In early September, PSU participated in an invitation-only Seattle event sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF)—Interaction Effect 2015. We were invited in recognition of the work we are doing on reTHINK PSU and the Transformational Planning Grant we received last year from the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU) and Urban Serving Universities (USU). A select group of 60 other institutions and systems joined us – small colleges, public research universities, historically black colleges and universities, state systems, community colleges, and regional colleges. Each university was allowed to have only two representatives: Vice Provost Sukhwant Jhaj and I represented PSU.
BMGF has invested significantly in funding K-12 and community colleges. They have recently turned their attention to post-secondary education and recognize the need to focus and invest in the entire education ecosystem. BMGF has a goal to “work toward creating a significantly more educated and equitable society.” They want to set a new standard for higher education based on the success of all students, most especially low-income and first-generation students. This is certainly consistent with PSU’s goals and the students we serve and wish to serve.
The three-day event accelerated our thinking, connected us with other leaders, and provided a chance for us to share what we are doing at PSU. The meeting started by walking through a student pathway experience exhibit (photos in this blog are from that exhibit).
We also participated in sessions on advising, courseware, pathways, modeling, student experience design, and innovation in execution. The meeting format had us working in teams of about 25 persons each. We moved from peer labs, with everyone exchanging ideas, to intervention hubs where companies and not-for-profit groups shared their work and research.
There were only a handful of presentations at the meeting. Sukhwant Jhaj was invited to present on how we used crowdsourcing and a project management approach to execute and complete our Provost Challenge initiatives. There was great interest in PSU’s strategy and what we have accomplished.
The final day of the meeting was a “pitch competition.” The higher education institutions were encouraged to find partners they had met (or knew) at the meeting to pitch an idea that would have an impact on student success. The top three pitches, based on participant voting, would each be eligible to apply for a $75K planning grant from BMGF.
PSU collaborated on two pitches: One on reducing time to completion and reducing costs for students by creating personalized pathways to a credential for returning adult learners. Although that pitch was not selected as one of the top three, PSU was part of the top pitch selected–Ed Talks. Modeled after Ted Talks, Ed Talks would feature faculty from all over the country (and world) sharing information on how they teach and ideas for student success.
The next step is to submit a proposal to the BMGF for consideration. Stay tuned to see if the proposal is funded. Moreover, even though not a selected pitch, we will work on our personal pathways proposal – reducing time to completion and cost for students.
We should not underestimate the great work our faculty and staff are doing to support student success and completion. We were part of Interaction Effect 2015 because of PSU’s growing reputation for innovation and results-oriented approach. By being open to new ideas, we can better figure out ways to make these initiatives happen to benefit our current and future students.
I welcome your ideas on ways we can continue to be at the forefront of curricular innovation.