Student Success Centers: Elevating Student Voice and Their Truths for Institutional Transformation

Presented at the American Association of Colleges & Universities 2023 Conference

At a Glance

In March 2023, the Student Success Center Network presented at the American Association of Colleges & Universities (AAC&U) Conference on Diversity, Equity, and Student Success in the session Student Success Centers: Elevating Student Voice and their Truths for Institutional Transformation. Attending the AAC&U Conference provided an opportunity to engage with peers from across the country to share best practices and reflect on our experiences as we all strive to keep students at the center of our commitment to systemic educational transformation.

About the Program

The Student Success Center Network is dedicated to economic advancement and racial justice by dramatically and equitably increasing the number of students earning postsecondary credentials with value in the labor market.

Published apr. 11, 2023

It was invaluable for us to learn from one another and share what we were doing with's one thing to hear about the work in an online meeting, but it was really powerful to listen to my SSCN colleagues speak about their Student Success Centers’ work and their passion for the work and to reflect on the implications for our Center’s current practice.

Christine Bailie, Director of Institutional Strategy, Texas Success Center

Here Is What We Learned:

[Megaphone icon] Many institutions recognize the importance of student voice.

Institutions are actively working to find new ways to learn about students’ experiences and engage students directly in education reform. The AAC&U event was well attended and reflected a strong commitment to this critical work. If you’re looking for peers in your state engaged in this work, we encourage you to connect with the Student Success Center Network.

[Handshake in front of a government building icon] National, state, and local politics have had (and continue to have) a profound effect on the landscape of higher education.

This is especially true when it comes to acknowledging and acting on the needs of students underrepresented in higher education. Not every state affords education partners the ability to boldly envision a system that advances racial, social, and economic justice by achieving equitable student aspiration, access, economic progress, and educational career attainment. But we can drive progress by bringing students to the table. Take advantage of opportunities to elevate student voices to legislators and other partners. Create platforms for students to share in their own words. Cultivate students as leaders. Use data to show that many student experiences are shared and make the case for system change. While legislative change is slow, it isn’t impossible. For inspiration, check out this resource to find out how JFF’s Building Equitable Pathways team is keeping equity at the center of policy work.

[Lightbulb above a group of people, talking to each other and collaborating icon] There are a variety of ways to elevate student voices.

The Kentucky Student Success Collaborative is instituting a structured, hands-on internship model to engage students in understanding student needs. The Texas Student Success Center is collaborating with nationally recognized research organizations to create structured student focus groups designed to gather and intentionally act on student feedback. The Washington Student Success Center is growing an innovative student opportunity through the Diversity, Equity, and Anti-racism Leadership (IDEAL) Fellowship encouraging students to advocate for justice in and out of the classroom.

Many thanks to Christine Bailie of the Texas Success Center, Phyllis L. Clark of the Kentucky Student Success Collaborative, Monica Wilson of the Washington Student Success Center, and Kelley Evans of Jobs for the Future for representing the Student Success Center Network and contributing to this session.

Learn more about the SSCN and how you can get involved.

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