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Powered by Publics Learning Exchange
Sharing, connecting, learning in support of institutional transformation.

APLU held its Annual Meeting on November 12-14 in Seattle, WA. The theme of this year’s event was Innovation for Impact. Although this was an in-person event, main sessions were recorded. Read more about Powered by Publics-relevant sessions below:

  • Nicole Carr, Associate Vice President, Student Academic Success, University of South Alabama, emphasized cross-institutional partnerships for innovative workforce programs, demonstrating the power of collaboration in addressing contemporary challenges.
  • Tadarrayl Starke, Associate Vice Provost for Student Success, University of Connecticut, emphasized the importance of involving students in student success strategies, showcasing UConn’s commitment to student-centered approaches.
  • Eugene Deess, Executive Director, Office of Institutional Effectiveness, New Jersey Institute of Technology, addressed the challenges posed by demographic declines and the need to adapt strategies to prepare students for an evolving workforce.

Next, attendees worked to uncover hidden assets in “Discover, Dream, Decide: A Discussion for Advancing Change.” These small group conversations, with questions inspired by the Appreciative Inquiry approach to collective learning, allowed participants to identify positive moments that energized their student success work (discover), envision potential enhancements (dream), and commit to action steps to drive change on their campuses (decide). Key themes that emerged included the importance of cross-functional collaboration, consistent messaging, embracing data, and sustaining momentum despite leadership changes. Though Powered by Publics formally sunsets this year, its legacy will endure through relationships formed, insights shared, and transformative impacts on student success strategies nationwide.

Talking Transformation: Does Your Campus Have What It Takes?

In this standing-room only session, a dynamic group of student success champions brought their unique perspectives on transformation efforts at their institutions:

  • Jen Wells, Senior Program Officer, Postsecondary Success, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (Moderator)
  • André Green, Dean of the College of Education, East Carolina University
  • Kara Turner, Senior Vice President for Enrollment Management and Student Success, Morgan State University
  • Nycole Courtney, Associate Vice President for Student Affairs; Dean of Student Success & Graduation, University of Wyoming

The panel explored the forces that sparked transformation efforts at their respective institutions. Green emphasized the critical role of visionary leadership which catalyzed the creation of a student success team. Turner pinpointed the transformative power of raising expectations when their president refused to accept Morgan State University’s historical retention and graduation outcomes as inevitable, and how this drove adoption of new strategies/initiatives. Courtney highlighted crisis as change catalyst. The urgency of the pandemic led University of Wyoming’s leadership to critically evaluate existing policies and structures, spurring greater collaboration and student-centeredness. Panelists reiterated that transformation is not a project with a start and end date, but rather an ongoing process of improvement fueled by data, self-reflection and student feedback. Overall, the session made clear that though change is complex, vision, courage, and cooperation make real progress attainable.

Additionally, Wells highlighted two resources from her work with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, developed through multi-year research on high-performing institutions, which can assist campuses in assessing readiness, taking action, and tracking progress. To access these resources, please visit the Frontier Set and The Guide for Postsecondary Changemakers websites. DISCLOSURES: The Association of Public & Land-grant Universities and the Coalition of Urban Serving Universities served as a Frontier Set intermediary organization. Additionally, funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation supported the Powered by Publics and Intermediaries for Scale initiatives.

Investing in Impact with Sustainable University Business Models:

Moderator Rick Staisloff, rpk GROUP Senior Partner, framed the session by connecting student success, value, and institutional sustainability. Jean Vock (former Senior Vice President for Business Affairs & Chief Financial Officer, University of Nevada-Las Vegas) stressed the importance of using analytics to guide strategic funding choices. She relayed how UNLV examined registration holds, finding small outstanding balances prevented student enrollment, while relaxing requirements boosted revenue. Diane Cheng, Vice President of Research & Policy, Institute for Higher Education Policy, introduced “Threshold Zero”—the minimum return students should receive on their educational investment. She explained how tools like the Equitable Value Explorer help colleges improve students’ ROI. Maggie Tolan, Senior Associate Vice President for Student Success, Virginia Commonwealth University, detailed VCU initiatives like revamped first-year courses and paid internships producing financial returns through higher retention. She stressed identifying “champions” who pinpoint high-impact changes.

Key takeaways included to start with disaggregated student data (Cheng), find efficiencies and right-size resources (Vock), identify connections between student success and sustainability (Tolan), and increase transparency around spending, outcomes, and ROI (Staisloff). Panelists conveyed the importance of reframing conversations and bringing together stakeholders from across the institution to craft financial and student success strategies focused on equity, outcomes, and sustainability.

Strategies for Improving Data Literacy and Data Culture on Campus:

Data literacy plays a crucial role in harnessing the power of institutional data to remove barriers to student success. Four university leaders discussed strategies and their experiences:

  • Archie Holmes, Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, University of Texas System (Moderator)
  • Tom Andriola, Vice Chancellor for Information Technology & Data; Chief Digital Officer, University of California, Irvine
  • Valeria Garcia, Associate Vice President of Decision Support, University of South Florida
  • John Volin, Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost, University of Maine

Key themes emerged around data sharing, data literacy, and trust, all of which are critical for improving transparency and effectiveness. The panel also shared real-world examples such as data dashboards and qualitative data gathering techniques that support understanding the context of the student’s experiences. They stressed that getting the fundamentals right is critical, such as consistent data definitions, standards and policies around data security, a cross-functional data governance structure, and the necessary technology.

  • Eric Bailey II, Assistant Vice President for Student Academic Success, University of Memphis
  • John Gunkel, Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Strategic Partnerships, Rutgers University-Newark
  • JoAnne Malatesta, Dean and Vice Provost, University at Albany

They highlighted the critical role of faculty communities of practice in enhancing student belonging and academic outcomes. Emphasizing the necessity of these initiatives, the discussion revolved around experiences, challenges, and best practices. This insightful session provided a roadmap for institutions aiming to create more inclusive and effective educational experiences. Samantha Levine, USU Associate Director, also shared a plethora of SEP resources, including their report and First Day Toolkit.

Tags: APLU Annual Meeting, Conference

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