Highline College

Thursday, September 24, 2020

VP finalist unveils plans to close equity gaps at Highline

Dr. Emily Lardner

Ally Valiente Staff Reporter May 25

For Dr. Emily Larder, all students have the capacity to learn and everyone on campus has a role to play in students’ success.

Dr. Lardner, one of three finalists for vice president of Academic Affairs, spoke about her experience at Highline during a virtual faculty and staff forum via Zoom on Wednesday, May 20.

She is currently the interim vice president of Academic Affairs and has led initiatives in the division since 2019.

Before coming to Highline, Dr. Lardner earned her bachelor’s degree at Augustana College and her master’s degree and PhD at the University of Michigan.

From there, she served as the vice president of instruction at Grays Harbor College for two years before working at the Washington Center for Improving Undergraduate Education with national and international experts in inclusion during a two year multicultural efforts project, where she focused on data from the state board regarding students of color, especially students with low English proficiency, who were not performing as well compared to white students.

Dr. Lardner said she believes that through shared governance and purposeful collaboration and with intentionality, equity gaps can be closed.

She noted that when she first arrived at Highline, she saw that Latinx students were “severely underrepresented.”

“Campuses have to hold themselves accountable and be held accountable for the retention and success of students of color,” Dr. Lardner said.

Currently 12 percent of students identify as Hispanic or Latinx. Less than 4 percent in the credit curriculum identify as Hispanic or Latinx.

“Highline public schools according to OSPI, nearly 40 percent of students are Latinx, Federal Way public schools 30 percent,” Dr. Lardner said. “And although we celebrate the multilingual asset in our community, it turns out Spanish is the No. 2 language.”

One solution Dr. Lardner proposed was to focus on developing partnerships with school districts in order to improve equity.

“We brought our teams together; we asked what it would look like if we were good partners. Our demographics at our school would reflect the school district, that will be a pipeline for students,” Dr. Lardner said. “Undocumented students would have support. Highline public school faculty, staff, and students will understand what Highline has to offer and they will trust that we’re a good place to send their students.”

Dr. Lardner also noted that the transition rate at Highline from non-credit to credit courses hasn’t budged.

Her plans for improving the transition rate include changing in registration dates and integrating Guided Pathways with ABE and ESL courses.

Additionally, Dr. Lardner wants to improve the structure of the AA-DTA degrees, which are considered to be a “barrier to student success.”

“Areas of emphasis in the Direct Transfer Audit gave incorrect information to students, faculty, and staff advisers. And writing courses approved by Highline were not accepted by transfer institutions,” Dr. Lardner said.

Dr. Lardner says that it is important to acknowledge that academic affairs and student services are “on the same team” for student success.

Dr. Lardner said that an example of student and academic collaboration this year is the Guided Pathways plan, which they wrote together.

“We cannot be successful in closing equity gaps and increasing completions for students if we’re not strong partners.”

Dr. Lardner said that both teams “have to get better at collaborative problem solving.”

One example was from last Fall Quarter, when the Advising Council met to discuss and improve student orientation.

“This became a problem because part of the reason why students weren’t completing orientation was because the break-our rooms were spread all over campus. Student Services runs orientation and academic affairs controls classroom scheduling,” Dr. Lardner said. “[The Academic Affairs] didn’t know that Student Services were having that problem and Student Services didn’t know how to say, ‘Hey, can you solve the classroom scheduling problem?’ So, getting good at talking about small concrete problems that we can solve together and asking each other for help is another piece of a culture of collaboration.”

At the end of the day, Dr. Lardner says that “everybody has something to say and that is worth saying.”