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2021: A Strong Year for the University Innovation Alliance

2021: A Strong Year for the University Innovation Alliance

We founded the University Innovation Alliance (UIA) on the idea that collaboration is essential to accelerate innovation and improve equitable outcomes in higher education. I am so proud of how our campuses and network adapted and persevered as we all faced 2021's unprecedented challenges. The past two years have highlighted the resilience of our students; the kindness and compassion of our faculty, staff, and administrators; and the brave leadership of our presidents and chancellors. The UIA’s work has always helped people see that they aren’t alone and supported them in solving complex challenges. We’ve made tremendous progress as a sector in facing these challenges and seeking allies to overcome them. In 2022, I see unlimited potential to deepen collaboration, recommit to successful partnerships, and extend our progress toward making our institutions and our sector more student-centered and equitable.

Impact and Scale
Last spring, our founding UIA members officially exceeded our original goal of awarding 68,000 additional degrees in ten years – four years early! We're proud to announce further milestones reached in fall 2021:

  • Our 11 founding UIA institutions have produced over 97,000 additional degrees above baseline projections and are on track to double their 68,000 degree goal by 2025.
  • The number of annual UIA graduates of color has increased 85% from 2012-2013 to 2020-2021.
  • Annual low-income graduates have increased by 46%, and our total annual graduates have increased 30%.
  • Between 2015 and 2020, the percentage of bachelor’s graduates who are underrepresented students of color increased by 4% at other public universities of R1 designation, compared to 5% among UIA members.

Additionally, the UIA welcomed its first new member campuses: North Carolina A&T State University and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. These two institutions have demonstrated track records of innovation, collaboration, and improving success rates for traditionally underrepresented students.

We aim to expand to 20 institutions while strengthening the racial/ethnic, socioeconomic, and geographic diversity in our network. To this end, we developed
an online toolbox, the University Innovation Lab, to support our members and share curated resources and engagement opportunities for innovation adoption with other partners across the sector.

Diffusion to the Field
With the arrival of the COVID pandemic, the UIA leveraged its foundation as a virtual organization and adapted to new ways of engaging the higher ed sector with live content. After producing stand-alone livestream video content weekly for over two years, 2020 found us testing a new approach to livestreaming thematic content. We launched several web shows elevating topics and guests that direct the field’s attention to issues and values that we prioritize: equity, student success, experiences and outcomes for traditionally underserved communities, and diverse leadership.

By 2021, we were producing Weekly Wisdom, Scholarship to Practice, and Innovation Spotlight, all under the umbrella of the Innovating Together Podcast, which currently has over 60,000 downloads, is in the top 5% of podcasts globally, and is available on all podcasting apps and our website. We are particularly excited to team up with Inside Higher Ed as a broadcast partner and significantly expand the audience reach across these streams.

This past year also saw the launch of our monthly newsletter. It provides actionable strategies, resources, and tips that others in the field can use to help more low-income students, first-generation students, and students of color graduate from college.

In addition, the UIA developed three public resources:

Expanding Our Network
In 2022, we're eager to continue sharing ideas and resources across our network at a time when students need us to work together more than ever. This year we'll extend the alliance’s geographic reach and increase our network's diversity of ideas and campus contexts by welcoming two new members: Virginia Commonwealth University and the University of Illinois Chicago. We will position each of our member institutions to eliminate disparity by race and income through collaboration and scale of proven innovations. By leveraging insights gleaned from UIA experimentation and innovation, we will continue creating meaningful tools to support the field and galvanize sector change. Together, we can help higher education meet its full potential – so that all students can reach theirs.

Note: This blog, adapted from the UIA's Annual Report, is the first in a series highlighting our progress in 2021. We invite you to read How Universities Collaborated for Student Success and Teamwork, Completion Grants, and Workforce Readiness.

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