Come Use Your Powers for Good

Matt Orourke Blog Catalytic Conversations

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marksblog_powersforgood Moving into our new offices in Austin, I was struck by the coming together of the Civitas Learning team. From the beginning, we had the vision of attracting diverse talent from inside and outside the education sector to help build an analytics platform, and student, faculty, and advisor apps that could help power and inform the innovations, interventions, and inspirations taking shape in the field. In addition, the goal was to connect institutions in a true and deep learning collaborative around these issues, tackling active research agendas with live data around some of the hottest learning and college completion issues in the education field, including:
  • Loss, tipping, and momentum points on student pathways to a degree or credential
  • Deeper learning strategies
  • Late enrollment dilemmas
  • Financial aid vs. self-pay dynamics
  • Intervention and inspiration science about what works in the “Activation Zone,” when early indicators show the need for support
  • Part-time attendance dynamics
  • Online, on-ground, and blended modality differences and synergies
  • Gender gaps—men overall, women in STEM
  • Incoming student success
  • Undeclared major dangers and strategies to help students find purpose
  • Gatekeeper and milestone courses
  • Online and blended course success strategies
  • Right-sizing/optimizing financial aid packages, helping students make good choices with financial aid packages
  • Transfer student dynamics, including strategies to incent “productive transfer” (e.g., students transferring from a community college after obtaining an associates degrees)
  • Developmental education innovation
  • Recovery from failure, tenacity, grit, mindset: the family of non-cog research
  • STEM completion initiatives
  • STEAM initiatives, combining arts with STEM
  • Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) and Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSI)- the vision, opportunity, and challenges
  • Semester shock after transfer
  • Expectations shock for high school, transfer, or returning students
  • Distance learning challenges and opportunities
  • First-generation student success
This list of Hot Topics could go on, but you get the idea. The Civitas Learning community, together with our National Advisory Board, Foundations, U.S. Department of Education, and U.S. Department of Labor grant initiatives, are already diving deep into this work with better data and tools than the education field has ever seen. We’re already learning a lot, and so much more is to come—all in service of a clearly-stated social mission: to help a Million More students a year learn well and finish strong.
best places to work award

The Austin Business Journal named Civitas Learning to its Best Places to Work again in 2015.

What is particularly exciting, however, is how this mission and the way we’re tackling the associated challenges has attracted key talent from other sectors. Part of the reason for this draw is that we are unabashed about challenging data engineers, data scientists, and high-end software designers from other fields to “come use your powers for good.” Sure, they could go on designing increasingly addictive games for Facebook, optimizing advertising algorithms for Google, or deploying mobile apps for the Apple Store. I’m not saying those things are ‘bad,’ per se. But wouldn’t they rather use their talents to help millions of students have a richer and better educational experience? As you can see from the Hot Topics I shared earlier, there is a lot of work to be done in an education sector that is increasingly trying to make the most of next generation digital tools, innovative learning models, and the new and better data at their fingertips. What’s exciting, is that those we’re recruiting get it. Improving education is vital for their kids, their extended families, their communities, their states, their nations, even for the world. They want to be a part of this powerful work. As a result, we’ve been able to attract incredibly talented professionals from across the spectrum of technology, data science, design, and education sectors to join in the cause, largely because they want to put their shoulder to the wheel in common cause around a mission that motivates them. One of our new product analysts, Grace Gee, put it well:

“I came to Civitas Learning because [it’s] a company that is spearheading the unique intersection between data science and student success. Coming from experience in software engineering and data science at a big data technology start-up in Silicon Valley, my personal mission has always been to build exciting products with the power to change the world. When I learned about Civitas Learning and their profound mission to improve student success through cutting edge technology and leading data science research, I had to get involved. As a Product Analyst at Civitas Learning, my mission is to collect and analyze our data to help both our Partners and our internal stakeholders measure the adoption and impact of our products. I enjoy working with our cross-functional teams like Product, Engineering, Data Science, and Partner Success, who are all incredibly passionate about helping students, many of whom come from similar tech industry backgrounds like me. I wake up excited every day to work with my colleagues to help our Partners take more steps towards achieving the Million More Mission.”

We’re early in this work – less than two years into welcoming our first Pioneer institutions. Our community of inspiring college and university partners from across the higher education spectrum is growing fast. To help power our partners, we’ve already assembled a team of professionals from some of the top companies, colleges, and causes in the world. For example, our Chief Data Scientist is from Humana, CTO from Facebook, CFO from Google, VP for Communication and Outreach from Cisco, VP of Engineering from IBM, and our top designer from Stanford’s Learning, Technology and Design program. We’re already 120 team members strong and growing, a committed core eager to support our colleges and universities. If taking on these challenges with some of the most talented educators, technologists, and data scientists ever assembled seems interesting, take a look at joining the mix. Come use your powers for good!

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