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Continuing the Discussion: An Update from AACTE’s 2020 Leadership Academy Series

2020 Leadership Academy

Themed Leadership During Difficult Times, AACTE’s first session of the 2020 Leadership Academy Series, held on October 14, explored how three institutions have risen to the challenge and taken strides to make lasting policy and programmatic changes related to diversity, equity, and inclusion. To continue the discussion, AACTE has provided panelist Lisa Norton, dean of the College of Education & Health Sciences at Touro University, California and one of the featured panelists, with some additional questions from session attendees. Here is what she had to say:

The Graduate School of Education at Touro University, California recently held a series of informative and courageous conversations regarding what it means for education to live diversity in 2020 and beyond. Can you share some of the insights related to accessibility for all PK-12 students in a remote learning environment?

Lisa NortonOur current Academic College Instructional Designer and Graduate School of Education faculty member, Dr. Michael Barbour, is internationally known for work on PK-12 remote learning and accessibility.  We are lucky to have him to help both our own campus and the local school districts with information related to creating an inclusive online environment.  We conducted a webinar series entitled Diversity Now, in which we addressed this and many other topics. We are now in discussions to help the school district with additional support for families. This support includes tutoring and mentoring children in two of the schools and possibly partnering on a large-scale grant effort through the state.

In addition, we have a partnership with Napa County School District entitled NapaLearns, headed by our faculty member Dr. Pamela Redmond. She heads our Innovative Learning Master’s program, which has trained almost 200 Napa teachers in Innovative Learning embracing technology in the classroom for all learners.  A third of the master’s prepared teachers in Napa School District received their education at Touro University, California and a third of those teachers have now advanced into leadership positions within the district. What this translates into is Innovative Transformation across the school district.

Touro, in conjunction with others, sponsored a three day orientation for teachers in August to assist with three days full of programming on transitioning to remote learning. We are currently a sponsor and partner for an upcoming Learning Innovation Summit for the North Bay area, which will provide an additional opportunity for local teachers to receive professional development in this area.

Touro University California has a Strategic Action Plan specifically aimed at addressing and increasing student diversity?  What steps would you encourage institutions to take who are considering adapting similar action plans?

Along with our provost, I am a big proponent of place-based social justice. Change needs to start where you live, which for us means reaching out to the local community and asking how we can be of service as an anchor institution in Solano County. This approach has led to large scale mentoring programs, tutoring in the schools, and working with unhoused individuals on medical care as examples, which are instrumental to our mission and the individuals we recruit to our university.

Recently, our provost realigned our diversity, equity and inclusion efforts in a more centralized fashion.  She has assigned an oversight Council, which will oversee a University Committee that includes the input of the Academic College DEI Committees. We also have implemented a DEI Student Officer staff position. Additionally, student voice and leadership are a large part of this planning process and action plan. As such, we are deep diving into the data around diversity in student, faculty and staff demographics. 

We have also recently created a consortium of local anchor institutions in the county to work together in devising a pathway forward for community health. We no longer can be the university on the hill (or the island in our case). We must be a part of anti-oppressive efforts in a real way to create change. My advice to other institutions is to reconsider testing as an admissions requirement into programs if you truly value diversity, or at the very least weigh other application materials on a heavier scale, as testing is not indicative of success. 

The final session of the sold-out 2020 Leadership Academy Series will take place on November 10. Three additional Academy sessions will be available as part of the programming for AACTE’s virtual 2021 Annual Meeting. Register now for the premier educator preparation conference in the nation—the AACTE 73rd Annual Meeting, February 24-26. Get the discounted registration rate when you register by December 4.

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Matthew Wales

Vice President, Member Services & Events