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Equity in Education: Partnering with Advocacy Leaders to Make a Difference

“Individual commitment to a group effort—that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.” – Vince Lombardi

In honor of our 60th anniversary, we’re celebrating the customers and community members who’ve supported our mission since day one. Whether you’re an individual, a group, or an organization like ACT, you need the support and collaboration of others to help you accomplish your goals.

We’re thankful for the many collaborators, advocates, and allies we’ve made along our 60 year journey as a nonprofit dedicated to helping people achieve education and workplace success.

We asked our advocates to explore what education and workplace success means to them, and how we can continue to work together to advance equity in education. Here’s what they said:

ACT Scholar Roseina Britton, PhD

What does education and workplace success mean to you?

Having the courage to be imperfect enhances workplace success. Psychologist Sophie Lazarsfeld coined the phrase “courage to be imperfect” [1] in 1952 from the Adlerian view of perfection. Alfred Adler viewed perfection as an ideal which can never really be reached and that in psychotherapy, people learn to face their imperfection. The courage to be imperfect in the workplace can be accepting the typo in a mass email or a PowerPoint presentation. It can also be moments like sitting for your annual review, listening to critiques in areas that can be improved. Having the courage to be imperfect also takes self-compassion. I remember the feeling I had after teaching my first course in research and program evaluation. I felt drained, defeated, and embarrassed because I had errors in my syllabus. After some reflecting, I needed self-compassion because I was beginning to internalize my negative self-talk. I had to be compassionate with myself by accepting that I made mistakes, but they do not define me as an educator or person. Returning the next day to the class, I stood up front and said, “You know, I get anxious about research too sometimes, especially when having to teach it. There are still aspects of research I don’t understand. But together, we will figure this out because we are all learning to together.” My courage to be imperfect allowed the students to feel more at ease, making me feel more at ease. The same applies to the workplace setting for supervisors, managers, and team leaders. The courage to be imperfect builds rapport between employees, students, and team-members because everyone realizes, nobody is perfect, even in the workplace/ classroom.

How do we work together to advance equity in education?

To advance equity in education will require social justice and advocacy from the community. Equity in education will require each of us, as a community, to recognize how our marginalized and privileged statuses affect our perceptions of equitable learning. Multiculturalism must be at the core of equitable education, which will require educators to become self-aware and to take into consideration their student’s worldview. Advancing equity in education will require change on the systemic level; therefore, we need to incorporate multiculturalism and social justice into education. Mentioning diversity and inclusion sounds great in mission statements, but inclusion and diversity require actual work to ensure those who are invited to be “included” to “diversify” the organization, feel safe, accepted and wanted. Multiculturalism gives everyone an awareness of inequities such as the school-to-prison pipeline, experienced in the education system. It will take educating the community, from a multicultural perspective, about the inequalities in education to advance equity in education. We must have the courage of imperfection to call attention to inequities to advance an equitable education.

[1] Griffith, J., & Powers, R. (2007). The lexicon of Adlerian psychology: 106 terms associated with the individual psychology of Alfred Adler (2nd ed., rev. and expanded. ed.). Port Townsend, Wash., USA: Adlerian Psychology Association

Kirkwood Community College | Eric Weiler, Annual Giving Officer, Kirkwood Foundation

What does education and workplace success mean to you?

Kirkwood Community College’s mission is to identify community needs; provide accessible, quality education and training; and promote opportunities for lifelong learning. With one of the lowest tuitions in the state, over 120 credit programs, state-of-the-art facilities and award-winning faculty, Kirkwood provides tremendous educational opportunities. Kirkwood is essential to our prosperity, having a profound impact on the lives of everyone in our community and throughout the state. With 95% of graduates staying in Iowa and 86% in our seven-county region, Kirkwood graduates are your nurse, firefighter, builder, dental hygienist, mechanic, banker, computer technician, accountant and more. Education is one of the most powerful investments we can make and the key to success for our future generations.

How do we work together to advance equity in education? 

ACT and Kirkwood Community College have had a longtime partnership from test preparation to changing lives through scholarships. ACT partners with Kirkwood on the National Career Readiness Certificate and Iowa Career Readiness Certificate programs. These valuable tools build real-world skills and a clearer understanding of what employees and employers have in their personal and company toolkits. In 2010, ACT contributed $2 million to the Kirkwood Foundation to establish the ACT Endowed Scholarship Fund. This full-tuition scholarship is awarded to students pursuing studies and careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) areas, and several other valued programs identified by many Corridor business and industry leaders as crucial to the strength and economic growth of Iowa and the Midwest. The Kirkwood scholarship program makes a special effort to include historically underrepresented populations in the scholarship pool and awards. Dr. Richard Ferguson, former CEO and chairman of ACT, has served on the Kirkwood Foundation board since 2010 and was a member of the search committee for the college’s next president in 2017.

ACT Scholarship Students at Kirkwood:

  • “I view this award as a reassurance that I can accomplish the high academic endeavors I wish to pursue. I have been told many times throughout my life that an investment in your education will result in the biggest payoff of all. I am confident that your investment in me will pay off in substantial ways and to someday be able to give back to a student like myself through donations and support.”
  • "I belong to a single-family household, and my mom is the only provider for our family. The amount that the scholarship is worth will relieve the financial burden that my mom and I have been dealing with for the past few months… Thank you so very much for your generosity in awarding me this scholarship. I promise to focus on my education and make the best of your scholarship donation. I’m so grateful and excited to continue my education and pursue my dreams.” 

University of Iowa Graduate College | Liz Lara, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Director, UI Graduate College

What does education and workplace success mean to you? 

Just like ACT, the Graduate College at the University is interested in transformative, evolving, boundary-breaking, and inclusive education that prepares our students not just for the present but for our global future. Diversifying the workforce is central to educational and workplace success.

How do we work together to advance equity in education? 

We are grateful for the ACT Foundation’s generous $5 million gift to support the ACT scholars program that provides fellowship support and training to promote multiculturalism and inclusion. Since 2010, the fellowship program has generously supported approximately 10-15 graduate students per year from underrepresented populations enrolled in graduate programs and with professional goals that align with ACT's interests and strategic goals. These students have greatly benefited from protected time for their studies while minimizing financial stress.

Maurice Swinney, Chief Equity Officer, Chicago Public Schools

How do we work together to advance equity in education? 

I appreciate ACT’s move to advance educational and SEL equity by providing tools and resources to schools to support students from diverse backgrounds. The work of equity must ensure access and opportunities for our least-served students. ACT is moving in the right direction.

Iowa City Community School District Foundation | Susan Brennan, Executive Director, ICCSD Foundation 

What does education and workplace success mean to you? 

The Iowa City Community School District strives to be an instructional leader delivering the finest educational opportunities for the children in our community. We recognize that in order to provide our students with the very best experiences available, we ask our community partners to help support initiatives. Locally, we have a robust partnership with ACT helping us create the AVID experience in our schools. The AVID philosophy is all about cultivating a growth mindset in our schools and for our students that helps them achieve their own college and career goals.

How do we work together to advance equity in education? 

AVID’s core belief is to close the achievement gap by preparing all students for college and career readiness to be successful in a global society. Through our combined efforts, we are determined to open access and provide support to students that historically have been underrepresented in our most rigorous course offerings. Preparing students from all backgrounds to be successful in an ever-changing global environment is a critical goal of the District and we are able to advance these kinds of opportunities with the local support of ACT.

The University of Iowa Office of Student Life | Melissa Shivers, Vice President for Student Life, UI Office of Student Life 

What does education and workplace success mean to you? 

As a person who believes one should be a teacher and learner at the same time, I embrace this approach in my work life pretty seamlessly. I am always learning from the staff, students, friends, and colleagues I work with, which inherently makes me a better person, educator, and leader. Our professional and workplace success is dependent on our ability to remain attuned to the changing needs of our students, new and promising practices, as well as remaining committed to the institution's priorities.

How do we work together to advance equity in education? 

It is critically important for us to understand the definition of equity in order to consider how we eliminate inequities in education. Gaining a critical lens for how we understand the students we serve and ensure we are providing them with what they need to be successful. This often requires us to move away from the “cookie cutter” or “one size fits all” approach to education and gain a deeper understanding of the individuals. How do we help address those students from a low-SES to those who have families and parents that may be unable to help their student with homework due to limited or no engagement with the curriculum, etc.? Inequities are often times part of the fabric of the student—our job is to neutralize those in the classroom experience by providing a quality educational experience for all students AND attend to some of the factors that directly impact student success.

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About ACT

ACT is a mission-driven, nonprofit organization dedicated to helping people achieve education and workplace success. Grounded in 60 years of research, ACT is a trusted leader in college and career readiness solutions. Each year, ACT serves millions of students, job seekers, schools, government agencies and employers in the US and around the world with learning resources, assessments, research and credentials designed to help them succeed from elementary school through career.