65: FedEx-Sponsored Education at The University of Memphis w/ Dr. Richard Irwin

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Dr. Richard Irwin, Vice Provost of Academic Innovation & Support Services at The University of Memphis and Dean of UofM Global joined the podcast to discuss the enrollment benefits of pursuing truly integrated partnerships with national and global employers.

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, a proud member of the connect eedu podcast network. I'm Eric Olson, AVP of marketing at Helix Education, and we're here today with Dr Richard Irwin, vice provost of academic innovation and support services at the University of Memphis and dean of you of them global. Dr Irwin, welcome to the show. Thanks, Eric, and I'm glad to be here. Really excited to talk with you today about you of them's deep relationship, specifically with fed x, and the myriad benefits that can stem from pursuing truly integrated partnerships with national and global employers. Before we dig into that, Dr or when, can you give the listeners a little bit better understanding of both the University of Memphis and your rule? They're sure I'd be happy to. We are a twenty Onezero student public institution in the State of Tennessee, formerly a member of Tennessee border regents, but within the last year and a half is part of the legislated Focus Act. We were one of six for your institutions that became independent and with our own covering board, board of trustees. We are situated in the heart of Memphis and for this conversation just to have a very deeply rooted relationship with a number of companies within the area, but very heavily so with with Fedex, and they have been just a fantastic community supporter of everything that we are doing across the campus. Like you mentioned, the University of Memphis does have this amazingly deep relationship with Fedex, including the Fedex Institute ...

...of Technology as a part of your institution dedicated to research and innovation. Can you talk a little about how deeply integrated this relationship is? Yes, Oll and, one of the reasons I brought up the board is the chairman of the board is Alan Graft who is the CFO at Fedex. So it starts there. Fred Smith is is a great supporter of the institution and has spent time on campus and and, as you mentioned, fit is just a beacon cross campus for our innovative efforts in research and technology and and doing some marvelous things in terms of even attracting one of the things that we've started doing this year through the Fi t is attracting businesses to the area that are doing interesting work and employing students. One of our more recent additions under that umbrella is Fedex has taken some of their call center work, service work that has typically been outsourced, and established call centers on campus which in the near future will employ up to five hundred students from at a rate of anywhere from fifteen to twenty five dollars an hour. Wow, and we all know what campus work does for contributing to completion, retention and completion right. And so they're even looking at how can they help us in terms of those major performance outcome goals. So we get to work with them on a lot of fascinating projects. They are very supportive of our even capital campaigns. And then, of course, the topic that we're going to address today, education with payment amongst their their employees. Yeah, let's dive in. So you mentioned this incredibly deep relationship with their global headquarters located right down the road from you of them, and they became interested in offering their employees full tuition benefits as part of their...

...internal employee engagement and retention strategy. What made Fedex specifically excited about partnering with you, of them on this initiative? I think it's because we listen. I really think that our first meeting was in early March and it's started with gentleman by the name of Brandon Tulbert, was charged with finding the right person on campus who could help them develop a program that would have meaningful impact on what you mentioned, that corporate objective of for recruiting and retaining their hub employees. Specifically at the Memphis they experience a ninety percent turn over every year. So the retraining costs were just astronomical, and so they felt that if both parties themselves and the institution that was selected to assist with this work would be willing to make some dramatic changes and processes, procedures and even policy, that the they could kind of recalibrate that system. At that point in time they had about a three, three and a half percent uptake in tuition reimbursement, which was the more traditional model. That's maybe in a few hundred four hundred employees at best who might be taking advantage of that. Now come back to that in a minute to tell you how far beyond that we are at this point. But in that first meeting, Brandon shared with me some things that they felt would make it work and or that they needed to make it work. We listened and we essentially customized so many elements of this program to accommodate their needs and if you would like, I'll go ahead the list with what those those key components were. Yeah, please do. Well, one was the financial issue and how to ensure that their employees would not be financially responsible, if you will, and but a great deal of that fell back on them because we were able to to work out a direct bill, deferred direct bill, so they pay us at the end of the term based on students...

...successful performance in the class. The second one was about academic readiness and within that, they wanted us to be able to develop on ramps that would accommodate a student, no matter what their academic history may have been, whether that was lacking a high school credential, which they claimed that fifty percent of their hub employees here in Memphis did not have one, to those who may have had a week high school performance yet a degree, or those who had started college maybe some time ago, and it didn't turn out so well. So we went to work on that. The third one was just the anxiety of going to or returning to college, and we feel we've got a mastered that. That one didn't didn't take quite as much work because we've developed a culture of working with not only our long history of working with adult students, but developing academic coaching and other student success support system falls under my umbrella already, and so I had great confidence at all we needed to do is extrapolate what we were doing. But the other two did cause us to huddle up and take a look at how we could accommodate their request. The financial piece wasn't only about making sure that the the employee didn't experience up front or out of pocket expenses, but they wanted to add see how much of the will cost could fit within a five thousand two hundred and fifty tuition cab right and so that required us to get a little creative and how we could stretch that dollar to cover as many things as possible. That we were able to achieve that. I'll be happy to give more detail on the second. Getting back to the the issue about the academic readiness those that lacked the high school degree,...

...we found a local partner called hopeworks that deals with adults lacking a high school credential, and they jumped at the chance to join us on this project, and so we've kind of brought them into our fold. And we also created what we call the life Prep Academy. The whole program as an acronym of life learning inspired by Fedex, and then the Prep Academy was an onboarding process that includes those that lack a high school equivalency as well as others that would benefit from a kind of a pre enrollment collection of courses and content that would set them up to be successful in college. What I was able to do, through a comprehensive review of our course catalog, all the curriculum, was find for relevant and meaningful courses that were already on the books. They were Onezero or freshman level courses. Brought those a different academic units together explain what we wanted to do, and they too jumped at the chance to contribute some content that would be pre enrollment and that we packaged into this this prep academy. They would help these students demonstrate that they could successfully do college at the completion of those for courses. The provost indicated that she would be willing to then grant any successful complete automatic admission to the institution. And though, since there's four courses at twelve credit hours, that twelve credit hours would be immediately transcripted towards their first semester with us at the University of Memphis and kind of an unintended consequence that has been a real win in terms of the development of the Prep Academy is that when we got those instructors and course developers in the room and kind of mapping out that Prep Academy and the four courses, let...

...me back up. Was One was in academic strategy. So it's kind of our fall term freshman year, how to do College University Studies type course that sixty seventy percent of our freshman all take. So we wanted them to have that kind of exposure free enrollment to other courses dealt with career and professional development and career knowledge and gills kind of that readiness. And then the actual fourth course was one called life skills. That had a lot of things about, whether it was personal finance, financial management, whether it was time management and other things that I felt that they would find incredible, the relevant and meaningful. When we got all these folks in the room together, they realized that there were a lot of commonalities and also that it would be in the best interests of the student to not have these as first course, second course, third course, fourth course that they would they established a flow of content that was even more relevant and meaningful to the student and then that led to them finding, as we all we know occur, that there were learning outcomes, objectives and so forth from each of these courses that aligned with one another. So it actually streamlined the process and they found common competencies, developed modules that will help the student accelerate their way through the course and not have to repeat material that they may not they already picked up in in another class. So I was just astounded with the way that that that came together. We launched that Prep Academy along with the the opening, if you will, of of life a last month and we now have six hundred people who are working their way through that Prep Academy, some who have already worked well past the first module and a out a month's time. So that represents at least the equivalency of a course and I think they'll be finished by the end of the semester...

...and ready to do spring courses in the fall with that auto admit and twelve credit hours on their transcript. Dr Everyone, thanks so much for going into that detailed it does show the importance of how much you at, you have them listened and the creative thinking that it took to to put this together. I think it's worth worth reiterating this concept of deferred direct billing, even for employers who offer tuition reimbursement for their employees, meaning they'll pay back a student for successfully completing a class or term. Many adult students often experience difficulty financing these upfront costs, so I love your workaround solution for that. How has your Fedex partnership changed how you think about the role and the potential of employer partnerships at you of them? Well, I think again it gets back to list things are. What who the audience is going to be finding out one of the boundaries of the parameters. What opportunities are there? I've seen this as nothing but an opportunity along the way and again with my multiple responsibilities at the university. This really gave me an opportunity to tap into the academic innovation side of things, to to create some things I even left out about the prep academy was it self paced, its competency based and unlimited trials and post there's a bit of adaptive learning and it we've got to be incredibly creative because we didn't want this audience per Fedex is request, if not demand, that they immediately be hit with a set of entrance exams and something that was going to just be a path to failure or unsuccessful attempts, if not just hindering their self efficacy. And so we wanted to be cognizant of that and supportive of the specific audience. And I think that once they found that we were willing to work with the audience, then we were much more inclined to get...

...much deeper into it and even extend it to other areas. And so I would encourage anybody that wants to pursue this, this route, which we have committed ourselves to doing, because we think that it's really the future of our growth. Is those types of partnerships, is that culture, that flexibility needs to exist within the organization to be able to customize it to fit to the needs of the organization, the timing of of the organization and then also what the organization or that potential partner is willing and able to do on their side. For instance, Fedex is set up a learning center at the hub here. That is where they typically do their new employee or new hire on boarding, orientation and other trainings. They have set up a computer lab where we have staffed at with one or more of our life coaches and tutors who will go over and meet with students who may request it there or we may do some testing there, but that type of onsite presence is critically important than our ability to respond to that. Another thing that we were already doing, but a number of folks that met with us from Fedex weren't even aware of it, is we had pre assessed or credential a large volume of fedex internal trainings for experiential learning credit, and that really came into play and was a huge leg up for us and pursuing this project, because now we have particularly a number of managers and others that work at the hub who still they may have some college but they can now convert some of their trainings to their degree program which may accelerate their completion by up to a year. We will honor up to thirty credit hours through experiential learning credit, and it's not uncommon for someone...

...at Fedex to maximize and use all thirty credit hours, which is a full year of the curriculum, and that comes at a cost of seventy five dollars per credit hour. So that's meaningful to any individual. But it also fits very well into this program because, as I mentioned before, there was a maximum cap on the tuition allowance of two hundred and fifty. Well, when we can reduce a fourth of a degree program to two thousand two hundred fifty dollars if they use all thirty credit hours, you can see where those kind of things helped us outline the way that we were going to accommodate commodate some of the boundaries or barriers that they kind of set up for us to work with. In factor, when it's so well thought out, so comprehensive, the partnership is admiring and I think has gotten myself in a lot of our listeners excited about thinking differently about partnerships. I'm going to ask you to to reiterate a little bits, because my final question is that what is that? You know, single next step, advice you would recommend other institutions in terms of thinking bigger about the capabilities and capacity of employer partnerships? Well, I want to emphasize that to mutually beneficial, to look at it as a mutually beneficial opportunity on how can each party gain from the relationship, and both parties need to be cognizant of the other's needs. And so I think if I'm speaking to to higher education again, it gets back to being flexible, accommodating college level knowledge that may come from a variety of sources and not necessarily limited to classroom or your institution, and listening to primarily what is needed from the perspective partner. What is going to be challenge, and what we have with Fedex has demonstrated tremendous sensitivity to us, is that or someone to attain a...

...degree, particularly if they're starting in the Prep Academy. That is that is a long time horizon that exceeds well beyond the typical employee term in the hub. So that thrills them. That it could keep a perspective or an employee focused or going to make them think twice about leaving the job so that they are with the company for a much longer time frame. But they've got to be back in US up to keep that person engaged and keep them employed so we can work with them through through degree completion. We can't have this. Doesn't do any good to have somebody only with us for a semester too. They've got to be here for long term commitment, and so both parties are working together to fulfill that mutually beneficial outcome. So I think it helps when you understand what the needs are full parties. Dr Her when, thanks so much for your time today. What's the best place for listeners to connect with you if they have any follow up questions? I would suggest sending me an email or a phone call. Happy to visit with somebody about it and would be very interested in learning what others are attempting to do or thinking about doing, and I can be reached by email at our or one. So it's our IR WI in at Memph to study do you and my direct number is nine hundred and one, six, seven, eight, four, five, nine six. Dr Irwin, thank you so much for your time today, thanks for joining us and I'm excited for the feedback that we'll get, because I think you've got us all excited about what is possible if we do a little bit better job listening to what employers are looking for. Thanks so much for your time today. Well, I sure do appreciate it. 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. Download it today for free at Helix Educationcoma playbook. You've been listening to enrollment growth university from Helix Education. To ensure that you never miss an episode, subscribe to the show on Itunes or your favorite podcast player. Thank you so much for listening. Until next time,.

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