Friday SLO Talk (December 8, 2023)

The final Friday SLO Talk for the Fall 2023 semester on December 8, 2023, was a fruitful panel discussion with experts from industry and higher education weighing in on various topics currently affecting the higher education landscape such as competency-based education, workforce development, and the self-directed, problem-solving mindset that is desired by today’s employers.

  1. Curriculum Relevance: There was a consistent emphasis on the importance of designing curricula that are closely aligned with the evolving needs of the workforce.
  2. Skills Development: Discussion centered around the necessity of fostering practical skills alongside theoretical knowledge to enhance graduates’ employability.
  3. Teaching Strategies: There were mentions of diverse teaching methods, including experiential learning, interactive approaches, and technology integration, aimed at improving learning outcomes.
  4. Assessment Methods: The significance of assessments that measure both knowledge acquisition and practical skill mastery was highlighted, mirroring the requirements of real-world workplaces.
  5. Adaptability and Flexibility: Flexibility in education, including interdisciplinary studies, personalized learning, and accommodating various learning styles, emerged as crucial aspects to cater to diverse student needs.
  6. Industry-Academia Collaboration: Encouraging partnerships between academia and industry was a recurring point, emphasizing the benefits of collaborative research, internships, and industry exposure for students.

These topics collectively address the challenges and opportunities for higher education to better prepare students for the workforce by emphasizing relevance, skill development, effective teaching, assessment strategies, adaptability, and industry engagement.

Bekah Creasy With nearly two decades of experience in the finance industry, Bekah Creasy embarked on her professional journey as a teller within the Banking sector.  Over the years she navigated through various roles, steadily climbing the corporate ladder to assume the position of Division Manager at the country’s largest Home builder.  Since 2018, she has been an integral part of Lennar, where she currently serves as a dedicated leader, managing a dynamic team of 11 individuals.  Beyond her thriving career, she finds fulfillment in her roles as a mother of two wonderful children aged 10 (Nikko) and 12 (Charlotte), and as a partner in a supportive marriage that fosters both her professional and emotional growth.  Outside the realm of finance, she indulges in the management of a small zoo at home and finds solace in the meditative activity of building Legos as a stress-relief hobby.

As Dean of Innovation at Merced College, Garrick Grace, Ph.D., oversees numerous programs including Merced College Online, distance education, an innovation team, virtual reality, competency-based education, credit for prior learning, and future-focused initiatives. Garrick also oversees the School of Education, with the goal of creating the best opportunities possible for students seeking high-demand careers. Merced College continues to push the boundaries in higher education and Garrick finds himself constantly striving for new solutions.

Dr. Natasha Jankowski is a higher education and assessment expert and the former Executive Director of the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA). Dr. Jankowski currently serves on the faculty of New England College. Previously, she served as Senior Fellow for Community Colleges with Strada Education Foundation, and as research associate professor and graduate program coordinator at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. She is the author of various assessment-related books, articles, and reports; and she regularly presents, nationally and internationally, on assessment of student learning processes and practices.

Dr. Joseph D. Levy, serves as the Associate Vice Provost of Accreditation and Quality Improvement at Excelsior University. Joe earned a BA in English from Baldwin-Wallace College, an MS in Student Affairs in Higher Education from Colorado State University, and his Ed.D. in Higher Education Leadership from National Louis University. Joe is a member of the Student Affairs Assessment Leaders (SAAL) Board of Directors, co-creator and instructor for the Applying and Leading Assessment in Student Affairs open course, and endorsed speaker for the National Institute of Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA). Author, presenter, trainer, and consultant, Joe enjoys leveraging his academic and student affairs experience from multiple institutional types to talk assessment, quality assurance, and institutional betterment.

Victoria Pu is the CEO of Pace AI, an AI-native English language learning platform, which she left her PhD at MIT in applied math to found. Before that, she conducted applied research in AI/ML and computational economics at Microsoft Research, Flexport, and Stanford. In 2020, she was named a Rising Star in AI for Social Impact by Harvard University’s Center for Research on Computation and Society. The daughter of immigrants from China, Victoria is inspired to build Pace AI to empower adult learners like her parents to unlock economic opportunity through context-relevant English language training.

Erin Thomas is the Business Department Chair and Faculty Lead of the Coastline Live and Learn Program (CBE) at the Coastline Community College.  Higher education professional bringing real-world business experience into college business and management courses. My passion is supporting the economic and social mobility of learners. For this reason, I’ve been interested in competency-based education (CBE) for several years. More than 14 years of higher ed business instruction experience. Over 17 years of business experience as an IT professional and, later, as an international customer relationship manager doing post-sales implementation support of sophisticated cellular billing solutions.

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