Advancing Equity On Campus with Talent from Inside the CSU

By Thad Nodine  

July 2022

The Middle Leadership Academy, the flagship program of the CSU Student Success Network, is making inroads in supporting campuses in addressing their equity goals while also supporting CSU faculty, staff, and administrators in stepping into leadership roles to improve equitable student learning and success. Nineteen of the 23 CSU campuses have sent a team to the Academy since its inception five years ago, in 2017-18. Twelve campuses have participated during two or more years. Five campuses have participated for three or more years. 

The Academy is unique in the CSU in offering campus teams of faculty, staff, and administrators a year-long, hands-on opportunity to plan and undertake a substantial equity project on their campus. The teams bring together people who work on common issues but from different perspectives, across divisions, programs, and units on campus. The Academy creates the structure and time for them to work collectively to engage with student data, map out plans for equitable change, and reach out to other stakeholders on their campus to shape these plans and overcome resistance in implementation. 

In the process, team members step into leadership roles as they plan and implement change strategies for their campus. They provide feedback to and gain insights from faculty, staff, and administrators on other campus teams. They expand their relationships and networks on their campus and across the CSU, gaining allies in this equity work. They also advance their career opportunities. 

What does the experience involve? Dr. Karyn Scissum Gunn participated in the Academy as a team member in 2020-21 and as a team lead in 2019-20. At the time, she was associate vice president for academic operations/student success at Cal State Fullerton. She has since advanced in her own career and now serves as provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at CSU Long Beach. In the video interview below, Dr. Scissum Gunn describes the vision of the Academy and her takeaways from it. 

Leadership programs in higher education typically feature outside experts providing insights to participants, and the Academy does make outside research and expertise available when appropriate. The Academy is organized, however, around using the experiences and insights of people inside the CSU—talent from CSU faculty, staff, and administrators like Dr. Scissum Gunn—to support campuses in addressing their equity goals. The Academy’s curriculum and structure encourage people to share their knowledge, experiences, and innovations as they step into leadership roles to improve equitable student learning and success. Cross-campus teams build relationships and share ideas across divisions and programs on their campus, and across campuses as well. As Dr. Scissum Gunn describes, “It gave us an opportunity to engage with like-minded individuals from other campuses in the CSU … that was really beneficial.”   

Is your campus facing challenges in reaching equity goals? Could your campus benefit from having a cross-campus team work collaboratively to develop a plan to address an equity challenge? Applications are now being accepted for the Academy for 2022-23, with the events planned for in-person participation. Campus teams include up to six people with diverse roles, including faculty, staff, administrators, and students. Participation is free, and all travel, food, and lodging costs are reimbursed by the CSU Network. Learn more about the Academy here