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February 20, 2023

Future of Higher Education


wgu at sxsw edu

On March 6-9, WGU leaders will participate in a variety of panel sessions at SXSW EDU 2023 in Austin, Texas. They will discuss innovative solutions to current challenges in higher education that will create pathways to better opportunities for all types of learners. Keep reading for details and registration links for each session and be sure to check back here for links to on-demand videos for each panel session.

Creative Solutions to the Rural Healthcare Crisis

Rural communities are losing access to quality healthcare. Creative public-private partnerships can produce innovative solutions that eliminate barriers, create jobs, and provide desperately needed care to patients who are oftentimes most vulnerable. This discussion will highlight how private, non-profit, and public sectors can work together to meet the economic and healthcare needs of our rural communities.


  • Keith Smith (Moderator), Senior Vice President, Michael O. Leavitt School of Health, Western Governors University
  • Beth O’Connor, Executive Director, Virginia Rural Health Association and former President of the National Rural Health Association
  • Dr. Alex Ding, Associate Vice President, Physician Strategy & Medical Affairs, Humana
  • Janelle Sokolowich, Academic Vice President/Dean, Michael O. Leavitt School of Health, Western Governors University

Monday, March 6 | 2:30-3:30 p.m. CST
Hilton Austin, Salon C 

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Supporting Black, Latinx, & Indigenous Learners

The National Scale Enterprise work through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is designed to close the access and attainment gap for Black, Latinx, and Indigenous learners. Through this grant, Arizona State University, Southern New Hampshire University, and Western Governors University are researching learner experiences at scale to optimize targeted policies and practices. In this session presenters will share powerful insights from the research that are actionable across educational settings.


  • Dale Whitaker (Moderator), Senior Advisor in Postsecondary Success, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
  • Adam Cota, Vice President, Advanced Analytics, Western Governors University
  • Patrick Rossol-Allison, Associate Vice President, Strategic Initiatives, Arizona State University
  • Adrian Haugabrook, Executive Vice President, Social Impact Collective, Southern New Hampshire University

Monday, March 6 | 4-5 p.m. CST
Hilton Austin, Salon C

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Happy Hour and Trivia hosted by WGU

Join fellow conference attendees for networking, trivia, and complimentary hors d'oeuvre and wine/beer from 5:15 to 7 p.m. CST. Wind down after the first day of the conference while also competing for door prizes and mingling with peers at this interactive, come-and-go happy hour session hosted by Western Governors University (WGU).

Monday, March 6 | 5:15-6:45 p.m. CST
Hilton Austin, Salon C

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Online Backlash: Bad Policy Holds Students Back

Today, 65% of jobs require some education beyond high school. In the U.S. 62% of working age adults do not have a degree. Together, these numbers illustrate why we have a skills gap; we need to help more Americans upskill to find sustainable employment. This demands coordination among education providers, employers, and policy makers. Unfortunately, current policy proposals undermine potential solutions like online learning which could help quickly expand education access to millions of learners.


  • Jane Oates (Moderator), President, WorkingNation
  • Michael Hansen, CEO, Cengage
  • Scott Pulsipher, President, Western Governors University
  • David Barnes, Vice President, Global Workforce Policy, IBM

Tuesday, March 7 | 4-5 p.m. CST
Hilton Austin, Salon H

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Breaking Down Barriers Through Education Benefits

EdAssist and WGU are working together to help adult learners reach their greatest potential through partnerships with companies like McDonald’s. In this session, EdAssist, WGU, and McDonald’s will provide three different perspectives on how education benefits, including low- and no-cost degrees, upskilling and reskilling, and student debt repayment programs, can break down barriers to education and help working learners climb the ladder of opportunity from entry-level all the way to the C-suite.


  • Jill Buban, Vice President and General Manager, EdAssist Solutions, Bright Horizons
  • Scott Pulsipher, President, Western Governors University
  • Lisa Schumacher, Director, Education Strategies & Workforce Policy, McDonald's Corporation

Wednesday, March 8 | 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. CST
Austin Convention Center, Room 8ABC

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