ACE Launches Series of Learning Circles, In Planning Stages for More this Fall
July 25, 2022

ACE recently launched a series of learning circles, a unique program in which senior higher education leaders gather weekly for six weeks to engage in social learning on a critical top

This summer’s learning circles are on supporting mental health on campus, sharing leadership for equity, and agile and human-centered innovation (the last through ACE’s Agile Administrator program). ACE convenes new sets of learning circles quarterly, the next beginning in September. 

Learning circles are facilitated small groups of campus leaders who work together online to deepen their abilities to create transformative change on campus. Unlike traditional workshops in which a few experts teach a larger group of attendees, learning circles engage in social learning, where all participants contribute and grow their distinctive expertise. Through this process, participants mutually grapple with the question, "How do I make a difference?"  

Jo-Ann Rolle, dean, school of business, Medgar Evers College of The City University of New York, and a former learning circle participant, said that as an administrator, she is expected to have “the answer” in most of the groups she had been a part of, but her learning circle experience was different. 

“What made me comfortable was I knew I didn’t have to have ‘the answer’, and I knew that others had other experiences,” Rolle said. “And together we could walk a path in this journey and be okay with partial answers and looking towards finding better answers for our futures together.” 

Learning circle participants, which so far have come from 132 colleges and universities, collectively grapple with new connections they make, access curated resources to apply on campus and inform conversations within their circles, and build a powerful network of peers with diverse experiences and backgrounds that they can lean on beyond the duration of the sessions.  

Any campus leader committed to engaging with peers and creating change is encouraged to attend. Activities are designed to build the group’s capacity to continue to learn together after that period, and many circles elect to continue meeting. In addition, nearly a quarter of ACE learning circle members have gone on either to join an additional learning circle as a member or facilitator. 

“Every single one of us in every circle—I was in multiple—suggested that ‘we want more of this,’” said Cameron McCoy, provost, Shenandoah University. “And that to me is just really incredible and very powerful, because you don’t find that in a lot of other leadership and administrative development programs.”  

The two Sharing Leadership for Equity Learning Circles will apply key concepts from the shared equity leadership model to build shared values and practices necessary to achieve their respective diversity, equity, and inclusion goals. Participants in the Supporting Mental Health on Campus Learning Circle will use experiences and intimate knowledge in this area to help one another identify strategies, approaches, and goals for progress. Members of ACE’s Agile Administrator program will engage with peers who seek to more powerfully lead agile and human-centered innovation on their campuses through two learning circles. 

With the summer sessions in full swing, ACE will launch additional learning circles this fall. To learn more about learning circles and to see what learning circles are upcoming, click here​

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