November 28, 2023: USDLA News Public Policy Week is on the horizon (Jan. 16-19, 2024)

Happy Tuesday, USDLA friends! We hope you all had a wonderfully warm and delicious Thanksgiving holiday.

This week we share more details about our first annual Public Policy Week, Jan. 16-19, including a Q&A with Alexandra Salas, chair of the committee spearheading this event. Scroll down for that and also to meet four of the speakers who will be presenting at our educational, informative online event.

Upcoming webinars: Today, we also bring details about upcoming webinars we know you will want to attend, including our Free Friday series: December 6 and December 8. You’ll find information about two events being hosted by our colleagues at the Northeast Digital Learning Association (NEDLA) on Nov. 29 and Dec. 12. Scroll down for more.

We’ll reach out again on Thursday with our USDLA Brief. Until then, have a beautiful week!Hope Katz Gibbs, USDLA Communications Director

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: 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:


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.

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:

Wednesday, January 17, 2-3pm 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:

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.