The Hope Center

The #RealCollege™ Virtual Journey

Across the nation, college enrollment and retention are falling and students are struggling to meet their basic needs. The #RealCollege™ Virtual Journey– sponsored by Course Hero, Conagra Brands, and The Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice- is an opportunity to build capacity and to meet this moment of global pandemic, historic inequality, and unprecedented public spending.

This creative re-envisioning of the annual #RealCollege™ convening, announced in January, offers higher education leaders and their communities critical support. Over a nine-month period beginning with our March 31st free kickoff, the Journey will provide participants with online workshops and engaging activities led by experts and delivered free of charge. 

Participants will engage in three paths, choosing their own adventures:

Path 1: Information and Inspiration. Learn about the latest evidence on basic needs insecurity during the pandemic and be inspired by leaders making change.
Path 2: Learning and Growing Evidence-Based Practices. Engage in developing advising, instruction, and related practices on and off campus to support students’ basic needs.
Path 3: Advocating for Change. Create sustainable systems change so that the higher education ecosystem is forever improved.

This year, #RealCollege™ will convene a Virtual Journey with topics supported by the latest research evidence. Each month will begin with an inspirational session, leading into workshops that highlight practice and policy to support students experiencing basic needs insecurities. Below is an outline of the Virtual Journey with thematic content curated throughout 2021 (dates to be determined for later events).

Previous Events


Wednesday, March 31, 3:00 – 5:00 p.m. ET

Path 1: Kickoff Event with Soledad O’Brien & Wes Moore (Watch Recording)


Wednesday, April 7, 3:00 – 4:30 p.m. ET

Path 2: Bridging the Gap: Effectively Connecting Students to Basic Needs Supports (Watch Recording, Download Resources)

Path 3: Fighting for Change: Advancing a Federal Agenda for #RealCollege Students (Watch Recording, Resource 1, Resource 2)


Wednesday, May 12, 3:00-5:00 p.m. ET (Watch Recording)

Path 1: Pregnant Girl, a special event with author Nicole Lynn Lewis

Wednesday, May 19, 3:00 – 4:30 p.m. ET (Watch Recording, Download Slides)

Paths 2 and 3 combined: Generations of Change: Supporting Parenting Students Through Campus-Based Resources and State and Federal Programs


Wednesday, June 2, 3:00 – 5:00 p.m. ET

Path 1: Designing for Care with Jesse Stommel of Digital Pedagogy Lab & the #RealCollege SLAC (Watch recording)

Wednesday, June 9, 3:00- 4:30 p.m. ET

Path 2: How to Ungrade (Watch Recording)

Path 3: Investing in Community Colleges (Watch Recording)


Wednesday, June 30, 3:00 p.m. ET

Path 1: Explore racism and financial trauma with Hope Research Fellow Chloe McKenzie (Register) Postponed

Wednesday, July 14, 3:00 p.m. ET

Path 2: Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion in the Basic Needs Movement (Watch Recording)

Path 3: Work Requirements, Deservingness, and the Social Safety Net (Watch Recording)


Wednesday, August 18, 3:00 p.m. ET

Path 1: “The State Must Provide,” a special event with author Adam Harris (Watch Recording)

Wednesday, August 25, 3:00 p.m. ET

Path 2: Equity Avengers: Presidential Perspectives on Institutional Budgets (Watch Recording; Resources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10)

Path 3: The Free College Movement and Students’ Basic Needs (Watch Recording)


Tuesday, September 14, 3:30 p.m. ET

Path 1: In the Room Where it Happens: Featuring the #RealCollege™ SLAC (Watch Recording)

Wednesday, September 22, 3:00 p.m. ET

Path 2 & 3: Empowering Students to Lead Change (Watch Recording)


Wednesday, October 6, 3:00 p.m. ET

Path 1: “The Debt Trap”, a Special Event with Author Joshua Mitchell (Watch Recording)

Wednesday, October 20, 3:00 p.m. ET

Path 3: Reforming Financial Aid Policy for #RealCollege Students (Watch Recording)

Wednesday, October 27, 3:00 p.m. ET

Path 2: When Care Isn’t Enough? (Watch Recording)


Wednesday, November 3, 3:00 p.m. ET

Path 1: A National Reckoning: Exploring Racial Justice in Higher Ed (Watch Recording)

Wednesday, November 10, 3:00 p.m. ET

Town Hall – Reflecting and Preparing for 2022 (Watch Recording)


Thursday, December 2, 5:00 p.m. ET

Virtual Journey Celebration (Watch Recording)

Help Fund the Virtual Journey

The Hope Center for College, Community, Justice thanks our presenting sponsors Course Hero and Conagra Brands for generous sponsorship which helps students to achieve their dreams. This adventure is offered in collaboration with Believe in Students. We seek additional partners for the Virtual Journey. To get involved, please contact Chief of Staff Maureen Scully.

Watch Our Kickoff Event

The Journey kicked off on Wednesday, March 31, with a webinar featuring special guests, journalist and documentarian Soledad O’Brien and CEO and social entrepreneur Wes Moore. They were joined by The Hope Center’s President & Founder Sara Goldrick-Rab for a conversation on the implications of #RealCollege™ 2021: Basic Needs Insecurity During the Ongoing Pandemic and a discussion of our new #RealCollege survey report. The report was presented by Executive Director E. Christine Baker-Smith and Frederick Shegog of West Chester University, a member of The Hope Center’s first Student Leadership Advisory Council.

Sign up to receive more information about the #RealCollege™ Virtual Journey!