Equity Fellow’s Big Dreams Lead to Small, Empowering Books

by Jaclyn Randall - Director of Student Success & Equity at Palo Verde College / May 1, 2020

When I started working in higher education, I assumed that all involved had a desire to help students get through the complex system and reach their goals.

Through various academic and student service programs and conferences, I met like-minded individuals in California who dedicated their lives to underrepresented and disproportionately impacted students through different activities that were deliberate in their attempts to help students reach their goals, or in some cases, set goals that students didn't realize they needed to achieve.

Yet it has been as an Equity Fellow where I have had an opportunity to meet colleagues nationwide who are champions at their respective campuses, people who understand the challenges students face in today's educational climate. I love the opportunity to engage and interact with educational leaders who dream big and work toward their goals.

I love the opportunity to engage and interact with educational leaders who dream big and work toward their goals.

Through this experience, I have learned about different college systems and how they operate in higher education. From Chicago's mayoral-led community college system to Washington’s one-district setup to Louisiana's cash-strapped parishes, I’ve discovered we each have challenges. But our dedication to students is where we have common objectives. That’s because each of us wants our students to succeed; and each of us has the desire to see our students achieve by earning a certificate, allowing them to begin a vocational career upon release for incarcerated students, or gainful employment for traditional students.

The application of one resource learned during the second Equity Fellows convening in Chicago helped in a situation regarding a student’s conduct at my institution. I shared with the group that in my role as director of student success and equity at Palo Verde College, I mediated between a dean and a student who reacted to authorities in a negative manner when confronted with perceived transgressions committed against him. I asked the Equity Fellows what could be done to advocate for the student while also acknowledging the district’s concerns.

After answering a variety of questions from the Fellows, they suggested the institution needed to have a set of procedures to follow to address students' rights and responsibilities. Since the last convening, I have worked on pocket-sized Student Conduct/Rights and Responsibilities books to be distributed to students and faculty. The small books have empowered both parties while offering a distinct path to resolutions for administration, faculty, and students.

Being an Equity Fellow has been a fantastic experience. Working with colleagues from different backgrounds and with varied perspectives has taught me that planning and designing a system with a team that has shared goals can be an exhilarating, positive, and useful task.

I look forward to collaborating on an effective plan for student success, not just for our most disadvantaged students, but for every student who chooses higher education. Our future toolkit will provide guidance for institutions, regardless of operational systems, making this bigger than any individual Equity Fellow. As Deion Sanders once said, "If your dream ain't bigger than you, there's a problem with your dream."

If your dream ain't bigger than you, there's a problem with your dream."                                                                                           — Deion Sanders

Fellows, please continue to dream big as we guide our students to success.

Jaclyn Randall is an Engaging Excellence in Equity Fellow who has participated in convenings designed to identify culturally responsive practices and further support-building evidence and capacity for this work. Learn more about this project.