Spencer joins select group of college leaders in Presidential Innovation Lab project

Beginning next week, Bates College President Clayton Spencer and a small group of other leaders from diverse higher education institutions will examine ways in which new technological approaches might be used to boost the number of Americans able to earn a college degree.

Clayton Spencer is the only Presidential Innovation Lab participant from a Maine institution, and the only liberal arts college president

Clayton Spencer is the only Presidential Innovation Lab participant from a Maine institution, and the only liberal arts college president. Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College.

The work of the Presidential Innovation Lab will begin with a July 21-23 meeting at the Institute for the Future in Palo Alto, Calif. A second two-day meeting will take place in Washington, D.C., in October.

Created by the American Council on Education, the group will investigate new learning techniques and venues, including massive open online courses (MOOCs). They will also guide a national dialogue about potential new academic and financial models that can help close persistent attainment gaps, including those among low-income young adults.

Spencer is one of 14 college and university leaders who will participate. She is the only participant from Maine, and the only president of a liberal arts college.

ACE President Molly Corbett Broad said, “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.”

Spencer said, “The genius of American higher education is that it unites excellence and opportunity at the heart of the enterprise, allowing talented students regardless of background or means to attend our best colleges and universities, and, conversely, allowing these institutions to draw from broad pools of talent that are constantly being renewed. I look forward to exploring with my colleagues in the Innovation Lab the ways in which technology may be able to enhance educational opportunity without compromising quality.”

After becoming the eighth president of Bates, in July 2012, Spencer outlined a series of institutional priorities supporting the role of Bates as a model of the “engaged liberal arts.”  These include an emphasis on high engagement between students and faculty in a rigorous academic experience; innovation in teaching; developing a four-year structure consistent with the core liberal arts mission to help students prepare for the world of work; and expanding access to a liberal arts education for talented students from all backgrounds.

“The ways in which residential liberal arts colleges may benefit from new technologies and approaches in higher education remain to be seen, but these are clearly important questions, and I am pleased that Bates will at the table as we wrestle with them,” Spencer said.

The work of the group will be supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The Institute for the Future, an independent nonprofit research organization based in Palo Alto, will help guide the work of the Presidential Innovation Lab.

Here’s the full list of participants in the Presidential Innovation Lab:

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


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