2023 Conference on Diversity, Equity, and Student Success

Plenary Speakers

Opening Plenary

Thursday, March 9, 2023 /

The Immobility of Truth: Turning Toward Possibility

What happens when truth becomes an instrument of fear—when it freezes us and prevents us from sticking with our work, from acknowledging its value—our value, and from working together toward the common good?

Even when others dismiss it, we know the value of diversity, equity, and inclusion in higher education—it is important to securing and protecting student success. But as Angela Davis said, this is work that requires constant vigilance: “you have to act as if it were possible to radically transform the world… and you have to do it all the time.” To realize the full potential of Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging work—including its impact on the health and well-being of our students, our workplaces, and the innovative power of higher education—we must commit to doing this work together. We must avoid falling prey to immobility and commit selflessly to working in the spirit of true collaboration—toward the possibility of a more perfect union.

  • Mary Ann Villarreal

    Mary Ann Villarreal

    Vice President for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, University of Utah; Chair, AAC&U Board of Directors

    Mary Ann Villarreal is the inaugural vice president for equity, diversity, and inclusion at the University of Utah. She provides leadership and strategic oversight of diversity and inclusion initiatives across the university’s academic and health sciences campuses. Prior to her current role, Villarreal served as the associate vice president of strategic initiatives at California State University–Fullerton; the associate dean at Colorado Women’s College at the University of Denver; an assistant professor of history at the University of Colorado–Boulder; and an instructor and assistant professor of history and ethnic studies at the University of Utah. She has authored multiple articles and book chapters, and her book Listening to Rosita: The Business of Tejana Music and Culture, 1930–1955, won the South Texas College Américo Paredes Book Award.

Closing Plenary

Saturday, March 11, 2023 /

The Moment For Truth

In today’s world, postsecondary leaders must contend with longstanding, systemic inequities and the growing politicization of higher education. Addressing today’s truths requires thoughtful, caring introspection. We need truth-seekers and truth-tellers. What will your role be?

  • Michelle Asha Cooper

    Michelle Asha Cooper

    Vice President for Public Policy and Executive Director of Lumina's Washington, D.C. Office; Former Deputy Undersecretary at the U.S. Department of Education; Former President and Chief Executive Officer, Institute for Higher Education Policy

    Michelle Asha Cooper leads the development and implementation of state and federal policy initiatives for Lumina Foundation, an independent, private foundation in Indianapolis that is committed to making opportunities for learning beyond high school available to all. She works to advance the foundation’s support for today’s students at community colleges, four-year colleges, and universities. Cooper brings a wealth of experience, a deep devotion to students, and an acute understanding of policymaking at all levels.