Executive Director, Continuing and Professional Education

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Position

Executive Director, Continuing and Professional Education

Company

George Mason University

Location

Fairfax, Virginia

Reporting Relationship

Vice President for Academic Innovation & New Ventures, Office of the Provost

 
George Mason University

George Mason University (Mason) is the largest and most diverse public research university in Virginia. The university enrolls just under 38,000 students from all 50 states and 130 countries and offers 82 undergraduate and 129 graduate/law degrees in 10 colleges and schools. The university has three major campuses in Northern Virginia – Fairfax, Arlington, and Prince William, as well as an international campus in Songdo, Korea. Mason operates the Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation in Front Royal, Virginia in partnership with the Smithsonian Institution and recently opened its Potomac Science Center – a state-of-the-art environmental science and engineering facility which serves students in Woodbridge, Virginia. Rooted in Mason’s diversity is a campus culture that is both rewarding and exciting, work that is meaningful, and opportunities to both collaborate and create.

Few institutions parallel Mason’s growth in both size and stature. Established as a regional university serving mostly local residents, Mason has emerged as a nationally and internationally recognized university. In less than 50 years, Mason's accomplishments have included Nobel Prizes, a #1 "School to Watch" ranking by US News and World Report, and its recent Research 1 designation- distinguishing Mason as the youngest university to join the ranks of institutions with exceptional track records in research and scholarship.

Mason is committed to creating a more just, free and prosperous world. Located in one of the most important political, economic and intellectual hubs in the world, Mason accepts the responsibility to serve others: to help students succeed, enrich the life of the community, and contribute to solving some of the most complex problems of our time.

Ranked as one of the most innovative schools in the nation, Mason is delivering flagship university outcomes in an urban university setting. The university is recognized as a primary economic engine of the state, attracting learners of all socioeconomic backgrounds from across the nation and around the globe and defining Mason as a destination for accessible world-class learning.

Mason has a tradition of identifying talented students underrepresented in most four-year university pipelines and helping them achieve the same outcomes as those students from more traditional backgrounds. Despite almost one-third of new undergraduates qualifying for Federal Pell Grants, the university continues to boast one of the lowest loan default rates in the country. Mason students from diverse backgrounds retain and graduate at similar rates as their majority peers – earning similar high paying jobs upon graduation.

Growth Trends

Mason holds the distinction of Virginia’s fastest growing university. In fact, enrollment growth in undergraduate programs over the past decade accounts for approximately fifty-eight percent of baccalaureate student enrollment growth in all Virginia public institutions of higher education. Net enrollment growth (by headcount) for all Virginia public institutions from Fall 2009 to Fall 2018 was 9,755; Mason accounted for 5,610 of this growth.

In 2019 Mason will launch a major initiative to significantly expand the availability of online undergraduate programs, micro-credentials tied to workforce advancement and life-long learning options for working adults, positioning the university as a national leader offering online degrees at scale. Informed by contemporary learning science and capitalizing upon innovations in learning technologies, we will create a virtual campus with rich connections to our physical campuses, offering all our students, and in many cases working adults, with broad access to Mason resources via on campus, online and blended education.

Demands for Talent

Sustaining a strong innovation economy requires development of a diverse, multi-sourced talent pipeline. There is no doubt that universities and employers will have to look beyond more traditional 22-26-year-old college graduate populations to fill this need. In Virginia and the mid-Atlantic region, the number of traditional-age college graduates is not growing. However, the Commonwealth has 1,000,000+ adults with some college credit and no degree. This mirrors current national data which identify more than 30,000,000 American adults who have stopped or dropped out of college. For years, researchers and think-tanks have warned that the future of our nation’s economy will largely depend on our ability to provide educational options to help more adults gain career-oriented degrees and credentials. That demand is no longer a future projection – the demand is current; the future is here and the time to act is now.

To meet employer demand and to provide access to education for all students, not just traditional 18-24-year-olds, Mason will significantly expand online access to degree programs and continuous learning opportunities. Our partnership with Wiley Education Services has yielded ~10 online professional graduate and certificate programs in just over a year, and we will add a significant number of new offerings over the next 5 years. Mason’s leadership in the Online Virginia Network (https://onlinevirginia.net) is a second step towards providing adults with efficient pathways to online undergraduate degrees.

Continuing and Professional Education

The Continuing and Professional Education program is the single point of contact for organizations and individuals seeking to leverage the comprehensive for-credit and non-credit curricula of Virginia’s largest research university.

There is significant opportunity, access and creativity in the array of academic and professional programs for true multidisciplinary learning solutions. Program participants can integrate original faculty research and specific organization issues into closed cohort programs, ensuring that the learning solution is relevant. Additionally, students can develop educational paths consistent with organization career paths by utilizing the learning solutions as the starting point for employees seeking to complete Mason certificate and degree programs.  The program is tapped into the needs of corporate and federal government communities and is leading the way by developing multidisciplinary programs that provide an immediate impact on overall organizational performance.

In addition to entry-level talent, employers have expressed a need to upskill and, in some cases, reskill their current workforce. Rapid technological advances are reducing the lifespan of specific skills and require that workers participate actively in their own professional development. Some studies suggest skills need to be refreshed ever 2.5 years, yet our current approach to developing degrees, courses and credentials is generally not that fast.

To date, universities have not been a primary source of continuing education for employees who are attempting to navigate ever-changing requirements for contemporary skills and knowledge – and as a result, a new ecosystem of educational players outside mainstream universities has emerged, to include boot camps, employer training programs and certifications. This causes some to question whether college degrees will remain the primary credential for jobs in the future. As the debate continues, one fact remains – the vast majority of jobs require a bachelor’s degree as an entry-level requirement.

There are many reasons why more traditional universities have focused almost exclusively on undergraduate and graduate degree production and have chosen to engage little in the business of professional development and lifelong learning. The latter requires much closer partnerships with employers, adapting curriculum based on employers’ needs and providing flexible education delivery models that serve working adults. This can run counter to more traditional academic culture and structures. However, change is inevitable as we consider how to best serve our students and employers. Employers are asking universities to take a more active role in supporting their talent pipeline and are increasingly signaling their willingness to collaborate. It’s clear that universities and employers must work together to provide job-ready graduates and to support professional development at different stages of individuals’ career paths.

For individuals, the immediate benefits of working with our program are:

  • Programs are offered at multiple locations, and in some cases, are delivered in an online format.
  • Current program offerings are focused on the most relevant and in-demand professional certifications, including human resources, facility management, government contracting and technology management.
  • Education alliance agreements for organizations allow for additional alliance partner benefits such as 10 percent discounts.

Mason’s plan for expansion of online programs

We are planning to grow our online student headcount to 15K by 2025:

  • Undergraduate programs: Launch undergraduate fully online programs (majors) over the next five years
    • Grow fully/mostly online undergraduate enrollment
    • Redistribute mix of undergraduate online students
    • Engage employers in the development of programming to include the inclusion of work-based and project-based experiences as a learning feature
    • Create hybrid programs where online students from outside the region may complete their degree in face-to-face programs sponsored by employers
  • Graduate programs:
    • Continue our current strategy of launching ~15 fully online masters programs
    • Build ~five fully-online stackable master’s programs in ultra-high demand disciplines at large scale (500+ students each) and affordable tuition rates
    •  
  • Offer job-critical certifications and skill building:
    • In partnership with employers, build/launch high demand industry-linked and backed credentials, such as the Greater Washington Partnership (GWP) Digital Technologies Credential, and short courses that a) can be embedded within degrees, b) lead into degrees, and c) be taken as standalone modules that provide value for employees
    • Develop certifications and continuous learning modules in partnership with employers to include a mix of job-specific skills (e.g., artificial intelligence, data analytics) and soft skills (e.g., resiliency, negotiation, working in diverse teams)
  • Innovating in the development career support and services for online students:
    • Create and offer virtual and location-based options for adult students to get the socio-academic-industry guidance and support they need to graduate and accelerate careers

Academic Innovation and New Ventures

Academic Innovation and New Ventures (New Ventures) leads George Mason University in the establishment of partnerships and programs that expand student access and ensure a skilled and diverse workforce for the Northern Virginia region. The Executive Director will collaborate extensively with this team and will report to the Vice President of Academic Innovation and New Ventures, an administrative unit of the Office of the Provost.

Charged with exploring, launching and sustaining university-wide initiatives, New Ventures collaborates with faculty and staff from across the community to create innovative academic pathways and services for Mason’s diverse student population, including adult learner, part-time, military and first-generation students.

For individuals seeking to gain a competitive advantage and enhance their career path prospects, our program provides an extensive portfolio of specialized workforce development and professional certificate programs. 

Executive Director 

The Executive Director provides leadership and strategic management of Continuing and Professional Education at Mason. The Executive Director will position Mason as a premier provider to public and private sector organizations in the national capital region and beyond. The Executive Director is responsible for developing and implementing a strong strategic vision, aggressively identifying and pursuing growth opportunities, managing resources, and overseeing the quality of program delivery. Mason has a strong institutional commitment to the achievement of excellence and diversity among its faculty and staff, and strongly encourages candidates to apply who will enrich Mason’s academic and culturally inclusive environment.

Continuing and Professional Education has an ambitious new perspective on progressive education with new credentialing, credit for prior learning, micro and non-traditional credentials as well as approaches that let experienced professionals stack credentials toward full degrees that will be managed by this leader. 

CPE is looking for the leader who can partner collaboratively across the senior university administration, who has comfort leading and setting internal strategy, as well as identifying and leveraging optimal external relationships.  The incoming leader will need to understand and help expand the profile of professional education program offerings as well as an understanding of the wider CPE market trends. They will work closely with employers to tailor content to meet corporate needs. They also will assist in new program creation including micro-credentials, stackable certificate programs and micro-masters. CPE leadership will partner with content development leaders and instructional designers to operationalize these initiatives.

Relationship management is one of the major tenets of success in this role. The Executive Director will interface and strategize with the public and private sector as current portfolio includes employers, university administration, faculty, and staff. The Executive Director will need to fortify relationships with Deans and other senior administrative leaders across the university for CPE to be as collaborative and inclusive as possible. The Executive Director is expected to recruit and manage a highly-trained professional staff; develop and manage the CPE budget with P&L responsibilities; lead business development activities while engaging the Mason faculty community and fostering cross-unit collaboration in the development and delivery of programs. 

In support of the strategic direction of the organization, the Executive Director is responsible for both developing and growing business, as well as coalescing the CPE staff culture. The Executive Director provides the day-to-day leadership for the office, modeling the CPE and larger university vision and values. The Executive Director must have a proven track record of developing business, instituting strategic client relationship management in partnership with Mason’s largest and most critical clients in both the private and public sectors. 

Key Responsibilities

Chief among the leadership responsibilities of the Executive Director is the ability both to lead financially and operationally, sell the business externally, and possess an adept ability to work externally with employers and across university leadership spectrum. A keen adherence to state regulations is central for this role, as the university and CPE must operate and comply within a complex regulatory framework.

 

Position Skills and Knowledge Required 

  • Business & Commercial Acumen
    • Understanding of the continuing and professional education business models and the capabilities and differentiators; able to effectively communicate product value to a wide range of customers and stakeholders.
    • Possessing an ability to understand the needs of regional and national employers, and regional talent pipelines
    • Demonstrated experience managing and developing continuing ed programs to meet the needs of clients
    • Must be able to create new products tailored to market needs.
    • Possess strong financial acumen in areas of budgeting, pricing, forecasting, profit and loss, and reporting
    • Viewing opportunities with a commercial lens considering contracting and financial risk, and how to mitigate those risks
    • Operate with integrity, considering the legal and ethical side of situations
  • Sales Capability
    • Demonstrated ability to consistently achieve and exceed growth and margin targets
    • Leveraging knowledge of the market, competitors and CPE products to effectively own and lead business growth
    • Building external network of potential buyers
    • Leveraging networks to generate new opportunities and expand existing products/enrollments
    • Can effectively identify and pursue new potential growth opportunities
  • Leading Teams
    • Effectively leads and engages others with vision and operational excellence
    • Developing others through regular and timely feedback
    • Communicating updates and changes with team
    • Motivating team, bringing energy to projects and people
  • Design Capabilities
    • Facilitating and orchestrating client programs
    • Understanding the business context in which corporate leadership and executive and professional education development sits
    • Possessing depth of knowledge in adult education
  • Client Relationship Management
    • Communicating and building rapport with a diverse set of clients
    • Establishing and maintaining strong relationships with clients and key stakeholders
    • Crossing cultural boundaries with ease and authenticity
    • Sound project management and organizational skills
    • Demonstrating the ability to grow clients through relationships
  • Gravitas
    • Building a personal brand that clients look to for advice and partnership
    • Projecting confidence, poise under pressure and decisiveness
    • Leadership style is nuanced, organized, engaging and inclusive

Qualifications

  • Relationship sales and marketing acumen with proven ability to grow a profitable business professional unit;
  • Familiarity with the latest in professional and continuing education product design and delivery techniques including technology-enabled innovations;
  • Strong capability to communicate credibly with executives at the highest levels in leading corporations, and with other key stakeholders (internal and external);
  • International experience and global perspective;
  • Experience working with a diverse team and clients;
  • Superior communication skills at all levels with the ability to engage clients and team members in contributing to the mission of the organization;
  • Clear managerial skills leading and providing direction to a highly productive team in a fast-paced, high-growth business environment committed to exceptional quality.

In addition, qualified candidates will have a proven record for leading and growing an and professional development organization and demonstrated experience in at least one of the following roles:

  • Serving in a leadership role within a higher education, continuing & professional education setting, adult education setting; or
  • Serving as chief learning officer or as the head of executive leadership education/development in a large company well regarded for excellence and innovation in executive development; or
  • Extensive tenure as a senior management consultant in a relevant practice within a large strategy or human resources consulting firm, or well-regarded boutique executive development firm.

Education

Advanced graduate degree preferred

Compensation

A competitive compensation package will be offered to the finalist candidate.

Application Process

Interested and qualified candidates are welcome to submit a resume and cover letter to: MasonCPE_ExecDir@kornferry.com

George Mason University is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer, committed to promoting inclusion and equity in its community. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, disability, or protected veteran status.