Governors State University has been selected as one of 25 institutions to participate in the Illinois Equity in Attainment Initiative (ILEA), each committing to eliminate racial and socioeconomic achievement gaps by 2025 and aggressively prioritize increasing completion rates on our campuses.
About the Illinois Equity in Attainment Initiative
The launch of ILEA follows a galvanizing 2017 PCC report, “Unequal Opportunity in Illinois: A Look at Who Graduates College and Why It Matters,” which found that only 33.7 percent of African-American students who start at four-year institutions earn bachelor’s degrees within six years – a rate 32.7 percentage points below that of their White peers. For Latinx, 49.3 percent are earning degrees, a gap of 17.1 percentage points. The completion gap between low-income and wealthier students is also alarming: according to Advance Illinois, only 37 percent of low-income students graduate in six years while 75 percent of wealthier students do.
Increased and more equitable graduation outcomes across the diversity of our state’s higher education institutions benefits students, their families, and the state of Illinois. A 3% increase in graduation rates is projected to produce $1.7B increase in net earnings, $132M increase in tax revenue, and $35M in public system savings. The progress of the ILEA member colleges and universities will provide a set of learnings that PCC will document and share with practitioners and policymakers across Illinois, the region and the nation, establishing a path forward that will promote equity in college achievement. For more information on ILEA, please visit: http://partnershipfcc.org/ilea
Why GSU is a committed participant
Among its six core values, Governors State University invests in student success through a commitment to mentoring and a deliberate university focus on student achievement of academic, professional and personal goals and demonstrates inclusiveness and diversity to encourage acceptance of wide-ranging perspectives among students, staff, faculty and members of the broader community.
The Center for Urban Education at the University of Southern California defines “Equity-Mindedness” as the “perspective or mode of thinking exhibited by practitioners who call attention to patterns of inequity in student outcomes.” Further, equity-mindedness moves practitioners “to take personal and institutional responsibility for the success of their students, and critically reassess their own practices” by placing success outcomes for students of color at center focus. The intersection of GSU’s values of student success and inclusiveness and diversity sets a framework for achieving equity in student outcomes as a central focus for advancing our mission and vision.
As a Minority Serving Institution and an emerging Hispanic Serving Institution, GSU is committed to achieving equity and inclusive excellence by:
- building our internal capacity to address inequities in student outcomes and eliminate equity gaps, and
- implementing evidence-based interventions for improving student learning and success.
The ILEA Equity Plan is intended to serve as a roadmap for how Governors State University will make progress in closing degree-attainment gaps for low-income, first generation, African American, and Latinx students. Due to the persistence and size of equity gaps across colleges and universities in Illinois, this initiative prioritizes urgent action on equitable degree completion outcomes for students across racial and socioeconomic groups. The ILEA Equity Plan complements other institutional efforts to increase equity and degree completion.
ILEA GSU Campus Planning Team Members
ILEA GSU CORE Team
Dr. Elizabeth A. Cada, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs
Dr. Aurélio Manuel Valente, Vice President for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management
Corey Williams, Associate Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students/Interim Chief Diversity Officer
Campus Planning Team
Dr. Hollie Campbell, Assistant to the Vice President for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management
Dr. Matthew A. Cooney, Assistant Professor of Education
Marco A. Krcatovich II, Director Institutional Research and Effectiveness
Penny Perdue, Chief of Administrative Operations and Liaison to the Board
Dr. Amy Vujaklija, Assistant Professor of Education
Jarrell Harris, Student, College of Education
Alexis Smith, Student, College of Arts and Sciences
ILEA Equity Plan Timeline and Next Steps
The development, implementation, and assessment of an equity plan can potentially transformation our regional institution. The GSU community relies on several stakeholders for its success: Faculty Senate, faculty committees, Student Senate, Civil Service Senate, student clubs and organizations, student services, administration, community businesses, community colleges, local schools, among others. Regular meetings of various stakeholders provide opportunities to disseminate survey results, reports, and other data gathered from ILEA Institutional Capacity Assessment Tool (ICAT), National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE), 2017 Campus Climate Survey, Equity Scorecards, and other studies on housing, civic engagement, and writing that are currently underway.
Initial communication strategies used to engage various internal and external stakeholder groups in building support for ILEA equity work included the following:
- December 19, 2018 through January 25, 2019 – University stakeholders were invited to respond to the ILEA Institutional Capacity Assessment Tool (ICAT) a survey about perceptions of campus equity. Those asked to complete the survey included Faculty Senate, Civil Service Senate, Strategic Planning Committee, Student Affairs Management Team, Deans and Provosts Council, and R2G Action Group (the group charged with the development, implementation, assessment and promulgation of student retention strategies).
- February 26, 2019 – Campus stakeholders were invited to review the survey results of the ILEA Institutional Capacity Assessment Tool (ICAT). During this meeting, campus members were able to discuss strengths and areas needing improvement in order to create a basis for Governors State University’s Equity Plan.
- Spring 2019 –GSU implemented a series of charrettes that directly aligned with the strategic initiatives to address diversity, inclusion, and equity across the institution. These face-to-face and online forums provided stakeholders the opportunities to voice the institutional challenges surrounding equity and to offer suggestions for improvement.
- A presence at regularly-scheduled meetings (Faculty Senate, Student Senate, Civil Service Senate, program/department/division) will provide ILEA team members the opportunities to report on the various initiative functions (gathering data, charting themes, researching resources) and ask for feedback.
Further, a communication strategy to inform and engage both internal and external audiences will be employed to disseminate the creation and implementation of the University’s equity plan. This strategy will include the following: 1) Blackboard, 2) GSU View (electronic newsletter), 3) Social Media Outreach, 4) Campus Emails, and 5) Equity Project Website.
Committing to Equity and Inclusive Excellence (Archive Information, 2015-2018)
Governors State University was one of 13 institutions selected to participate in Committing to Equity and Inclusive Excellence: Campus-Based Strategies for Student Success, a three-year project (2015-2018) launched with support from Strada Education Network. Building on the Association of American Colleges and University's (AAC&U) focus on equity and inclusive excellence, the project is designed to expand the current research on equity in student achievement and to identify promising evidence-based interventions for improving student learning and success. As such, our campus project focused on promoting student success in the junior year of college consistent with the four project goals:
- Implement Equity Minded Practices with the goal of closing student success gap of African-American transfer students. In 2014-15, retention from junior year to senior year for junior African-American transfer students was 67% compared to all transfer students at 72%. We aim to increase retention for all students, but also aim to close this gap by 2020 and will continue to disaggregate data to include age, gender, SES and academic program to provide more individualized and equitable retention strategies for all African American transfer students.
- Develop and offer quality High-Impact Practices in the junior year of study. Sponsor faculty development workshops to plan and organize high-impact practices in the Junior Seminar and in the junior year of study. Consistent with the GSU strategic plan, Vision 2020, the Junior Seminar enrolls students converging from lower division, dual degree program, and transfer admission into core curriculum in their academic programs, with a focus on equity-minded practices and outcomes.
- Create and assess Signature Assignment focusing on Social Responsibility student learning outcome in the junior of study. Develop assignments and corresponding rubrics for the social responsibility learning outcome, which is associated with instruction of the Juniors Seminar. As defined by the General Education Curriculum, Social Responsibility is the development of an awareness of personal and social obligations needed for success in a diverse and global society. Learning outcomes in this area include those related to civic engagement, intercultural knowledge, ethical reasoning, and appreciation for lifelong learning.
- Develop Pathways for Internships and Workforce Preparation. Through the Junior Seminar (and other initiatives) increase student understanding of pathways for internship and workforce preparation for junior students converging from lower division, dual degree program, and transfer admission into core curriculum in their academic programs.
GSU Faculty and Staff Named 2017-18 AAC&U Award Recipients
The work of the GSU Equity Campus Planning Team is funded by a grant to develop replicable, equity-focused, campus-based strategies for student success from the Association of American Colleges and Universities.
Congratulations to the following faculty and staff members on receiving awards:
Equity Action Research and Practice
Building an Equity-Minded Pathway for Transfer Students
GSU has a long history of representing and defining best practices, and our faculty and staff have a history of sharing that with the higher ed community. Peer Review, a prestigious academic journal published by the Association of American Colleges & Universities, accepted two articles written by GSU faculty and staff members recently. Both demonstrate the university’s methodological approach to serving students through the highest academic standards.
Recently published in Peer Review is “Building an Equity-Minded Pathway for Transfer Students”, an article written collaboratively by Dr. Aurélio Manuel Valente, Dr. Alicia L. Battle, and Robert E. Clay. The article explores GSU’s institutional history of serving nontraditional student populations and the ways in which that has guided the university’s strategic plan.
A Vision for Equity: Campus-Based Strategies for Committing to Equity and Inclusive Excellence
GSU, one of thirteen institutions that participated in a three-year effort to craft campus-based strategies to advance equity in higher education, was selected to contribute to a web-based panel discussion, A Vision for Equity: Campus-Based Strategies for Committing to Equity and Inclusive Excellence.
The national webinar is timed with a recent release of a 60-page report by the same name, said Dr. Aurélio Valente, Vice President for Student Affairs & Dean of Students, who led the GSU project and will present the university’s findings during the webinar hosted by the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U). The report can be downloaded for free by clicking here.
In 2015, GSU received an Equity Grant from the (AAC&U) and Strada Education Network to explore equity-focused, campus-based methods to promote student success and retention in junior year, a critical year when many transfer students enter the university.
GSU’s success strategies align with four goals and are dually aimed at faculty development for teaching diverse populations and eliminating equity gaps related to the retention of African-American transfer students by 2020.
Valente said most schools identified working with faculty to improve achieve academic success through equity-based strategies. However, GSU distinguished itself as the only intuition to focus on transfer students.
There will be time for Q&A during the webinar, and participants are welcome to send questions in advance to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Equity Project Resources and References
Bensimon, Estela Mara, andLindsey Malcom-Piqueux. 2012. Confronting Equity Issues on Campus:
Implementing the Equity Scorecard in Theory and Practice. Sterling, VA: Stylus.
Flaherty, Colleen. 2016. “For Freshmen,Only Full-Time Faculty.” Inside Higher Ed.
Johnson, Nate, and Alli Bell. 2014. Scaling Completion College Services as a Model for Increasing
Adult Degree Completion. Indianapolis, IN: Lumina Foundation. https://www.luminafoundation.org/files/resources/scaling-completion-college-services.pdf
Malcom-Piqueux, Lindsey, and Estela Mara Bensimon. 2017. “Taking Equity-Minded
Action to Close Equity-Gaps.” Peer Review
19 (2). https://www.aacu.org/peerreview/2017/Spring/Malcom-Piqueux.
Rendon, Laura I., and Richard O. Hope, eds. 1996. Educating a New Majority: Transforming
America’s Educational System for Diversity.San
Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.