18 selective schools to convene at Georgetown to workshop access, affordability, and equity challenges in higher education

Georgetown University and The University of Texas at Austin, under the auspices of the American Talent Initiative, are convening the first annual Summer Institute on Equity in the Academic Experience next week. The institute—founded to weave together typically siloed conversations related to institutional transformation, an equity agenda, and academics—will take place over three days on Georgetown’s campus.

Teams from 18 colleges and universities will spend their time together brainstorming solutions using the “to and through” framework: how can higher education institutes transform their campuses into more inclusive environments that not only improve access for low-income students but also succeed and thrive throughout their college careers?

“In order to engage in this work, we have to recognize that it is inherently difficult,” says Professor Heidi Elmendorf, senior advisor for equity in education to Georgetown President John J. DeGioia. “It is complicated to retool institutions that were not built with equity as their foundational principle. This difficult work is best done with focused attention in the company of other thoughtful, generative partners.”

Innovating to end inequities from ‘business as usual’

Those partners hail from private and public institutions, small and large—a diverse array that makes the Institute particularly unique and promising.

“Bringing together different types of schools is going to be central so that we are not working in an echo chamber,” says Elmendorf. “This work will require innovative approaches because if we continue to conduct business as usual, we will continue to be inequitable institutions.”

Workshopping problems with ‘no simple fixes’

The Institute will provide participants with an opportunity for inter-school collaboration around common challenges, as well as a space for individual school teams to focus on particular equity-related priorities at their institutions. The institute acknowledges that there are “no simple answers or fixes” but aims to give participants new ideas, resources, and connections to other campus communities.

In joint sessions, teams will discuss how to build the vision for an equitable campus, define and measure benchmarks, plan for project implementation, and scale and sustain implementation of plans.

School-specific priorities include:

  • Overcoming inequities in the admissions process
  • Getting to and through first-year STEM coursework
  • Identifying hidden inequities on campus
  • Integrating and streamlining student-facing services
  • Supporting student transfer and migration patterns

Georgetown’s Red House and The Hub for Equity and Innovation in Higher Education are supporting the institute. Adanna Johnson, associate vice president for student equity and inclusion, is leading the Georgetown team participating in the institute.

Putting equity ‘at the center of our mission’

Hosting the Institute aligns with Georgetown’s deep legacy in the work of improving equity in higher education, according to Elmendorf; as a Jesuit institution committed to greater justice in the world, “focusing on equity in education is part of the fabric of Georgetown,” she says.

Georgetown is celebrating 50 years of its Community Scholars Program and 15 years of the Georgetown Scholars Program, making it one of the private schools with the longest and most sustained commitment in the equity agenda of access and experience, Elmendorf notes. “Georgetown has taken leadership not because we think we have all the answers, but because we know that we’re seen nationally as a place that has put equity at the center of our mission.”


Summer Institute on Equity in the Academic Experience

The first annual summer institute will take place from June 24 – June 26, 2019 at Georgetown University. See a full list of participating schools and supporting staff on the Summer Institute on Equity in the Academic Experience web page. Learn more

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