By Brittany Chambers
With the buzz of conference attendees, including renowned thought leaders and investors, who have developed a variety of new innovative technologies walking the venue grounds, ASU-GSV is not a conference to disappoint. The yearly conference, coined by its founders as one of “the most impactful convening of leaders in education and talent tech,” certainly has served as a space for some of the most innovative leaders to connect as they endeavor to challenge the ways we see and engage with the education and talent landscapes.
In this article, five ladies in leadership share their work that has served to create more enriching, equitable and just educational and talent possibilities for a variety of learners of all ages at all stages.
Creating One-on-One Early Education Coding Opportunities
Vivian Shen, Co-founder & Chief Executive Officer, Juni Learning
- Vivian Shen
- Company: Juni Learning
- Role: Co-founder & Chief Executive Officer
Vivian Shen is the co-founder and CEO behind Juni Learning, an innovative online coding curriculum and tech platform. The Juni Learning platform, pairs computer science student instructors from top universities—such as Harvard, MIT, UC Berkeley, and Stanford—with coding learners ages 5-18.
Juni Learning is uniquely different from traditional learning courses in that their offerings are live, one-on-one sequenced program curriculums. This novel approach helped address a major need among young students who were looking for more dynamic coding curriculum and highly personalized instruction.
In order to make coding as accessible as possible for students of all levels, from novices to AP students, Shen and her co-founder Ruby Lee, meticulously developed all of the curriculum for their courses in house.
Arielle Zuckerberg, sister to Facebook’s founder, and Jessica Livingston, co-Founder of YCombinator, have backed Juni Learning with the mission to make learning coding more accessible for all.
Long-term, Shen is interested in “growing the massive potential of coding education by curating innovative ideas that can serve as game changers for young to adolescent learners.” Shen adds: “As the role of technology increases in our daily lives, learning basic and advanced coding concepts can serve as an instrumental tool in opening doors for kids in college and beyond. Juni Learning is excited to be a part of that journey and create opportunities for early learners.”
Reimagining Critical Dialogue In The Higher Education Space
Jessica Tenuta, Co-founder & Chief Product Officer, Packback
- Jessica Tenuta
- Company: Packback
- Role: Co-founder & Chief Product Officer
Jessica Tenuta is the co-founder and Chief Product Officer of Packback, a company she founded with fellow undergraduate classmates from Illinois State University. Tenuta and her colleagues endeavored to create Packback as a result of a project they were working on in school. To their surprise, the project morphed into an iterative endeavor exploring how to support more students in the classroom with the vision to awaken student curiosity through online discussions.
The at-scale creation of an online discussion-based platform, has enabled Tenuta and her team to empower student conversations with behind-the-scenes coaching to assist students in asking more effective questions. The artificial intelligence (AI) supported discussion platform has also empowered the company to facilitate critical discussion between over 250,000 students through automated moderation and scoring algorithms.
Professors love the platform because it supports small to large classroom environments—from classes as small as 20 students to courses with over 1,200 students per section—who strive to learn through cooperative, engaging, and argumentative dialogue. The organization has been backed by Shark Tank’s very own Mark Cuban as it pursues changing the critical dialogue landscape.
Tenuta says: ”Packback believes the greatest way to lifelong learning and success for today’s students is to cultivate intrinsic curiosity and the ability to ask meaningful questions. At Packback, we work to drive skill development in effective question formation and critical debate through moderated discussion, as these are the skills that learners need to truly transform their industries after graduation.”
Bridging Access To Unique Online Education Opportunities
Leah Lommel, Assistant Vice President & Chief Operating Officer, EdPlus at Arizona State University
- Leah Lommel
- Company: EdPlus at Arizona State University (ASU)
- Role: Assistant Vice President & Chief Operating Officer
Leah Lommel is the Chief Operating Officer for EdPlus, a central enterprise unit at Arizona State University that is focused on creating digital teaching and learning models at scale. EdPlus was created with the goal of advancing the social, cultural, economic, and greater health of local, national, and international communities by reducing the barriers to higher education achievement.
The enterprise offers over 175 fully online degree programs, web-based continuing education opportunities, collaborative partnerships with universities and corporations, and learning analytics to improve programming opportunities.
Lommel’s leadership has supported EdPlus in curating corporate-university partnerships including programs like the Starbucks College Achievement Plan and the ASU’s recently announced partnership with Uber. Her work has also extended to supporting the launch of the U.S.’s first-ever virtual reality (VR) biology lab in partnership with Google, which offers simulations like drawing blood and molecularly manipulating DNA. Further, her work through EdPlus has aided in the creation of a new online high school using adaptive learning technologies for non-traditional learners who experience challenges that inhibit them from full-time traditional learning opportunities.
Lommel shares that: “ASU’s charter focuses on inclusion, not exclusion and with the use of technology we can reduce barriers to higher education while also increasing student success. I’ve always appreciated technology and loved education, however, education is a personal journey for every individual. At EdPlus we can layer technology to continue to make the journey personalized and adaptive, to help each student reach higher levels of access and most importantly success.”
Broadening the Education, Research, and Publication Arena
Ella Balagula, Executive Vice President of Knowledge & Learning, Wiley
- Ella Balagula
- Company: Wiley
- Role: Executive Vice President of Knowledge & Learning
Ella Balagula is the Executive Vice President for Knowledge & Learning at Wiley, a global leader in education and research. Balagula oversees the Higher Education, Test Prep, Reference, and Professional Development publishing segments of the business.
In her short time at Wiley, Balagula has reinforced the organization’s commitment to advancing student and professional development by increasing publishing output in STEM disciplines, and Business, Finance & Accounting subjects, where they are now #1 publisher in Organic Chemistry textbooks, #2 in Accounting and Engineering textbooks, and #2 in Business & Management professional development books.
Under her leadership, Wiley has also launched an all-new WileyPLUS platform, as well as a new inclusive access program to increase students’ access to affordable content. Further, Balagula has championed a new approach to product management across Wiley, working with 250 product leaders to re-think the way products are built with a compelling vision and strategy.
Long-term, Balagula seeks to optimize Wiley’s unique assets, content, and pedagogy to improve learning outcomes. Her hope is that these opportunities can “continue to build on Wiley’s existing foundation to create something truly special in the education space.”
Transforming The Talent Space: Gig-Economy Opportunities Post-College
Jody Greenstone Miller, Co-founder & Chief Executive Officer, Business Talent Group
- Jody Greenstone Miller
- Company: Business Talent Group
- Role: Co-founder & Chief Executive Officer
Jody Greenstone Miller is a co-founder and CEO behind Business Talent Group (BTG), a global marketplace for high-end independent talent on-demand. BTG’s solution helps organizations address the ongoing skills gap which 83% of US organizations view as a barrier to success. As an on-demand independent talent marketplace, BTG combines technology, proprietary data, and an experienced client success team to provide talent within 24-hours in order to solve companies’ most mission-critical challenges.
Miller’s leadership has enabled BTG to grow to offer these services globally through offices across the US and in London. As a result, to date, 43% of the Fortune 100 and hundreds of other companies work with BTG to access agile talent across 34 countries.
Miller believes BTG’s ability to support these companies has been due to the growing market of highly skilled independent agents who are interested in the professional freedom that comes from project-based work. This has fueled opportunities to redefine and innovate the way industries engage and access the best global talent available.
In the long run, Miller hopes that BTG’s work will “enable top talent to have greater professional control and the option to pursue a project-based career while giving companies more agile ways to get work done.”