The resilience of our students, faculty, staff, and administrators was on full display over the past year, making graduation season more emotional (with gratitude and admiration) than ever before. The pandemic revealed so much about our students and our institutions. We were reminded of our students vulnerability to sudden financial difficulty and trauma, yet we also saw how nimble our campuses were capable of being when our students needed help.
At the UIA, thinking about graduation always brings us back to completion grants, an intervention first developed at Georgia State University and later scaled to every UIA institution (with the support of Ascendium Education and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation). Last month we shared our playbook and the lessons we learned— both positive and negative— about adopting and adapting strategic financial interventions. We're grateful for the impact these grants have had on the lives of our students, and we hope this playbook helps you support your students.
When the UIA first launched in 2014, one of the core commitments in our work was to cultivate and amplify a different kind of conversation in our sector: one that talks about failure, shares learning from things that don't go as planned, and one that creates social safety to help higher education innovate more rapidly. We were tired of perfectly curated stories bragging about success rather than sharing learning, and we suspected a more candid and honest dialogue might help our sector evolve and improve more rapidly to serve the needs of the students we care about.
UCR Chancellor Kim Wilcox was quoted in Goldie Blumenstyk's 2014 Chronicle article when we launched "UIA's value would come not only from what it does right but also from its failures. "No one ever talks about what didn't work," and "no one else can learn from that."
He was right! Over the past seven years, we have shared countless examples of things that didn't go as planned, and in every circumstance, we are better for it. The completion grants playbook would not be as effective if we were polishing things up and hiding the ball. Instead, we learned and shared the most valuable lessons as a result of our commitment to talking about and learning from failure. For example, we found that we could use completion grants to get a student to graduation, but we had no idea that there could still be an extra fee preventing a graduate from accessing their transcripts— which could make their degree far less usable. Rather than patting ourselves on the back for implementing a completion grant perfectly as planned, going through this process helped us identify an entirely different problem we weren't aware of and explore solutions.
What is something you learned only because of things not going as planned? I would love to hear about it.
UIA Member Spotlight
Georgia State's Tim Renick was named one of the world's greatest leaders by Fortune magazine. Graduation rates at the school have increased 70% over the past decade and are now equal across demographic groups. Read more.
Learn With Us
- Inclusivity, the Arts, and Empathic Leadership
Gabrielle Starr, Pomona College President
- Community-Engaged Scholarship and Proactive Leadership
Gaye Theresa Johnson, Associate Professor, University of California, Los Angeles
- How COVID Is Driving Positive Changes in Higher Ed
We know your time is limited. That's why each issue, we'll choose THE BEST things we watched, listened to, or read.
- Brené Brown with Priya Parker: A Meeting Makeover (Brené Brown's Dare to Lead podcast)
- Remote Work Guidance and Best Practices (Purdue University)
- Some Colleges Stop Holding Transcripts Hostage Over Unpaid Bills (Hechinger Report)
Events to Put on Your Radar
Scholarship to Practice
Other Notable Events
Stuff we LOVE
We loved the prompts from this free workbook on The Art of Gathering from Priya Parker, designed to help us rethink how we gather in person.
As we start coming back together, Parker (the author of The Art of Gathering) suggests asking yourself the following questions about any convening or meeting you might want to reimagine.
- Why are we meeting?
- What do we call this meeting/why?
- Should we still call it that?
- How should we spend our time?
- How should we decide our agenda?
- What is it that we are all here for?
- Is the way we are coming together serving that purpose?
A Final Note
In the first episode of Weekly Wisdom, Michael Crow, Arizona State University president, shared with us about adjusting plans to match realities and leading in the moment despite the distractions of constant change.
“It's an error to sit back and say that we're just going to weather the storm and then re-launch the vision. We know now the world is much more complicated than we thought. Historic institutions that are non-adaptive are going to have difficulty. We need to instill the ability to adjust and keep performing our mission as a core part of what we do.” - Michael Crow