Leading for Equity and Justice

Published March 23, 2021

The 11th Annual Educational Leadership Department Symposium, entitled “Leading for Equity and Justice,” was held on January 30, 2021, and welcomed over 200 participants. The purpose of the symposium is to bring scholars, practitioners, and emerging leaders together to engage in a day of sharing research and discussing the practice and policy of educational leadership in a P-16 context. The theme of this year’s symposium was driven by the realities of the pandemic alongside the racial reckoning we collectively experienced over the past year. 

The symposium featured over 15 sessions -- from paper and poster sessions to workshops and spark sessions -- geared toward equity and inclusion. For example, paper sessions ranged from exploring trans and gender expansive student experiences in music education to what equity means when working with international students. Workshops provided deep learning experiences into topics such as race and mental health as well as an opportunity to hear teaching strategies from elementary school teachers in Ensenada, Baja California. 

Dr. Nancy Gutiérrez
Dr. Nancy Gutiérrez

To further expand on the theme, this year’s symposium was keynoted by nationally renowned educator Dr. Nancy Gutiérrez, CEO of the Leadership Academy, which is a nonprofit that provides professional leadership development for principals grounded in anti-racist practices. Dr. Gutiérrez urged attendees to engage in conversation with our students and our peers around the real and timely political events happening all around us. “Our kids are talking about the issues that are happening, and it is our job to create space to engage in civil discourse,” shared Dr. Gutiérrez. She recognized that many education leaders may not feel empowered or prepared to engage in critical conversations. She posed a question to the audience: “Who do we need to be to support our youth through these critical times?”  Dr. Gutiérrez encouraged attendees to work toward becoming a culturally responsive leader.

Dr. Gutiérrez shared that to be a culturally responsive leader requires six equity leadership dispositions, which her organization had refined based on their research and insight. To be a culturally responsive leader, you need to:

  • Do the necessary inner work of reflecting on your personal assumptions, beliefs, and behaviors.
  • Publicly model your personal belief system. 
  • Become more self-aware. 
  • Build the capacity of others to engage in this work. 
  • Be willing to confront inequity. 
  • Design sustainable systems that will live beyond you to ensure equitable practices persist. 

Learn more about the six equity leadership dispositions (PDF).

Overall, the diverse session topics offered at the 9th Annual Ed.D. Symposium represented the variety of impact Ed.D. alumni, current doctoral students, and faculty have across in the P-16 field both locally and globally. Additionally, Dr. Gutiérrez’s closing remarks further underscored the importance of cultivating equity-focused education leaders, which remains core to the Educational Leadership Department’s program design and degree offerings.

Learn more about programs and degrees offered by the Educational Leadership Department.