Elgin Community College has been dedicated to supporting and consistently improving an environment where each student can find success in their educational and career pursuits by fostering a culture of equity, diversity, and inclusion. This past year, Anthony Ramos was hired as the inaugural executive director of equity, diversity, and inclusion to further sharpen the collective efforts already underway at ECC.
“It is a very exciting time to be doing this work here at ECC because there’s been a significant amount of innovative and committed work leading up to the start of my position,” said Ramos. “Throughout the spring, ECC has been highlighting faculty and staff members who are dedicated and intentional in their work to dismantle barriers to success for our students. It’s been amazing to read these stories that illustrate how deep and wide ECC’s commitment is to provide an equitable, diverse, and inclusive environment for all. This is critical work because when we think of who we are as a community college and who we serve, including; the number of individuals who may be the first in their family to go to college, people of diverse racial and gender, and economic backgrounds, we know this is a place where they can thrive and set the pace for the rest of their lives.”
To continue moving ECC onward in creating an atmosphere where each student is supported in setting this pace, Ramos emphasizes the concept of being intentional in our efforts to increase student success paired with practices to close equity gaps. The challenge Ramos poses is how we can continue to shrink these gaps and strive for successful students across all populations. “Certain groups may not be meeting certain milestones at the same rates as other groups, so this gives us the opportunity to think about how we might reimagine procedures, practices, and policies to be inclusive and equitable to achieve equality in outcomes,” said Ramos.
Ramos has served in many positions in higher education throughout his career, working closely with faculty, staff, and students through roles such as interim division dean, academic advisor, and adjunct faculty in sociology. By applying an EDI lens to each role, he’s made traction with projects such as transforming academic advising operations from a cafeteria-style approach of simply picking classes to intentional caseload management. Additionally, he led a faculty-student engagement project that increased connections for students with their instructors and peers, resulting in increased course completion and student retention. “As I think about supporting our efforts at ECC, I’m able to engage in great conversations with colleagues and be a critical thought partner,” said Ramos. “We consistently look at various metrics, and when we divide them by race, gender, first-generation status, socioeconomic status, and can see where there may be opportunities to provide additional support and resources to increase student success and learning.”
An experience that influenced his drive to analyze students across all populations and enact change was his time as an academic advisor in the first and second-year office at Loyola University Chicago. Ramos facilitated a bridge program for students conditionally admitted to the university, meaning they did not have the GPA or ACT scores for direct admittance to the institution, requiring them to do a three-week intensive pre-college program. Many in the group were low-income, first-generation students of color or were coping with a disability. “I remember meeting with these students and a lot of them on the first day realized they were there because they were not meeting certain academic standards,” said Ramos. “So, it was sort of a downer for them at the start.”
During the program and under the guidance of a team of committed faculty and staff, the students took a 3-credit hour class, received student support services, became introduced to the college, took their first exams, and worked with faculty and peer tutors to learn how to navigate the college environment. “When they completed that program, they developed a community and returned at the start of their first year with a level of confidence that was just amazing,” said Ramos. “At the end of that first year, we looked back at data and saw they persisted to the second year at higher rates than the directly admitted students. By us being intentional about putting the right supports in place, they thrived. They conquered.”
These experiences and success in higher education have solidified Ramos’ belief that we must look for ways to implement support to teach students how to navigate the complexity of college while ensuring we are as prepared as we can be to support students of diverse backgrounds. We cannot change the bias and discrimination students may have experienced in the past, but we can do our part to reduce the likelihood they will experience it at ECC. The more that students are supported and feel that they matter and belong at our institution, they will be more likely to cross the stage at commencement. Through these efforts, lives can be changed for current students and the generations to follow them.
Ramos is working hard in his role at ECC to align the many EDI efforts and increase their awareness, so individuals who want to be more involved know how to do so. A new project Ramos is developing brings ECC students directly into the equity work. The “Student Diversity Counsel” would work in an advisory compacity with Ramos, along with an open-door policy where they always feel included. “I want to have an intentional relationship with student leaders to hear what things they may see as significant opportunities for the institution,” said Ramos. “I want them to know that they have a voice at the table when it comes to thinking about how our EDI work impacts them because that is our mission at the end of the day.”
Read all the One Team One Dream stories on the One Team One Dream webpage.