Every Learner Everywhere
Center for Innovation in Postsecondary Education

Meet Our New Partner: CIPE Provides a Framework for Equitable Academic Success

Every Learner Everywhere is proud to welcome a new partner: the Center for Innovation in Postsecondary Education (CIPE), which shares the network’s goal of promoting equitable academic success for minoritized, poverty-affected, and first-generation students.

CIPE collaborates with higher education and community institutions to improve graduation rates and workforce outcomes. Their services include advising on redesign, capacity building, and other technical assistance.

The Founding Director of CIPE, Kathy Thompson, says it is the culmination of decades of experience in higher education and workforce development, including seven years providing contract services to HBCUs through the Gates Foundation. By collaborating with subject-matter experts and specialists, CIPE offers a hands-on approach to supporting equity efforts.

In partnering with post-secondary institutions, CIPE provides a framework and tools to drive equitable academic success in student-centered learning. Together with Every Learner, CIPE is excited to bring their approach to innovation, collaboration, and creative problem solving to a larger audience and continue pushing equity efforts forward.

Strong foundations

Thompson’s previous work saw her acting as an intermediary with six HBCUs in observation of student success practices through a project called the Frontier Set.

The Frontier Set, a collection of top-performing, high-potential colleges and universities dedicated to enhancing student success, provided key insights to Thompson about the areas students needed the most support in order to succeed.

“They had what they called ‘solution areas’; advising, digital learning, digital courseware, and developmental education,” Thompson says. “Digital learning was one of the areas we focused on, so I dove into the transformation of these six institutions to ensure they were aware of the digital tools and how to apply them at their institutions to help their students succeed academically.”

While the institutions previously held a range of experience with digital learning, Thompson spearheaded efforts to implement modern updates in these historical establishments. Since founding CIPE in 2023, she’s continued to invest in the same area that proved pivotal to the Frontier Set.

Thompson explains that the incremental adoption of digital learning technologies by HBCUs, HSIs, MSIs, and tribal colleges is the result of many factors, but a lack of funding and capacity creates detrimental gaps in student success. CIPE helps institutions build capacity, create processes and practices, and implement continuous quality improvement to prepare them to accept digital tools when they become available.

“Whether they implement or not, they should anticipate and be aware,” she says. “We all know that knowledge is power.”

Building lasting solutions

With expertise ranging from relationship building to more concrete technical assistance and capacity building, CIPE operates in a variety of fields to create a lasting impact. Working with minority-serving institutions can present different challenges— fewer resources—says Thompson. Instead of adding something new to their plate, CIPE helps institutions see that they may already have the capacity or ability to create it within their existing structure.

Digital advising is one area of focus that many institutions may be underdeveloped in due to the unique challenges involved, says Thompson.

One challenge digital learning advisors face is results from the torrents of data generated from their LMS. With records on grades, attendance, and other student data, data literacy has never been more important. The best digital advisors, Thompson says, make note of downward trends and act fast.

“A good digital advisor will follow up with the student, not just let that happen,” she explains. “They utilize the LMS and data to see that the student is running into problems.”

For CIPE, maintaining a human touch extends to more than just digital learning. Relationship building and communication are key factors of what makes the organization successful. HBCUs and tribal colleges can be skeptical of outside organizations, so building a genuine connection is crucial.

“I put a great deal of emphasis on relationship building and making sure that we’re communicating with them,” Thompson says. “That’s what I bring to Every Learner Everywhere, a sort of gateway into these institutions.”

Collaborating with Every Learner

With a shared mission rooted in equity, joining with the 12 other partners in the Every Learner network came naturally.

“I believe in what Every Learner Everywhere is doing,” says Thompson. “The network creates the opportunity for anyone who wants to be a learned person.”

The challenge of equity and higher education provides Thompson with an opportunity to give back to a field she is passionate about, and partnering with Every Learner is the next step in that process.

Thompson is excited to see CIPE’s reach and impact increase with this new partnership, while sharing valuable experiences and insights the Center has gained. The Center’s focus in the near future will remain on researching and crafting innovative, effective practices that promote student-centered learning and equitable academic success, while providing support and facilitating equity solutions across their partner campuses.

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