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Agnes Scott College, founded as a women’s college in 1889, has been educating its students to “think deeply, live honorably, and engage in the social challenges of their times” for over a hundred years. This mission is no different today as the nation experiences renewed calls for racial and social justice.

As they prepared for the 2020–21 academic year, a small group of faculty, resident assistants, and student leaders embraced the technique developed by Augusto Boal in the Theatre of the Oppressed (1979): a form of democratic participation that brings audience members and actors together to discuss a social problem and discover solutions.

For years, educators have defined equity gaps based on the disparities in educational outcomes among different groups of students. Educators declare success in closing equity gaps when marginalized and racially minoritized students reach the same performance level as majority students. But doesn’t this process for identifying equity gaps center whiteness as the norm and the definition of excellence for all students, reinforcing notions of privilege and racism with our systems, structures, and policies for student success?

The economic benefits of a college education are well documented, yet bias against the liberal arts, as well as the underlying assumption that the ROI of a college degree is determined solely by the student’s choice of major, continues to influence public policy. AAC&U's research shows that employers overwhelmingly view the knowledge and skills developed across the entire educational experience, including through broad study in the liberal arts, to be most important for career success.

While research over the last two decades has shown that high-impact practices are sound educational pedagogies and propelled their popularity at colleges and universities, implementation matters far more than the “high-impact” label. What do we know about if and how well our institutions are implementing HIPs? And which students have access to these high-quality experiences?

Amid rising scrutiny of the value of a college education, it is becoming harder for universities to hide poor teaching behind great research. The quality of the learning experience remains the most valuable asset our universities have. To remain relevant, universities will need to reinvent digital learning environments so that they expand and complement, but do not replace, student-teacher and student-student relationships.

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