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News from DREAM 2021-Thursday, Feb. 18

News & Updates
February 18, 2021

Welcome to DREAM 2021, Achieving the Dream’s annual flagship conference gone virtual in the time of COVID-19. This year, more than 3,300 participants are tuning in from around the world. They include prominent thinkers, distinguished faculty and administrators, exceptional students, and kindred colleagues grappling with current issues and challenges. Throughout the conference they will gain fresh perspectives, inspiration, and a deeper understanding of the priorities for community colleges today and in the future.

DREAM Daily is a wrap-up of the prior day’s plenaries, a guide to upcoming sessions, news of note about speakers and attendees, ATD resources, and important announcements.

"Students aren't asking us to be everything for them, students are asking us to be human with them." - Dr. Peter Felten


At Wednesday’s opening plenary, three leaders in the movement for an equity-focused approach to teaching and learning shared the latest theories, research, and practice on what moves the needle for student success.

“High quality teaching is relationship-rich teaching,” Dr. Peter Felten, executive director of the Center for Engaged Learning at Elon University said during a discussion moderated by Dr. Ruanda Garth-McCullough, ATD director of programs, and Jonathan Iuzzini, ATD director of teaching and learning. Decades of research show that student-faculty, student-staff, and student-student interactions have the most significant impact on student learning, student well-being, graduation rates, and other markers of achievement. Since classrooms are the primary place where relationships develop, faculty must be ready to use active, culturally responsive, and relationship-rich pedagogies to give students a sense of belonging and move the needle on student success, Dr. Felten said.

Authentic, caring relationships are critical for student development and academic achievement, said Dr. Laura Rendón, professor emerita, University of Texas-San Antonio. They lead to a sense of validation that makes students believe in themselves, Dr. Rendón told attendees. “We have to do away with the entrenched narratives in higher education that say it’s not our job to help students,” she said. “That view no longer serves any students, if it ever has, and certainly not low-income, first generation students.”

A screenshot shows five speakers in conversation during Wednesday's plenary session.

Southwest Tennessee Community College, an ATD Leader College, has been on a five-year journey to develop an equity-minded culture targeted on economic and social justice, said Dr. Jacqueline Taylor, vice president of retention and student success and project director for Inclusive Design for Equity in Academic Success (IDEAS). She described how the program has developed first-generation equity and inclusion practitioners among faculty and student affairs professionals to reimagine course design and student services using teaching academies, monthly meetings of communities of practice, and cross-department collaborations.


After serving nine years on the Achieving the Dream Board of Directors, Miami Dade College President Emeritus Dr. Eduardo Padrón was recognized Wednesday for his commitment and contributions to the community college sector by being bestowed the title of Board Member Emeritus.

Guided by his belief that talent is universal but opportunity is not, Dr. Padrón has provided a model for how to “open the door of opportunity wide” throughout his 25 years as president of Miami Dade College, America’s largest and most diverse public higher education institution, and through his service as an ATD board member and chair of several board committees. Padrón joins Dr. Robert G. Templin Jr., Leah Meyer Austin, and Marc S. Herzog as Board Members Emeriti.

“We all stand on your shoulders… At Miami Dade, you have put students at the very center of everything you do,” said Dr. Stout. “You left us with a quote I use quite often: ‘If we are to meet the challenge of learning in this time of change, teaching must be central to our success.’ You’ve inspired ATD to put teaching and learning in the middle of our reform work, and I want to thank you deeply for your leadership.”

“ATD is deeply grateful to Dr. Padrón for his years of service to the Board, and his clarion vision in shaping the community college movement,” added ATD board chair Dr. Pam Eddinger, president of Bunker Hill Community College. “It is our honor that Dr. Padrón accepts this emeritus status and continues to watch over us as we step into the future.”

Dr. Eduardo Padron accepts a certificate bestowing him Emeritus status during the Wednesday DREAM plenary

In accepting the honor, Padrón called ATD “the most impactful organization I know in the lives of students throughout the country.”

“I think community colleges are very fortunate to have an organization such as Achieving the Dream, and I take great pride in having been a part of it,” Padrón told attendees. “Once ATD, always ATD.”

Learn more by reading the full announcement or watching ATD’s video tribute.


Facilitated by Dr. Joye Hardiman of Evergreen State College, a Wednesday panel of ATD DREAM Scholars discussed transformative moments in their lives and academic careers. Each also outlined the support they received from their community colleges that allowed them to move forward, such as the Gateway to College program at Laney College that supported Jasminh Au and the Western Technical College counselor who met Clifton Traywick as an incarcerated 17-year-old high school dropout and helped him earn his diploma and enroll at WTC.

Each DREAM Scholar received a Phi Theta Kappa scholarship in recognition of their success. To learn more about these exceptional community college students, log into the events panel to watch the session.


DREAM attendees attended a wide range of interactive sessions and programming Wednesday. Concurrent sessions explored topics ranging from designing pathways and student supports to managing emergency aid, expanding college access in prison, College Promise programs, and addressing racial inequities in faculty recruitment. Innovative collaboration sessions showcased best practices and case studies on how ATD College Network members and sponsor companies worked together to address issues including enrollment, onboarding, orientation, and data use. Lightning Learning sessions highlighted innovation in student success, emerging strategies focused on teaching and learning, using data to address equity issues, and helping older adults succeed.


Our final full day of DREAM 2021 features not one, but two plenary sessions that bookend another great set of workshops.

The opening plenary session, The Power of Place: Connections that Foster Student Opportunity and Community Well-Being, is from 12:00 to 1:15pm. Featured speakers:

  • Dr. David Treuer, Pushcart Prize winner and best-selling author;
  • Professor of English, University of Southern California
  • Stephanie Hammitt, President, Fond Du Lac Tribal and Community College
  • Gregory Haile, President, Broward College

The closing plenary session, Rethinking the Intersection of Education, Training, and Work in the 21st Century: A Roadmap to Creating More Inclusive Opportunities, is from 3:45 to 5:15pm. Featured speakers:

  • Jamie Merisotis, author; President and CEO, Lumina Foundation
  • Dr. Shanna L. Jackson, President, Nashville State Community College
  • Dr. Russell Lowery-Hart, President, Amarillo College

Photos of Thursday's plenary speakers


Today’s workshops kick off with 30-minute Innovative Collaboration sessions featuring ATD sponsors and ATD college network members sharing best practices and case studies on how they have successfully worked together to improve student success. These are followed by eight concurrent workshops on topics ranging from addressing mental health concerns on campus and shifting to an eight-week term to serving students at different points in their academic life journeys, including the first-year experience and returning to college as parents. Wrap up the workshop portion of the day by joining one of the Lightning Learning sessions, which highlight new or evolving innovations in student success.


Achieving the Dream is proud to welcome this year’s DREAM Scholars — eight dynamic student leaders looking to make a difference on their campuses and in their communities. The DREAM Scholar program is an experiential learning and leadership program that also involves participation in DREAM 2021. Participants will hear directly from these students throughout DREAM, including videos of their “I Am From” poems. We will also highlight two Scholars in each issue of DREAM Daily. Today, meet Jasminh and Ethan.

Jasminh Au, 2021 DREAM Scholar

Ethan Rossier, 2021 DREAM Scholar

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