrators and key executive leaders who are charged with enacting and sustaining systemic change at the campus level. These levers include strategic plans, governance structures, external partnerships, and funding sources. The event was especially timely as the 22 colleges and universities active in the ILEA Initiative implemented five-year equity plans three years ago.

“I learned about a great framework for equity leadership and fostering a change in institutional culture,” said Dr. David Sam, President of Elgin Community College.“I believe it provided all attendees with resources to allow for better intentional activities to advance EDI (equity, diversity, and inclusion), which affect every aspect of our personal and professional lives.”

Northern Illinois University, a longtime proponent of charting student success with an equity lens, brought several team members to participate in the event. 

“Dr Kezar’s research is important for the future of higher education.  She reminds us that equity is everyone’s work and that if our institutions are going to be ready to meet the needs of all students, we must be intentional,” said Dr. Vernese Walden, Chief Diversity Officer at Northern Illinois University. “At NIU, we have certainly been on a journey focused on equity and though we have accomplished a lot we recognize how much more we must do. Dr. Kezar’s research on change leadership and shared equity leadership, in partnership with ACE, continues to be a guide for us to continue our efforts.”

“We know that presidents and senior administrators in colleges and universities must work closely together and be deeply engaged to recreate policies, practices, and cultures that are truly diverse, inclusive, and equitable and to sustain that change over time,” PCC Executive Director Lisa Castillo Richmond said. “In recognition of this, PCC is pleased to engage leading researchers on these topics in order to support the equity transformation of our partners in the ILEA Initiative.”

“The Change Leadership Toolkit is an important resource that will allow us to evaluate the work we as ILEA institutions have done and continue to do as we implement a student success agenda that puts equity front and center,” said Katrina Coakley, Vice Provost of Student Success at Roosevelt University. 

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About the Partnership for College Completion

The Partnership for College Completion (PCC) champions policies, practices, and systems that increase college completion and eliminate degree completion disparities for low-income, first generation, and students of color in Illinois – particularly Black and Latinx students.