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Accelerator at WGU Labs Invests in AI-based Platform to Reimagine Digital Engagement of Students and Alumni

Protopia facilitates how learners connect and engage with one another

Feb 10, 2022

SALT LAKE CITY  — The Accelerator at WGU Labs, an affiliate of online, nonprofit Western Governors University (WGU), today announced an investment in and strategic partnership with Protopia, a company whose AI-based platform helps students and alumni actively engage with each other. A 2021 survey sponsored by Inside Higher Education, College Pulse and Kaplan found that of

2,003 incoming sophomores, juniors and seniors at 105 different colleges and universities, one in five students did not have access to a mentor. Even among colleges and universities that do provide social networks and platforms in an effort to connect students with alumni, users are often left underwhelmed. According to the Voluntary Alumni Engagement in Support of Education 2020 Benchmarking Survey, 75% of alumni indicated their institution needed to do more to engage with them and felt that their institution’s technology needed to be upgraded to achieve this goal. 

Protopia has designed a platform to help increase an institution’s engagement with its alumni by providing an easy way for them to mentor current students. Rather than requiring alumni and students to sign up or log into another app to communicate, users simply fill out a short online form. Then Protopia’s artificial intelligence sends a private email to 10 to 15 of the most relevant alumni who can not only choose to help, but determine whether the request warrants quick advice, a call or a meeting. Institutions can use their administrator access to track student and alumni engagement.

The Accelerator at WGU Labs works to advance the pace of learning innovation by partnering with early-stage education technology companies that show potential for long-term social impact. Under the partnership, the Accelerator will work closely with Protopia to better understand the conditions in which students and alumni use the platform, and collaborate with Protopia to help advance its strategic marketing efforts.

“Protopia represents a platform long overdue in higher education to help ensure that engagement and networking actually happen between alumni and students,” said Todd Bloom, managing director of the WGU Labs Fund, which works with the Accelerator to provide seed capital. “Protopia represents the type of innovative partner that will help colleges and universities that want to find ways to improve useful engagement and mentorship between students and alumni.”

Max Leisten, founder and CEO of Protopia, added, “It’s never been more critical to universities for their alumni to volunteer throughout the entire student lifecycle, yet traditional digital engagement tools plateau at 7% alumni adoption and require a lot of staff time. Artificial intelligence is finally ready to truly scale effective and inclusive digital volunteering. We are seeing unprecedented global demand from innovative colleges and universities that want to break with the status quo, and the WGU Labs partnership couldn’t come at a better time in our journey. I am thrilled to be collaborating with this mission-first team of experts and researchers to grow our impact and drive meaningful outcomes in higher education.”

Sterly Wilder, senior associate vice president, alumni engagement and development at Duke University, noted, “With a community as large and diverse as ours, we needed a truly different and innovative solution to connect our alumni and students. Protopia’s AI has made networking simple, seamless and scalable, and allowed us to engage so many new people, all without another app to sign up for or use for our already busy alumni.”

Protopia represents the fifteenth partnership for the Accelerator at WGU Labs since its inception in 2019. To learn more about the Accelerator and its partners, visit

About WGU Labs

WGU Labs is a nonprofit affiliate of WGU. The Accelerator at WGU Labs provides research, market development and product enhancement services to early-stage education businesses. Through these services as well as financial investments, the Accelerator advances the scale and impact of education companies that share its mission to increase student access, lower student costs and improve student outcomes. Learn more about WGU Labs and the Accelerator at

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About Protopia

Protopia, the leading alumni activation platform for colleges and universities, connects higher education communities for advice and networking at institutions such as Duke University, North Carolina State University, the University of Michigan, and the University of Pittsburgh. Based in Raleigh, North Carolina, and founded in 2017, Protopia’s artificial intelligence technology increases community engagement and volunteering at scale, without another database for the institution or another app for alumni. Protopia enhances schools’ existing platforms or can be implemented as a standalone solution.

​Learn more about Protopia at

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