Narrowing the Digital Divide: Pragmatic and Student-Centered Approaches

The digital divide became a wider abyss for many students as institutions moved to remote learning in Spring 2020 in the midst of COVID-19. Internet deserts are seeing the potential for broadband connectivity diminish as localities face dire budget implications and national efforts seem idle. Beyond connectivity, access to devices and technology are a roadblock to many. Join our panelists as they discuss the digital and technology divide, policies, and strategies, including: 

  • Status of national broadband efforts and net neutrality.  
  • CARES Act. 
  • Creative solutions for providing access to critical technology including laptops and Wi-Fi. 
  • Innovative approaches to serving geographically rural and urban students.  

“Narrowing the Digital Divide: Pragmatic and Student-Centered Approaches” was on September 15 at 11:00 AM PDT / Noon MDT / 1:00 PM CDT / 2:00 PM EDT. WCET webcasts take place via Zoom.  

Follow the Twitter feed at #WCETwebcast. The webcast conversation is free and open to all. Vitac logo.

The webcast will be recorded and available on the webpage shortly after the live session. 

Live captioning is provided by our sponsor, VITAC.


Mordecai BrownleeMordecai Brownlee, Vice President for Student Success; St. Philip’s College 
Mordecai Ian Brownlee currently serves as the vice president for student success at St. Philip's College, the only college in the nation federally-designated as both a historically Black college (HBCU) and a Hispanic-serving institution (HSI), located in San Antonio, Texas. During his tenure as vice president, Brownlee has led St. Philip’s to record enrollment of over 13,500 students and the college’s three largest degree and certificate conferments in its 122-year history. Brownlee also serves as an adjunct professor at Morgan State University and the University of Charleston and is a higher education columnist for EdSurge. 


Jarret CummingsJarret Cummings, Senior Advisor, Policy and Government Relations; EDUCAUSE 
In his role as senior advisor for policy and government relations, Jarret Cummings oversees EDUCAUSE’s efforts to address federal policy issues with significant implications for higher education IT, particularly regarding information security and data privacy, e-learning, IT accessibility, and networking and telecommunications. Cummings previously served EDUCAUSE as a policy specialist in its Washington Office, special assistant to the president, and program administrator for the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative (ELI), the association’s primary teaching and learning with technology program.  


Robin DeRosaRobin DeRosa, Director, Open Learning and Teaching Collaborative; Plymouth State University
Robin DeRosa is a professor and the director of the Open Learning and Teaching Collaborative at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire. An advocate for public higher education in the United States, DeRosa is interested in how educational institutions can integrate more fully with the communities that they serve, and in how innovation can be driven by public need rather than private markets. 


Nate SoutherlandNate Southerland, Provost and Chief Academic Officer; Coconino Community College 
Nate Southerland leads Coconino Community College’s efforts to create and deliver outstanding undergraduate and CTE programs and provide support for students to access and succeed in postsecondary education. In addition to supervising the faculty and academic leadership of CCC, he oversees student development and support and takes an active role in community partnerships, including dual credit programs. Prior to joining Coconino Community College, Southerland held a variety of roles at Salt Lake Community College and served as the adult education specialist for the Utah Education Network, a unique state agency devoted to providing telecommunications infrastructure, distance learning systems, and instructional content for public and higher education providers.  


Sharon LeuSharon Leu, Senior Policy Advisor, Higher Education Innovation; U.S. Department of Education Office of Educational Technology 
Sharon Leu leads the Office of Educational Technology’s higher education innovation initiatives, including next generation assessments, individualized learning pathways, use of open resources and platforms, and strategic partnerships with stakeholders. Leu also works in offices across the Department to design programs that improve quality of education and increase success of students and adult learners. Prior to joining OET, Leu oversaw the design and implementation of the Department of Labor’s $2 billion Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) grant program, the largest federal investment in postsecondary innovation and systematic infrastructure change.