(PODCAST) Talking with BSN Academic Coach, Jenny

August 31, 2015

We took a little break from podcasts due to commencement, but we are back this week with Jenny Wahl, an academic coach for our Bachelors of Science in nursing programs.

BSN Coach Jenny Wahl

BSN Coach Jenny Wahl

Like many of my podcast guests, Jenny has a very interesting career path. She studied French literature before moving to France to teach English. After returning to the United States, she began working in the hospitality industry where she was part of a coaching program. Those experiences ultimately lead her back to education but in a coaching capacity here at Capella. In our discussion, Jenny and I talk about her role at Capella and how coaching works. She gives her advice to nursing learners for how they can be successful and what to expect from Capella when starting their program. It was a fun conversation and I hope you enjoy the podcast!


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Capella featured in Campus Technology

August 24, 2015

Capella’s new IT offerings are featured in a Campus Technology article today. The article, “Capella Works with SAS on Online Data Analytics Degree”, discusses Capella’s new MS in Data Analytics program as well as our new Doctor of Information Technology degree offering. The article gives more information about the unique curriculum in the analytics program and discusses the differences between a PhD in IT and a DIT, which are both offered at Capella. Capella President Scott Kinney and Faculty Chair Tsun Chow are both quoted.

Check out the article here.

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Capella’s 2015 Summer Commencement

August 20, 2015

Today’s post is a guest blog post from Dr. Dick Senese, Capella’s vice president of academic affairs and chief academic officer.


Vice President of Academic Affairs and Chief Academic Officer Dr. Dick Senese

This weekend, I attended Capella University’s 29th commencement ceremony in Minneapolis. This summer we had almost 1,000 graduates and their families attend to celebrate the outstanding achievement of earning their degrees.

I am always so excited and inspired by the weekend’s celebration. The events and moments leading up to Saturday’s commencement are a unique opportunity to meet with the graduates and their families. I was able to meet with several graduates from Capella’s competency-based, direct-assessment degree program, FlexPath. Meeting these graduates was particularly exciting as this was one of our first classes of FlexPath graduates. I enjoyed hearing about their experiences in the program, the obstacles they’ve overcome and why FlexPath was a good fit for them as adult learners. I spoke with FlexPath BS in Business graduate Tarishia, a transportation engineer from Connecticut. As a military spouse and full-time working mom of two kids, she didn’t have the time for a traditional program. The appeal of the FlexPath program for her was that she was in control of her educational journey. Nic, a FlexPath BS in Business graduate from Minnesota, went to a traditional brick-and-mortar college right out of high school. After a few years, he decided to focus on his career. As he advanced in his field, he decided to go back to school so that he could continue to grow professionally. He found the program’s focus on real-world applications to be helpful and has learned a lot from his degree that he applies in his current role.

FP 2

Dick and FlexPath graduate, Tarishia

Friday evening, I had the honor of attending the President’s Dinner and seated at my table were Elaine, her children, and parents. Elaine earned her PhD in Education and plans to use the knowledge, skills, and research competencies gained to continue in her career as a faculty member and program director at Evergreen Valley College in San Jose, CA. The support of family and friends is tremendously important when earning a degree – it was touching to see the kids and partners of many of our Capella graduates at the dinner and getting to know Elaine and her family in particular. It is clear that they are very proud of their graduates and no doubt the example of hard work and dedication that our learners are setting will have a positive influence on their family in the future.

Capella graduates during commencement

Saturday was the big day. There were lots of smiling faces and tears of joy during the ceremony. Our speaker this year was Justice Alan Page who was the first African-American member of the Minnesota Supreme Court and former professional football player. His commencement address was inspiring and it was a good reminder of why we do the work that we do at Capella. He spoke about education as a means to achieve things the graduates may never have thought possible. His message of the importance of good preparation to help overcome obstacles, seeking excellence in all endeavors, and pushing beyond self-perceived limitations no doubt resonated with all of our graduates. He closed the address by urging graduates to consciously build character, work to combat racial bias and improve the lives of others, reminding us that each of us can take action and each action matters no matter how big or small.

The commencement ceremony

I’m very proud of our 2015 graduates, and I know they are prepared to go forward empowered to make a difference in their communities.

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Help Us Get Beyond the Buzz at SXSWedu!

August 18, 2015

Today’s guest blog post is from Capella University President, Scott Kinney.


Whenever I talk to our employer partners or spend time with policymakers, the topic of credentialing is on everyone’s mind. Employers are striving to understand what information about candidates can help them address their skills gaps, while students are trying to gain greater clarity around the connections between degrees and jobs.  And everyone in the higher education community is trying to figure out how existing and emerging credentials, degrees included, can lead to specific opportunities in the workplace.

Starting many years ago, Capella and a few other institutions developed competency-based educational models in order to significantly improve the alignment of degree programs with the expectations of the marketplace.  And the momentum continues to build.  The Lumina Foundation and ANSI, among others, are working to improve transparency about the value of alternative credentials, while Capella and several other schools have launched direct assessment programs that allow students to earn their degrees through demonstrated mastery of workplace-aligned competencies rather than the time-based accumulation of credit hours.

Outside the degree space, newer companies that focus on specific skills development and credentialing, such as General Assembly, are directly addressing the needs of both employers seeking to fill critical jobs and individuals hoping to improve their marketability.  The pace of change is definitely accelerating in better aligning post-secondary education and workforce needs.

But questions remain about exactly where this is all headed.  Are new models and better methods of credentialing scaling fast enough to address workforce needs? Is this intensifying focus on workforce competencies at odds with our nation’s traditional view of higher education? And will alternative credentials begin to replace degrees as the best signal of workforce readiness?

These are important questions to wrestle with, and ones I spend a lot of time thinking about. But I think it’s always best to tackle tough questions with friends and skeptics alike. And there’s no better place to do that than at SXSWedu, where educators, would-be disruptors, and education wonks descend upon Austin for a few days of intensive interaction. I’ve been working on a panel idea with General Assembly and the Lumina Foundation. Goldie Blumenstyk, seasoned reporter at The Chronicle of Higher Education, has promised to push and prod us all on the topic, one she’s been exploring closely since the launch of her book earlier this year.

So, please take a moment to look at our panel proposal, lend us your vote, and we’ll see you in Texas! http://panelpicker.sxsw.com/vote/53521

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NASFAA’s Innovative Learning Models Task Force

August 14, 2015

Today’s guest post is from Jillian Klein, Capella’s director of public and federal aid policy.

In November 2014, I was invited to participate in the National Association of Students Financial Aid Administrator’s (NASFAA) “Innovative Learning Model’s Task Force,” tasked with formulating recommendations to be shared broadly of how federal financial aid regulations and guidance might be changed in order to better support innovation in higher education. The work of our task force focused on innovative learning models as a broad concept, trying to allow for new models in higher education that may not even exist today, but also to include formats like competency-based direct assessment programs, like FlexPath.

Ultimately, our recommendations were segmented into five different themes: flexibility, accountability, cost, complexity and barriers. These five themes all highlight that the existing federal financial aid framework, built in large part to support traditional, brick and mortar institutions, doesn’t necessarily translate well to support today’s more innovative higher education offerings. Many of the recommendations included in the final task force report include ideas we have talked about on the Education Matters blog before: reintroducing year-round Pell to ensure students aren’t financially penalized for accelerating through their program, separating the federal financial aid system from a time-based measure, allowing schools the authority to limit borrowing, and a handful of ideas that are currently being tested through the existing Experimental Site Initiatives (in which Capella is participating.)

The upcoming reauthorization of the Higher Education Act is a great time to tackle many of the recommendations in this paper in order to ensure both innovation and accountability are maintained as new models of education are developed. The emergence of, and interest in, concepts like competency-based education make it clear that higher education is changing rapidly, and we need to make sure we have a funding system in place that supports today’s contemporary student. If you’re interested in reading the full report, you can find it here.

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