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Scholarship to Practice 3/25/21: Transcript of Conversation With Gaye Theresa Johnson, Associate Professor, University of California, Los Angeles

Scholarship to Practice 3/25/21: Transcript of Conversation With Gaye Theresa Johnson, Associate Professor, University of California, Los Angeles

1) This interview in the Scholarship to Practice Series originally aired on March 25, 2021 as part of the University Innovation Alliance’s Innovating Together podcast, appearing live on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
2) This transcript is intended to serve primarily as a guide to the full conversation. We apologize for any inaccuracies and encourage you to listen to the podcast.

Click here to access our summary, along with helpful links and audio from this episode.

Gaye Theresa Johnson:
Because it’s kind of the ultimate conceit of institutions, and it’s not just educational institutions, but it’s also corporations, philanthropic organizations, foundations, even grassroots organizations sometimes who presume that they know what’s best for communities when there’s been organizers doing it for 35 years. It’s like, “Why don't you just ask them?”

Bridget Burns:
Welcome to Innovating Together, podcast produced by the University Innovation Alliance. This is the podcast for busy people in higher education who are looking for the best ideas, inspiration, and leaders to help you improve student success. I'm your host, Bridget Burns.

Welcome. Today we’re having an episode of Scholarship to Practice. As an administrator, I don't know about you, but for me I’ve been part of far too many conversations where I hear things like, “If only we knew, or I wonder if,” and later on I find out that most of those topics there’s actual relevant research that we could’ve been drawing on that already existed. Too often limited time, capacity, or even academic writing can get in the way. At the UIA, we know that we need to bridge that gap between scholarship and practice if we’re going to stand a chance to improve student success. We all need to be working together, leveraging research in the field, and identifying where we need more research to support greater innovation in higher ed. This show is designed to help bridge that gap by elevating relevant research we all could be using in our daily lives, in a short and conversational format. Welcome to Scholarship to Practice.

Derrick Tillman-Kelly:
I'm Dr. Derrick Tillman-Kelly with the University Innovation Alliance, and I'm delighted to co-host this episode of Scholarship to Practice. Dr. Gaye Theresa Johnson, teacher on racism and race, cultural history, special politics, and political economy. Clearly she’s the perfect guest for the moment. Dr. Johnson, welcome to Scholarship to Practice.

Gaye Theresa Johnson:
Thank you so much, and thanks for your amazing work putting this together, not just for me today, but everybody who’s watching and just wanting to engage and be in the community around teaching.

Bridget Burns:
We’re honored. You’re the superstar. We’re so excited to have you here. It’s been such a delight to get to know you over the last year. For folks at home, we can actually have live questions and comments, if you’d like. We’re live right now on LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter, and this is generously supported by the Carnegie Corporation. We’re very excited to do this. We’ll just kick it off. I know that oftentimes it’s hard to explain what you do in a way that is really accessible and conversational, so I always ask, “How do you explain what you do to a member of your family or someone you meet in an elevator?”

Gaye Theresa Johnson:
That is the best question, and I often ask that question of my students because I always say that if you can't explain it in a simple way, then you don't really know it, because you don't really know what you’re doing. What I like to say to people beyond the kind of easy, simple answer of, “I'm a professor,” is that I'm an educator, and I try to be a teacher in the broadest sense. That means to me that I learn from a variety of different kinds of communities, whether they are in the academy, but most important to me those who have been traditionally excluded from the conversations in the academy. I realize as someone who is constantly in community that I can't do this work without being part of conversations that are being held around some of the most pressing issues of our time, but also being held with the greatest humanity and understanding in community.

And so I can't do the work that I do in isolation. So I talk about being an educator, but I also try to emphasize that I learn with all people all the time, and that’s the best part of being a teacher is to be a life-long learner.

Derrick Tillman-Kelly:
Thank you for that. We know that you’re a scholar in [unintelligible 00:04:11] and African-American Studies, and your work ultimately seeks to be community-engaged. Can you tell folks what does it mean to be a community-engaged scholar?

Gaye Theresa Johnson:
Yes. It’s an interesting question when you are at a research university like U.C.L.A. or if you’re at a private institution. I mean, I think a lot of people imagine that there’s this very solid line demarcating a difference between public and private, but not always – I mean, rarely. Actually, when it comes to elite universities, it can be public or private. That has affected all the way from donors to the ways that people engage with their communities. Institutions are like – especially elite institutions are really not built – they were never designed to be in community with folks who have the greater public good in mind. What has happened is that if that has occurred, it’s because of the movements and the ways that students, community members, staff, folks who are clear about the role of education in society – it’s because they’ve pushed the institution to do that and they’ve mandated that, they’ve held them accountable to the communities that they’re in, to the land that they’re on.

For me, what it means is to be aware of that history, especially as an ethnic studies professor, is to understand how we came into being, which was not because of some sort of benevolent decision that was made on the part of the institution like, “Uh, it’s time. What have you been doing keeping these people out for so long?” No. It was because of the movements of students and community members to establish these programs and also to establish a particular kind of presence on campus. And so to honor that history, I have to be ready to be part of the next few generations of folks who keep that strong. And so to be community engaged for me is to always be in conversation with the people that make it possible for me to be there and for students, the families, for the movements that give us all meaning around our presence on the campus.

Bridget Burns:
Perfect. Given your work in the context of public research universities, which we work with regularly, I'm curious about how the national racial unrest and the pandemic have influenced your work and what you think this moment is really calling for educators to do. Could you dive a little deeper on that?

Gaye Theresa Johnson:
Yeah, absolutely. Thanks for that question. It’s interesting how we think about what’s happened, because as someone who is scholar of race, certainly, but also power, I think about how this has always been an emergency for people of color, for BIPOC folks, for trans folks – the unrest of the last year has been a manifestation of an ongoing crisis since the very beginning of this country. And what a lot of us who study political economy argue is that it’s a crisis that’s been ongoing since the advent of capitalism. This is an expected manifestation, but also understanding that all of the beautiful things that have come out of protests over the last year also and also the turn to anti-racism by elite institutions as a possibility for some of the solutions can be also very problematic because we should know – I was speaking with a colleague the other day – that when elite institutions turn to anti-racism as a solution, we should already know that it could be very bad.

For a lot of us who do this work, this was not a surprise, but instead a continuation of the work. I just wanted to foreground by saying that. The emergency is consistently white supremacy, the emergency is racism, and the unrest is ongoing, but may be perhaps a different kind of manifestation of always ongoing community work. So doing the work of being a community-engaged scholar in these times is to have some perspective about that, to have some kind of grounding in the spirit of what all of that means and all of the possibilities that it holds. It means taking a lot of the philosophies and the tendency of the revolutionary models of community building that we’ve seen in communities that have been doing this for so long, way before any of us even dared to utter a word about its history.

It means to bring those into the view of students and to repeat usually over and over again the same things that we’ve been asking for, the same things that we know communities of color have deserved. And it’s to create new language, it’s to ask institutions in a moment when their elitism and exclusion is most visible to deliver on promises made but never fulfilled. It’s to ask them to deliver on the words that they say, the mandates that they issue, and to engage in a kind of radical accountability, because we understand that this is a window, that it’s not something that – I mean the institution generally is committed to getting back to business as usual as quickly as possible, with as little publicity as possible. Everyone, especially in this moment, right now, where cancel culture is what it is, it’s really imperative that the public-facing image of institutions looks good. And so those of us who know the patterns see this as a window, and one that is closing rapidly.

What does that mean for the stamina and the inspiration of the students that we teach and the movements that we engage? It means that we have to have to have the vision, the hope, and the commitment to democracy, to all of the most radical ways that we imagine people can be human and nourished and thriving. It needs to bring all of that into conversation at every level of the institution.

Derrick Tillman-Kelly:
I have so many questions, but what I want to think outside of – keep it about you and not about me. As you were talking, I can't help but think about – when I first heard about community-engaged scholarship, it was almost fake in a sense of like, “We work with the community,” but really we were telling them what to do.

Gaye Theresa Johnson:

Derrick Tillman-Kelly:
And so as you are thinking about being in conversation and in community with the folks that enable you to do this work, I'm wondering if you can tell folks what it might look like when done well for there to be engagement, particularly when we want to avoid, say, the traditional approach of universities to say we’re getting buy-in from communities. What might it look like? How might people know they’re doing it well, even if you don't give us a checklist per se?

Gaye Theresa Johnson:
Yes, thank you for asking that question. It’s kind of the ultimate conceit of institutions. And it’s not just educational institutions, but it’s also corporations, philanthropic organizations, foundations, even grassroots organizations sometimes who presume that they know what’s best for communities when there’s been organizers doing it for 35 years. It’s like, “Why don't you just ask them?” I mean, they have incredible platforms and plans and visions for the kind of society that we should all be living in, and then there are people who have very specific visions with roots back to how an institution should exist in a community. And so what I often do – and I'm not saying that I have it all right, but one thing that I think is working well for me when I say that I am engaged in community-engaged scholarship is that I maintain relationships with people in communities who are doing the kind of work that I find interesting and visionary.

So I try to be in conversation with those folks, enough that when I design a course, for example, that is community-engaged, I can go to the folks who I’ve learned so much from over many, many years and many different organizations and ask them a very simple question. “What do you need?” It’s not about me asking the students, “Hey, what do you think would be great for this community that you have never stepped foot in?” Let’s just be honest – you’ve never stepped foot, you’ve seen it on TV maybe, but you’ve never stepped foot on Skid Row in L.A. You’ve never been to Boyle Heights. You’ve never – as a person who identified as a man, you’ve never had to ask where you can get birth control. You’ve never had to do any of those things, so let me ask the people who have been doing this work for decades what they need. And sometimes what they need really feels like a lot of ordinary work.

It can be something that’s like, you know, we’ve already created in terms of – in the example of Hunger Action L.A., who I worked with just a couple years ago, they had already created this 70-page people’s guide that showed elderly folks where they could get food and other resources, and especially because their benefits are changing all the time in terms of federal aid. It changes all the time and they don't know – a lot of them don't know how to keep up with that. So they had a people’s guide to this, but they needed it updated and translated into Spanish. “Okay, we can do that.” And all of what I teach around that particular unit has to do with food insecurity, food deserts, how we treat our elderly folks, poverty, the structure of the city. And then in the meanwhile, they asked us halfway through the quarter, “Do you think any of your students would want to come and lead low-vision seniors to the farmer’s market so that they could use food stamps or SNAP to get –” because a lot of them don't know that they qualify for farmers’ markets with SNAP.

And my students are, “Yes, I want to do that.” Or ask the folks on Skid Row, “What is it that you’re doing that you could use help with?” Well, we actually have this survey, and we haven’t had the staff to get out there and ask women what their experiences are on the street. What does it feel like to have your home on the street? What are the resources that you know are available to you? We can do that. So what do we do around that? Usually I design – I have keywords that students are learning. And not just keywords like “capitalism” or “poverty,” but also “care,” “friendship,” “motherhood” – all those things that also make a society whole. That’s not a way that we often think when we’re part of institutions, but also less and less as we are part of a system that is about the bottom line, and we don't often think about the ways that this work that often seems like ordinary work is also about seeing humanity and participating in it in such a way that allows us to be in community.

I hope that that can be helpful to some folks because it also takes a huge burden off of teachers who say, “Well, I don't know, I'm trying to figure out – are there internships or whatever?” Just ask people what they need. And it puts less labor on the partner organization, because a lot of times that’s what we do. We assume, “Uh, well, we’ve got this amazing institution that’s going to help you, and our students are, uh, incredible,” but that just created a whole lot of work for the organization in the community. So to be respectful of that, but all of that starts with your actual engagement with those communities and those issues. You can't presume, as a professor, to be community engaged if you aren’t already yourself community engaged. You can't teach it if you don't know it. That’s my sort of humble offering about that.

Derrick Tillman-Kelly:
Thank you.

Bridget Burns:
That’s super helpful. As a follow-up, I'm curious about institutional leaders who are – they hear what you’re saying and they want to do real community engagement. They understand now the transactional way that things were done in the past and they want to move forward. But just like always, we have a deadline. There are financial constraints, there’s all these pressures – so I need to get it done, I need to come in and I need this work to happen, which is part of the reason why you result in that kind of transactional behavior in the past. But they want to come in and actually acknowledge, “Hey, I haven’t been here. I haven’t shown up for you in the past. I recognize the work that you’ve done. I need your help today and I want to be here in the future.”

Do you have any recommendations about how, especially institutional leaders, to proceed in a genuine way, acknowledging we haven’t been here, but we want to be a part of the solution – and any other advice about how to engage with some of those partner organizations that we’re not trying to create a ton of extra work for, but we also don't want to be tone deaf and completely ignored? They’ve been here, doing this work, and they understand better than we do.

Gaye Theresa Johnson:
Such a great question, because I think a lot of people are really paralyzed by that. They know that the history has not been good, and they need to start somewhere. I mean, I think the key here is what I think your amazing questions there – the underlying thing there is sincerity, and I think people respond to that which is to say, “We are trying to address a real blind spot here. We’re in our own accountability process about this, but we realize that we need to be in conversation with you. We don't want to dictate the terms of the conversation. We really are trying to step out of the history of the relationship, the transactional relationship that we’ve had as leaders with our community.”

And part of what surfaced for me as you were talking was this issue of deadlines, because when we have these deadlines, we’re still very much in that – like, what a lot of movement folks are talking about, really because sort of capitalists, white supremacist culture of, “It’s going to be done by now, you got to aspire to this, and then it only matters how it looks.” So stepping out of that a little bit and saying, “Okay, I'm going to take my time. I know I have this deadline, but I'm going to take as much time as I can, even within those constraints, to have the conversation on your terms. Shall we come to you? How would you like to do this because we real?” And then pay people for their time. I mean, pay them for their time because they do this so much, for so many people, for no money. And so if folks can be paid for their time, and then ask them what would their ideal kind of relationship be, I think is really important.

But one has to make the time for that because folks are, I think, we have a self-consciousness about the transactional nature of the work as if – but a lot of us are sort of brand new to that, this comfort, but organizations, they see us coming. I mean they didn’t see it as coming for decades on that, and so they already know. So if you come to folks with sincerity around, like, “We really want to put a new foot forward here. We know we can't do it without you. We don't want this to be a one-off, we want this to be ongoing. Here’s what we can do right now. We have this money. We’d like to use it by June 1, and so we’d love to hear your ideas for this. I think that kind of, sort of what was underlying your questions, a lot of folks, again, were in a moment where the appearance of everything is what matters the most, but everyone responds and is thirsty for real, intentional openness and integrity.

I think leaders are often in those positions because they can demonstrate that and they can teach that, and so just to exercise it. It’s already there. Don't need anything sort of magical in terms of formula or whatever. We just need to start for that place that allows us to proceed with that spirit.

Derrick Tillman-Kelly:
That’s super helpful. As I hear you talking about community-engaged scholar, I sort of also hear you suggesting that institutions have to do some internal work, some internal reflection. And when I first met your scholarship, it was around spatial entitlement. And so I'm thinking now about some of that internal work. Have you thought at all about how those concepts of spatial entitlement might guide university support of Black, brown, and indigenous students and people on campus?

Gaye Theresa Johnson:
Thank you for that. I love how you said, “When I first met your work,” because that’s how I feel like all the time – feel like when I encounter some work, it’s like a friend that I like, there’s some work that I like that is really helpful and useful to me, and teaching it, I feel like I have a friend standing next to me. So thanks for characterizing it that way. One thing that I’ve started to say as sort of foreground any comments that I make about on spatial entitlement is that if I was writing this book now, I would probably use a different term and concept around entitlement because look at how I – in many ways, I mean, my intentions were good. And I think that the concept is very powerful and useful, but I also feel like it ignores Land Back movements and ignores the fact that Black and brown movements, Black and brown existence on these lands is because of genocide.

But I still think there’s something to that. Who knows? Maybe I’ll be able to revise it a little bit, but I think that it’s an important concept because we have to take spaces and take up spaces where we sort of forge these brilliant possibilities, because these spaces are not assured or ever secure or stable when they’re given by the institution. Again, often in this magnanimous way, but never because it’s the right thing, but instead because, “If we don't do this, we’re going to be really embarrassed or whatever.” So I think that what we’ve seen over the past few decades now, especially with the advent of the whole testimony of multiculturalism, has been an overrepresentation of people of color in brochures about our very white institutions – I mean I’ve been on the U.C.I. website many times, and yet the number of tenure Black and Latinx professors is very, very low across the nation.

Less than one percent of Black professors are full professors across the nation. And yet we feature most prominently in the brochures and the advertisements for universities. In a way, it’s like this big scheme and scam. And it has people believing that we are represented in a democratic way on campuses when that could not be further from the truth. Because even though there’s an increased presence of students of color, there is still a very hostile environment across the board for a lot of people who are identifying in this way, but also the resources are not always what we want them to be. They are established because folks struggle for them, but they’re not what they should be, especially for undocumented folks. Coming back to your question, I think that the way that BIPOC folks establish their presence on campus is really beautiful and instructive for all of us because we often – it’s the staff, it’s the faculty. We create community wherever we go.

Sometimes it could be such a joy to see folks congregating and having a great time in what is supposed to be a very somber and professional environment. Sometimes it’s about speaking up and being brave and courageous when people are experiencing micro-aggressions or macro-aggressions, but it’s also about holding folks accountable around this issue of representation. If you’re going to use us to increase your revenue and profile around fairness, justice, and democracy as if you’re always a participating institution in this project of racial equity, then the least you can do is create the kind of environment that allows us to thrive and not have it be something we always have to struggle for. I think that’s probably how I would answer.

Bridget Burns:
Excellent. I'm just soaking that in, especially as I think about how institutions, what steps they can take to do that, to make that a reality and not just a promise.

Gaye Theresa Johnson:

Bridget Burns:
I guess the last thing I wanted to ask you about was around your theorization. I guess you’ve talked quite a bit about the beloved community. We’re thinking about what student success practitioners, folks on campus, academic administrators, what can they take away? Can you explain that concept and can you – what should they take away from the beloved community or cultural convenings as a concept?

Gaye Theresa Johnson:
Yeah. Okay, thank you. The idea of beloved community is something that a lot of folks are talking about these days, but I think it’s often something that the majority of folks don't really – they haven’t really been familiar with that process and also that term. Part of the reason is because most of who we are as a nation is antithetical to the idea of the lovely community. Beloved community is about being able to see visions of racial justice, but also of all different kinds of interrelated success. So all of the interrelated oppressions that folks experience in society, in your beloved community, you should be able to regularly access the vision for change, but also the felt meaning of what it’s like to struggle for that and be in community together to ensure a kind of collective success that we all deserve.

What does that mean and why is it antithetical to what we believe in this country? The best place to go conceptually for that is our history in the U.S. around incarceration and why so many people who are claiming beloved community are abolitionists. The reason is because the whole spirit behind incarceration is the idea that one, you profit off of people’s bodies, and whose? Indigenous, Black, and brown people, the majority of which are the ones who make up those who are caged, often also mothers who are single and poor. Mostly poor people of all colors are – how are folks who are impacted that are trans folks that are incarcerated? Incarceration also, for folks who are new to the topic, is not just about how people are caged, but also how people are surveilled and the ways in which they are predisposed not only to incarceration and surveillance, but also to death, premature death we call it.

And so what this does is it sets up a situation in which if someone makes a mistake or if they happen to be born in poverty, that they are expendable, they are undeserving of being a part of elite institutions, that they are an exception, that they are dirty, often, that they are people who need to be watched constantly, that they can be thrown away. That is kind of the bottom line here is that the idea of people’s expendability, that their life means nothing, that their futures mean nothing if they make one mistake. I was part of this project recently – a great project on misdemeanors. It’s a documentary, and it talks about how surveillance operates in such a way that – say there’s a camera that’s set up outside an emergency room and someone comes in because they’ve been injured in some kind of questionable situation.

And the surveillance camera that is set up and monitored by police takes a snapshot of the license plate of the person who brought you in. You’re the one that’s injured and they bring you in, and then that person is part of the data set that is around policing. If, God forbid, two months later you jaywalk and you’re given a ticket for that, that’s your second time inside that data set. And then God forbid you’re at a party and somebody calls the police and then your name shows up there, that’s your third time. So the odds of you going to prison are greatly increased because of surveillance. There’s all these ways that incarceration is a problem. Beloved community is in its best form antithetical to the idea that people need to be surveilled, that people cannot have the kinds of conditions in their families, in the food that they eat, in the money that they make, in the assets that they accumulate, if that’s what they desire. People can have all the things they need to be whole and healthy.

If they make a mistake or they somehow are born into a condition that they cannot help, that they are not predisposed to being thrown away. That means that in beloved community you have to engage in restorative and transformative justice processes. So there’s ways to address and redress things that come up in everyday human life – abuse, not doing well in school. If you don't do well in school, you shouldn’t have to go to jail, which is what happens a lot of times is that you go to detention, you go to jail in poor communities. What does it mean to be in beloved community? It means that folks see, “Uh, the problem here is not you. It’s the system that you were born into, it’s the condition that you’ve been exposed to.”

The beloved community says, “How can we work together to restore the conditions that are going to make it possible for you not only to succeed, but to be whole.” And when someone or a group of people wrongs you, how can we engage in the dialogue so that all of us can learn together? That is the scary thing that people characterize as abolition and is the idea that we don't need prisons if you do the things that you’re supposed to do for human beings. I talk about that a lot because – also the way to get at that, the easiest, is through cultural convening , which I’ve been doing with some amazing folks in East L.A., Omar Ramirez and Quetzal Flores and Alison De La Cruz and Claudia Alick, where we’ve been doing a lot of healing circles around us in a variety of different settings.

Derrick Tillman-Kelly:
Thank you so much. I think that thought is a pretty provocative way to close our conversation. I imagine folks are going to want to know more and want to connect with you. What’s the best way for them to connect with you and your work?

Gaye Theresa Johnson:
The best way – well, I guess the only social media I'm on really is Twitter. Here and there I’ll show up on Instagram, but I have an e-mail, you know. I'm at U.C.L.A., in the department [unintelligible 00:35:15] and Central American Studies, the first in the national. We are now a Ph.D. program [unintelligible]. I'm very proud of that. [Unintelligible] there, U.C.L.A.

Bridget Burns:
All right. Wonderful. I think that was super helpful. I'm sitting here and going to continue to wrestle with the idea of what would the manifestation of beloved community look like in student success as opposed to the old school way of bolting on solutions one by one, or even just the philosophy of when a student drops out, that they dropped out versus we failed them – that mindset shifts that inherent in our work really seems to have some common ties in terms of a mindset and a perspective. I love that.

Well, thank you again. We really appreciate the opportunity to elevate your work. Again, this show is intended to bridge the conversational divide between scholarship and practice, and hopefully administrators have walked away with a few new terms you can use and a better understanding of where the research is in this field so you’re not showing up in conversation and just kind of wondering if someone’s an expert, and especially if you’re wanting to talk about community-engaged scholarship and not showing up in a transactional way in your local university community.

Obviously now knowing about Dr. Gaye Theresa Johnson and her work will be a useful tool for you. And for those of you at home, if you’d like to nominate another scholar or a topic area for us to elevate in “Scholarship to Practice,” please comment below or reach out to Dr. Derrick Tillman-Kelly or myself. Our DMs are open on Twitter and we are always looking for new areas where there is a gap, a misunderstanding, or a space where we can tell that there is a need for this kind of conversation. Thanks for being here. We can't wait to bring you more conversations. As always, this has just been a wonderful experience. Getting some comments in here – that's wonderful. Everyone, you should have a – I feel like you’re going to leave us some food for thought and we hope that you have a wonderful day.

Gaye Theresa Johnson:
Thank you so much.

Bios of Guest Luminary and Co-Hosts

Guest Luminary: Gaye Theresa Johnson, Associate Professor, University of California, Los Angeles
Gaye Theresa Johnson, an associate professor and core faculty member in UCLA's African American Studies Department, writes and teaches on race and racism, cultural history, spatial politics, and political economy. Her first book, Spaces of Conflict, Sounds of Solidarity: Music, Race, and Spatial Entitlement in Los Angeles, was published in 2013. Her current work includes The Futures of Black Radicalism, co-edited with Alex Lubin, and These Walls Will Fall: Protest at the Intersection of Immigrant Detention and Mass Incarceration. Dr. Johnson has also contributed journal articles and book chapters to historical, cultural studies, and ethnic studies volumes. She has been a visiting researcher at Stanford University’s Center for the Comparative Study of Race and Ethnicity, and at the African Leadership Academy in Johannesburg, South Africa. She is active with the Los Angeles Community Action Network’s struggle for housing and civil rights on L.A.’s skid row, for which she earned the 2013 Freedom Now! Award. Dr. Johnson serves on the board of directors for the Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy (CAUSE) and on the advisory board for the Rosenberg Fund for Children.

Co-Host: Bridget Burns, Executive Director, University Innovation Alliance
Dr. Bridget Burns is the founding Executive Director of the University Innovation Alliance (UIA). For the past decade, she has advised university presidents, system chancellors, and state and federal policy leaders on strategies to expand access to higher education, address costs, and promote completion for students of all backgrounds. The UIA was developed during Bridget’s tenure as an American Council on Education (ACE) Fellowship at Arizona State University. She held multiple roles within the Oregon University System, including serving as Chief of Staff and Senior Policy Advisor, where she won the national award for innovation in higher education government relations. She was a National Associate for the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, and has served on several statewide governing boards including ones governing higher education institutions, financial aid policy, and policy areas impacting children and families.

Co-Host: Derrick Tillman-Kelly, Director, University Innovation Alliance Fellows Program and Network Engagement
Dr. Derrick L. Tillman-Kelly serves as the Director of the UIA Fellows Program and Network Engagement for the University Innovation Alliance. He previously served in multiple roles at The Ohio State University, including as the inaugural UIA Fellow and special assistant to the director of the Center for Higher Education Enterprise. Dr. Tillman-Kelly earned his Ph.D. in educational policy and leadership with a specialization in higher education and student affairs from Ohio State; a master’s degree in higher education and student affairs from Indiana University; and a bachelor’s degree from Illinois Wesleyan University.

About Scholarship to Practice
Scholarship to Practice is an event series that happens live on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. It also becomes a podcast episode. We interview higher education scholars, researchers, and academics that distill how a practitioner or administrator could apply learning in real-time to improve student success. At the UIA, we know that we need to bridge that gap between scholarship and practice if we’re going to stand a chance of improving student success. We all need to work together leveraging research in the field and identifying where we need more research to support greater innovation in higher ed. With its short and conversational format, this show is designed to help bridge that gap by elevating the relevant research we all could be using in our daily lives.

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