Achieving the Dream and USC Race and Equity Center Racial Equity Leadership Academy

updated july 30, 2020

Application Information

We will release a new application to the ATD Network on September 22, with applications due on November 5. Selected colleges will be notified in early December. We will use DREAM2021 as an opportunity to orient the selected colleges and kick-off the work.

updated june 11, 2020

Leadership Academy Centers Racial Equity in Student Success Work

Achieving the Dream has been a national voice and advocate for equity in higher education, recently beginning a collaborative endeavor with USC Race and Equity Center to bring a customized leadership program to ATD colleges through the launch of the 2021 Racial Equity Leadership Academy (RELA). The Racial Equity Leadership Academy, an intensive summer 2021 program, is designed to support teams of five individuals from ten colleges in the ATD Network to develop and implement a bold, strategic racial equity plan to address actionable solutions at the college campus level. The response to the call to participate in this year-long experience has been overwhelming. We are looking forward to using the momentum behind these national conversations and lessons learned through the COVID pandemic to help colleges move from a plan of aspiration to a plan of action that brings to light the needs of the community, policy, practice and the student voice through a living laboratory experience.

updated april 1, 2020

ATD and USC teams have decided to postpone the Racial Equity Leadership Academy by several months to give colleges time to manage the current situation and prepare for recovery.  This will give you more time to prepare your application and to incorporate your emerging new reality into your planning. We also think the work we have planned for you to do together with us is best conducted in person. We are moving the in-person summer session of the program on the USC campus to July 2021.

We will be using this spring and summer to work together to redesign the Academy curriculum with new eyes. Because of the world pandemic, equity work will look different. For example, what does equity kindness look like in this new environment? How do we care for our most vulnerable during this time? What does resiliency really look like? We’ll be using the COVID-19 crisis as a living laboratory to redesign the work we’ll be doing at the Academy over this next year. 

Additional information will be sent to each college that has applied or has expressed interest. We will release a new application to the network on September 22 with applications due on November 5.  Selected colleges will be notified in early December.  We will use DREAM2021 as an opportunity to orient the selected colleges and kick-off the work.


Each participating institution team will be comprised of the president or chancellor, an influential faculty member, a cabinet-level student affairs officer/diversity officer, and a cabinet-level academic leader (e.g. provost, vice provost).

In the Academy, college teams will:

  • Engage in eight (8) racial equity focused modules.
  • Identify a racial equity change effort to implement.
  • Be introduced to topics, frameworks, evidence-based readings, books, and practical tools on racial equity.
  • Participate in honest dialogue about racial topics.
  • Receive support from an ATD coach during one campus visit and one virtual visit over the academic year.
  • Develop a long-range vision that will guide their identified racial equity change effort.

By the end of the Academy, college teams will have identified a racial equity change effort, participated in coaching engagements, developed a new vision for their campus’ racial equity work, and launched the rollout of their racial equity change effort with a comprehensive, prioritized action plan. The identified effort and action plan should align with each college’s Student Success Action Plan and strategic plan. The overall expected outcomes are an increase in student persistence and completion through an intentional design to eliminate structural barriers to equity.


In the context of the Racial Equity Leadership Academy, ATD is focusing on one component of equity. ATD’s Statement on Equity approaches equity broadly and highlights the expectation that colleges dismantle structural barriers.

The USC Race and Equity Center defines racial equity as: Understanding and deliberately meeting the particular needs of specific racial and ethnic groups; achieving parity in opportunity, performance, and wellness outcomes; correcting structures, systems, cultures, and policies that (re)produce racial stress and stratification; and fostering and sustaining environments that people across all racial and ethnic groups experience as fair, affirming, and inclusive.

ATD and the USC Race and Equity Center acknowledge the intersectionality of equity work and anticipate further opportunities to explore other facets of equity in the future.



  • To be considered, colleges must be active in the ATD network for a period of three years or more and be in good standing. Priority will be given to Leader Colleges and Leader Colleges of Distinction.

Successful applicants will be able to demonstrate:

  • Existing organizational commitment to racial equity change work.
  • Progress in the following areas: data capacity building, student success initiative alignment with equity focused work, campus engagement in achieving student success goals with a focus on racial equity.
  • Progress on at least one priority area related to campus wide racial equity reform.


Date Activity
September 22, 2020 Application released to ATD Network
November 5, 2020 Applications due by 5:00 p.m. ET/ 2:00 p.m. PT
December 9, 2020 Selected colleges announced
February 17, 2021 In-person orientation for selected colleges at DREAM 2021 in Orlando, FL
July 2021 In-person summer intensive convening at the University of Southern California



To learn more or for any questions, please email



There are no resources related to this initiative.

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