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Crises as Catalysts for Transformation

At last week’s American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers’ (AACRAO) virtual Strategic Enrollment Management (SEM) Conference, nearly 500 attendees learned about ways to confront the crises facing colleges and universities in order to transform higher education and achieve student and institutional health.

Dr. Smith welcomes conference participants to the virtual 2020 AACRAO Strategic Enrollment Management Conference

But what was even more amazing was the discussions surrounding the nexus of SEM and social justice, all with an eye toward taking action to create campus cultures that are accessible, anti-racist, and inclusive.  It is one thing to acknowledge the social justice crises we face. It is something else to commit to taking action to change the face of higher education.  And that is what many conference participants did.

On the third day of the conference, we engaged in panel sessions that spoke to topics like strategies for embedding equity in SEM; holistic admissions; the future of admissions; social justice, racial equality and standardized testing; and whether institutions can compete for students and cooperate to realize greater social mobility.

We also heard from Academy Award winner Matthew A. Cherry on “higher education, social justice, and equity,” in which he reflected on his personal and professional experiences to help conference participants connect with how racial equality and social justice impacts all of our lives.

Our day was capped off with a Commitment to Change facilitated by Philip Hunt, University Registrar at North Dakota State University, and performance of “Glory,” from the Academy Award-winning movie Selma by the world-renown Detroit Youth Concert Choir.  We were all deeply moved.

AACRAO’s Commitment to Change reads:

“I pledge to take action by engaging in efforts at the association and on my campus that promote access, equity, inclusion, and anti-racism to provide equitable pathways for student success and support for underrepresented faculty and staff.  This includes using my skills, talents and voice to serve my campus, AACRAO and our membership.”

I will be forever humbled by this incredible experience.

-Clayton Smith


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