Diversity & Technology: The New Peanut Butter and Jelly

I am traveling home from the 2022 EDUCAUSE Conference where I was invited to serve on two panels by the folx at Degree Analytics. During one of the panels, I was asked about the relationship between D&I and Technology. I described the relationship as the new Peanut Butter and Jelly. While both can successfully exist independently it's the combination that creates a dynamic, powerful, and even tantalizing duo. When I began this work more than a decade ago, I looked to my colleagues in IT - as the geniuses that spoke computer set-up and systems. I called when I wanted my laptop reconfigured or when I heard about a new technology from one of my colleagues. While I considered them colleagues, I didn't see them as partners in advancing D&I.

Now, I see the relationship between D&I and technology as the future in avoiding the 'illusion of inclusion'. You'll hear me say often that inclusion is illusory - it's the floating person trick - we have created optical illusions that makes it appear as though we are making great strides towards equity, equality, inclusion, and belonging. When I partnered with the IT folx which speak the systems, the data, and predictive analytics - I began to see why illusion was so illusory - I was missing a huge component. I realized that transitioning from magic to reality required me to look at the data differently. Instead of looking at persistence, retention, and graduation (PRG) rates in isolation - what if I added the layers of engagement such as library usage, resource center usage, D2L engagement time, and time in both academic and non-academic spaces. Would that allow me to see not only how students are engaging but what resources and support structures I can put into place to support student success - specifically students that have historically lower PRG rates.

Simple right - WRONG! Going down the rabbit hole of aligning IT/TECH as a meaningful partner with D&I requires a review of how we define privacy, dialogues with students on how we will use the data, permissions, opt-in and opt-out agreements as well as read for it....a culture shift. If we continue to repeat the same behaviors and look at the same data - we will get the same results. Here's my first challenge to you - look at your 1981 PRG rates for populations of color and compare them to you 2021 PRG rates for populations of color - with the time and energy we invest - we should be further along. We make a promise to each generation of students that enter our halls and right now, we are not living up to our promise.

Now that I have identified my tech team as the Jelly to my D&I Peanut's time for me to get to work! Thank you, Degree Analytics - new way of thinking means new possibilities for our students!

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