Under the auspices of Saide's Siyaphumelela Initiative the largest ever South African delegation attended the Achieving the Dream 2018 conference in Nashville earlier this year. This annual convening brings together higher education leaders, policy-makers, investors and thought leaders all dedicated to tackling the challenges of increasing student success, increasing capacity for data analysis, programme evaluation, and student-centred, data-informed decision making. Alan Amory, the leader of Saide's Siyaphumelela Initiative, participated in the event.
The delegation included members from the five Siyaphumelela partner institutions, other South African Universities, the Department of Higher Education and Training and from Saide. On the first day of the conference Siyaphumelela representatives presented a Spotlight Session entitled: “From DREAM to Success – Success stories from the Siyaphumelela initiative”. Like in the United States, the Siyaphumelela team reported how the different universities had sought to build data capacity, shift resources towards student success, redesign advising and early warning systems, scale effective practices and increase transparency and engagement of stakeholders. These initiatives are aimed at accelerating the South African collective understanding of how to meet student, institutional and national goals.
Other highlights of the conference include the keynote presentation and related panel discussions. Cia Verschelden, from the University of Central Oklahoma, discussed how factors such as poverty, racism and social marginalisation limit cognitive resources that are perpetuated through group identities of race, culture, class, gender and economic segregation. David Gates, from General Motors argued, that development of programmes to support the growing demand for technicians should be through industry-university partnerships. The closing plenary was delivered by Richard Blanco, appointed the fifth ever presidential inaugural poet in U.S. history by President Obama, who told how his life story and passion for poetry, he highlighted the values of Achieving the Dream: equity and excellence, fostering creativity, innovation, and operating with transparency and respect.
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