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Investigation, Ideation, Experimentation: Creative Approaches to Educational Leadership and Teaching

A panel discussion of leadership in higher ed with Lisa Kay Solomon, Gaye Theresa Johnson, Arthur Levine, and Cynthia Teniente-Matson.

[Below is a transcript of the panel discussion.]

Tara Graham, Director of Educator Community, Course Hero: I think it goes without saying that, within the past 15 seconds, I just crossed off two major milestones on my personal bucket list. One, walk-in music. It’s a little intense, but I kind of recommend it. It’s something you’ve got to try. Two, high-fiving former Secretary of Labor Dr. Reich—let’s give him another round of applause. Oh, PS, go Bears! All right, so who am I? My name is Tara Graham, and I’m the director of the Educator Community here at Course Hero. Usually when I say that, the question that follows is, “What do you do?” What educator community requires directing—or wants directing, moreover?

The thing is, that’s not what I do. What that means is that I have the unique privilege of identifying talented educators doing really creative work, on campuses, in classrooms around the country. These are educators that are looking around, not entirely satisfied with the systems and the approaches that we have inherited many, many years ago. So, they’re getting a little experimental. They’re getting a little creative. And my job is to connect with them and ask questions, ask them, “What do you teach? How do you teach what you teach?” And then we find ways to spotlight some of the experimentation that’s happening, some of the creativity. Then we try to share that creativity, that innovation with our growing online community of educators. Ultimately what we want to create is an online learning library that is as useful to educators as it has been to students for more than a decade.

When we were thinking about the programming for this event, I thought there has to be a way we can share with the audience of educators some glimpse, some insight into the conversations that I get to have every day, because they’re quite special. Ultimately we landed on assembling a panel of education leaders and rockstar teachers whom we want to put in conversation with each other, so that they can explore just how each of them are doing things just a little bit differently. Who are these panelists?

We’re going to start with our moderator, Lisa Kay Solomon. She is the founding chair of Transformational Practices at Singularity University. She also teaches very popular courses at the Stanford d.school. We have Dr. Gaye Theresa Johnson. She is an associate professor of Chicana/o Studies at the University of California Los Angeles. Her social justice courses attract more than 850 students. She has 17 TAs. Clearly she’s doing something right. We have Dr. Arthur Levine. He is the president of the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, former president of Columbia Teachers College. And we have Dr. Cynthia Matson. She is the president of Texas A&M University. I met Dr. Matson recently at a SXSW EDU event, and I was so impressed with some of the ways that she is thinking about engaging and supporting first-generation students to try to get them to graduation. Yes, we’re going to cover some of that.

I’m not going to speak anymore. Let’s go ahead and bring the panel on out. Again, I hope you enjoy these conversations as much as I do.

Lisa Kay Solomon, Chair, Transformational Practices and Leadership, Singularity University: Well, it is an absolute pleasure to be here with all of you and to be in conversation with these wonderful educational pioneers. I’m going to nickname this panel. This is going to be known now as the Scrappy Panel, following Dr. Reich. You are the scrappy administrators, educators, pioneers in education. I thought it might be helpful for us just to get a quick show of hands of who is in the audience, because we have a tremendous array of perspectives here. We wanted to make sure we’re really tailoring to all of you. So please raise your hand if you are an educator, you’re in the classroom. Fantastic. What about an administrator? Wonderful, some repeats. And what about those just supporting the education ecosystem more broadly—funders, policy makers, specialists? All right, fantastic. You are in the right place. This is the panel for you, because we have all those perspectives here tonight. And what we want to do is really dive into what is happening across these different perspectives. What’s going on that’s working regarding student readiness and preparedness, and to try to give you some insights on what these great educators are doing.

I want to start this conversation really thinking about this moment in time. So Dr. Reich talked about 1981 brain versus 2018 brain. Where are we in this moment in time? Is this, in fact, a transformational moment for higher ed? And so, Arthur, I’d love to start with you as the president of Woodrow Wilson and the former president of Teachers College in Columbia. You’ve been looking at trends related to higher ed for a long time. What are you seeing right now around this moment in time?

Arthur Levine, President, Woodrow Wilson Foundation: Hi, everybody. I don’t even know how to be scrappy. I’ll work on it. In any case, let me tell you something you all know, which is that the country is going through profound, unceasing, and accelerating change as it moves from a national, analog, industrial economy to a global, digital, information economy. And what happens when that occurs is that all of our social institutions get left behind. They were created for the former. And now they seem broken. They don’t seem to work as well as they once did. Periods of profound change like this are rare. We’ve only had one other, when the country moved from an agrarian to an industrial society. And when that occurred, higher education was transformed. And it’s going to be transformed once again.

It transformed in seven stages. The first one was government. And industry looked at higher education, said, “God, this stuff’s anachronistic and it costs too much.” Unusual complaints. And higher education responded by saying, “You’re wrong.” Third stage was there was experimentation across curriculum, students, calendars, staffing, pedagogy for decades. Then what emerged were some real models to guide the future: Johns Hopkins, MIT, the land grant colleges and Cornell. And then this stuff diffused. It diffused all over the country. And then what happened was it got standardized. It was like the Wild West. And then it all got integrated. And the modern model of the industrial university was created. Here’s where I think we are: We’re in the first four stages, which is [that] the criticism level is high. Any number of institutions are saying it’s not fair, it’s not accurate. There are a cornucopia of experiments across every aspect of higher education. We don’t know which ones work. We don’t know which ones don’t work, but we’re trying them. And finally, models may be emerging. It’s an incredibly exciting time. Basically, if you can dream it, you can do it today.

Solomon: Well, that’s an exciting opening to thinking about the possibilities. Cynthia, I’d love to hear your perspective. So you’ve been the president of Texas A&M-San Antonio for about three years. And in your tenure you’ve made a lot of changes at the university level. What are some things that you’re seeing right now that [are] happening at the university level at this moment?

Cynthia Matson, President, Texas A&M University-San Antonio: I would say nationally—separate from what we’re doing specifically at our campus—to build on what Dr. Levine was suggesting, the value proposition is really different today, in today’s society. You have people questioning more the value of higher education. You have this very emboldened society in terms of what’s happening in the classroom. The accountability metrics are changing on a regular basis. And to some extent, from the national level—far more so of course than what’s happening on the campus—some question about reality, question about facts, de-emphasis in some cases on science and technology and an emphasis on science and technology from industry. You have all these competing priorities. And to think about that, you need to really be thinking with intelligent risk from a leadership perspective in terms of where we’re placing our resources and where we’re placing our influences. You have legislators and other stakeholders responding to what they perceive higher education is doing or not doing, with legislation around not just testing in K through 12, but a lot more models like early college high school or dual credit, dual enrollments, etc., that are also placing these inherent pressures on university educators at this time.

And then we also see, because of the great shift in demography, the issues around student readiness—which have always been there, but they’re at a higher level, a greater emphasis on cultural capital, a greater emphasis on equity mindedness, and a greater emphasis about how we educate a large swatch of students who come to us without college in their family history. And what does that mean for the institution as a whole, nationally to scale, the institution as a whole, and for faculty down at that level and what they’re doing in the classroom. So these proliferations really change the leadership question and the conversations at the executive team level about how universities are administered, how departments are administered, and what happens at the microcultures around that. I’ll talk more with specificity about examples as we go through the discussion.

Solomon: Yeah, thank you for that. And as I hear you talk, I’m reminded of what Dr. Reich just said around the essence of leadership as being an educator and modeling what good thinking looks like, particularly at this moment where all of these tensions are unfolding, what feels like on a daily basis.

Matson: It really challenges us to think about what you were talking about earlier, in design thinking and systems thinking to the problems that we’re facing now.

Solomon: Absolutely. Well, I think that’s a great segue. Gaye, I’d love to hear what’s happening from your perspective in the classroom. You’re teaching very new kinds of classes, both in terms of the content blended across discipline and the pedagogy. And I wondered if you could share a little bit about what you’re seeing at the classroom level as it relates to this moment in time and how we need to prepare students.

Dr. Gaye Theresa Johnson, Associate Professor, Chicano Studies, UCLA: Absolutely. Well, it is an incredible moment to be teaching. The first time that I taught the Introduction to Chicana and Chicano Studies was oh, about … I think that quarter started just a few days after the inauguration of the 45th president. And so we were watching in real time many of the things that I teach around political economy, around coalitional politics, but especially around racism and structural racism. And so as the course unfolded, we were watching the Muslim ban—we’re still watching the Muslim ban—we were watching the terrorizing of families, of children around these questions of immigration and detention. And many of my students, even though UCLA is a very elite school in many respects, many of my students are undocumented, or they have a brother or a sister or a parent who is undocumented. And so I began the quarter just as I usually have in all my years of teaching. I usually have this kind of shock and awe method where I teach about structural racism and I sort of decimate what you think you already knew about what racism is. And I teach some key texts that really challenge the assumptions that all of us make no matter what our background.

And I realized about four weeks into the quarter that as I moved onto the second sort of strategy that I deploy, which is to then kind of build people back up by talking about resistance, by talking about the organization and communities that are already doing the work that we keep saying needs to happen, and about the freedom dreams that so many people have imagined on their way to a more democratic society. I realized that what I was doing in that first kind of mode was in many ways traumatizing, retraumatizing students who are living structural racism but in a much more evident way than ever before.

And so I had to stop in the middle of that quarter and say to my students, “I’ve done this for a long time. But I have to apologize, because I realize that I was wrong about what you know in your everyday lived experiences about how these things, these policies—or at least the threat of these policies—is affecting you and your communities. And I want now to focus on all of these beautiful things that people have always been doing, and also to think about how it is that we in institutions of higher education believe, often, that we have the answers. So we throw out these new prescriptions about what we need to do. But people have been organizing and dreaming and doing art and music for so long around these same issues and giving us the prescriptions. It’s the reason why many of us professors have jobs, is because we study these strategies of resistance.” And so this was a big change for me, so it transformed me in many respects. And it was a magical moment, because we all have to reckon with the real damage that all of these things are causing for us. But we also have to reckon with the human element of it, and to get in there as educators and not just talk about policy but instead to talk about love and possibility and freedom and imagination. And that’s how it changed me.

Solomon: I imagine that was a very powerful experience for them and for you—and also modeling what does it mean to be a dynamic learner in the moment, to really pay attention to what’s happening in the external world and be able to shift from a plan that you had to something new. It’s a wonderful segue to what I want to talk about now, which is what are some of the innovations that are actually happening and that you are in fact leading and pioneering, and what can this great group of educators and administrators and policy makers learn from it? Cynthia, I want to start with you, because it really strikes me that in the three years you’ve been in this position, you’ve really made some very intentional changes about thinking around the holistic support of the student experience—beyond the student itself, but really thinking about who is around the student, particularly as many of them are the first to go to college. And I wonder if you can share some of the changes you’ve been putting into place.

Matson: Absolutely. In San Antonio, we believe that we model what the nature of the future will be like. My institution, my freshman classes, are around 80% self-identified as Hispanic or African-American, but mostly Hispanic. Overall, 70% Hispanic, 70-plus percent first generation, and a large number of low-income students. So when we thought about the educational experience as a whole for this particular category—with all positivity, cultural affirmation, recognizing cultural capital and all the assets they bring with them—we really then looked at what was our model and how we were going to educate this. And John Gardener says, “Start with what you know, what you know about students, and build the experience around that.” So we pulled back several things. We removed as many choices as possible. There’s a lot more prescription around how the student experience occurs. We experimented with—and everything we do, we do to scale. We don’t pilot very much. My philosophy is that when we’re … time is our enemy. And that when we are piloting, we’re leaving people out. So we pilot to scale on everything that we’re doing.

And we looked at, first of all, how the students onboard and what is really relevant in the onboarding experience in terms of what the literature shows and what we know two semesters in [about] why students don’t persist or why they drop out. And we try to tackle that and build that into the first part of the experience. Outside of mandatory orientation, which everybody does, a one- or two-day orientation or whatever it is you do at your respective campuses, we have a five-day intensive experience that we call JagX. We tell the students it’s mandatory. We pay for it, so we know money’s a barrier. We don’t charge for these. And it’s very intentionally designed. Every student takes strengths quests to begin to identify what their strengths are from the very get-go, career assessment. So we’re very focused on what do you really want to be and does that align with your strengths. And they do a service learning and experiential engagement. So part of our model embraces high-impact practices. Everybody’s doing that, but we’re doing it to scale. And we track then experiential learning, so we have funded a center for experiential learning and community engagement, and we develop experiential learning for all of our students to scale—again, two to three experiences that they must have before graduation.

So they design their first service learning project during JagX. Those students immediately go to Jag Tracks…. So, our mascot is the Jaguars; that’s why the Jag is in front of everything. So JagEx was to be more trendy. Jag Tracks is—the faculty themselves agreed, through a faculty vote, to give up four credits, or units, whichever you call it, in the curriculum, so we stayed within the 120. And they get a one-credit course for four years that builds on each other as freshmen, sophomores, and then the move to the meta major in juniors and seniors. Part of this is to design things that we think that they won’t learn at home. Part of it is to really wrap around the first-year experience and what’s necessary for that student to be successful. And we really engage the parents as well. We’ve developed a nine-week parent engagement course, where we pay and incent parents to come. If we know parents are working two or three jobs, and they have all their hopes and dreams in their students, they can’t afford to come to the university and experiment with us. We looked at what is it going to make it worth your time to complete the experiment. And then we have leveraged with other grants that aren’t even our grants, so grants that were happening in the high schools, where the high schools have brought counselors or GEAR UP–type programs to the freshman-year experience.

So they’re tracking the student from the senior year when they graduate on to our campus. And they have access to the parents. We have access to the—we provide the program to those parents and the students … the parent engagement program now I’m talking about. But GEAR UP, we’re working with them and our student success coach. Every student, every incoming student, has a student success coach, which is different from their academic coach and different from their faculty advisor. And we make sure that they’re aware that the moms and dads and whoever is in the family circle, whoever’s the custodial adult that’s watching over this student, is engaged in that conversation, they know how to communicate with those students. We’re doing a lot to wrap around success at every level and try and eliminate gaps. Technically we use EAB for the data warehouse system, Early Alert. We’re doing some of those things that everybody else is going, but we’ve networked it around the whole student experience and buttressed it up, everything else.

And then the last thing I would say is, I talk to every parent, where humanly possible. I think I’ve missed one or two in the last three years’ orientation sessions. I speak to every mom and dad or custodian. I give them my phone number. I give them the number to the office of the president, and tell them they can call the office any time, and that we will respond. I give them all my handles, whether it’s Twitter, Facebook, email, on the web. We have a web link where you can communicate to the president, and I guarantee them that they will have a response. And I shake all their hands and look in their eyes and tell them that I go to bed at night and wake up in the morning thinking about their students and their success at our university. And I thank them for the choice that they’ve made in selecting Texas A&M University-San Antonio. We try to make it as holistic as possible.

Solomon: And that phone number is? That’s fantastic. I love the fact that you’re just breaking all of the expectations around a siloed education and really making the connections throughout their four years, throughout their life before they were students, after they’re students, and bringing everyone on board on this holistic experience.

Gaye, I want to turn to you. I know you’ve also done a lot of work breaking the traditional model that classrooms are for lectures, and you’ve built relationships with the community and you’ve turned that into projects, and really trying to—honoring what the students have already brought into the classroom from a strength perspective. And I wonder if you could share a little bit about your work in doing that.

Johnson: Sure. I feel like most people—if you ask us, the people who teach—everybody has a story about why, what was that moment that made them feel like they wanted to do that. And for me, the moment … it’s too long of a story for me to say here, but what I can tell you is that it was the first time I ever saw myself reflected in a classroom, and I was a freshman in college. So, yes, I had the Cinco de Mayo, and the Hispanic Heritage Month, the Black History Month—shortest month of the year—Shout Out to February—and I had all that. But I never saw myself reflected in a classroom until I was in a college classroom in which a professor played a song to demonstrate something about cultural theory that I had never heard outside of my parents’ living room. And I thought that was just my experience. And what that told me was that I belonged there and that the knowledge that I had, my own lived experience, not only mattered but had a place here in this institution. And so I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do at that point, but I knew I wanted to do that for other people, because I knew how badly so many of us needed that.

And so I try to create assignments and a whole experience in my classroom that replicates that moment over and over again for as many people as possible. In the past fall, I taught a course that enrolled for our department a record 887 students. And every single student had to present in front of the class. We did it over a couple of days, and everybody got a very short period. But 65% of their grade was to apply what they learned about structural racism and about political economy, about privilege, about whiteness, about resistance—was to apply what they had learned and not to give communities advice about what they should do, but instead to learn from communities and to figure out how they could contribute to what was already being done. I had amazing projects that showed up. I had people who were canvassing, who were going around doing policy work with the California Latinas for Reproductive Justice. I had people who did work with the Los Angeles Community Action Network, and they knew that a lot of the people who were houseless on Skid Row didn’t have reading glasses.

This is the kind of thing they learned, the detail that they learned, because they knew they had to go into the community to learn it. They weren’t going to learn it in a textbook about housing rights or homelessness. They were going to have to go and talk to some people to understand that if they were going to design a little sheet that gives you the services that are available to you in a two-block-square radius, that the print better be kind of big because people can’t afford the eyeglasses that they need in order to see. I had so many people doing amazing things, designing websites for organizations that already existed but didn’t have the resources to create these websites for community gardens in South Central Los Angeles.

These students found ways to aid what was already happening in communities. But it was also a way for them to understand that all is not lost. That there have been many, many times when people who come from very diverse backgrounds that appear to be unlikely allies, like Michael Schwerner and Goodman and Chaney together, registering voters in Mississippi. It’s such an incredible story that Professor Reich told, and that has touched people for generations. And this is the kind of feeling that so many of us crave to give our students, and that they can have if they can just see themselves reflected in the classroom and then bring other people into that experience that may never get access to the institutions that we have access to.

Solomon: It’s such a great approach to giving students that opportunity to practice these new skills, to build that confidence in order to then go out into the world, because that’s exactly what they’re going to have to do again and again and again, not just perform for the test, but really discover what a community needs to be able to imagine something that would help what’s already happening and then to have the courage to bring it to life—tremendous opportunity. I could see why many of your students call your class transformational, Gaye. Very exciting.

Both Cynthia and Gaye, you talked about really a new role for teachers, and how teachers can adapt along with their students. And Arthur, I’d love to hear from you [about] some of the new work you’re doing around preparing teachers to be effective in this new environment that we’re in. And I wonder if you could share a little bit about some of the new partnerships that you’ve been developing, including one with MIT in order to help teachers.

Levine: You bet. What I’d say is we just heard about two extraordinary projects that were designed to make higher education more student centered, more community centered, more focused on student achievement. If you believe that higher education is somewhat broken today, we have two alternatives in terms of how we respond. One is we can try to repair the existing colleges and universities. The other is that we can try to reinvent them. And these were two reform projects, important reform projects, critical reform projects. Woodrow Wilson had been doing that with teacher education in eight states. But what’s happened is we said, “Let’s try to reinvent it.” And we went to MIT and the president of MIT said, “Let’s do this with Woodrow Wilson.” And what we wanted to do was, if you believe that our education system’s a product of industrial America, and it looks a little like an assembly line, that’s not a bad thing, it was a great technology. What it means is we fixed time, we fixed process; all students go through the same process. Progress is measured by seat time. We wanted to do was say: In information economies, process is a variable, time is a variable; what’s fixed are outcomes. Let’s reinvent the graduate school of education.

So that what we did was we created a competency-based graduate school of education only offering two programs: teacher ed, school leadership. What I’d say about it is, God, I hate the term “competency-based education,” because it’s become such a buzzword. All we’re really talking about is fixing the outcomes. What do teachers need to know and be able to do to thrive in the classroom today and move them into tomorrow? And we set this set of competencies, and then we built a different kind of curriculum. And the curriculum’s entirely problem based. Every problem is based on a series of competencies.

Here’s an example: You just gave a test, most of your class failed your test, what are you going to do? We don’t much care about that answer. What we care about is, are you competent at assessment? Are you competent at lesson planning? Are you competent at knowing how students learn? Are you competent in knowing your subject matter? Students move through this at the pace of mastery. They graduate when they finish the program. So a lot of people in the audience could finish this in 20 minutes, and me—could take a decade. So that what’s happened is the goal is to make this open source, to make this available to treat this as a resource center, and invite education providers around the country to come and see it, take back what you like. You’re all working on these issues. If you see something you like here, we’ll tell you what works, we’ll tell you what doesn’t work, we’ll tell you what the challenges are. And if you want it, it’s yours. That’s the model we’re working on. We think it’s where education and schools are going to be in the information economy.

Solomon: Well, thank you for doing that. That is brave work to reimagine a school of education. We just have a few minutes left, and I thought I would end our conversation here just by asking you, what is your hope of where we go from here? So we’re in this big transitional moment. You are—I love it—experimenting at scale and changing mid-course and reimagining how to support teachers. What’s next in our future? What are you hopeful for, for where we come out of this transformational moment?

Levine: Can I offer one quick comment and say that both are necessary. Which is to say—let’s say, and it’s really unlikely, that we’re creating with MIT is perfect. How long is it going to take to get that to scale? Next week, next month, next year, next decade? Meanwhile, we’re going to keep graduating students. We need to repair or reform, improve the quality of current colleges and universities, if we’re going to thrive. So don’t choose, do both.

Solomon: Yes, and do both. Thank you for that. Cynthia, I’ll start with you.

Matson: Well, I think there’s a lot of powerful things. I think one of the important things to think about contextually in today’s society: We talked earlier about the 2018 brain, or Dr. Reich was talking about this. I don’t think we’re going to really know the full impact of what’s happening right now with our current national agenda and how emboldened people are. In many places, on many campuses, I think we’ve gone backwards in terms of civic virtues, I think is what Dr. Reich said. I’ll call it civility and engagement and respect and dialog. And I think we’re going to see more of this in the classrooms, in the workplace. And it’s going to take a lot more conversation, a lot more education around race, race relations, understanding how to have that conversation. And so I’m perplexed about this, actually, when I think about all of the students that we impact, what they’re doing in class. So yes, we want to graduate them, we want to do all of those things. It’s … what they learn and what they take with them in this new society. Listening to you speak about this, Gaye, it is a perplexing thing.

And I think every one of us in this room is going to have to be much more comfortable talking about race, talking about gender. I have a lot of men, business CEOs, who have spoken to me who say they are not sure what’s appropriate to say in the workplace anymore, from simple compliments to complex conversations that involve gender. I don’t know how I feel about that or react to that, but it’s a reality that—because women have been dealing with it for a long time, right? So, we have to think about this in this contextual where-we-are-in-the-future. So I think about it in the power of one, that what can I do to make a difference in all those various spaces, and how do I lead in that space. But it requires everyone in the chain to lead in that space, too. So I think the power of one is going to become even more important in this make-or-break society that we have to be makers and inventors and re-creators, to your point, about confidencies that we’re not really comfortable in. We’re not all trained to speak about race and race relations and inequities in a way that’s respectful and open minded. And I think it’s still going to be a bumpy road ahead for a little bit of time.

Solomon: And I want to applaud you for leaning into it. I know you’ve done a lot of work around having proactive conversations with your faculty about some of these difficult issues that are very present in our every day. And I think that that is a sign of leadership, as well, is to say, “Well, we don’t necessarily know what the answers are, but we’re not going to shy away from the questions. And a part of our job is to create the conditions to again model what is it like to learn together.” So thank you for that work.

Gaye, we’d love to hear from you around thoughts for the future—where do we go from here?

Johnson: Well, this is what I love about interdisciplinary and community-engaged scholarship, is because it forces us to be accountable to ourselves, to our communities, to the future, and to the past, as a historian. And one of the things that is most important to me for my students to come out of my classes with is something that Martin Luther King talked about. He said, “Everybody can be great because everybody can serve.” You don’t have to make your noun and verb agree to serve. Everybody can be great because everybody can serve. And so part of what’s so powerful for me with community-engaged scholarship and public-facing programs is that people understand that you don’t have to do some big thing. Your footprint doesn’t have to be huge. And a lot of people who come to UCLA who are students … they’re 4.6 GPA, a lot of them. I have a lot of students who aren’t as well. But they’re trained into this achievement model where they feel like it’s got to be big or it’s worth nothing.

And what I always hope to achieve with these types of assignments, and just the modeling that everyone, I think, has talked about, is that it can be the smallest thing. You’re not an extrovert, so you’re not going to be out there on the front lines of the protest. But you can write letters to those children that are detained in those places. You can draw pictures. Or you can say in your dorm room, the next time that somebody says something that’s disrespectful about someone else, “I don’t know what the words are. I don’t have the right words, but all I know is I don’t tolerate that kind of disrespect in my room.” And that’s so small—simple things that people are not clear that they have the power to do. And so when I think about all these amazing, amazing opportunities that my colleagues here are talking about, and I think about what everybody can bring to the table, with the programming that you’re doing, for example, and the programming that you’re doing, the reimagining of what it means to be an educator—all of those things mean so much. And I think about the starting point of how … [when] students don’t believe in themselves and the power that they bring, with whatever small change they want to make, to the table, then there’s no bridge to those opportunities.

And so students have to feel powerful about what they’ve already accomplished on this road to a just future. And I can always say to my students that no matter why you take this class—you took it because it would satisfy a GE, or it satisfies the diversity requirement or whatever, or you’re here because you are raza all the way, or whatever the case—it doesn’t matter where we come from on the political spectrum, who we believe should be in office, etc. But we can all agree that this country needs work. We need to heal, transform, as you’re saying. And we also have to feel empowered and confident about our ability to do that. Because it’s really not often governments that have made the decision to change something. It’s the people who have put the pressure on the people that have the power to change, and it’s us that have the power to do that. Where that got lost, there’s a number of places. But unfortunately for a lot of my young people that I’m teaching now, 18 to 22, they’ve lost that. They don’t realize how powerful they are. That’s what I hope for. And I believe in that power. I have a lot of faith in that power.

Solomon: Thank you. That’s a beautiful message. Beautiful message of personal agency and hope for the future. Arthur, a final word?

Levine: God, that’s extraordinarily difficult. The only thing I’d say is this conference is an extraordinary convening. One of the things I’ve come to think about today is that Course Hero’s really incubating tomorrow. We’re talking about moving through a world in which learning eclipses teaching. We’re talking about a time in which an extraordinary group of very able people, my fellow panelists … but the talks I heard today are demonstrating what tomorrow could look like. And the people who are sitting here this evening, God, you’ve got a daunting assignment. The daunting assignment is you have to create it. But it’s a time in which it’s possible. And the most wonderful part about it is no generation in modern memory has ever had a better opportunity to put its seal on what the future of education looks like than you do, than we do. Thank you.

Solomon: Well, thank you all for the work you’re doing and for being here tonight. This is a wonderful conversation. Please join me again one more time in thanking our panel.

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