New model aids outcomes for underrepresented students


The University of Michigan has published a new change agent empowerment model that seeks to improve access and success outcomes for underrepresented minority students, ensuring that race, ethnicity and income are not predictors of postsecondary success.

The Transforming Higher Education for Equity, Success & Inclusion of all Stakeholders model — known as THESIS — was developed by the Change Agents Shaping Campus Diversity and Equity project from the National Center for Institutional Diversity.

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It was made possible by a $1.2 million grant over three years from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

THESIS is a conceptual model for faculty and staff with informal and formal roles — or change agents — who wish to influence policies, research and programs for long-term, organizational change. It is premised on the idea that transformational organizational change can happen when change agents learn, reflect and enact equity-based leadership.

The model guides them to initiate and sustain organizational transformation through interconnected developmental domains, which include cultivating a critical consciousness, developing social and political navigation skills, and utilizing diversity scholarship to make evidence-based decisions.

The Change Agents Shaping Campus Diversity and Equity project — known as CASCaDE — aims to support higher education access and success for students, staff and faculty by transforming our nation’s institutional cultures, structures, policies and practices.

The project operates with four values at its core: collective impact, inclusive excellence, democratized access, and equity-mindedness.

“The true measure of an inclusive educational system lies in its ability to support the success of all students,” said NCID Director Elizabeth R. Cole, University Diversity and Social Transformation Professor and professor of women’s and gender studies, of psychology, and of Afroamerican and African studies in LSA.

“By providing faculty and staff with the THESIS model, we are not just fostering diversity. We are investing in a future where students from all kinds of backgrounds can contribute meaningfully and thrive.”

The next phase of the CASCaDE project will be to release a toolkit and create an open-access online course for faculty and staff in higher education. Associated resources include a facilitator guide for those wishing to form learning communities in their institutions.

These resources will equip faculty and staff in formal and informal leadership roles with the research and community to understand and transform institutional cultures, structures, policies, and practices. The goal is to dramatically increase access and success for students.

The toolkit will launch in December 2024.


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