Terry Piper Lecture to Explore Making ‘Race Talk’ a Routine Practice on College Campuses

Estela Bensimon

Estela Bensimon

Estela Mara Bensimon, a national expert on methods to improve equity in higher education, will serve as the keynote speaker at California State University, Northridge’s annual Terry Piper Lecture Series on April 5, offering her perspective on “Making ‘Race Talk’ a Routine Practice on College Campuses.”

Bensimon is a distinguished professor of higher education at the USC Rossier School of Education and co-director of the Center for Urban Education (CUE), which she founded in 1999. She applies her knowledge of organizational learning, leadership and equity with a singular focus on increasing equity in higher education outcomes for students of color. She developed the Equity Scorecard — a process for using inquiry to drive changes in institutional practice and culture.

“As faculty, staff and administrators here at CSUN, we are continually challenging ourselves as to how we can best facilitate the successful persistence and graduation of each and every student who is enrolled at this incredibly diverse institution,” said Shelley Ruelas-Bischoff, associate vice president for student life and co-chair of the event. “A critical element in this process is our responsibility to ensure that our institutional practices are fostering a culture of equity for all students.”

The event will open with a reception at 8:30 a.m., followed by the lecture at 9 a.m. in the University Student Union’s Northridge Center. It is open to faculty, staff and students.

The event is named in honor of Terry Piper, who served as vice president of student affairs at CSUN for nearly 10 years. He strove to actively partner with campus colleagues in support of student success, as a member of the university’s executive leadership team. He is credited with reshaping CSUN’s Division of Student Affairs to align with the most current thinking and practices supporting student learning and success. Piper passed away in May 2010 after a courageous battle with melanoma. This is the fifth year of the lecture series.

“Dr. Bensimon is a trailblazer in addressing accountability of colleges and universities to not just admit students, but to focus on their successful completion of college,” said Merril Simon, a professor in the Department of Educational Psychology and co-chair of the event. “She pays particular attention to first-generation students and those who have been underserved, like many of today’s CSUN students.

“Her work, like Dr. Piper’s, pushes the boundaries and expectations of the status quo by asking us to do more for and better by our students.”

Since founding CUE, Bensimon has worked with thousands of college professionals, from presidents to faculty to academic counselors, helping them take steps in their daily work to reverse the impact of the historical and structural disadvantages that prevent many students of color from excelling in higher education.

The innovative Equity Scorecard process takes a strengths-based approach, starting from the premise that faculty and administrators are committed to doing “the good.” CUE builds upon this premise by developing tools and processes that empower these professionals as “researchers” into their own practices, with the ultimate goal of not just marginal changes in policy or practice, but shifts on those campuses toward cultures of inclusion and broad ownership over racial equity.

Bensimon has published extensively about equity, organizational learning, practitioner inquiry and change. Her most recent publications include a co-edited book, Confronting Equity Issues on Campus: Implementing the Equity Scorecard in Theory and Practice. She is also the co-editor of Critical Perspectives on Race and Equity, a special issue of the Review of Higher Education.

She earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Montclair State University, and her doctorate in higher education from Teachers College, Columbia University.

For more information and to RSVP by Wednesday, March 30, visit http://www.csun.edu/studentaffairs/terry-piper-lecture-series.


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