Transforming Professional Learning and Building a New Higher Education Community

By Louis Soares

March 11, 2019

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By Philip Rogers and Louis Soares

ACE believes that the power to sustain and renew American higher education lies in the creativity, commitment, and expertise of the thousands of leaders who work every day to educate students on the nation’s college campuses. Philip Rogers and Louis Soares discuss the Council’s efforts to develop affordable, scalable, professional learning opportunities to make institutions and leaders more effective.

We spend all day, every day, thinking about one major goal—how to better serve leaders and campuses by fostering high-quality, innovative practice in higher education. One of us approaches this work from the perspective of a former think tank executive, adult learning researcher, and state-level policy leader. The other was an administrator at an ACE member campus and led a wide array of institutional transformation efforts before landing in Washington, DC, to do the same work on a national scale. While our backgrounds are different, our passion to transform professional learning from within the higher education community is one and the same—and that passion is why we are committed to helping institutions and leaders innovate and adapt in the face of higher education’s most pressing challenges.

Over the last 18 months, we’ve asked our members how we can serve you better. As a result of a national listening tour, we made it our goal to fundamentally transform professional learning across higher education. To accomplish this goal, we are bringing all of our programmatic offerings in the areas of leadership, research, internationalization, education attainment, and academic innovation under a single umbrella that we are now calling the ACE Learning and Engagement Division.

But it is important for you to know that this is not just an organizational restructuring. This is a strategically different way of interacting with our members and delivering added value to what we offer you and your institutions through professional learning programs, research, and services.

We are launching several new initiatives that will help us deliver on these goals. As some of you may recall, last year we announced that—as part of revamping our strategic priorities during ACE’s centennial year—we would initiate a robust peer-to-peer digital platform and virtual library of content and transform our suite of leadership development programs. The bottom line is that ACE is doing professional learning differently. There are two big opportunities for higher education leaders nationwide from every sector to plug into this work: the first is ACE Engage®, and the second is our recently launched Regional Summit strategy.

The goal of our Regional Summits, which soon will be held in four regions around the country several times each year, is to help reduce the cost of traveling, to make our programming more accessible, and to connect you with your regional peers around the critical higher education topics of the day.

Meanwhile, ACE Engage will be home to a professional learning community for leaders with a shared mission to build expertise, collaborate, and learn. ACE Engage is designed to make it easy for you to continue to build and sustain relationships with the people you meet at the Regional Summits. You will be able to share your expertise and explore solutions via guided microcourses on critical higher education topics and in online peer-guided conversations and virtual meetings with experts.

ACE Engage, combined with the Regional Summits, will give you the tools and the connections you need, along with a 24-7 online platform, to improve your campus and the lives of your students. We have heard over and over again from leaders from presidents to provosts and deans to student affairs professionals that a resource that allows them to learn even as they go about their day-to-day duties—learning in the flow of work, some call it—would be incredibly valuable.

Let’s say you are a president who has just learned that a controversial speaker is coming to campus. You may already have a plan to deal with that, but it might be helpful to have on hand an overview that sketches out the types of questions and potential issues you should keep in mind as you head into that first strategy meeting for the event. As we mentioned, ACE developed its new approach to professional learning based on member feedback, but we also explored the latest trends in executive learning with industry leaders including Deloitte, Harvard Business School Corporate Learning, Vistage, and YPO Forum to ensure our members benefit from the latest research and delivery models.

We are grateful to all of you who are already involved with these important initiatives. And a special note of thanks to our partner in powering the ACE Engage digital platform, John Katzman and Noodle Partners, which helps universities create online and hybrid programs.

Across all of this new work, whether it happens in a private studio on the ACE Engage platform or at one of our Regional Summits tackling vital issues such as student mental health or free speech on campus, stretches a unifying theme: we want to help you do the best possible job for your institution and your students. That is at the core of our mission at ACE, as a membership organization that mobilizes the higher education community to shape effective public policy and foster innovative, high-quality practice. And that is how we will know we are succeeding in the work of the Learning and Engagement Division.

If you have any questions or comments about this blog post, please contact us.

About the Author

Louis Soares

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