'Courageous Conversations’ Help Change Policies, Transform Culture

Written by: Rob Kelly
Published On: March 4, 2014

Three years ago St. Clair County Community College began its participation in Achieving the Dream, a national initiative to help low-income students and students of color stay in school and earn a college certificate or degree. During the kickoff event, one directive was clear—go back to your institution and have “courageous conversations” to improve student success.

Business and education leaders have used the term “courageous conversations” over the past decade to describe discussions in which participants can talk about difficult but significant topics openly and without fear. The term shows up in several books’ titles, including Life at the Frontier: Leadership through Courageous Conversation (2004) and Courageous Conversations about Race: A Field Guide for Achieving Equity in Schools (2005).

The Achieving the Dream foundation does not provide a model for these courageous conversations but advocates using an evidence-based approach to resolving issues affecting college access and success. The recommendation to use an evidence-based approach resonated with St. Clair’s Achieving the Dream team, particularly as the college had recently formalized its institutional research function.

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