December 19, 2023: Give yourself a holiday gift and register today for Public Policy Week — Jan. 16-19, 2024

Exciting news, USDLA friends!

Our first annual Public Policy Week, Jan. 16-19, is open for registration: usdla.org/2024-ppw. Scroll to meet all of our speakers! Questions? Contact our Public Policy Chairwoman, Alexandra Salas, at asalas@usdla.org.

And, as we announced last week, registration is open for our 2024 National Conference: June 17-20 at the Marriott St. Louis Grand — Come for the conference, stay for the community! At this annual event, we mingle, discuss technology, and learn from an audience broader than our own. Nothing can replace these live in-person interactions, and conference feedback shows us we are looking for new personal relationships that inspire and expand our professional and personal lives. Join us: usdla.org/2024-conference-registration

Other upcoming events: Check out an event hosted tomorrow by our sister organization EDEN Digital Learning Europe: eden-europe.eu.

Have a beautiful week! — Hope Katz Gibbs, USDLA Communications Director


USDLA PUBLIC POLICY WEEK GUIDE: January 16-19, 2024

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