Virtual Conference on Diversity, Equity, and Student Success

The Power of Collective Action

March 19, 2020 to March 20, 2020


Plenary and Workshop Recordings and Materials

This page is available to Virtual Conference registrants only.


AAC&U invites you to join a virtual conference to reflect on opportunities to advance evidence-based and promising practices that identify solutions to enduring challenges and lead to change for the common good. 

This virtual conference will include keynote sessions highlighting concepts critical to the work educators are doing to build more just and equitable campuses and communities. Workshops will connect theory with practice and provide resources, skill building, and engagement with thought leaders on issues that affect student success across campus roles and higher education sectors.

AAC&U is deeply grateful to the extraordinary community of students, educators, policymakers, and administrators who had planned to convene in New Orleans for the 2020 conference on diversity, equity, and student success. Materials from other sessions will be collected and posted online. We hope you will join us for the virtual edition of Diversity, Equity, and Student Success: “The Power of Collective Action.”  The registration fee includes access to all of the sessions in the program of events.

AAC&U thanks the conference sponsors for their generous support of the 2020 Conference on Diversity, Equity, and Student Success: The Power of Collective Action.

Program of Events

Thursday, March 19

1:00 p.m.–3:00 p.m., ET

Workshop: Engaging in Faculty Hiring as an Anti-Racist Practice 


Estela Mara Bensimon, Dean’s Professor in Educational Equity and Director, Center for Urban Education–University of Southern California and AAC&U Distinguished Fellow, and Maxine Roberts, Principal—Education Commission of the States 


This workshop will provide tools and strategies to embed equity-mindedness into faculty and staff hiring processes. Participants will learn how to analyze position announcements through the lens of racial equity; review ways in which “required qualifications” act as barriers that contribute to the racial homogeneity of higher education faculty, leaders, and staff; and create interview questions that are specifically designed to assess applicants’ racial literacy. The workshop leaders will use a variety of teaching strategies that draw on the Equity-Minded Hiring Institutes held by the Center for Urban Education and in the center’s work with campuses throughout California and other states. To take full benefit of this workshop, participants should review and have available artifacts associated with hiring on their campus, including copies of position announcements, guidelines for search committees, and interview protocols. 

3:30 p.m.–5:30 p.m., ET

Workshop: Whose Freedom, Whose Speech? Creating Campuses for All Voices


Jonathan Friedman, Director, Campus Free Speech Program—PEN America, Neijma Celestine-Donnor, Director, Hate-Bias Response and Advocacy—University of Maryland, College Park, Lara Schwartz, Director, Project on Civil Discourse—American University, and Roger Worthington, Professor and Executive Director, Center for Diversity and Inclusion in Higher Education—University of Maryland, College Park


In recent years, colleges and universities have become proxies for a set of national conflicts writ large over free speech, diversity, equity, and inclusion. How should campus actors make sense of these challenges? How can they balance obligations to these precepts? This session will provide crucial context for this national debate, as well as practical and principled guidance for faculty, administrators, and campus leaders facing a range of scenarios, involving protests and invited speakers, hateful expression, and ideological clashes in the classroom.  


Presented in Partnership with PEN America

Friday. March 20

9:00 a.m.–9:45 a.m., ET

Workshop: The Seal of Excelencia: Certifying Intentionality in SERVING Latino Students 


Deborah Santiago, CEO—Excelencia in Education


This session will provide an overview of the Seal of Excelencia for 2020 and the opportunity for participants to engage in a discussion about the purpose, intent, and initial impact of the certification and process.


Presented in Partnership with Excelencia in Education

10:00 a.m.–11:00 a.m., ET

Keynote: Full Participation in 21st-Century Academe: Beware the Shrinking Imagination


Timothy K. Eatman, Inaugural Dean, Honors Living Learning Community and Associate Professor of Urban Education—Rutgers University–Newark


In the evolution of our democracy, we are at a critical time that requires activating the true “work of imagining” within social institutions and networks. The 21st-century academy is well positioned to advance theory, discourses, and action that can play an ameliorative role in that regard. Publicly engaged scholarship brings to bear capacious strategies for deep knowledge-making that can lead to substantive impact. Dr. Eatman’s talk will explore the power of Full Participation (see catalyst paper) as a framework that leverages interdisciplinary culturally rich work to accomplish these goals. Employing multimodal expressions and devices, Dr. Eatman places special emphasis on the need for cultural change that addresses the stifling gravity of inequity and the promise the methodologies and strategies from the humanities, arts, and community organizing offer for substantive change.


AAC&U thanks Carnegie Mellon University for its sponsorship of this Keynote.

11:30 a.m.–1:00 p.m., ET

Workshop: Student Leadership for Religious Pluralism


Tanner Crunelle, Student—College of Charleston, and Hannah Minks, Program Manager—Interfaith Youth Core


The Coach Program, sponsored by Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC), is a professional development cohort for students that focuses on leadership experiences around religious pluralism. Workshop facilitators will lead reflective activities about developing leadership skills using a case study-based approach to social change. Participants will discuss the opportunities and challenges of religious pluralism in the United States, exploring why interfaith cooperation is critical to student leadership on campus and beyond.  Students who are participating in the IFYC Coach Program will facilitate the workshop. While this is a student-centered space, session leaders welcome the unique perspectives of faculty and staff and will share strategies and examples featuring the power of coalition-building.

1:30 p.m.–2:30 p.m., ET

Keynote: Educating First-Generation Equity Practitioners to Be Race-Conscious


Estela Mara Bensimon, Dean’s Professor in Educational Equity and Director, Center for Urban Education—University of Southern California; AAC&U Distinguished Fellow 


Higher education professionals generally are racially illiterate. Dr. Bensimon lifts off the “first-generation” label of students and applies it to faculty to call attention to their racial illiteracy and its detrimental consequences for their ability to educate minoritized students fairly, equitably, successfully, and with fidelity. Drawing on the work of the Center for Urban Education, Dr. Bensimon will discuss the creation of structured learning settings for teams of first-generation equity practitioners to have a first conversation about the classroom as a racialized space by engaging in a structured examination of their teaching artifacts (such as syllabi), structures (such as the classroom), routines (such as pedagogical practices and office hours), and processes (such as hiring). 


AAC&U thanks Carnegie Mellon University for its sponsorship of this Keynote.

3:00 p.m.–5:00 p.m., ET

Workshop: Re/Framing Disability: Exploring How Ableism Shapes the Disability Experience and Influences Higher Education


Amanda Kraus, Assistant Professor of Practice, Educational Policy Studies and Practice, Assistant Vice President for Campus Life, and Executive Director for Disability Resources and Housing & Residential Life—University of Arizona


This workshop will explore how disability is framed in society and how ableist ideas influence higher education. We will begin with a brief exploration of disability history and how dynamics of power and privilege shape the disability experience. We then will analyze how stereotypes and biases about disability are represented and reinforced in language, media, and design and use emerging research to unpack examples of disability-specific microaggressions. Participants will reflect on their personal and professional beliefs about disability and identify ways to reframe disability in practice, specifically in becoming more effective advocates for access and representing disability to campus audiences in more progressive ways.


Virtual Conference Registration

If you were registered for the 2020 DESS Conference before it was cancelled, please follow the registration process included in the email sent March 13 to sign up for the Virtual Conference. If you need assistance, please contact

Virtual Conference Registration Fees

Individual                    $300

Fulltime Student          $75

The registration fee includes both live and on-demand access to all sessions listed in the program of events. Registrants may attend any or all of the live sessions. After the conference ends, session recordings will be available only to those who were registered for the virtual conference.

Register Now