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Syndicated series Academic Innovation for the Public Good highlights new approach to events

Stanford Digital Education pioneers a new model for aggregating audiences online with 8 conversations about books that explore universities’ role in increasing equity and access.
Clockwise from upper left: Kristen Eshleman of Trinity College with Tia Brown McNair of American Association of Colleges and Universities and Lindsey Malcom-Piqueux  of Caltech
Clockwise from upper left: Kristen Eshleman introduces co-authors Tia Brown and Lindsey Malcom-Piqueux at a talk in last year's Academic Innovation for the Public Good series.

Stanford Digital Education and its partners and co-sponsors at more than 15 universities are launching the second season of its book-conversation series, Academic Innovation for the Public Good, with a Feb. 8 interview of the author of “Is Affirmative Action Fair? The Myth of Equity in College Admissions.”

The monthly series features books that explore how universities and colleges can innovate in support of equity and access in higher education. The series, syndicated by the co-sponsors, helps authors share new research with a national audience of academic colleagues and practitioners.

“This series is building a community to share knowledge about academic innovation, ” said Vice Provost for Digital Education Matthew Rascoff. “Book tours are hard on authors, so why not build a better approach: our event syndication model lets scholars engage audiences across the country by aggregating interest and engagement across our campuses.”

Stanford Digital Education jointly organizes the series with Trinity College in Hartford. Other institutions supporting and promoting this year’s events are Brown University School of Professional Studies, Dartmouth College, Notre Dame Learning, Mt. Holyoke College, and the University of Michigan Center for Academic Innovation. More than 1,800 people attended last year’s talks, which are available on video on Stanford Digital Education’s website along with a compilation of excerpts from the 2022 series.

Kristen Eshleman, Trinity’s vice president of Library and Information Technology Services, who co-founded the series, noted that the syndication approach could scale to support other academic collaborations. “Others can use this approach to expand their reach and draw larger audiences into public intellectual work,” she said. “We’ve all heard about open source software and open access journals, what about open, shared educational events?” 

This year’s format is the same as last year’s. Each hour-long event has an author being interviewed by a moderator with expertise in higher education. The latter half is reserved for questions from the audience. Discussion before and after the event is encouraged on the Gather Learning platform.

The Feb. 8 event, on the book “Is Affirmative Action Fair?”, will feature Rascoff discussing how we can rethink college admissions to achieve greater diversity, with author Natasha Warikoo, Lenore Stern Professor in the Social Sciences, Department of Sociology, at Tufts University. The talks that follow will cover historically black colleges and universities; measures to enhance all students' sense of belonging; and open access to the knowledge created at universities. (Here’s the listing of all eight events in the 2023 series.)

In addition to authors from Clayton Christensen Institute, Howard University, MIT, Old Dominion, Tufts and University of Technology Sydney, four of the authors in this year’s series are from Stanford: Geoffrey Cohen, professor of psychology and James G. March Professor of Organizational Studies in Education and Business, speaking April 12 about “Belonging: The Science of Creating Connection and Bridging Divides”; Matthew O. Jackson, Trione Chair of the Department of Economics and William D. Eberle Professor of Economics, on May 10 about “The Human Network: How Your Social Position Determines Your Power, Beliefs, and Behaviors”; and ‌Olatunde Sobomehin and sam seidel, who both teach at the Stanford, on their book “Creative Hustle: Blaze Your Own Path and Make Work That Matters.”

The series aims to cultivate an ongoing dialogue about how to bring about academic innovation at large distributed institutions that can be averse to change. The hope is that by creating a community around this issue, it will be easier to go from “talking the talk” to “walking the walk.”

“To plan for a more hopeful and equitable system of education, we need to better understand the history of how higher education has responded to changes in the needs of society,” Rascoff said. “Innovation must be rooted in those needs. These authors, and the discussion of their work, can help illuminate the path forward.”

Jonathan Rabinovitz is communications director for Stanford Digital Education.

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