Office of Equity and Inclusion: first-year successes

The Office of Equity and Inclusion was launched in 2016 to elevate ACC’s commitment to ensuring the college is welcoming and inclusive of all students.

“In community colleges, we focus on doing things for all students. The system doesn’t work for all students. Part of the work of this office does is hard work because we are challenging the very system that we love. When we look at inequity, we are looking at our processes and we’re locating the problem, not in the students, and not in their communities, but looking at ourselves, taking a deep reflective look at ourselves,” says Dr. Stephanie Hawley, associate vice president of the Office of Equity & Inclusion.

At the board of trustees meeting on October 2, Hawley presented information on how impactful the Office of Equity & Inclusion has been in its first year.

“We elevate what ACC already does – what the office is doing is not new,” says Hawley.

The office exists to help the college build capacity to achieve equity in enrollment, persistence, inclusion and completion.

Year 1 Accomplishments

ACC was one of 10 institutions nationwide selected by the American Association of Colleges & Universities to serve as a site for a Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation Campus Center designed to educate, prepare, and inspire the next generation of leaders to break down racial hierarchies. ACC is, notably, the only Texas institution and only community college selected. As part of the proposal selection process, an institution needed seven letters of support from partners. ACC had 33.

“People signed on because of their belief in ACC and what we can do,” says Hawley.

The office developed a research-based, data-informed tool, an equity report card. This self-assessment tool provides institutional guidelines for ACC.

The office looked at structures and institutional factors that can change or that affect equity. After extensive research, a key institutional factor was determined to be leadership development. The past year, the office focused on supporting and finding expertise and resources to support leadership, resulting in a senior leaders resource binder and webpage.

The top six institutional factors the office focused on are: leadership development; assessment, strategic planning & evaluation; community engagement; data collection, analysis & use; cultural proficiency; and culturally responsive teaching.

Thanks to proceeds from the Regional Equity Summit held in February 2017, the office was able to establish the St. John Community Scholarship for Students Re-entering from Incarceration. The scholarship will be awarded to two students in the spring. The summit was instrumental in bringing faculty, staff, students, and community members not only to learn about the history of racism and its impact on today’s work, but provided actionable tools to immediately impact change.

A Spring Latinx Fuerza Forum was held, providing a safe space for students to explore and hold conversations about what Latino students bring to ACC. Attendees explored strategies for building on the strengths of Latinx students and rediscovered the benefits of bilingualism.

To reach out to the community, an IDEAL (inclusion, diversity, equity, advocacy, leadership) Center was created. The center engages and collaborates with the community and the college through monthly and annual professional development and relationship-building events. The goal is to promote the peaceful and constructive transformation of systems to improve outcomes for disproportionately affected populations. Monthly town hall meetings, campus conversations, and media interviews were conducted.

More than 700 students, staff, faculty, and community members participated in some level of training and development of cultural competence and anti-racist mindsets and practices.

The office received the Young Women’s Christian Association Greater Austin’s Legacy Award for its collaborative development and identification of tools for institutional accountability for equity and the ongoing facilitation of conversations about race, gender, and inclusion.

The second Annual Equity Summit 2018 will be held on February 9 -10, 2017, at Eastview Campus.

For more information about the office, visit http://sites.austincc.edu/equityandinclusion/

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