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Collaborative project to improve graduation rates of students with learning disabilities

Jordan D. Troisi, Ph.D.
Over the past decade, enrollment rates for students with learning disabilities (LD) in postsecondary institutions have consistently and dramatically increased. However, the graduation rates of students with LD have remained significantly lower than those of students without LD; the majority of students with LD either do not graduate on time or do not graduate at all. In order to combat these low graduation rates, we are interested in critically examining academic accommodation practices and pedagogical practices that would create a more inclusive classroom environment. For example, integrating Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles into the collegiate classroom can level the playing field, creating fewer discrepancies between students with LD and those without.

The Associated Colleges of the South (ACS) Diversity and Inclusion grant provides us the opportunity to implement more inclusive educational practices. We wish to collaborate with individuals at other ACS institutions to improve accommodation and/or pedagogical practices. While we are still thinking about deliverables, and are open to discussion of a preferred path forward, one of them might be to facilitate the adoption of best practices in our centers for teaching and learning, counseling centers, and offices of disabilities services. This could be accomplished, for example, by providing train the trainer workshops on how to implement these best practices. Our project goal is to improve graduation rates of students with LD by changing institutional cultures through the implementation of established models such as UDL.

Fostering diversity though New Play Development

Matthew R. Hallock, matthew.hallock@centre.edu

The Farm Theater College Collaboration Project: Centre College’s Dramatic Arts Program will produce, along with two additional ACS institutions, a new play in collaboration with an early career playwright chosen and mentored by The Farm Theater (NYC). The Farm has a commitment to fostering early career female playwrights (an underrepresented set of voices in the discipline, even today).

Additionally, the plays generated by the College Collaboration Project provide opportunities to reach out to casting pools that are not always drawn to or, frankly, required for the production of other plays in the canon. It is our goal to utilize this project to not only introduce our students to the process of new play development but also to amplify and energize our efforts to reach out to and include more diverse constituencies of the student body for participation and inclusion in the work of our program.

Building an Inclusive Canon in Classrooms and on Stages at Three ACS Member Institutions

John Michael Cooper,  cooperm@southwestern.edu

This project aims to bring applied or studio contributors at three ACS member schools together with their academic counterparts (history, theory) in Music and Theater departments in order to make the content and format of performances as well as the content and approaches in classrooms more representative of repertoires typically excluded from the canon. Components could include the creation of an open-access online repository of scores, syllabi, and texts of public-domain and Creative Commons works of music and theater; annual professional development workshops for faculty at the participating institutions; performances and course content decentered from the traditional canon and focused instead on those of groups historically marginalized in the U.S.; uploads of these performances to a public-access video or audio site such as YouTube, Vimeo, etc.; and a series of short instructional/introductory videos for select performances and projects.

A shared digital collection of materials (photographs, manuscripts, campus documentation, diaries, etc.) relating to the integration of women and students of color into the college(s).

Carey Frey, et al., carrie.frey@centre.edu


Full list of Centre collaborators:


  • Stan Campbell (Director of Library Services)
  • Carrie Frey (Associate Director of Library Services)
  • Beth Morgan (Archivist and Head Cataloger)
  • Sara Egge (Assistant Professor of History)
  • Tara Strauch (Assistant Professor of History)
  • Andrea Abrams (Associate Professor of Anthropology)
  • James Bloom (Associate Professor of Art History and Chair of Art History and Studio Art)
  • Amy Frederick (Visiting Professor of Art History)
  • Rodmon King (Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs and Diversity Initiatives)


Specific idea for proposal   


The history and development of campus diversity in terms of the intersectionality of race and gender as seen through the lens of integration at select ACS colleges.  Gathering and digitizing materials related to integration at ACS schools and making these materials available in a collaborative digital repository will allow students and other researchers to see the arc of educational opportunity over time.  This repository will help to illuminate the narrow fissure of possibility in the realm of higher education that was awarded to a select few based on socioeconomic status, race, and gender and also to apply this historical knowledge to current social and political events.


Diversity Statement

Diversity is integral to higher education’s mission to enable both access and success for all individuals. Access is more than merely admission to college. It involves the creation of opportunity networks that enable success. Success entails more than graduation from college. It “involves building pathways to full social and economic citizenship” (Sturm, 2011). Institutions must provide access and promote success for all stakeholders including students, faculty, and staff through an architecture that includes but is not limited to nondiscriminatory systems, policies, structures, and practices on admissions, retention, religious or cultural observances, disability services, resource allocation, rights and responsibilities, and adjudication processes. In order for diversity to be fully realized, the institution’s core priorities, operative values and assumptions (i.e., the values and assumptions that are revealed by and actually guide the institution’s policies and practices), structures, and day-to-day practices must reflect and be centrally informed by full participation. “Full participation is an affirmative value focused on creating institutions that enable people, whatever their identity, background, or institutional position, to thrive, realize their capabilities, engage meaningfully in institutional life, and contribute to the flourishing of others” (Sturm 2010). Full participation provides a way of conceptualizing and operationalizing student, staff, and faculty diversity as a transformational force within communities on and off campus.

This project is central to the building and sustaining of an institutional architecture of diversity and inclusion.  By preserving and sharing the history of campus diversity and inclusion efforts at ACS institutions, this project not only preserves important parts of institutional history and memory, but also can create opportunities for communities to envision future diversity initiatives.


Goals for creating the Pathways to Diversity Digital Collection:


  • Curricular connections are clear with the creation of the Pathways to Diversity Collection, especially in the fields of Gender Studies, American History, and Art History
  • Gender Studies:  The integration of the women’s college speaks to a specific point in the history of American education during which women’s education began to more closely mirror the goals and outcomes afforded men.  Previously, the education of women included skills that were thought to be “women centric,“ and these encompassed homemaking skills.  The integration of women at Centre College shines a light on a specific point in American History, as well as the times preceding and following, all of which deserve some scrutiny and analysis regarding the role of women in American society and how the availability of a college experience more equal to the one offered to men changed and shaped this role.
  • American History: Both the integration of the women’s college and racial integration provide a historical map of how diversity among the student population changed the campus at Centre, while also reflecting the changing roles and social constraints for women and individuals of color in the broader social construct during the civil rights movement.
  • The study of inequality and difference by race, gender, class, and region in Anthropology and Sociology classes make the development of this digital collection a unique class product, as well as a learning tool for the classes involved.
  • Finally, Art historians will be interested in the photographs and textual materials from our archives as used to create a visual representation of the historical story of Centre College and, again, of the national social and political climate surrounding women’s rights and civil rights.

Including particular courses in the development of the collection will cultivate digital literacy among students, while also allowing students to touch primary materials from the archives in the development of an online product of scholarship.

The development of this shared digital collection will enable each local institution to share the particular historical context surrounding the inclusion of female and African American students at the home institution while also allowing students and scholars to learn from the collective stories to paint a broader picture of these issues in American Southern history.



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