Shining a Light on Equitable Education for All

  Lumen Learning, an initiative of The Bill Gates Foundation, is now in full vigor at Rockland Community College. The goal of the program is to connect with students and find ways to meet their real-time needs, focusing on those who may be disenfranchised when it comes to higher learning.
In an in-person/Zoom meeting held at RCC’s Ramapo campus, Stephen Burke, Dean of Arts & Humanities at the school, spoke about the importance of the program and introduced its CEO and cofounder, Kim Thanos. Thanos said the work Rockland’s community college has been doing to jumpstart the program will
pave the way for other colleges across the country to learn from its applications.
Josh Baron, a senior program officer from The Gates Foundation who helped to underwrite Lumen Learning, told the audience via Zoom that he spent his younger
days in Rockland and had great memories of the county and its community college. “It’s great to see so many friends and colleagues in the SUNY system—it is also
great to see these two organizations come together in a public/private partnership, closing equity gaps.”
Dr. Susan Deer, RCC Provost and Executive Vice President and 40-year veteran of the SUNY system, explained the difference between “equality” and “equity” to the
audience: “Equality is when you provide the same opportunity for everyone. Equity is giving students what they need.” Deer said the program is designed to give students of color and/or economically disadvantaged the tools they need to succeed—and Deer said the only way to learn what they need is by asking the
students themselves. To that end, four paid student interns are participating in the program and talking to their peers, asking questions and taking
suggestions. Faculty and staff also had the opportunity to meet Pascayln Omotosho, one of the student interns involved in Lumen Learning at RCC. She and
three other interns are interviewing students as part of the Lumen Learning program. “I think this will be a great project—and it will help to create a more
equitable and affordable education for more people.”