January 15, 2024: Hey all you policy wonks — check out Public Policy Week at USDLA

Monday Morning Magic from Inkandescent® PR + Publishing Co. It is with great pride that I call myself a policy wonk, and as the communications director for the US Distance Learning Association, I am excited to invite you to join me at Public Policy Week (PPW), Jan. 16-19.

Scroll down for our Q&A with Public Policy Chairwoman Alexandra Salas and also to meet some of our amazing speakers for PPW. We know you are going to learn a lot from these sessions.

Until next Monday: May policy be your guide and knowledge your guardian. — Hope Katz Gibbs, founder and president, Inkandescent® Inc. Inkandescent.us

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Q&A with Alexandra Salas, chair of the USDLA Public Policy Committee

USDLA: Alex, you have been heading up the Public Policy Committee for several years. Could you tell us about this program and why it is so important that USDLA advocates for best practices in distance learning?

Alexandra: I became chair of the public policy committee this year, and I’m delighted to be working with a wonderful group of education professionals to advance the conversation about critical policy issues affecting education, including but not limited to AI, college affordability, economic and workforce development, micro-credential, accreditation, broadband access, and K-12 funding.

USDLA: Tell us about some of your initiatives for the Public Policy Committee 2024, including our first Public Policy Week event on January 16-18.

Alexandra: The committee is focused on engaging with USDLA members to learn about their policy concerns as well as communicating expert perspectives on key policy issues.

USDLA: Our speakers include a range of prominent policy experts.

Alexandra: Absolutely! The guest speakers booked for our first Public Policy Week include higher education and education technology professionals and thought leaders who will share their expertise on topics ranging from AI in higher ed to the challenges for today’s Pre-K teacher workforce. I am so excited not just to facilitate their presentations, but to be a student taking notes!

USDLA: The event is free for USDLA members to register. How can they register?

Alexandra: Learn more about the upcoming Public Policy lineup and register here —usdla.org/2024-ppw.

USDLA: Thank you so much for your hard work and insights running this committee, Alexandra! As a USDLA Board Member, you have spent countless hours organizing Public Policy Week, and also helping our members become advocates for distance learning at local, state, and national levels. We look forward to another great year!

About Alexandra Salas: When she isn’t running the Public Policy Committee for USDLA, Alexandra is the Vice President for Digital Learning & Innovation at Neumann University. Previously, she was the Dean of the Division of Innovation, Teaching, Digital Learning Excellence & Education Support Services at Delaware County Community College. Click here to connect with Alexandra on LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/alexandrasalas

Click here to register and meet our speakers: usdla.org/2024-ppw.


Tuesday, January 16, Noon-1pm EST

AI and Higher Education

Presenter: Rob Robinson, Senior Director for Strategic Initiatives, Anthology

About Rob: A highly skilled technologist, strategist, and trainer, Rob gleans business insights from artificial intelligence and machine learning-driven analytics to implement effective change management initiatives at scale. Proven expertise at building consensus for strategic plans and new initiatives predominantly through training and learning development opportunities that bring everyone from faculty and staff to executive-level administrators and stakeholders into alignment. Connect with Rob on LinkedIn.

Tuesday, January 16, 3-4 pm EST

Public Policy Challenges in Higher Ed – Distance Learning and Disability Access

Presenter: Matthew Reed, executive director of The Harkin Institute of Public Policy & Citizen Engagement

Abstract: A longtime community college chief academic officer, now with The Harkin Institute, Matt will speak about the promises and dilemmas of distance education for students with disabilities. After the shock of the pandemic in 2020, how can we build on lessons learned and move towards a more inclusive experience? What tensions need to be addressed? What might be next? This session about public policy challenges in higher education focuses on the multifaceted issues affecting academic institutions — from the aftermath of COVID to the future of AI.

About Matthew: As executive director, Reed leads all aspects of The Harkin Institute, founded by former U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin in 2013, to engage in rigorous public policy research and citizen engagement programming that advances social justice, fairness, and opportunity for all. Reed comes to The Harkin Institute after serving most recently as Vice President for Academic Affairs at Brookdale Community College in New Jersey, one of the most acclaimed and comprehensive multi-campus community colleges in the nation. As Vice President for Academic Affairs, Reed served as Chief Academic Officer for the college’s 9,000 students and more than 180 full-time faculty members. Recognized as a national thought leader for his work on expanding access to higher education, Reed has been a featured columnist for Inside Higher Ed since 2007 and has published numerous articles as well as Confessions of a Community College Administrator, a book which has served as a key text for community college leadership programs. Prior to Brookdale, Reed served as Vice President for Academic Affairs at Holyoke Community College in Holyoke, MA, as Division Dean of Liberal Arts at the County College of Morris, and as Dean of General Education at DeVry University in New Jersey. He has also served as Senior Executive Officer for the New Jersey Council of County Colleges. Learn more about Rob here.

Wednesday, January 17, Noon-1pm EST

Policy Outlook on Economic & Workforce Development

Presenter: Michael Edmondson, Associate Provost for Continued Learning, New Jersey Institute of Technology

About Michael: With 30 years of professional experience in for-profit and non-profit organizations, Dr. Edmondson has held three concurrent positions at New Jersey City University (NJCU): Dean of Professional Education and Lifelong Learning, Dean at the College of Professional Studies and Founding Campus Director of NJCU @ Fort Monmouth. Due to his outstanding contributions to Monmouth County while serving as the Campus Director of NJCU @ Fort Monmouth, the Monmouth Regional Chamber of Commerce presented him with its 2022 Distinguished Leadership Award, and the Philadelphia Empowerment Group presented him with its Entrepreneurship Inspiration Award. Learn more here: michaeledmondsonphd.com

Wednesday, January 17, 3-4 pm EST

Navigating Public Policy

Presenter: John Bellocchio

Abstract: This session explores the challenges faced by higher education institutions and dives into the complexities of public policy. John will discuss the need for adaptive frameworks so leaders can shape effective and responsive policies.

About John: A former educator and administrator who pioneered distance learning in many venues, John handled issues of public and intergovernmental policy in both the public and private sectors, both PK-12 and higher education. He currently operates a company that provides service dogs to those in need, utilizing the latest in distance learning and AI technology to teach individuals how to work with their service dogs. Bellocchio is also a US Department of Defense certified victim advocate who uses distance learning to train victim advocates and uses distance learning technology to fight for victims around the world. Learn more here.

Thursday, January 18, Noon-1pm EST

Policy Perspectives on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion       

Presenter: Melissa Ash, MS, Associate Dean of Administration                                   

About Melissa: Known to her colleagues and friends as Mash, Melissa started her journey with the IIRP in 2014 when she enrolled in graduate school. Previously enrolled in a master’s program for school counseling, she realized she longed for a field more focused on community connection and decided to redirect her future. Following the completion of her Master of Science in Restorative Practices, she primarily applied her knowledge in the fields of higher education and civic engagement. As the Associate Dean of Administration for the IIRP, Melissa supports the organization through planning and implementing institutional processes, guiding long-range strategic and operational plans, and addressing diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives to continually enhance organizational culture.

Thursday, January 18, 3-4pm EST

The PreK-12 Teacher Workforce

Presenter: Ryan Wise, Dean of the Drake University School of Education

About Ryan: As dean of the Drake University School of Education since April 2020, Ryan was the Iowa Department of Education director from July 2015 through March 2020. He led with an emphasis on working together as an education system to make Iowa’s schools where adults can collaborate, and students can thrive. He made it a priority to stay connected to Iowa schools and visited 240 school districts statewide. Named Policy Leader of the Year by the National Association of State Boards of Education in 2017, he has worked in education at the local, state, national, and international levels. Ryan began his career as a high school history teacher in Mississippi and Nebraska before moving to South Dakota to launch and lead Teach for America on the Rosebud and Pine Ridge Reservations. He also worked to eliminate educational inequity around the world as one of the founding staff members of Teach for All, a global network of education entrepreneurs. He earned a doctorate in education leadership from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Nebraska at Omaha, and a bachelor’s degree and teacher certification in history and social studies from Creighton University. Learn more here: https://www.drake.edu

Friday, January 19, 2024, Noon-1pm EST

Session: Curriculum Standardization in a Consortial Model

Presenter: Gregory Edwards, Head of Learning at Rize Education

About Gregory:  The Head of Learning at Rize Education holds a BA in Economics from Harvard University and an MSc in Machine Learning from the University of London. While paying his way through school, he discovered his passion for teaching as a high school economics teacher. Prior to Rize, he worked as an executive trainer in AI, teaching Fortune 500 executives how to leverage new technology, and oversaw a team designing coding boot camps for large companies. He currently leads the instructional design team at Rize, using data to define the best learning design standards possible for students. Greg is passionate about helping students find their career fit at the undergraduate level.

Abstract: Gregory will explore how his team approaches curriculum development and course design within a consortial model. Greg will discuss some of the common challenges and best practices in order to maintain high levels of course quality, rigor, and career relevance for students while addressing the concerns of internal stakeholders. The goal for this discussion is to provide a framework for evaluating and optimizing online courses for hybrid degree programs.