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Welcome Reception and Dr. Alexander Astin

The Welcome Reception was held in the stylish ballroom of the Double Tree Hotel in Tallahassee. The evening began with a lively jazz band filling the room with music as participants networked over hors d’oeuvres and drinks. Dr. Mary Coburn, Vice President of Student Affairs at Florida State University, officially commenced the 2015 Jon C. Dalton Institute on College Student Values tonight with a speech welcoming the Dalton Institute participants and expressing appreciation for the hard work of the Institute planners, Craig Beebe and Mallory Garcia as well as the Institute volunteers.

After introductions were announced, Dr. Alexander Astin took the stage for his keynote speech: “Achieving Equity in Higher Education: An Unfinished Agenda.” Dr. Astin began his presentation by expressing his condolences that his co-presenter, and wife, Dr. Helen Astin, fell ill prior to the Institute and was unable to make the trip to Florida State University. For the 25th Anniversary of the Jon C. Dalton Institute, Dr. Astin reviewed Institute themes since the conference founding in 1990 and found five research topics present throughout each year’s Institute. Accompanied with a list of supplemental readings, Dr. Astin presented on Equity, Values/Character, Leadership, Service/Civic Responsibility, and Spirituality.

Beginning with the research topic of equity, Dr. Astin indentified inequities in the history of higher education stretching across a number of marginalized groups including women, African American, and lower class students. Dr. Astin continued that the toughest barriers for minorities were standardized test scores, and although minorities were often unable to attend elite institutions, they academically outperformed their nonminority peers in these institutions.

Dr. Astin followed the topic of equity with discussing values and character development. Through summaries of literature including Education and Identity (1969)No Time for Youth (1968), and The American College (1962), Dr. Astin proposed a trend where college students are beginning to value financial stability over the development of a meaningful life.

Leadership and civic responsibility were presented next. Dr. Astin discussed the concept of leadership developing over the past 25 years using examples such as Dr. Helen Astin’s book, Women of Influence, Women of Vision (1991) and the Social Change Model of Student Leadership Development (1996). The topic of leadership segued well into a conversation around civic engagement were Dr. Astin explained that experiential learning with service opportunities increases a student’s likelihood to vote, donate to charity, and increase racial understanding.

Dr. Astin concluded his speech by presenting five measurements of spirituality and how the five research topics are interconnected with these measurements of spirituality. These measurements included spiritual quest, equanimity, charitable involvement, ethic of caring, and ecumenical worldview. The keynote speech concluded by relating the five measurements back to the aforementioned research topics. For instance, Dr. Astin explained how involvement in leadership training during college promotes equanimity, charitable involvement, and ecumenical worldview. Additionally, charitable involvement strengthens growth of character in areas such as “accepting others as they are” and “helping others in difficulty.”

We look forward to another exciting day of thoughts, conversation, and critical reflections as we move forward in this year’s Institute of Widening Inequalities: Educating College Students to be Fair and Equitable in the World They Will Lead.