24: How Eastern Washington University Spins Up New Programs in Record Time w/ Dr Scott Gordon

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Dr. Scott Gordon, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs at Eastern Washington University, discusses how they partnered with Microsoft to spin up a new business analytics degree program, in less than a year, to meet Microsoft’s demand for graduates with data analytics experience.

A lot of the communication that we've had with business industry. They want the same kind of things we want. They want highly educated critical thinkers, those that have the ability to work in teams, those who can communicate with spoken word, written word, etc. Not just the skill set needed for particular discipline. You're listening to enrollment growth university from Helix Education, the best professional development podcast for higher education leaders looking to grow enrollment at their college or university. Whether you're looking for fresh enrollment growth techniques and strategies or tools and resources, you've come to the right place. Let's get into the show. Welcome back to enrollment growth university. I'm Ericleson, AVP of marketing at Helix Education and we're here today with Dr Scott Gordon, provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs at Eastern Washington University. Scott, welcome to the show. Well,...

...thank you. Thank you for having me. We're going to have a great conversation today about how to spin up new academic programs fast in order to meet growing employered man but before we get too deep into that, Scott, can you get the listeners a little bit better understanding of both eastern Washington University and your role there? Yes, I am the provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs here at Eastern eastern Washington University, is located just south of Spokane. We have about some more between twelve and thirteen thousand students. We are a regional, comprehensive institution. Students come from a diverse background. We have a lot of first generation college students, we have a lot of students from underserved populations. We have about a hundred and forty five areas of study. That would include undergraduate and graduate programs. And we're located, again, just south of Spokane, of beautiful area in the in the northwest. So I really love the story and have been so excited to chat with you about it.

So you learned that Microsoft, one of the largest employers in your state, was going to be looking to hire huge numbers of graduates with did analytics experience? Talk to us about what you did next. Yeah, so that discussion occurred in the follow two thousand and sixteen with an alum who has a twenty five year history with with Microsoft, and we had a good conversation and it was just kind of a casual conversation about the field of data analytics, data science and the fact that Microsoft was developing a professional program in that area because of the lack of qualified data scientists, data and analysts. And so we talked about well, HMM, that's interesting. You know, we are about three, three and a half hours away from Microsoft is in a lot of our students who come to eastern Washington University are actually from the west side of the state. How could we build a win win situation where we could offer...

...data science as part of a degree program or a degree program in and of itself and utilize that curriculum that Microsoft has developed? So from that we just started this brain sort of how might we develop this collaboration? And over the course of the fall of two thousand and sixteen through spring of two thousand and seventeen, we began that process, having meetings where Microsoft folks would would interact with our campus folks and finding ways where we connect, in ways where we can develop something different, and we were successful in doing that. So, followed two thousand and sixteen, the ideation starts. How long was it before you were able to start and ruling your first students in that in that a new degree program? Yeah, so it was interesting because that start in August, actually two thousand and sixteen. By October we had a group of about a half a dozen Microsoft professionals in a room with about two dozen faculty and...

...academic leaders here at the institution, and from that meeting we had several action items and within two or three weeks we had that team from Microsoft back on campus and we really had the framework for how we would get started. So over the course of the late fall of sixteen, early spring of seventeen, we really began a lot of weekly conversations on the phone because this was something where we had to establish our not just the curricular relationship. We had to establish the relationship with the technology, the x platform which this Microsoft professional program is on, with our platform for course management here, which is canvass. We had to make sure systems interacted and and so on. So that was the process and all the time the technical processes were under we're being undertaken,...

...the curriculum was being developed, and so we actually were on a quarter system here. But by spring core of two thousand and seventeen, we began to identify some of the students who were ready to be incorporated into this program so that this fall we actually started the program in kind of the silent phase and we're going to be ready to gear up with a whole onslaught of new students for fall of eighteen. It's incredibly impressive, Scott. What is it about eastern Washington's culture that was able to support such a quick spin up of a program like this? Well, you know, I think our culture is very similar to higher education culture around the country. I think one of the things that we did in order to get the buying of the faculty is to to really discuss the philosophy around the fact that we were partnering with Microsoft, but they weren't going to be driving and dictating that. The faculty would still have...

...the ownership in control of their curriculum, of their courses. They could incorporate as much or as little of that Microsoft professional program into their courses and or curriculum. And so we had some faculty who incorporated modules here and there throughout their their courses. But then we also had a program business analytics who said no, we want to incorporate the entire Microsoft professional program and allow our students to not only get that degree in business analytics but to get that Microsoft professional certification as well, and so we were very clear upfront that you know we're here, and I'm my office is here to expose you to possible potential partnerships and collaborations, but the key is not forcing those, rather letting them take take hold organically. Yeah, to talk a little bit more about that.

So, knowing that you were specifically trying to create graduates with skill sets that that would also be a good match for exactly what Microsoft was looking for, how did you go about partnering with Microsoft in Your Faculty to create this curriculum that would align to that skill set they were looking for in new graduates? Yeah, so what we ended up doing was again, throughout those you know, the basis of all of this is communication, collaboration and more communication. We out line for the Microsoft folks what our curriculum is in what it isn't. We gave them a full curriculum with courses and syllabi. Microsoft gave us their professional program syllabus and modules. We are the faculty, got permission from Microsoft to go through and analyze and even go through those modules and cells. So we were able to take the curriculum from both entities and essentially map it to see how far a part or how similar the curriculum are were to one...

...another. And so that really was interesting because some faculty said, wow, this is exactly the kind of thing that I'm doing in the class or this is what I wanted to do, and that's awesome. So so it's a matter of you know, I kind of see myself in all this, has the match maker to try to just bring people together to the table and have people be transparent about what they're doing, what they want to do and find those natural alliances and matches. That's really fastinting because I think I think a big question people may be asking, perhaps out of jealousy, is that boy really seriously, it's Gott tell me how are you will get faculty buying. But is it because the program that your faculty wanted to create was just so either coincidentally or just from a skill set alignment standpoint, just so similar to what Microsoft was looking for? I think that's part of it and I think you know, because Microsoft is such a global name and and tea and you know they're right here within the state, a good partner of the institution.

I think that was kind of a people didn't go into it with with as much skepticism as what they would for maybe some some entity that isn't as well known as that makes sense. Don't get me wrong. I mean there are pockets of faculty who are suspicious about this. Is this industry and business kind of inputting themselves into the curriculum of higher education and and and that's again why I think it's important that that we bring folks together, but we don't force the relationship. Love it. And I know it's a brand new program but what are the plans for keeping this curriculum current moving forward to continue to match the evolving needs of Microsoft and other companies? Yeah, so I think the key to this is that we continue the collaboration. We have sessions to debrief about what's working and what's not working and where the field is moving and where it where we anticipate it going. And I think the other thing too,...

...is establishing the culture of daring to try, trying something new and if they're if they fail, there's no significant repercussions. And and one of the things that I think higher d has been criticized frequently about is the inability to change with the Times. And you know, you hear all the ideas that you know, the ivory tower and the curriculum isn't meeting the needs of business and industry and so on. I think, you know, one of the things we have to do is is really open our selves up, but the businesses in the industry has to open themselves up to communicate, to talk, to see what's working what's not working, because you know, a lot of the communication that we've had with business industry, they want the same kind of things we want. They want highly educated, critical thinkers, those that have the ability to work in teams, those who can communicate with spoken word, written word, etc. Not just the skill set needed for a particular discipline.

So I think we're not as far apart as what a lot of folks think. I think we just don't have the opportunity to to sit down at the table and talk about these types of things. So our idea to keep the curriculum up to date is continued interaction with with Microsoft other business and industry, because you know, I don't know if you realize, but Mackenzie Global Institute put out a study that by the end of this year two thousand and eighteen will be a shortage in the United States of one point five million data scientists, data analysts. That's that's huge and that's something that, you know, higher education needs to be aware of and and help to resolve that that issue. So good and Scott. Has This process made other faculty or yourself excited to try and proactively work with other local employers to create or iterate new academic...

...programs or concentrations? Yes, it has, and you know, one of the things that that we're going to be constantly faced with is is it the right fit, because a lot of institutions and a lot of individuals think that. Well, you know, these employer relationship centered around skills and so on. Is is a Community College Niche? Well, I would say it is, but it can also be a higher four year and higher niche as well, because a lot of the folks that that are coming out of four year schools and even graduate programs. If we can have this, this marriage where the curriculum meets the needs and the curriculum is also but the faculty are interested in delivering, that's a win win situation. It's got such good stuff. Any final advice for listeners looking to create a culture that enables them to move...

...with this sort of speed at their institution patients. Don't try to force these relationships. Really let the faculty take what the time that they need to understand to realize that. For my experience, business and industry isn't there to say here's the curriculum that you must teach, but rather, if we can have this open dialog, to say, you know, here's where we can have a win win. I think that's the key and not forcing these relationships, making them happen organic. Scott, great advice. What's the best place for listeners to connect with you if they have any follow up questions? Sure I'd be more than happy to answer questions you have further discussion. Probably the easiest way would be via email and my email addresses s Gordon. That's s Goor Don at EW Dot Edu. Awesome. Thanks against so much for joining us...

...today, Scott. Well, thank you. Attracting today's new post traditional learners means adopting new enrollment strategies. Helix educations data driven, enterprise wide approach to enrollment growth is uniquely helping colleges and universities thrive in this new education landscape, and Helix has just published the second edition of their enrollment growth playbook with fifty percent brand new content on how institutions can solve today's most pressing enrollment growth challenges, downloaded today for free at Helix Educationcom. Slash playbook. You've been listening to enrollment growth university from Helix Education. To ensure that you never miss an episode, subscribe to the show in Itunes or your favorite podcast player. Thank you so much for listening. Until next time,.

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