American Council on Education To Advance Equity in Higher Education through Multi-Year Project


In the pursuit of fostering diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) on college campuses, the American Council on Education (ACE) and the University of Southern California's Pullias Center for Higher Education have joined forces to pioneer a transformative model known as Shared Equity Leadership (SEL).

This innovative approach aims to decentralize equity initiatives, making them a collective responsibility across the entire campus leadership rather than confined to specific individuals or departments. Through a comprehensive suite of research, reports, and a toolkit, ACE and the Pullias Center are paving the way for a more inclusive and collaborative future in higher education.

The Essence of Shared Equity Leadership

Shared Equity Leadership is not just a theoretical concept; it's a tangible framework designed to address diversity and equity challenges comprehensively. The model recognizes that the traditional, top-down approach to leadership may not be the most effective when it comes to fostering equitable outcomes. Instead, SEL seeks to distribute responsibility for DEI initiatives throughout the institution, creating a sense of ownership among all stakeholders. The six reports and toolkit produced by ACE and the Pullias Center serve as a roadmap for implementing and understanding the SEL model.

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On Shared Equity Leadership Series

The cornerstone of this initiative is the "On Shared Equity Leadership" series, which comprises six reports based on a rigorous three-year multiple-case study of eight diverse higher education institutions across the country. The reports delve into various aspects of SEL, providing insights into the personal, collective, and institutional efforts needed to enact this collaborative model.

Let's explore the key publications in the series:

1. Shared Equity Leadership

This foundational publication outlines the necessity of inclusive and collaborative leadership approaches to achieve equitable outcomes. It sets the stage for understanding the shared equity leadership model.

2. Organizing Shared Equity Leadership

This report explores different approaches to structuring shared equity leadership work, comparing traditional diversity leadership with four distinct SEL models observed during the case study.

3. Shared Equity Leadership Toolkit   

A practical resource, the toolkit assists leaders in identifying strengths and weaknesses in the values and practices necessary for effective SEL. It serves as a guide for institutions embarking on their shared equity leadership journey.

4. Shared Responsibility Means Shared Accountability: Rethinking Accountability Within Shared Equity Leadership 

This report tackles the crucial issue of accountability in SEL, shedding light on how campuses implementing the model navigate responsibility for diversity, equity, and inclusion work.

5. Leading for Equity from Where You Are: How Leaders in Different Roles Engage in Shared Equity Leadership

Examining leadership roles, this report illustrates how individuals in various positions on campus can contribute to SEL efforts, emphasizing both functional and positional perspectives.

6. Capacity Building for Shared Equity Leadership

Exploring strategies for capacity building, this report addresses how institutions can enhance personal, collective, and organizational capabilities to lead equity-minded change efforts.

7. Emotional Labor in Shared Equity Leadership Environments

The final report in the series delves into the emotional aspects of SEL, exploring how emotional labor manifests when responsibility for DEI leadership is shared across multiple stakeholders.

Putting Research into Practice

To bring the research into actionable strategies, ACE and Higher Ed Insights organized a Shared Equity Leadership Convening. This collaborative effort brought together equity and leadership stakeholders, fostering discussions on fresh insights and tools to advance equity on campuses. The outcome was the development of six practical concepts for expanding the implementation and reach of the SEL model.

Concepts for Implementation

1. Comprehensive Roadmap/Toolkit for University Presidents

A SEL presidential toolkit to guide university presidents in addressing the needs of institutional equity leaders and navigating challenging environments.

2. Integrating SEL into Leadership Development

Integrating SEL into existing leadership development pipelines to enhance resources and prepare future leaders for the challenges of equity-focused leadership.

3. SEL Leadership Training for Senior Leaders

Proposing SEL leadership training for senior leaders to encourage institutions to take collective responsibility for equity initiatives, alleviating the emotional burden on individuals or small departments.

ACE's Continued Commitment

ACE remains dedicated to working with institutions and organizations to test and implement the insightful concepts developed during the convening. As they continue this journey, the shared equity leadership approach promises to reshape the higher education landscape, fostering a culture where equity is not just a goal but a shared responsibility embraced by all. Visit ACE's Shared Equity Leadership page and USC Pullias Center for Higher Education's website to learn more and stay updated on future developments.

In conclusion, the Sloan Foundation and the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations have generously supported the multi-year SEL project, underscoring the importance of collaborative efforts in addressing diversity and equity challenges in higher education. 

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