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Ten Years of Innovating Together

Ten Years of Innovating Together

Reflecting on the Journey and Looking Ahead

In a world where technological advancements and pop culture often dominate the conversation, this year marks a significant milestone in the world of higher education—the tenth anniversary of the University Innovation Alliance (UIA). Over the past decade, the UIA has subtly but powerfully reshaped the landscape of American higher education. As we approach this milestone, let's take a moment to reflect on the journey, celebrate our shared accomplishments, and explore the exciting future ahead.

A Decade of Unprecedented Growth
In October 2014, the UIA embarked on its mission to revolutionize higher ed, setting the bold goal of awarding an additional 68,000 undergraduate degrees within the next decade. Fast forward to the present, and the numbers tell a remarkable story of success. The 11 founding members have not only achieved but surpassed their initial goal, awarding an impressive 143,000 additional degrees, more than doubling what we first set out to accomplish. Looking beyond that inspiring number, this achievement represents many thousands of empowered individuals whom our institutions have equipped with skills to thrive in the global marketplace.

Behind this extraordinary success lies the dedication of passionate teams across campuses. Our member university presidents and chancellors have been the visionaries who crafted the UIA's vision, set it in motion, and continued to steadfastly support it with their teams. These achievements are a testament to their leadership and the collaborative efforts of everyone who has made our shared goals a reality.

Commitment to Student-Centered Innovation
While degrees earned are a significant marker of both student and institutional success, the UIA's impact extends beyond academic achievements. The alliance has successfully implemented ten multi-campus collaborative innovation initiatives (including the Black Student Success Initiative and the programs reflected in our playbooks for higher ed leaders) and is driving a DFW academic recovery project with promising early results. These endeavors reflect the commitment to holistic student development and transformative changes in higher education.

The UIA's commitment to quality, collaboration, and accountability is evident in its growth. Nine new campuses have joined the founding universities, broadening the alliance's reach and incorporating fresh ideas and experiences. The University Innovation Lab serves as a beacon, sharing insights and fostering a culture of continuous improvement.

At the heart of the UIA's success lies the unsung heroes: the UIA Fellows. Acting as the circuitry that connects campuses, these individuals lead daily collaborative interactions and serve as ambassadors for the UIA. Many Fellows have transitioned to leadership roles, spreading the principles of student-centered innovation to new campuses.

Looking Ahead: What's Next for the UIA?
As the UIA approaches this momentous anniversary, we’re turning our focus toward the future. Our Board, comprised of university presidents and chancellors, has been grappling with the question of what comes next. A deliberative process is underway to synthesize lessons learned, refine work, and outline the UIA's unique contribution to the field in the next decade.

Commitment to Principles: The UIA reiterates its commitment to being data-driven, fostering trust, vulnerability, and transparency. Learning from failure remains a cornerstone, creating an environment where campuses can unpack lessons and prevent repeated mistakes. We will continue to champion collaboration as the best path forward, transcending the usual silos and helping institutions work better for the benefit of students.

Anticipating a Bright Future: In 2024, the UIA plans to host a long-awaited summit that will culminate our first decade of innovation, collaboration, and groundbreaking insights. Post-event support through the University Innovation Lab will sustain the momentum generated, fostering real transformation. Additionally, we’ll unveil our reenergized vision and an ambitious goal in late fall, inspiring hope and carrying on the credibility we’ve earned through surpassing our goals in the first ten years.

As the UIA approaches its tenth anniversary, we’re doing more than celebrating our achievements and recognizing the dedication of those involved. We’re more excited than ever about what the future holds. A decade into our work, the UIA is not merely a success story; it's a promise of continued innovation and transformative impact on higher education. The journey has just begun.

Note: This blog was inspired by our podcast Weekly Wisdom Looking Back on the Past Year, originally aired January 3, 2024.

About Weekly Wisdom
Weekly Wisdom is an event series that happens live on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. It also becomes a podcast episode. Every week, we join forces with Inside Higher Ed and talk with a sitting college president or chancellor about how they're specifically navigating the challenges of this moment. These conversations will be filled with practicable things you can do right now by unpacking how and why college leaders are making decisions within this unique and challenging time within higher education. Hopefully, these episodes will also leave you with a sense of optimism and a bit of inspiration.

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