Educause 2021: Transformation, Resilience, and the Common Good

As life gets back to a new normal, so does the opportunity to collaborate with other technology-minded colleagues in Higher Education. And the place to do that this year was at the 2021 Educause Annual Conference in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Educause is a national nonprofit association whose mission is to advance higher education through the use of information technology. With over 100,000 members, Educause equips its community with the knowledge, resources, and community-building opportunities needed to help shape strategic IT decisions in higher education.

This year, Educause offered the option to attend their Annual Conference in person or online. I, along with 2,000 other individuals, attended the in-person session. While Educause did their best to adhere to local health and safety guidelines, these restrictions meant the ability to collaborate and network was more challenging than in years past. Despite the restrictions, Educause was able to muster a diverse and engaging program of over 200 sessions that focused on the conference themes of transformation, resilience, and the common good. 

The keynote address was thought-provoking, insightful, and at times, uncomfortable (in a good way). Ruha Benjamin, professor of African American Studies at Princeton University and author of People’s Science: Bodies and Rights on the Stem Cell Frontier (Stanford University Press), gave a powerful talk entitled “Beyond Buzzwords: Innovation, Inequity, and Imagination in the 21st Century,” where she highlighted the inequities, both intentional and unintentional, that are “baked” into technology.

There was also an opportunity to hear from our very own Jose Rodriguez, VP/CIO, Pomona College, as he and his colleagues discussed the “Next Leaders Fellowship (NLF).” Launching in March 2022, the NLF is building a framework to identify, develop, and advocate for information and technology professionals in Higher Education, with a special emphasis on those who identify as Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC). The Fellowship will recruit participants into a sponsored one-year experience participating as a cohort that accomplished senior leaders will mentor to support their professional growth.

I, too, was invited to share my thoughts and insights on several technology-related topics. All in all, while different, this year’s conference still succeeded in bringing together the Higher Education IT community.

You can find more information on Educause and the conference website.