2020 Diversity, Equity, and Student Success

The Power of Collective Action

March 19, 2020 to March 21, 2020
New Orleans Marriott
555 Canal Street
New Orleans, LA 70130

Where people of goodwill get together and transcend their differences for the common good, peaceful and just solutions can be found even for those problems which seem most intractable.
Nelson Mandela

The diversity of our nation has long been acclaimed and valued. As a society, we value the diversity of ideas and beliefs that fuel innovation, economic vitality, and social change. We rely on our collective abilities to transcend differences by identifying solutions that promote collective action for the common good. The power of collective action is evidenced in social, political, and cultural movements that have resulted in lasting change for our society: recognition and expansion of civil rights, including disability rights; women’s rights; LGBTQIA protections, and religious expression. These movements were not successful because of one individual’s deeds, but because of the collective action of many diverse and engaged individuals. The power of collective action has been, and will continue to be, the impetus for lasting change.  

AAC&U’s 2020 Diversity, Equity, and Student Success conference, The Power of Collective Action, will focus on building coalitions and breaking down institutional siloes that often have divided and isolated those seeking to build more just and equitable campuses and communities. This conference will be action-oriented and focused on practical strategies for creating institutions that reflect the diverse and equitable society we seek to create. The conference program will be expansive, including diverse voices and ideas by focusing on our interdependency and collective power to challenge the current discourse and policies that promote individualism, isolation, and hatred. These discussions will focus on the historical, social, cultural, and political contexts that continue to shape and reinforce inequities in our systems and structures.  

The conference will focus on key questions for collective action:

  • How can we collectively and intentionally design institutions to be reflective of our mission, values, and beliefs? How do we move beyond mission and value statements to actions and accountability structures that promote shared responsibilities?
  • What are effective practices for authentically implementing culturally responsive pedagogy? How can we reframe faculty development as a process shared across programs and departments, rather than an individual and course-by-course change strategy?
  • How can we fully prepare and partner with students to address social challenges and to be change agents?
  • In what ways can student activism be a high-impact practice that drives change? How can institutions partner with students in more intentional ways?
  • How can we operationalize our definitions of equity in order to foster dialogue and deepen conversations across student and educator identities?
  • How can we embrace efforts to examine racial equity, given the growth in undergraduate students from racial and ethnic backgrounds?
  • What are promising strategies for honestly acknowledging and examining the historical, social, cultural, and political contexts that influence our actions and decision-making, as part of a providing students a high-quality liberal education?
  • How are we addressing unconscious bias and systemic and structural racism, sexism, ableism, classism, ageism, and heterosexism in our institutional policies and practices?
  • What does it mean to build and strengthen communities across our diverse society? How can we do this effectively without marginalizing certain groups? How can we promote and realize a sense of belonging? How can we help those who have experienced trauma? How can we recognize and address microaggressions?
  • What types of partnerships across institutions can drive collective action and change in higher education to advance the public good?

AAC&U invites students, educators, policymakers, and administrators from all campus sectors to participate in this conference that will prioritize collective and shared responsibility for change. The conference will highlight the use of reflective and action-oriented dialogue, which recognizes and values everyone’s potential to contribute to the institutional change needed to help transform our society. As Janet Mock, an American writer and transgender rights activist, states, “We are all part of a larger collective looking to create a more beautiful and just world.”