ATD President and CEO Dr. Karen A. Stout Delivers Keynote Address at South Africa Conference

“We have a tremendous opportunity before us in being able to teach, train, and nurture the diverse group of students coming to us for an education, but we cannot ignore the historical legacy of inequality and the severe disadvantages many of our students have had to overcome just to step foot onto our campuses,” said Dr. Stout

Achieving the Dream (ATD) President and CEO, Dr. Karen A. Stout, was invited to participate as a workshop presenter and keynote speaker at the 2019 Siyaphumelela Conference at the end of June in Johannesburg, South Africa. As part of the Kresge Foundation’s Siyaphumelela project, ATD provides data coaching services to five universities to build data capacity within their institutions. Dr. Stout’s keynote, Helping All Students Succeed: Insights from the American Community College Experience, took a broad look at ATD’s work over our 15 years in the college reform movement. She shared lessons that ATD has learned, and she spoke of the evolving model to ensure sustainability.

During her address, Dr. Stout cited the common barriers to success faced by students in South Africa and the United States. She conveyed her own story of first-generation student success, sharing that while she was the first in her family to go directly from high school to college, the first college graduation she attended was her own father’s. He went to school in the evenings, juggling a full-time job and a family. Like many students, her father relied on the support of systemic policies and supports at the federal level. Today, colleges are doing even more to help students from all backgrounds succeed.

During her remarks, Dr. Stout stated, “We cannot fail to do better, but the task before us – increasing student success for all students, particularly those disadvantaged by income, race, disability, and sexual orientation – is imperative, but also daunting and immense.” She shared that throughout the years of creating frameworks to help colleges organize their reform, ATD has seen successful colleges build strong fundamentals, adopt an organizing framework, advance their own unique theory of change, and move with both patience and a sense of urgency. She mentioned ATD’s two 2019 Leah Meyer Austin Award winners, Amarillo College and Columbus State Community College, as prime examples of colleges that created frameworks that were specific for the communities they serve.

In addition to delivering the keynote address, Dr. Stout led a workshop, Helping students succeed through Holistic Student Supports. The workshop detailed the Holistic Student Supports redesign that ATD has fine-tuned over the past few years. Dr. Stout provided examples of the many barriers that students must overcome in America while pursuing higher education, and she conveyed similarities to the barriers South African students face. She spoke of the work that colleges have done to redesign and re-think the supports they provide for students to be successful, and of the critical role that higher education plays in economic and social mobility in South Africa and the United States.


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