Educational Leaders Equity-Centered Transformation Spark Grants Initiative Program

Equity Conscious Community College Pathways Project LogoThe Office for Community College Research and Leadership (OCCRL) invites community colleges to submit proposals for the Educational Leaders Equity–Centered Transformation (ELECT) Spark Grants Initiative Program.

The ELECT Initiative will provide grants for a one-year period or less (calendar year 2019), awarding up to five community colleges $8,000 to spark or extend equity focused and culturally responsive curriculum efforts. We define educational equity as the process of identifying how disparities affect the educational opportunities of students based on marginalized social identities (i.e. race, gender, socioeconomic class, gender, sexuality, age, citizenship, religion, physical and mental ability, etc.) and subsequently developing strategic solutions to take systemic action to redress these inequities (DeCuir & Dixson, 2004) through ongoing and sustainable efforts (Gorski, 2016) that are equity centered.

Pathways Collaborative LogoEquity-centered reforms and initiatives are foremost equity conscious—moving beyond simple awareness of inequities to acknowledging how specific institutional practices may contribute to these inequities (Bensimon, 2012; Skrla, McKenzie, Scheurich, 2009). Equity-centered initiatives should purposefully consider the perspectives, belief systems, structures, and practices that best advance the educational opportunities and ultimate outcomes for students who are underrepresented and/or underserved. Similarly, culturally responsive initiatives should reflect the needs, cultural backgrounds, and lived experiences of diverse students.

Eligibility Requirements

Successful proposals must include collaborative ideas to address long-standing inequities that directly affect student success at their respective institutions. Proposal submissions can include but are not limited to funding for professional development workshops, promising practices colloquiums, development of curriculum modules, pilot studies, and program evaluation/assessment. Proposals that promote collaboration and partnership among a variety of stake holders (i.e. students, faculty, staff, and/or community organizations) to address educational equity issues are strongly encouraged.

Example Areas to Consider

  • Dialogue and civil discourse for social equity through faculty and staff trainings
  • Enhancing student learning outcomes through purposive embedding of equity-centered student services programming
  • Understanding of collaboration and inclusion facilitated through equity-centered programming
  • Culturally responsive curriculum redesign
  • Promote improving guided pathways and learning outcomes particularly for underrepresented racial minorities (URMs)

Funding Requirements

Each selected college will participate in two webinars – one webinar in which Spark Grant recipients share the funded project/efforts; the second webinar is designed for grantee professional development and engagement addressing maximizing and leveraging resources to extend equity-centered work. In addition, each grantee will write a blog feature highlighting equity efforts at their institutions and their guided pathway equity initiative activities. Grant recipients will also attend the equity initiative convening where they will present their Spark grant funded project to other grantees, share their reform efforts, project results, and interact with one another to learn about areas for improvement and best practices. OCCRL will also share projects virtually to highlight Spark grant recipients’ efforts (e.g., overviews, promising practices, key factors for fostering student success, and next steps in sustaining their work).

Evaluation Criteria

  • Proposed project’s potential effectiveness of addressing equity with respect to student success
  • Commitment to equity illustrated in narrative (includes addressing long-standing inequities that impact student success)
  • Promoting partnerships among various stakeholders to address equity issues
  • Clear timeline to initiative implementation to completion
  • Budget outline and justification
  • Proposal is complete and clearly presented
  • Proposed initiative is realistic for the program time frame, articulates potential impact and demonstrates next steps to result from Spark grant funding

Submission Requirements

  • Use 12-point font, standard one-inch margins, and no more than 5 single-spaced pages
  • Proposed project start date and end date
  • Project director
  • Financial contact/other contact, if appropriate
  • Proposal narrative—should include a short purpose statement of the proposed project, describe project activities, provide a project timeline and discuss the potential impact and next steps/sustainability of the proposed project.
  • Budget narrative/justification—include personnel, participant incentives, travel, equipment, etc.

Submission Process

All grant proposals should be submitted as a single PDF file of no more than five pages. The deadline for proposals is 5:00 PM CST on November 16, 2018. Please complete application and upload proposal at Please direct any questions about this funding opportunity to Dr. Raina Dyer-Barr at


Bensimon, E. M. (2012). The equity scorecard: Theory of change. In E. M. Bensimon & L. Malcolm (Eds.), Confronting issues of equity on campus: Implementing the equity scorecard in theory and practice (pp. 17-44). Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing

DeCuir, J. T., & Dixson, A. D. (2004). “So When It Comes Out, They Aren’t That Surprised That It Is There”: Using Critical Race Theory as a Tool of Analysis of Race and Racism in Education. Educational Researcher, 33(5), 26–31.

Gorski, P. (2016). Rethinking the Role of “Culture” in Educational Equity: From Cultural Competence to Equity Literacy. Multicultural Perspectives, 18(4), 221–226.

Funding Source

This work is part of OCCRL's Equity Conscious Community College Pathways (EC3P) project. The EC3P project is funded under the title "Embedding Equity within Pathways Catalog of Services" by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.