Expanding a Professional Learning Community to Focus on Inclusion, Belonging, and Student Success


  • Heather Carroll Nipissing University
  • Sarah Pecoskie-Schweir Nipissing University
  • Pat Maher Nipissing University




professional learning community (PLC), students as partners (SaP), student success


Student success, particularly for students from marginalized populations, depends on a number of co-existing factors, not the least of which are a sense of belonging and the institution’s focus on inclusion. This article showcases the lessons learned from a professional learning community (PLC) for faculty, staff, and students, which was intentionally designed to create awareness of these issues and the need for courageous conversations to support change. The article discusses one particular PLC, a form of virtual “book club,” which occurred during the Fall 2021 semester (September–December). This PLC was focused on Anthony Jack’s text The Privileged Poor: How Elite Colleges Are Failing Disadvantaged Students, published in 2019, and encouraged a unique dialogue on student experience, co-facilitated by a team who critiqued aspects such as race, class, and first-generation status from different vantage points in higher education.


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Author Biographies

Heather Carroll, Nipissing University

is the Senior Instructional Designer at Nipissing University. In this role and beyond, her work focuses on student partnerships and equity in higher education. She holds a Master’s of International Higher Education from Loyola University Chicago, and a Master's of Learning and Teaching from Harvard University.

Sarah Pecoskie-Schweir, Nipissing University

is enrolled in the Bachelor of Education program at Nipissing University and also holds a BA in History from Nipissing University. As an Online Learning Partner in the 2022–2023 Academic Year, her work focused on providing peer support related to online learning, as well as supporting other teaching and learning initiatives. Sarah is a 3M National Student Fellow (2023).

Pat Maher, Nipissing University

is a full professor in the School of Physical and Health Education at Nipissing University and was the inaugural Dean of Teaching from 2019 to 2023.  Pat is a 3M National Teaching Fellow (2014) and a Fellow of the International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (2020).