Office of the Provost

Equity Champions Community of Practice

Transforming the college student experience by creating a more equitable, student-centered campus  

The UToledo Equity Champions are instructors at every level of teaching dedicated to building university capacity to leverage evidence-based student centered practices and promote institutional change in service of becoming a more equitable institution. 

This work, initiated through UToledo's participation in the Student Experience Project (SEP) from 2018-2022, has had many positive impacts on both the student and faculty experiences. For a high-level overview of the impacts made to our campus, please see UToledo Equity Champions- end of SEP- Summary Report.

UToledo was one of six universities selected to participate in this initiative; please view Increasing Equity in College Student Experience: Findings from a National Collaborative for an overview of early findings and lessons learned from the SEP.


The Equity Champions, started in summer 2020, creates a continuous support network in which instructors at all levels learn together, share ideas, and develop resources to support equity and student success in their courses. The UToledo Equity Champions Community of Practice (CoP) was designed to include key features that maximize faculty development for institutional change. Each semester, cohorts meet weekly with campus leaders, either in a large or small cross-disciplinary group and discuss change ideas and topics relevant to developing equitable classroom practices and for enhancing student experiences. Over the past four semesters, the community of practice has been transformational for instructors, providing a space for interaction, reflection, and feedback and has helped to address issues of equity by confronting deficit mindsets and implicit assumptions about the reasons why students are successful or experience failure (Boucher, Murphy, Bartell, Smail, Logel, & Danek, 2021).  

community graphic

Equity Champions, new and returning, actively participate in a semester-long community of practice, utilize evidence-based change ideas and resources in the classroom designed to promote a sense of belonging and enhance support for student learning, and collect real-time actionable data from students throughout the semester using Ascend, an innovative tool from PERTS 

The community of practice model is key to enhancing equitable student experiences, as this space allows for meaningful engagement with differences and issues of equity, time devoted to reflection and feedback, real-time implementation of learning, and connection to larger social change efforts (Bartell & Boswell, 2019). Ascend is used at multiple points throughout the semester to assess student experiences in Equity Champion courses and to use the results to monitor improvement of student outcomes. 

Change Idea Examples: (1) Review syllabus & course policies to promote student- centeredness, (2) plan for diverse representation in course materials, (3) craft and share a belonging story, (4) encourage social connection in the classroom, (5) use assessment wrappers and Wise Feedback framing statements, etc. 

Faculty in the Community of Practice have found value from their participation as they have reported an increased sense of belonging at the institution and feelings of being empowered, hopeful, and supported in their classes. 

For the fall semester, Equity Champions can participate as an independent member in the community of practice or as part of a Departmental Cohort. Departmental Cohorts will meet at key points in the semester and plan to implement practices learned from the Equity Champions, department wide.  

UToledo Equity Champion Leadership

  • Brian Ashburner, Interim Associate Vice Provost for Student Success & Associate Dean, College of Natural Sciences & Mathematics

  • Melissa Oddo, Program Manager for Student Success, Office of the Provost

  • Lesley Berhan, Associate Dean of Diversity, Inclusion, and Community  Engagement, College of Engineering

UToledo's Equity Champions 

Who are They?

Equity Champions are instructors at every level of teaching, from graduate students to tenured faculty, department leadership, and distinguished university lecturers, committed to making evidence-based changes in their classrooms. To date, over 140 UToledo instructors from almost every college on campus has committed to improving student outcomes by focusing on belonging, identity safety, and growth mindset.  

What They hope to accomplish?​

The Equity Champions Community of Practice is an important part of UToledo's efforts to support success and reduce equity gaps for students. We will use what we learn from this work to improve the experience for current and future students in our classes by continually examining students' experience and making evidence-based changes that improve learning.  

Spring 2023 Equity Champion Faculty Leaders

Michelle Davidson, College of Arts & Letters
Ann Medling, Physics & Astronomy 
Lora Parent, College of Business & Innovation 
Kathy Shan, College of Natural Sciences & Mathematics 

From the College of Arts and Letters: 

*Elliot Adams, English  
*Michelle Davidson, English 

From the John B. and Lillian E. Neff College of Business and Innovation:

*Lora Parent, Marketing & International Business 
*Jennifer Stevens, Marketing & International Business 

From the Judith Herb College of Education:   

*Fatima Aldajani, Curriculum & Instruction 

From the College of Health and Human Services:

April Demers, Population Health
*Drew Misko, Exercise and Rehabilitation Sciences 
*Heather Robbins, Exercise and Rehabilitation Sciences 
Ava Schwartz, Exercise and Rehabilitation Sciences 
*Heather Tessler, Student Services 

From the Jesup Scott Honors College:  
*Ashley Pryor, Honors 

From the College of Natural Sciences & Mathematics: 

Jim Anderson, Mathematics and Statistics
*Jillian Bornak, Physics & Astronomy 
Mandy Caputo, Physics & Astronomy
*Katharine Fisher, Mathematics & Statistics 
*Sally Harmych, Biological Sciences 
*Ann Medling, Physics & Astronomy 
*Sandra Robinson, Mathematics & Statistics 
*Kathy Shan, Physics & Astronomy 

From the College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences:   

*Ana Maria Oyarce, Pharmacology 
Alison Wery, Pharmacy Practice

* Has served one or more semesters as an Equity Champion 

view Summary Reports and Past Equity Champion Participation

Together, the Equity Champions are using this research to test, implement, and scale innovative practices that transform the college experience into one where every student can access the support and resources they need to succeed.

For more information about Equity Champions, contact Melissa Oddo at

Last Updated: 1/27/23