Academic Transformation Leaders Meet to Discuss How to Drive Change in Higher Education

(Adelphi, Md., Dec. 5, 2014) – The University System of Maryland's Center for Academic Innovation at its inaugural Leading Academic Change Summit, co-hosted by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, identified two leading barriers to academic innovation: shortage of funding and institutional culture.

The Summit, held December 2nd and 3rd at University of Maryland University College, brought together 60 academic innovation leaders, representing public and private universities, colleges, and state systems offices from all across the United States. The Leading Academic Change Summit provided a rare and exciting opportunity for academic transformation leaders to meet with peers and learn about the portfolios of work underway.

A pre-conference survey of participants, all of whom are on the vanguard of the emerging field of academic transformation in higher education, revealed that 31 percent identified the shortage of funding and resources as the top barrier to academic innovation, with 30 percent of voters citing institutional culture as the primary barrier.

Conversely, 41 percent of summit participants identified support from leadership and administration on campus as the most helpful driver behind academic innovation. Another 22 percent cited working with strategic partners as the most helpful form of support.

Conversations among participants over the highly interactive two-day conference centered on how to overcome barriers and capitalize on opportunities to effect higher education change.

“The Summit connected individuals from across institutions who are dedicated to academic change work,” said MJ Bishop, Director, USM Center for Academic Innovation. “It gave us a chance to exchange ideas and aspirations, and discover what is working to create the most effective and efficient learning environments that enhance student success.”

The Summit brought together participants with a wide range of professional backgrounds to this newly minted area of academic innovation, including college faculty, business and industry, informational technology, instructional design, learning sciences, and K-12 leaders.

Nearly all (94 percent) had been in their roles as academic transformation leaders for six years or less, and more than half for three years or less. In their current roles as academic transformation leaders, more than 75 percent are currently affiliated with academic affairs departments at college or university campuses.

“In supporting academic communities devoted to higher education change, we help catalyze improved access, lower costs, and better outcomes for all students,” said Bishop. “We hope to continue offering conferences and exchanges of this kind because the collective energy and insights that emerged were powerful.”

The USM Center for Academic Innovation seeks to help transform public higher education by identifying and scaling up strategies proven to increase access, affordability, and outcomes of higher education The Center is dedicated to promoting, studying, and disseminating groundbreaking academic transformation work within Maryland and across higher education nationally.