NGLC’s Breakthrough Models Academy: a Recap and an Invitation

ln summer 2013, NGLC launched a new program, the Breakthrough Models Academy,  to help extend what we and the field are learning from the bold, out-there developers of new, affordable degree programs - the Breakthrough Models for College Completion pioneers funded in NGLC’s Wave IIIb. The Academy seeks to enlist and develop aspiring agents of change at an expanding circle of institutions across the U.S. and beyond. We’re now accepting applications for the program’s second year; application information is available on the website and applications are due by January 17.

The Breakthrough Models Academy isn’t for “newbies” to the sphere of next generation learning – rather, we are looking for individuals who’ve already had some leadership training and who have a passion for forwarding academic transformation in postsecondary education. The experience will support your development as a change agent and leader of innovation for higher education institutions. NGLC’s ultimate aim is to create a cohort of leaders made up of Breakthrough Models Academy alumni, with the insight, energy, and commitment to design models that will address the critical challenges in higher education (high costs, low completion rates, achievement gaps, unclear outcomes).

 Three inter-related components make up the program:

  • an intensive week-long, team-based learning experience in Cambridge, MA;
  • a period of collaborative work on the challenge to design a new model for student success; and
  • a presentation of designs at a key EDUCAUSE event, the ELI Annual Meeting 2015 (see the website for the 2013 designs)

Based on what I learned this year as NGLC staff liaison to the 2013 Breakthrough Models Academy and helping to plan the 2014 program, I can attest to the quality of this program’s leaders, the many distinguished guest speakers who will present in Cambridge, and the coaches that work with the teams. To give a sense of the caliber of the guest presenters, those in 2013 included leaders of breakthrough degree programs such as Paul LeBlanc, president of Southern New Hampshire University; Chris Bustamante, president of Rio Salado College; Srikant Vasan, Founder and President of Portmont College at Mount St. Mary’s; and Lynne Weisenbach, Vice Chancellor for Educational Access and Success at the University System of Georgia. The group also heard from and had the chance to interact with institutional and organizational leaders like Ed Klonoski, president of Charter Oak State College; Thomas Bailey, George and Abby O'Neill Professor of Economics and Education and Director of the Community College Research Center at Teachers College, Columbia University; and Judith Eaton, president of the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. The sophisticated and future-facing perspectives of these guest speakers informed and undergirded the original design challenge work that the Academy participants undertook.

Like the guest presenters, the 48 participants were inspiring and represented a diverse array of roles, experiences, and perspectives on the need for breakthrough change. In the inaugural year they included faculty members, academic deans, information technology leaders, a library director, leaders of instructional innovation and instructional technology functions, and CIOs. Representatives from institutions of all types joined the 2013 Academy: research universities, community colleges, regional public institutions, large and small private institutions, and liberal arts colleges.  And five members of the initial Academy cohort were even project leaders from NGLC’s Wave I investment, “Building Blocks for College Completion.”

Once again, the residential component of the 2014-2015 Academy will take place in Cambridge in July. This year, it will be followed by almost six months of online collaboration in teams to refine the designs of new models initiated in Cambridge (with support from coaches). The Academy will culminate with presentations of finished designs at the ELI Annual Meeting in Anaheim in February 2015.

We very much hope that the most passionate and promising potential leaders of the much-needed institutional changes in postsecondary education will consider applying. Application to the program is competitive. Applications are due January 17 and require high-level backing (in the form of a letter of support as well as commitment of funds) at the institution from which the applicant comes, so the clock is ticking. We’d appreciate the help of anyone in NGLC’s “friends and family” in finding the right applicants for next year’s Academy in your own institution or in your networks.

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