This month has been a whirlwind of speaking, conferences and convening our campuses. It is a personal joy to learn alongside institutions and help them think differently about their work. One reality I believe campuses need to grapple with that is dramatically reshaping how universities and students interact, is that today’s students are the most sensitive to bad design of any prior generation.
Why? The proliferation of user-centered design and design thinking means that we all have experienced a product or service that was intuitive, easy, and frictionless – whether checking out our cart online, ordering food, or comparing options for a big purchase. Being alive today means understanding the experiential difference between good and bad design. Today's students value intuitive design in their experiences and choices and have far less tolerance or patience for bad design.
While the “look to your left” perspective that put students on the defensive never really benefited higher education, that value system is now a serious threat to the future of any institution. In the near future, students will have the ability to search and compare campuses based on other students’ reported experiences and their own expectations. Soon it will be easy for a low-income student with specific experiences and identities to know exactly what institution and modality is best suited to their unique learning style and background. Universities that haven’t thought seriously about – and taken major steps to improve – their user experience will be at a disadvantage.
As colleges worry about shifting enrollment numbers, campuses need to understand that the playbook of the past is insufficient for the challenges of this moment. Rather than trying to market their way out of enrollment challenges, the campuses that thrive in the future will instead focus on the student experience from first interaction through the first two years out of college.
While the task can sound daunting to institutions that haven’t given enough thought to user experience, we know through our work at the UIA that improving design to focus on students doesn’t have to be costly or difficult. I always make sure to share our experiences with empathy sprints and process mapping – two steps toward better, student-centered design that don't cost anything to implement and anyone can do. Regularly engaging in these two basic concepts can give university leaders and administrators a much better understanding of how their students experience the university and transform the student experience (and likelihood of graduation) over time. If institutions take this urging seriously, they can broaden their appeal to a diverse range of students, and the students we have failed in the past will have a far greater likelihood of succeeding in the future.
This month has been a busy time for all in higher ed but especially for the UIA Central Team!
We welcomed an array of new campus team members, including University of California-Riverside (UCR) Liaison: Dr. Louie Rodriguez, and University of Illinois- Chicago (UIC) inaugural Fellow Dr. Felicia Keelen. We were also delighted to see the UIA Fellow from Georgia State University (GSU) Dr. Rich Singiser selected to lead our latest initiative, the Academic Recovery Project. Dr. Singiser brings a wealth of expertise (including as a former chemistry faculty member) to the project which will include implementing an innovative approach to supporting 1200 academically struggling students in first-year gateway courses across the Alliance. Know a colleague who could be the next UIA Fellow for GSU? Please have them apply here by May 9, 2023.
The best part of the month was bringing together 120 higher ed leaders from across the Alliance for our UIA Spring Convening in Atlanta. Our three-day, action-packed gathering creates essential space and time for campus teams to collaborate, build action plans, learn about innovative strategies across the network, discuss their challenges and learning, and identify the next challenges we want to tackle together. This convening featured an extensive focus on the Academic Recovery project, learnings from our Black Student Success Initiative, and how our campuses can support vulnerable student populations through identity conscious redesign work.
We were thrilled to feature an in-depth discussion with Dr. Zakiya Ellis (Education Counsel) and Dr. Leonard Taylor, Jr. (Auburn University). Participants also heard firsthand from Georgia State’s team (Dr. Tim Renick, Dr. Allison Calhoun-Brown, Carol Cohen, and Amanda Emery) about important insights learned from the past 3 years of running the GSU Accelerator Academy (the model framework for the Academic Recovery Project being implemented by 12 UIA campuses.) Lastly, we always aim to surprise and delight our network- so we teamed up with a local nonprofit to bring puppies in for an afternoon break. They were a hit!
Learn with Us
- The 100th Innovating Together Podcast (blog post)
- Innovating Together: Interview with Dr. DeAngela Burns-Wallace (podcast)
- Balancing New Leadership With a Powerful Legacy (blog post)
- Innovating Together: Interview with President Tania Tetlow (podcast)
- Innovating Together: Interview Paul Quinn College President Michael Sorrell (podcast)
- Chatbots and AI in Higher Ed (blog)
Want more? Check out all of our weekly blog posts and podcast episodes.
Here’s what we’re learning about this month at the UIA:
- Excited about the launch of a new higher education effort we are advising!
- The science of performing under pressure with Sian Beilock, the 1st woman president-elect of Dartmouth College (Podcast)
- Tips and tools from CCA on using measurement systems to strengthen student success reforms (Resource)
- A conceptual and evidenced-based framework for strategic diversity leadership (Book)
- Why DEI is the center of education political debates right now (Podcast)
- May 1 - 2, 2023: National Conference on Diversity, Race & Learning, Columbus, OH
- May 10 - 12, 2023: National Student Parent Support Symposium, Columbus, OH (Deadline to register: April 30)
- June 14 - 15, 2023: JFF Horizons Annual Summit, New Orleans, LA (Deadline to register: May 5)
- June 25 - 27, 2023: NASPA Conference on Student Success in Higher Education, Kansas City, MO
- September 25 - 28, 2023: National College Learning Center Association (NCLCA) Conference, Portland, OR (Deadline to Register: July 14)
- October 4 - 7, 2023: NACADA Annual Conference, Orlando, FL (Early Registration Deadline: August 16)
- October 16 - 18, 2023: NCAN National Conference, Dallas, TX (Deadline to Register Early: July 14)
- November 12 - 14, 2023: APLU Annual Meeting, Seattle, WA (Early Registration Open Early Summer)
- November 15 - 18, 2023: ASHE Annual Conference, Minneapolis, MN (Early Registration Deadline: August 5)
- December 10 - 12, 2023: Complete College America Annual Convening, Las Vegas, NV (Call for Proposals Deadline: May 15)
Stuff We Love
A curated list of the latest and greatest things we’re using to stay calm and innovate:
- Ever been grossed out by your water bottle? This one is self-cleaning.
- Adorable wrist support for your desk.
- New desk chair if you won the lottery. Until then, here is an ergonomic one that people rave about. Tired of your coffee getting cold by the second meeting? Try this desk mug warmer.
- Cannot wait to interview someone using this tiny mic!
- Highly recommend this portable snooze machine for sleep on the road.
"Fundamentally, our role has been to move people out of darkness and into optimism and light. And that's what leadership is about."