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RELA: Meet the Academy (Part 1)

Stories & Case Studies
February 10, 2021

At Achieving the Dream, we believe that community colleges can—and must—be engines for racial equity and social justice. In partnership with the USC Race and Equity Center, ATD established the Racial Equity Leadership Academy (RELA) to help equip college leaders with the tools they need to address and dismantle systemic structures that have long served as barriers for racially minoritized students.

This summer, teams from 10 ATD Network colleges will convene for an intensive program designed to collaboratively develop bold, strategic racial equity plans to be implemented at each participant’s institution. The application process for RELA was rigorous. Selected colleges demonstrated a strong commitment to undergoing the significant—often difficult—projects and conversations necessary to creating sustainable, cultural change at their institutions.

In this “Meet the Academy” series, we’ll hear from the presidents or chancellors of each college about why this work is so important to their institution and what they’re eager to accomplish at RELA in the summer.

Austin Community College District

Who they are:
Austin Community College (ACC) is an open door to higher education and training, serving an eight-county service area in Central Texas. ACC has been part of the ATD Network since 2009. ACC has been an ATD Leader College since 2013, and earned the designation of Leader College of Distinction in 2019.

What the chancellor says:
“Austin Community College District believes college is for everyone. As an ATD Leader College of Distinction, ACC is committed to promoting success for all students, especially low-income students and students of color. Education is the true equalizer in our communities, and we’re honored to be part of RELA to further this work. It will take all of us working in collaboration to transform the landscape and establish the sustainable change that’s needed. RELA presents an opportunity for ACC to continue to scrutinize and remove structural barriers to equity on our campuses and in our community. Closing equity gaps requires us all to work better together. With the support of ATD and the USC Race and Equity Center, we can take our equity-minded work to the next level.”

– Chancellor Richard Rhodes

ACC Spring 2019 Commencement event on May 17, 2019. Photo Courtesy of Austin Community College District.

Chattanooga State Community College

Who they are:
Chattanooga State Community College offers a variety of degree programs impacting business, industrial & professional communities of Southeast Tennessee. The college joined the ATD Network in 2016 and became an ATD Leader College in 2019.

What the president says:
“Chattanooga State is excited to be among the colleges taking part in the inaugural Racial Equity Leadership Academy. We welcome the opportunity to further our equity work and create a racial equity change effort that will be integral to our campus community. RELA’s objectives directly address our desire to have frank, productive conversations about racial equity on campus and to equip our campus community with the tools and strategies necessary to achieve racial equity. Alongside our peer institutions, we look forward to developing customized transformation strategies that will take Chattanooga State to an all new level of inclusiveness for all, where everyone will experience a sense of belonging, academic equity chasms will be spanned, supports will be in place to meet each learner’s needs, and faculty and staff will reflect the rich diversity of the community.”

– President Rebecca Ashford

Montgomery County Community College

Photo courtesy of Montgomery County Community College

Who they are:
Founded in 1964, Montgomery County Community College (MCCC) has grown with the community to meet the lifelong learning needs of residents, visitors and businesses in and around Montgomery County, PA. MCCC has been part of the ATD Network for 15 years, first joining in 2006. It became an ATD Leader College in 2011 and earned the Leader College of Distinction designation in 2019.

What the president says:
“As part of our ongoing commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion, Montgomery County Community College fosters a strong sense of belonging on our campuses to ensure that everyone feels welcomed and respected and knows that their voice will be heard. Focusing on our year of learning, we strive to more fully understand and appreciate our subtle differences and make sure that our equity and social justice work extends beyond inclusion to encompass policies and practices to further advance the growth of our vibrant, increasingly diverse campuses and communities. With the support of ATD and the USC Race and Equity Center, we are poised to take our equity work to the next level, and we come equipped with strengths in data capacity and structural design to help tackle these challenges. Our team looks forward to engaging in the deep reflection and critical conversations necessary to advancing meaningful and lasting reform.”

– President Victoria Bastecki-Perez

The Achieving the Dream and USC Race and Equity Center Racial Equity Leadership Academy (RELA) is an intensive program offering ten college teams a collaborative experience to develop and implement bold, sustainable racial equity action plans at their institutions. Learn more.

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