Five Minutes with ACHE - September 20, 2022

Five Minutes with ACHE,
September 20, 2022 - Volume 8
Tina Marie Coolidge, EdD
Associate Director, Goodwin Programs
President, Association for Continuing Higher Education
Dr. Susan Elkins, Vice President ACHE
Chancellor, University of South Carolina
Palmetto College
Launching the New 2022-2023 Academic Year:
Promoting Equity, Access, & Belonging!
What are YOU doing to promote
EquityAccess, and Belonging?
Now that fall semester has started, our last summer hurrah with Labor Day is in the rearview mirror, and football season has kicked off… we’re all settling down to the new 2022-2023 Academic Year! As we plan and execute our work at our own institutions, this is a great time to take our 2022 ACHE Annual Conference theme to heart and examine what we are doing to truly promote Equity, Access, and Belonging at our respective institutions.   
As you read through this article and prepare for the academic year and our annual conference, ask yourself the key question, “What am I doing to promote equity, access, and belonging at my institution… and beyond???” As I ask each of you this question, I must first ask myself the same question! Let’s first review the simple definitions of each of these three key words, then we’ll look at examples from the institution I serve, the University of South Carolina Palmetto College, and each of you can think about examples from your own institutions. Then we’ll look at opportunities to learn more about each of these three key areas at our upcoming Annual Conference, and finally think about many of the celebrations we have throughout the year to focus on these themes… with the ultimate goal of infusing Inclusive Excellence as a core value in all we do! 
First, let’s review the simple definitions of equity, access, and belonging. According to Miriam-Webster, each word is defined as follows. 
  • Equity – “Justice according to natural law or right, specifically: freedom from bias or favoritism.” 
  • Access – “To be able to use, enter, or get near (something).” 
  • Belonging – “Close or intimate relationship.” 
As I examine what we are doing here at the University of South Carolina Palmetto College to address each of these key themes (and what I am doing as the Chancellor to make sure these themes are top priorities!), I’ll share an example for each below. As you learn about our Palmetto College examples, please answer the question of, “What am I doing to promote equity, access, and belonging at my institution….and beyond???” 
Equity – In an effort to improve equity in faculty and staff salaries across USC Palmetto College, as Chancellor I commissioned a USC Palmetto College Campuses Salary Study in 2018-2019 that focused on salary equity for both faculty and staff. A Palmetto College-wide committee was appointed with 12 representatives from faculty, staff, and administration to study the issue, and the work was led by an external consultant from another USC institution who was well-versed in policies and procedures for both the University of South Carolina System and the State of South Carolina. The recommendations of the study are being implemented over a five-year period as we continue to address this most important issue of salary equity for both faculty and staff. 
Access – Providing access to education across the entire state of South Carolina was the very foundation of the establishment of USC Palmetto College in 2013 to serve the entire Palmetto State. With a $5 million appropriation and bi-partisan support from the South Carolina General Assembly, Palmetto College was established to include the four two-year regional Palmetto College Campuses with ten locations across the state, coupled with online bachelor’s degree completion programs… thus providing access to USC degrees for the entire state with the combination of brick-and-mortar institutions and online degree programs. 
Belonging – The USC Palmetto College of USC Lancaster is located near the Catawba Nation and has had a very close and intimate relationship with the Catawba people for many years. In 2013, USCL had the opportunity to establish a Native American Studies Center on Main Street in Lancaster, S.C., that has created an even stronger sense of belonging for our Native American communities not only near USC Lancaster but also for many other Native American communities across the state as scholars and tribal leaders continue to work together and emphasize the sense of belonging for all people. 
Finally, one of our top priorities this year in Palmetto College is to infuse Inclusive Excellence as a Core Value for our entire organization through our new Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Council. Each Palmetto College Campus has established a Council, and those institutional Councils feed into the Palmetto College-wide Council, led by the Dean of Palmetto College Columbia.  Our Palmetto College DEI Council then aligns with the work of the entire University of South Carolina DEI Council… resulting in the emphasis on diversity, equity, and inclusion across the entire System. 
These are simply three examples and an overarching Core Value from USC Palmetto College as a starting point for the conversation, and I challenge each of you (along with myself) to look for three specific additional opportunities that we can all take away from the annual conference for implementation at our institutions. 
Topics for the accepted proposals that we can learn from include, but are not limited to the following: 
  • Innovative Change Agents: Inventive and new programs, processes, departments, courses, assessments, services, etc. that cultivate an opportunity for underrepresented populations for provided pathways and access toward degree completion; how departments/institutions have been change agents to foster an ecosystem that intentionally seeks to ensure all students feel a sense of belonging; and budget models, tuition strategies, grants, etc. that are utilized to fund these programs to be sustainable today, tomorrow and into the future
  • Collaborative Partners: Best practices in establishing collaborative partnerships to assist with developing educational opportunities; roles and responsibilities of the department/institution in partnerships; examples of successful program/institution and partnership collaboration outcomes; and creative collaborative partnerships that support underrepresented populations with an opportunity to access learning. Collaborative partnerships are critical in contributing toward the financial need of students today, tomorrow and into the future, providing a strong foundation for equity and access. 
  • Strategic Initiatives: Innovative strategic initiatives that intentionally focus on equity, access and belonging, ranging from implementation of new professional development for faculty, professional staff and/or students, creation of DEIB statements, utilizing assessment tools to analyze DEI and student success; inclusive excellence -- what it is and how it helps to achieve DEIB; technology that supports equity, access, and collaboration across departments that impacts student success; showcasing how departments/institutions are focusing on equity, access and belonging to enhance continuing education today, tomorrow and into the future and, more importantly, resulting in an enhanced underrepresented student experience, learning outcomes and student retention. 
Themes woven throughout the sessions include and emphasize: 
  • Students Services 
  • Professional Development 
  • Workforce Development, Degree Completion, Certificates, Stackable Credentials & Non-Credit 
  • Prior Learning Assessment 
  • Operations 
  • The Student Experience 
Many opportunities present themselves throughout the year to emphasize equity, access, and belonging. This year, in particular, marks an opportunity to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Title IX and the Higher Education Amendments Act of 1972. In addition to this observance, other evergreen DEIB celebrations and opportunities include but are certainly not limited to the following: 
  • Black History Month (February) 
  • Women’s History Month (March) 
  • National Single Parent Day (March 21) 
  • National Arab American Heritage Month (April) 
  • Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month (May) 
  • LGBT Pride Month (June) 
  • Adult Learners Week (September) 
  • National Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15-Oct. 15) 
  • Native American Heritage Month (November) 
  • First-Generation College Celebration (November 8) 
Beyond these celebrations, we can always look toward celebrating our students everyday through the work, advocacy and support of (1) First Generation College Students Organizations, (2) Adult Student Organizations, and (3) honor societies like Alpha Sigma Lambda that recognize the academic achievements of adult learners. 
In conclusion, what will YOU do today, tomorrow and into the future to promote equity, access, and belonging at your institution and in all that you do throughout this new academic year and in the future??? We look so forward to having each of you join us for our 2022 ACHE Annual Conference in New Orleans from Oct. 24-26, 2022, to learn more from our conference keynote addresses, concurrent sessions, and from networking with your outstanding colleagues from around the country and across the globe! 
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Dr. Anne Rapp
Can you share how and why did you become a member of ACHE? 
I learned about the organization from my former dean Dr. Walter Pearson. Previously, I had been involved in research focused adult education organizations, such as AAACE. I found ACHE refreshing, because we focused on practice rather than pure research. It was wonderful to connect with other administrators and learn about the work they were doing. I also found that we shared common challenges and that I came home from the conferences with tangible ideas I could apply right away. 
Tell us the story of your leadership path from a member to serving on the Board of Directors. 
I was a member for a number of years before I thought about getting more involved. I hoped I could give back to the organization, since I found it so beneficial. 
What is the greatest leadership lesson you’ve learned from your experience with ACHE? 
The leadership of the organization is so talented and dedicated. I think I’ve learned what dedicated leadership looks like. 
How has being a part of ACHE enhanced your professional competencies and career progression? 
The professional competencies relate specifically to the challenges we face and adult, higher education professionals. Specifically, how to navigate complex organizational structures when your unit is on the margins but has much to offer the traditional side of the house.   
Amanda Colburn
Can you share how and why did you become a member of ACHE? 
I became a member of ACHE in 2018 with the encouragement of a supervisor and mentor, Dr. Tina Marie Coolidge. Dr. Coolidge herself has been a long-time dedicated member of the Association and has held many leadership positions within the organization. She understands the significant value of membership in ACHE, especially for a young professional, and supported my membership in the Association and participation in various events and opportunities. In fact, in that very first year, Dr. Coolidge, another colleague, and I attended the annual conference in Newport, Rhode Island and presented together for the first time. My attendance in that conference was pivotal in my journey with ACHE. After witnessing firsthand the tremendous wealth of information being shared at the conference and meeting the incredible people who are members of the Association, I knew this was a special place, and the rest was history.  
Tell us the story of your leadership path from a member to serving on the Board of Directors for your region. 
After getting my first real taste of ACHE through my first annual conference and concurrent session presentation, Dr. Coolidge could see that I had interest in contributing more to the ACHE network. She saw my potential as an emerging leader and when an opening became available in the Mid-Atlantic region she recommended me for the opportunity. Participation in the regional board was a great foundation in learning how volunteer associations work and the opportunities and challenges associated with team leadership. This experience and engagement with a broader network enabled me to take bigger steps within ACHE, eventually leading me to today when I am serving as co-chair for the 2022 ACHE Annual Conference. 
What is the greatest leadership lesson you’ve learned from your experience with ACHE? 
I would still consider myself very early in my leadership journey – I have a lot to learn! My time with ACHE, however, has enabled me to learn from some of the best and I am grateful to witness firsthand some incredible leaders in this association who I strive to emulate in their grace, humility, and passion. One of the most impactful lessons I have learned is that as a leader, I am not an island. In any leadership situation I am surrounded by a team of strong, supportive, and talented people, I just need to remember to engage with and involve them in a meaningful way.  
How has being a part of ACHE enhanced your professional competencies and career progression? 
Engaging with ACHE has been a rich and rewarding experience that has benefited me in my early career progression and will continue to do so. I have been able to participate in a number of practical professional development and lifelong learning opportunities, including annual conferences and the exceptional ongoing Webinar Series! These events have enabled me to engage on a deeper level with prominent and emerging topics in the field of adult and continuing education, and have introduced me to new topics, perspectives, and initiatives that I wouldn’t necessarily encounter within my immediate workplace. I have been able to draw on skills developed, exposure to new ideas, and leadership experiences through ACHE as I have advanced within my own job and organization, and I am confident that these factors, as well as the network of individuals I’ve met, will be beneficial as I continue to advance in my career, wherever it takes me. 
Julie Shankle
Can you share how and why did you become a member of ACHE? 
My supervisor, Dr. Mary Bonhomme, approached me and said, “now that we’ve launched the new online programs, how do you feel about hosting a conference?” We hosted the South Region conference in Cocoa Beach in 2010, just after the economy crashed and travel funding was being eliminated at many schools. We had a small but enthusiastic gathering on the beach that spring. It was a great introduction to the association. 
Tell us the story. What got you engaged with ACHE? Why do you stay engaged with ACHE? 
The opportunity to work on the conference planning committee allowed me to get to know a few folks before I attended a conference. From there, it was easy to build on that network. I had encouragement from Mary and others to present, preside over sessions, serve as a regional officer, and most recently to co-chair the annual conference committee. Reconnecting with my ACHE colleagues is a grounding and reaffirming experience. I know I have a support team out there, and I can serve as a support for them as well. 
What is the greatest leadership lesson you’ve learned from your experience with ACHE? 
You are never alone. If you are having an issue, chances are someone in the network has faced something like it. Reaching outside of your unit to get an unbiased view on an issue may be just the thing to get some perspective on a situation.  
How has being a part of ACHE enhanced your professional competencies and/or your career progression? 
Opportunities to participate in committees and in regional leadership positions have been integral in my career progression, allowing me to demonstrate my ability to take on more responsibility in my role at the university. While I was considering a career transition, I was able to network through ACHE. I also had contacts serve as a sounding board for me as I made the decision to change jobs. 
What is something unique or special about your ACHE Region that you would like to share with others? 
My South Region colleagues have always been steadfast supporters, and many have become friends. When my father died unexpectedly in 2017, I had several ACHE friends reach out to support me in that difficult time. To me that shows the strength of the association. We collaborate with each other in our professional lives, but we truly see and support each other in our lives as well as our work.  
Is there anything else you would like to share with readers about your experience with ACHE? 
I know we are all busy. Finding time for one more activity may seem impossible. I would encourage colleagues to carve out some time for professional development and participating in ACHE activities. The effort has a tremendous ROI.  
Rick Osborne
Can you share how and why did you become a member of ACHE? 
I became an active member in the early 1990s. Several of my colleagues across the state of Tennessee belonged and encouraged me to participate. I started with a regional conference and was hooked after that. I didn’t miss a national conference until my retirement. 
What is the greatest leadership lesson you’ve learned from your experience with ACHE? 
I’ve taken several lessons from ACHE:  
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help, advice, and support from colleagues you trust.  
  • Hire the very best people and don’t worry about them leaving you for better positions in a short time–your job as a leader is to prepare your staff for better positions in the future.  
  • Don’t give people responsibility and then tell them what to do.  
  • Don’t take credit for the organization’s successes or allow others to take credit for failures. 
How has being a part of ACHE enhanced your professional competencies and/or your career progression? 
You can’t help but become a better leader (and person) when you’re constantly exposed to and embraced by ACHE members. You learn how such effective leaders operate by listening to their stories and viewing their actions within the organization. The networking opportunities provide an experiential Ph.D. in leadership and organizational effectiveness. 
What is something unique or special about your experience with ACHE that you would like to share with others? 
ACHE has provided a pipeline for support and friendship. Our field can be difficult to explain to people. I used to tell my staff that the rest of the university will never quite understand what we do, but at the same time, they all think they can do our job for us. Until they have to. (“Why not plan the conference,” they think, “and then keep all the money? Piece of cake.”)  
So that ACHE pipeline is built upon a shared experience that creates immediate and deep connections that lead to thriving networking opportunities. Sometimes it results in learning about a job opening, sometimes it provides a letter of reference to help you secure a job, sometimes it reveals inside knowledge about an organization that makes you look elsewhere, and sometimes it just results in someone buying you a drink at the end of a conference day. 
Is there anything else you would like to share with readers about your experience with ACHE? 
ACHE has taught me that members shouldn’t limit their future professional opportunities. Continuing education is changing as colleges and universities have embraced nontraditional students and nontraditional formats–things that used to belong exclusively to us. Believe it or not, there was a time in my career when a continuing educator told me not to worry about competition because “there are enough adult students for everyone.” Now, with online learning, every college and university competes with each other. 
Which is a long introduction to the fact that what we learn to do in continuing education is an amazing preparation for any number of advanced positions in higher education. We’ve had members move into vice-president, provost, and president positions. Take stock of your skills and don’t be afraid to go after that job that seems to be a stretch. You’re flexible, adaptable, creative, and successful. Get your credentials in order and take off! 
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