OCCRL Makes Its Presence Felt at ASHE’s 43rd Annual Conference

by José Del Real Viramontes / Nov 19, 2018

The Association for the Study of Higher Education (ASHE) hosted its 43rd annual conference November 14 through 17 in Tampa, Florida. This year’s theme was “Envisioning the ‘Woke’ Academy,” and participants were asked to boldly name and dismantle inequitable power structures and their disproportionately adverse effects on historically marginalized communities.

More than ever, ASHE’s call to action is critical to community college research today, especially since community colleges are the largest postsecondary segment in the U.S., enrolling almost half of the undergraduate student population (AACC, 2018).

Despite the fact that community colleges are a significant entry point for students who aspire to transfer to a four-year institution and complete a bachelor’s degree (Crisp and Nora, 2010), transfer access from community colleges to a four-year college or university is still unattainable for the majority of community college students who aspire to transfer. What’s more, community college students who are less likely to transfer to a four-year college or university are more likely to come from a low socio-economic status, more likely to be African-American and/or Latinx students, and more likely to enter community colleges as older students (Dougherty and Kienzl, 2006).

Aligned with ASHE’s theme, the Office of Community College Research and Leadership (OCCRL) is committed to creating equity-driven transformations by facilitating systemic changes that improve educational equity for underserved students. This year, several of our staff members presented work at the conference that highlighted our office’s mission to use research and evaluation methods to improve policies, programs, and practices in order to enhance community college education and college transition for diverse learners everywhere. Presentation topics included the politics of institutional identity and understanding STEM pathways at Hispanic-serving community colleges, antiracist change within educational institutions, intersectional tensions and LGBTQ identity and collegiate contexts, and disrupting the master narratives around nontraditional students in higher education.

This year’s theme of “Envisioning the ‘Woke’ Academy,” along with the productive conversations around these critical topics, encourage us to continue to reflect on this question: What daily actions can we as researchers and scholars take to ensure we address systemic racism and inequities in higher education spaces and environments?


  • American Association of Community Colleges (2018). 2018 Fact Sheet.
  • Crisp, G., & Nora, A. (2010). Hispanic student success: Factors influencing the persistence and transfer decisions of Latino community college students enrolled in developmental education. Research in Higher Education51(2), 175-194.
  • Dougherty, K. J., & Kienzl, G. S. (2006). It's not enough to get through the open door: Inequalities by social background in transfer from community colleges to four-year colleges. Teachers College Record108(3), 452-487.