September 2020 Newsletter

Dear Center for Academic Innovation Community,

Wherever you are learning as we begin a new hybrid academic year, I want to extend a warm welcome to each of you. As we continue to fulfill our mission and connect with brilliant partners and learners around the world, we can feel, even through screens, that warmth and compassion are essential in a year of unthinkable loss and unrest. This year is at once a series of mystifying tragedies and, at the same time, brings clarity to questions about the need for structural change. Each crisis we face together in 2020 adds a layer of crushing complexity. Yet, it is now undeniably clear that we need to come together with greater urgency to create change and realize a healthy and just world.

The start of a new academic year typically brings new energy and new ideas. Instead, in fall 2020, we start with a realization that old problems fueling structural inequalities remain unaddressed. Rather than celebrating a new semester on campus, in this year of unrelenting struggle, we mourn in isolation in September with the loss of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg only a few short months after the loss of Congressman John Lewis. Our hearts are heavy with thoughts of these trailblazing leaders who spoke up often and made good trouble based on good principles.

However, we can channel the life and wisdom of two of the greatest change-makers of them all by continuing their march toward equality. Ginsberg gifted us all with a perfect model of passion, persistence, and purpose as she helped us see that “real change, enduring change, happens one step at a time.” Lewis helped us believe in the power of community, showing us year after year that “nothing can stop the power of a committed and determined people to make a difference in our society.”

At the Center for Academic Innovation, we believe an uncommon education is possible for all. We believe talent exists everywhere. We believe a community of learners that reflects the world around us will develop better solutions for society. We believe an informed, peaceful, equitable, and empowered society is dependent on learners everywhere adopting a learning lifestyle.

We also understand access to higher education is not equal. We are proud of our efforts prior to the pandemic to lower barriers to entrance and success in higher education. We’ve worked with our community to create and scale innovations that prioritize inclusivity and accessibility. Through each 2020 crisis, we have managed to not only sustain but accelerate our efforts to increase access, affordability, and inclusivity. In a time of contraction and isolation, we are expanding access to a community of individuals committed to making a difference in our society.

A campus community historically thrives with greater density and diversity. The pandemic has forced us to spread out and lower our physical density. At the same time, the social inequalities illuminated during the pandemic must accelerate our path toward ensuring greater diversity exists wherever ideas may surface and wherever decisions are made.

At the Center for Academic Innovation, this begins by helping all learners realize their lifelong potential. Justice Ginsberg understood that in order to overcome inequality, learning must be activated. She also knew that learning  never stops, writing”Reading is the key that opens doors to many good things in life. Reading shaped my dreams, and more reading helped me make my dreams come true.”

I wish you all good health and greater peace during these dark hours. I know each of you is taking on burdens beyond your worst forecasts for 2020. Thank you for continuing to join us on a long march toward ending educational privilege.

Wherever you are reading and shaping your dreams, go blue!

James DeVaney

Associate Vice Provost for Academic Innovation

Founding Executive Director of the Center for Academic Innovation

screencap of Sean Swider using ViewPoint tool