News & Media

Recapping the Transforming Institutions Conference

By Kacy Redd

Last week, key contributors and innovators in higher education gathered in Minneapolis, MN for the Transforming Institutions Conference 2023. This event, jointly hosted by the Accelerating Systemic Change Network (ASCN) and APLU’s Network of STEM Education Centers (NSEC), convened a diverse group of stakeholders ranging from faculty, administrators, STEM Education Center staff, and directors, to policymakers. The goal? To identify and tackle the critical challenges to institutional change, with a focus on transforming undergraduate education.

The conference had a mix of presentations, panel discussions, poster sessions, thematic symposia, and workshops with engaging conversation and cross-institutional learning.

Dr. Nathan Grawe, a labor economist, gave the keynote address providing deep insights into how demographic changes are transforming the landscape of higher education. Key themes included the shift in the demographic composition of the college-going population, declining fertility rates leading to fewer potential college students, the impact of plateauing enrollment trends, and questioning the ROI of higher education. Grawe encouraged reflection, adaptability, and collaboration to tackle these challenges and promote institutional growth, suggesting that the institutions of the future must be ready to embrace antifragility in the face of these changes.

The keynote address was followed by a panel discussion that included Archie Holmes, the Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs at The University of Texas System, who provided insight into how higher education can evolve to thrive amidst these demographic shifts.

The APLU community was well-represented at the conference, with APLU’s Kacy Redd facilitating a discussion on aligning institutional capacity and incentives for engaged research and public impact alongside representatives from the University of California-Berkeley, Oregon State University, the University of Memphis, and Pew Charitable Trusts.

Further showcasing APLU’s involvement, Tia Freelove from APLU, Katie Russell from the University of Minnesota, and LeeAnn Melin from the University of Minnesota led a session on moving beyond silos to support student success in gateway courses. This session engaged participants around the ongoing efforts of eight campuses working collaboratively to eliminate equity gaps in grade patterns in gateway courses as part of the Powered by Publics Big Ten Cluster.

Contributions from APLU institutions extended far and wide, with impactful symposium presentations that tackled a range of issues from equity, inclusion, and belonging in undergraduate data science to institutional change in undergraduate STEM education and transforming institutions through the evaluation of teaching.

We were also fortunate to host workshops and oral presentations from many APLU institutions, including Florida International University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Texas State University-San Marcos, Texas Tech University, University of California-San Diego, University of Maryland-College Park, University of Massachusetts Amherst, University of Nebraska at Omaha, University of Texas at El Paso, University of Virginia, University of Washington, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Washington State University. All presentations and conference proceedings can be accessed here.

The Transforming Institutions Conference 2023 was a testament to the role of public research universities, particularly APLU members, in paving the path for change. The challenges that lie ahead are complex, but the collective wisdom and dedication of these institutions are clear signals of a promising future for higher education. With collaborative effort and a commitment to change, we will continue to thrive in an age of transformation and adaptation.

  • STEM Education

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