NASPA Online Learning Community

Using the Placement Process to Build More Equitable, Student-centered Colleges

For over a decade, colleges and universities have shifted how they place students into gateway courses in order to address inequitable placement, progression, and completion rates. While alternative methods like Multiple Measures Assessment have improved early academic momentum for many students, they have not yet fully removed systematic barriers to equitable access to first-level college courses nor have they closed equity gaps in early student outcomes such as course completion and progression (Hu et al., 2019; Barnett et al., 2020).

One possible reason for the muted impacts of these widely-used placement approaches is that, in many instances, they are stand-alone technical changes rather than broader interrogations of inequitable and racialized structures and practices. However, a new generation of placement reforms moves beyond tweaking existing systems toward using placement reform as a means for shifting advising, teaching, and student support towards more equitable practices and structures. This webinar will share findings from a national study, funded by the Ascendium Education Group, that explores evolutions and innovations in placement practices and how institutions are engaged in placement-as-transformation—using those innovations as a lever for broader, student-focused change. 

Learning Outcomes:

Participants will:

  • gain an enhanced understanding of new placement approaches and their potential to encourage placement-as-transformation; 
  • learn about strategies to engage in placement-as-transformation in order to shift campus structures, practices, and cultures towards more equitable support for racially-minoritized, first-generation, and low-income learners; and
  • be empowered to initiate discussions and implement innovative placement-as-transformation practices on their own campuses, fostering more inclusive and equitable educational environments.

Suzanne Lyons, Ph.D.

Senior Consultant

Phase Two Advisory

Suzanne is a social justice and systems-focused social worker and educator with twenty years of experience spanning K-12, public and private colleges, and nonprofits. Through her work, she aims to build bridges between researchers, policymakers, and practitioners to enhance student success.

A first-generation, low-income college graduate, Suzanne has dedicated her career to advancing programs, policies, and multi-sector partnerships across the K-20 pipeline to promote college access and attainment. She has worked with nationally recognized programs including The Posse Foundation, TRIO, and Promise scholarships and has led private and federal grants geared toward systems-level changes in high schools and at Hispanic-serving community colleges.

Suzanne holds a bachelor's degree in psychology and Spanish from the University of Notre Dame, a master's degree in social work from the University of Pennsylvania, and a Ph.D. in higher and postsecondary education from New York University, where she was a doctoral fellow and program associate at the Steinhardt Institute for Higher Education Policy. Her doctoral research focused on how performance in dual enrollment coursework could be leveraged as a predictor of college readiness for policy purposes.

Suzanne supports Phase Two Advisory's national research on transformative, equity-forward developmental placement approaches as well as our Holistic Student Support Implementation Network in California.

Melinda Mechur Karp, Ph.D.

Founder & Principal

Phase Two Advisory

Dr. Melinda Mechur Karp is a nationally recognized expert on improving students’ transitions to college and supporting them once there. She founded Phase Two Advisory after nearly twenty years conducting research and working with colleges on education reform as Assistant Director at the Community College Research Center, Teachers College, Columbia University. The proud granddaughter of refugees, Melinda works with national and institutional leaders, campus-based faculty and staff, and philanthropists to ensure that all individuals have the opportunity to realize the intergenerational mobility higher education provides. She frequently writes, speaks, and comments on education reform at professional meetings, in the media, and in academic forums.

Melinda holds a BS in human development and family studies from Cornell University; and both an MA and a PhD in sociology and education from Columbia University. She chairs the Effective Advising Practice Guide Panel for the Institute on Education Science’s What Works Clearinghouse, and she is a member of the inaugural editorial team for the Journal of Postsecondary Student Success.

Bobby Pace, Ph.D.

Vice President of Academic Success

Community College of Aurora

Dr. Pace serves as the vice president of academic success at the Community College of Aurora (CCA), where he has served in a variety of capacities since 2008. Dr. Pace served as adjunct, faculty, chair, and dean before being named VP in 2021. During his tenure, he led his college’s first comprehensive academic program review with the faculty and chairs—selecting 30 programs for sunsetting and reinvestment of those resources into program revitalization and new program development. Under his leadership, CCA has launched four new engineering degrees and secured $2.5 million dollars from the state to begin a school of nursing as well as launch new pathways in behavioral health.


Live Event Access Link
07/18/2024 at 2:00 PM (EDT)  |  60 minutes
07/18/2024 at 2:00 PM (EDT)  |  60 minutes Please use the link to join the Zoom Webinar.