MCC Awarded First Place at 2024 AACC Awards of Excellence for Equity & Belonging Work

April 22, 2024
Middlesex Community College won first place in Advancing Institutional Equity and Belonging at the 2024 American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) Awards of Excellence.
Middlesex Community College won first place in Advancing Institutional Equity and Belonging at the 2024 American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) Awards of Excellence. MCC President Phil Sisson and Provost & Vice President of Academic & Student Affairs Arlene Rodríguez accepted the award at a ceremony hosted in Louisville, KY on April 8. MCC photo

Submitted by Middlesex Community College

Middlesex Community College won first place in Advancing Institutional Equity and Belonging at the 2024 American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) Awards of Excellence. MCC President Phil Sisson and Provost & Vice President of Academic & Student Affairs Arlene Rodríguez accepted the award at a ceremony hosted in Louisville, Kentucky on Monday, April 8.

“This achievement is a collaborative effort from many individuals and divisions across the college and it is an honor for our efforts to be recognized by the AACC in this way,” Sisson said. “It is a point of pride that MCC has become a strong leader of diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB) work both at the college and within the greater communities that we serve. As an open access institution, we have the responsibility of spearheading these initiatives, engaging in difficult conversations, and doing the necessary work to make actual change in an otherwise divisive world.”

Sisson credits the dedication and hard work from across the college for receiving the award. Calling the DEIB work an “ongoing process,” the president looks forward to MCC continuing to learn, grow and adapt to take the needed steps to meet the college’s mission of equity and to transform the lives of students for the better.

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In February, Middlesex was nominated for the award among five other colleges in the country. The national recognition was one of 11 awards handed out during the gala event.

“Receiving the AACC Award for Advancing Institutional Equity and Belonging is a huge honor for Middlesex,” Rodríguez said. “More importantly, it’s also a recognition of all the work being done by our faculty and staff to make sure all MCC students have what they need to succeed. Becoming an equity-minded, student-prepared campus doesn’t stop with one project or program. It’s a continuous process of reflection and change. It’s understanding that as our students’ needs change, so must we change and address them. In this way, we show our commitment to preparing students for the future.”

The college was awarded for initiatives that advanced institutional equity and belonging, according to Maria Gariepy, MCC’s Executive Director of Diversity, Equity & Belonging. This includes the work of the Center for Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation (TRHT) and MCC’s 2022-2027 strategic plan With Equity at Its Core.

“Many innovative and progressive practices that support institutional equity were included, such as Achieving the Dream, the Pedagogy of Real Talk, and the Leading for Change Racial Equity & Justice Institute, among others,” Gariepy said. “In order to support and measure our progress and success, outcomes data was also included for a number of programs and initiatives on campus, including the SUCCESS Scholars Program, the Program for Asian American Student Advancement (PAASA), the First Year Experience, surveys, demographics and diversity of our student body, and changes in our workforce diversity.”

Middlesex is one of 71 colleges in the nation hosting a campus-based Center for TRHT. The Center has become a hub for the extended community, offering racial healing circles, professional development trainings, and access to resources that are helping to build a deeper collective capacity toward racial equity and justice.

Throughout the 2023-2024 academic year, Middlesex established TRHT as a fixture of the communities of Greater Lowell and hosted events to celebrate the diversity and lived experiences of the college’s students and employees. MCC’s Center hosted the second Day of Love, Acceptance and Belonging on April 17, featuring a variety of workshops facilitated by MCC students and employees.

Visit www.middlesex.mass.edu/trht for more information on MCC’s Center for Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation and the Day of Love, Acceptance and Belonging.

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