Pres­i­dent Joseph E. Aoun has been named to the Amer­ican Council on Education’s Pres­i­den­tial Inno­va­tion Lab, a new national ini­tia­tive to explore oppor­tu­ni­ties in dis­rup­tive inno­va­tions in higher edu­ca­tion and design solu­tions to increase the number of Amer­i­cans able to earn a col­lege degree.

Aoun, the former board chair of ACE, is one of 14 pres­i­dents and chan­cel­lors leading the Pres­i­den­tial Inno­va­tion Lab. Inspired by recent inno­va­tions in higher edu­ca­tion such as mas­sive open online courses—also known as MOOCs—the group will engage in proac­tive thought lead­er­ship and guide a national dia­logue about poten­tial new aca­d­emic and finan­cial models that can help close attain­ment gaps, including those among non-​​traditional stu­dents and low-​​income young adults.

This is an oppor­tu­nity for senior higher edu­ca­tion leaders to engage in com­pre­hen­sive and crit­ical thinking about the poten­tial of this new learning modality to boost attain­ment levels, par­tic­u­larly among older, post-​​traditional stu­dents, low-​​income young adults and other under­served stu­dents,” said ACE Pres­i­dent Molly Cor­bett Broad.

Glob­al­iza­tion and the new demands of the knowl­edge economy have cre­ated large pop­u­la­tions of non-​​traditional stu­dents,” said Pres­i­dent Aoun. “We need non-​​traditional learning models in higher edu­ca­tion to meet their needs. I look for­ward to this strategic part­ner­ship with my col­leagues from great insti­tu­tions to devise inno­v­a­tive solu­tions for life­long learners.”

A global thought-​​leader on crit­ical issues in higher edu­ca­tion, Aoun is a long­time advo­cate for the strength and diver­sity of the Amer­ican system of higher edu­ca­tion, which, he often says, “remains the envy of the world.”

The Pres­i­den­tial Inno­va­tion Lab will explore how newer edu­ca­tional inno­va­tions could be used by stu­dents toward degree com­ple­tion. The group will also assess the poten­tial impact of such inno­va­tions on the fun­da­mental design and delivery of instruc­tion and the under­lying financing models for all of higher education.

The work of the Pres­i­den­tial Inno­va­tion Lab, sup­ported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foun­da­tion, will guide a national dia­logue about the type of aca­d­emic and finan­cial models that might grow out of the cur­rent high level of interest in MOOCs and other new tech­nolo­gies and learning methods,” added Cathy A. Sandeen, ACE vice pres­i­dent for edu­ca­tion attain­ment and innovation.

ACE is the largest orga­ni­za­tion rep­re­senting more than 1,600 col­lege and uni­ver­sity pres­i­dents, and more than 200 related asso­ci­a­tions, nation­wide. It pro­vides lead­er­ship on key higher edu­ca­tion issues and influ­ences public policy through advo­cacy. The Pres­i­den­tial Inno­va­tion Lab is part of a wide-​​ranging research and eval­u­a­tion effort exam­ining the aca­d­emic poten­tial of MOOCs.

Also par­tic­i­pating in the Pres­i­den­tial Inno­va­tion Lab are:

  • Chris Bustamante, president, Rio Salado College (Ariz.)
  • Scott S. Cowen, president, Tulane University (La.)
  • Michael M. Crow, president, Arizona State University
  • John F. Ebersole, president, Excelsior College (N.Y.)
  • Renu Khator, president, University of Houston and chancellor, University of Houston System (Texas)
  • Paul J. LeBlanc, president, Southern New Hampshire University
  • Robert W. Mendenhall, president, Western Governors University (Utah)
  • Mohammad H. Qayoumi, president, San Jose State University (Calif.)
  • Vincent Price, provost, The University of Pennsylvania
  • L. Rafael Reif, president, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Kevin P. Reilly, president, University of Wisconsin System
  • Clayton Spencer, president, Bates College (Maine)
  • Linda M. Thor, chancellor, Foothill-De Anza Community College District (Calif.)

The group’s ini­tial ses­sion will be held July 21–23 at the Insti­tute for the Future in Palo Alto, Calif., an inde­pen­dent, non­profit research orga­ni­za­tion that will help guide the work of the Pres­i­den­tial Inno­va­tion Lab. A second two-​​day meeting will take place in Wash­ington, D.C., in October.