MLA Toronto Roundtable: The Practice of Persistence at Access-Oriented Institutions

deadline for submissions: 
March 10, 2020
full name / name of organization: 
Joseph Donica and Leah Richards


Modern Language Association 2021 Convention, Toronto, Canada, 7-10 January 2021 

Session Title:  The Practice of Persistence at Access-Oriented Institutions



Forget grit. Angela Duckworth, whose work tied the concept of "grit" to education, worries that the concept has been misapplied. And it has. Within Access-Oriented Institutions, too often, struggling students are told that they just need to try harder--to exhibit more "grit." Responding to the presidential theme of "persistence," this roundtable of AOI faculty will acknowledge the systemic injustices that are the real obstacles to student success and consider the support that students at our institutions need to persist in their studies from enrollment and remediation to graduation and/or transfer. 

The session organizers are seeking AOI faculty from around the US to participate in a discussion that considers the value placed upon "persistence" in an access-oriented environment. Simply telling our students that trying hard will lead to success sets up false expectations and undermines the hard work of those who need additional support to succeed. Instead, we can introduce initiatives that foreground persistence as practiced by community college and other AOI students. 

Participants will self-select topics on which to prepare brief opening remarks with reference to their institution's students but the majority of the session will be dedicated to discussion of how we can best support our students.



Session Organizers: 


Joseph Donica, Assistant Professor of English, Bronx Community College, City University of New York (  



Leah Richards, Associate Professor of English, LaGuardia Community College, City University of New York (


Please submit a brief (about 150 words) proposal of the topic or perspective that you will bring to the roundtable by 10 March to the session organizers.


Possible topics include but are not limited to:

  • remediation/developmental and ALPs

  • multiple-language learners

  • dual credit programs with high schools

  • student advising and mentorship: programs like ASAP and College Discovery (within CUNY), and the potential alienation of the students who do NOT get these benefits

  • study skills, first-year seminars, and college readiness

  • setting expectations that improve student success

  • multitasking: dealing with family, employer, financial, community and other demands on time and energy

  • balancing student activism with academic work

  • precariousness: income inequality, documentation status, health issues, housing or food insecurity

  • campus student services: counseling, tutoring, writing center, legal aid, food pantry, etc. 

  • the costs of college: the challenges of financial aid, no-credit courses and part-time status, fees, books and resources (OERs, libraries, computer labs) and college budget cuts

  • the obstacles set up by the bootstrap narrative (“grit”)

  • attrition and graduation

  • realistic transfer planning