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Educators Are Pitch Perfect in $165,000 Advising Innovation Competition


L-R: Peter Meiksins, Isis Artze-Vega, Melissa Welker, Sona Andrews, Jacqueline Smith, Alan Houston.  Photo Courtesy of APLU.

Maybe you missed it at the Annual Meeting of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities.  A  competition developed by APLU and the Coalition of Urban Serving Universities (USU) that had academic leaders pitching student success innovations to win $165,000, that day. The payoff?  Making their idea a campus reality to energize student success efforts to move thousands of students across the finish line to degree completion.

Now you can see it here as well as a panel discussion with leaders from the philanthropies that funded the pitch competition.  The panelists discuss key elements of student success and the higher education work they are funding and why.  Mark P. Becker, President of Georgia State University, moderated the competition and the discussion with panelists Tina Gridiron, Strategy Director, Lumina Foundation for Education; Amy Kerwin, Vice President, Community Investments, Great Lakes Higher Education Guarantee Corporation; and Edward Smith-Lewis, Program Officer, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Higher education is changing.  Sometimes reluctantly, sometimes in reaction to public pressure.  Or as in the case of these pitchers, sometimes with hopeful anticipation of having yet unfunded innovations recognized for their promise to move their institution, and their students, closer to success.

A component of this competition, however, was that each innovation be scalable and able to meet the needs not just of the pitching institution, but of other colleges and universities facing a similar dilemma.

You judge how they did.

Though not quite “Academics Gone Wild!” these provosts, center directors, and educators strayed a bit outside of their comfort zones and smashed the stereotype of the serious tweed jacketed professors and female administrators in pleated skirts and practical shoes.

They smiled, cajoled, entertained and engaged to try to win it all. As I recall college administrators were never like this…jovial and inspiring.

The pitchers and their innovations were:

Alan Houston, Director, Academic Strategic Initiatives, University of California, San Diego pitching “Engaged Learning Tools.”

Isis Artze-Vega, Associate Director, Center for the Advancement of Teaching, Florida International University pitching “UPASS@FIU.”

Melissa Welker, Executive Director of Student Success Programs and Initiatives, Northern Arizona University pitching “Building a Rapid Response to Risk (R3) System.”

Sona Andrews, Provost, Portland State University pitching “Hey Siri, Where is MY Degree Map?”

Jacqueline Smith, Executive Director of University Initiatives, Arizona State University pitching “Me3, Meeting High School Students Where They Are.”

Peter Meiksins, Vice Provost-Academic Programs, Cleveland State University pitching “Dual Campus Advising System.”

The panel of judges included: Ben Dobner, Director-Education Grant making, Great Lakes Higher Education Guaranty Corporation; Nicole McDonald, Strategy Officer, Lumina Foundation; Tom Moss, Associate Vice Provost for Undergraduate Affairs, University of Illinois at Chicago; Charles Nutt, Executive Director, NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising; and Cathy Sandeen, Chancellor, University of Wisconsin Extension.


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