Equity In Education Banner

In today's world, access to quality education remains uneven, creating disparities that perpetuate social and economic inequality. Join Upswing and higher education experts on June 11 from 11:00 AM to 3:45 PM ET for Equity in Education 2024, a virtual conference that seeks to unravel the complexities surrounding equity in education and chart a path toward inclusive, empowering solutions.  

Why should you attend?

  • Gain valuable insights from leading experts and practitioners in the field of education.
  • Explore practical strategies and solutions for promoting equity in higher ed.
  • Network with like-minded individuals committed to creating a more just and inclusive education system.
  • Take part in interactive sessions and discussions designed to inspire action and drive change.
  • Receive a free professional development certificate to show your commitment to student success.


11:00 AM–11:15 AM ET: Welcome with Upswing CEO Melvin Hines

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Melvin Hines is the co-founder and CEO of Upswing, an organization whose Wraparound Student Services platform helps keep nontraditional and online students on the path towards graduation. Today, Upswing supports over 600,000 students in nearly 70 colleges. Melvin grew up in south Georgia, where he was one of only 68 students to graduate out of class of 250. This ignited his passion for finding a way to empower students to take their futures into their own hands through higher education. After graduating from the University of Georgia, Melvin received a JD/MBA from Duke University where he started a law forum for educational equality. Afterwards, he became a professor at North Carolina Central University, where he supported first-year student success.


11:15 AM–12:00 PM ET: Empowering and Upskilling America for the New Talent Economy

Step into the future with our keynote speaker as he shares his journey to envision and build a more equitable America for the New Talent Economy. As a leading impact investor and presidential candidate, Jason Palmer understands the critical importance of upskilling and reskilling our workforce to thrive in an era of rapid technological advancement. In his campaign, he focused on the critical role that colleges and universities can and are playing in increasing equity in education to prepare our people for the 21st century workforce. Now he’s co-founded a new organization called TOGETHER! to empower young Americans pursuing common-sense solutions, making it easier for them to upskill, build teams, and raise money for the causes, companies, and campaigns which are needed to implement them. Together, we'll explore innovative strategies for equipping students with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in the digital age. Don't miss this opportunity to become part of a movement that's shaping the future of our nation!


Jason Palmer is a former Democratic presidential candidate and co-founder of TOGETHER!, a youth empowerment platform for causes, companies, and campaigns. TOGETHER! supports cutting-edge, common-sense solutions and the people who champion them. Before his Presidential run, Palmer served in executive and leadership positions at Microsoft, Kaplan Education, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and impact investor New Markets Venture Partners. Known as a leader in the conscious capitalism movement, he served as a board member to a dozen successful double-bottom-line companies that have positively impacted over 75 million students and workers and collectively grown to billions of dollars in value. As a serial entrepreneur, Palmer founded and grew three investor-backed technology and services companies and served as a turnaround leader for three others. He holds a BA in Interdisciplinary Studies from the University of Virginia and earned his MBA from Harvard Business School. Palmer is a proud resident of Baltimore, Maryland, and a devoted father.


12:15–1:00 PM ET: Lessons Learned from Three Institutions about Adult Learners from Recruitment to Job Placement

The University of Louisville, The University of Memphis, and Shasta College have developed a variety of programs and policies designed to help recruit, retain, and graduate adult learners, as well as help advance them in their careers. Inviting back campus “stop-outs,” degree completion program structures designed to work with adults’ busy lives, awarding Credit for Prior Learning, and corporate partnerships are all successful tools that help adults feel valued and empowered to complete college and take themselves to the next level. During this session, we will share lessons learned and leave time for questions and answers.

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Elizabeth “Buffy” Tanner has been supporting students’ college access and success since 1998. Her interests lie in helping remove barriers to higher education for first-generation, low-income students, and students with some college, but no degree. She is currently the Director of Innovation and Special Projects at Shasta-Tehama-Trinity Joint Community College District in Redding, CA. She was a Complete College America Fellow from 2018-2023, and is currently a Council on Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL) Ambassador. 

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Tracy Robinson, with 20+ years at the University of Memphis, is the Executive Director of CREE, focusing on education, environment, and economics in West Tennessee and the Delta. Leading initiatives like adult learner programs, workforce training, and grants, Tracy's impact is evident through awards and key roles like Council for Adult and Experiential Learning Ambassador. Notably, she spearheads the GROWWTH project, securing substantial grants for economic empowerment. Tracy also champions pathways for military-connected students, serving on task forces and recognized for her advising excellence.

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Dr. Matt Bergman, PhD, is Vice President of Academic Innovation at Student Ready Strategies and author of "Unfinished Business: Compelling Stories of Adult Student Persistence." His expertise in student persistence and degree completion programs has gained global recognition, featured in major media outlets. With a track record of award-winning programs and teaching excellence, he serves as an Ambassador for the Council on Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL), advocating for degree attainment nationwide.

1:00–1:45 PM ET: The State of Financial Wellness with Carla Fletcher of Trellis Strategies

Join Trellis Strategies for an overview of the key findings from Trellis’ Student Financial Wellness Survey (SFWS). The fall 2023 results include responses from more than 62,000 students from 142 colleges and universities, and provides insights into the basic needs security, mental health, and financial stressors facing students. The session will also include information on how institutions can participate in this free survey to better understand student wellness on their campuses.


Carla Fletcher is a Research Consultant who focuses on higher education policy issues, using research to help policymakers and practitioners advocate for student success. She has led numerous projects on student loan default and repayment, college affordability, and degree attainment. Carla has used a variety of methodologies in her research career, including focus groups, surveys, interviews, user experience testing, and quantitative analysis of secondary and primary data. She has helped create the annual State of Student Aid and Higher Education in Texas publication for over a decade and is the lead for the Student Financial Wellness Survey (SFWS).

1:45–2:00 PM ET: Break

2:00–2:45 PM ET: Shaping Behavior: Cultivating a Customer Service Mindset to Support Diversity and Inclusion

In February 2024, Upswing hosted a webinar featuring our partners titled Upholding Diversity & Inclusion in Higher Ed. During this webinar, we had an interesting conversation surrounding the importance of adopting a customer service mindset to support diversity and inclusion initiatives. We've invited more higher ed administrators to join us as we expand on this idea and hear about their personal experiences supporting D&I initiatives. Participants will gain insights into the importance of empathy, active listening, and cultural competency in understanding and serving diverse populations, whether it be in a learning center, specific program, or throughout an institution. 


Diana Garland, EdD, is the Director of the Learning Commons at Missouri State University, with over 35 years of administrative experience. She has managed programs in Tutoring Services, International Student Services, and Academic Outreach & Distance Learning. Additionally, she coordinates the Bears Mentoring Bears program and has taught undergraduate and graduate courses in Student Success for over 15 years. Dr. Garland is a former president of the Missouri Distance Learning Association and the Missouri College Learning Center Association. She holds certifications as a Certified Learning Center Professional – Level 4 and serves as the Webinar Coordinator and Representative to the Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education (CAS) for the International Conference on Learning Center Associations. (ICLCA).


Michael Frizell, MPA, Director of Student Learning Services at Missouri State University, spearheaded the transformation of the Bear CLAW into a dynamic modern learning center. He serves as editor of The Learning Assistance Review and authored Learning Centers in the 21st Century. Frizell curated insights from learning center leaders nationwide in the book Rising to the Challenge: Navigating COVID-19 as Higher Education Learning Center Leaders. He holds leadership roles in various educational associations, including ICLCA and CLADEA. Frizell is a Certified Learning Center Professional and a prolific speaker, with over 100 comic book publications and notable works featuring figures like Dolly Parton, Billie Eilish, and Stacey Abrams.

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Ulric T. Hill is the Director of the Center for Academic Excellence at Durham Technical Community College and loves working with students at all levels as they travel the path to academic success. Ulric has 20 years of experience in K-12 and post-secondary education. He is passionate about mentoring, retention, academic success, and inclusion of underrepresented minority and first-generation students. While the Director of the CAE is his primary job function by day, Ulric continues to work in his community. A former collegiate athlete, Ulric has dedicated his life to developing youth in academics and life skills through coaching and mentoring. He co-founded DYSA, a nonprofit focusing on developing underrepresented and underserved youth in his community. Ulric is a doctoral candidate at Liberty University.


2:45–3:30 PM ET:  It All Adds Up: Equity-Minded Instructional Pedagogies and Analytics for Intervention Math Courses

Emporium-instruction for intervention and co-requisite math courses provides critical skill sets, knowledge, and self-regulation, and enhances academic self-esteem for students who are underprepared for college-level mathematics. At the University of Louisville (UofL), these courses have also unequivocally closed opportunity gaps for historically marginalized student populations, first-generation students, and Pell Grant recipients. This session will showcase the course structure and analyses that are essential in helping UofL improve educational outcomes for our students and demonstrate how we are modeling equity-minded instruction in postsecondary education.

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Dr. Geoff Bailey is the Executive Director of REACH (Resources for Academic Achievement) and Testing Services at the University of Louisville. With degrees from Guilford College and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG), his commitment to servant leadership is evident through extensive institutional service and professional organization involvement. Geoff's research interests include learning center impact on student success, persistence, and retention efforts. He's a leader in organizations like ICLCA and NCLCA, serving as Past President and contributing to international recognition and inclusive practices. Recognized with the NCLCA Certified Learning Center Professional (Level 4) lifetime achievement, Geoff's contributions extend to policy statements and award committees, reflecting his dedication to advancing learning center practices and student success.

Professional Portrait of Kelly Coultas

Kelly Coultas, Assistant Director for REACH Math Resources at the University of Louisville, oversees the GEN 103/104 program and summer bridge programs like Calculus Preview and Math Xcelerator. With a background in high school mathematics and counseling, she's dedicated to student success. Her commitment was recognized when students nominated her as a Student Champion in 2021 for her exceptional support during the pandemic. Kelly's teaching excellence is evident through her repeated nominations as a Faculty Favorite. She's also a key leader of the GEN 103/104 teaching team, honored with the 2022 NCLCA Presidents Outstanding Learning Center Award for Specialized Populations, highlighting their efforts in addressing college readiness challenges in mathematics.

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Carrye Wilkins, Associate Director of REACH (Resources for Academic Achievement) at the University of Louisville, oversees the Math Resource Center, Emporium Math Lab, intervention math courses (GEN 103/104), and summer bridge programs. With a B.A. and M.A. in mathematics from the University of Louisville, she has 32 years of experience teaching and managing courses from Beginning Algebra to College Algebra. She's a dedicated advocate for diversity, inclusion, and opportunity initiatives, contributing to the retention of UofL’s diverse student population. Carrye received the Presidential Exemplary Multicultural Engagement Staff Award in 2020 and led her GEN 103/104 team to win the 2022 NCLCA President’s Outstanding Learning Center Award for Specialized Populations, recognizing their efforts in addressing college readiness concerns in mathematics and promoting academic equity for all students.

3:30–3:45 PM ET: Closing Remarks with Upswing CEO Melvin Hines

If you have any questions, please contact info@upswing.io. We look forward to seeing you there!