Last week, Massachusetts Global University named a new chancellor to lead the institution, which is trying to increase its presence nationally and internationally.
The board elected David Andrews, who has served as UMass Global’s interim chancellor since May. Prior to that, Andrews served as president of National University, a non-profit adult institution in Southern California, from 2016 to 2021, during which time enrollment grew from approximately 30,000 students to 45,000 students. Andrews also previously served as dean of the Johns Hopkins University School of Education from 2010 to 2016.
The University of Massachusetts created UMass Global last year by acquisition Brandman University, a private, non-profit organization based in California, from Chapman University. It is now affiliated with the University of Massachusetts system, but operates as a private institution. It has its own board of regents, although some members overlap with the trustees of the University of Massachusetts system.
Andrews laid out the vision for UMass Global to become “a leading open-access institution serving the traditionally disadvantaged,” when he was hired on a permanent basis.
We spoke to Andrews about the university and broader trends on the Internet.
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.
HIGHER ED DIVE: What attracted you to UMass Global?
DAVID ANDREWS: I am particularly interested in facilities for adults with open access. We desperately need to help adults retool and prepare themselves for better opportunities in the workforce, especially post-pandemic. The transformation of Brandman University into UMass Global has given us the opportunity to reach many more adult learners across the country. We’ve been mostly in California, and it’s an opportunity to travel across the country and, in fact, around the world to provide opportunities for working adults.
What are your main goals for the university in the coming years?
We must fulfill our mission of serving as many adult learners as possible. We need to grow and expand our reach beyond California and across the United States, and build a stronger international set of programs that allow us to serve students wherever they are.
Do you have a specific type of registration? And if so, what is your game plan to achieve this?
We don’t have a specific recruitment goal. But over the next 10 years, we’d like to see ourselves at least triple in size to be able to not only stay competitive, but also serve the type of students we know we can reach. This will require new models or new ways of thinking about delivery models. These are very, very busy working adults who need the most flexible and accommodating schedules and delivery models possible.
When you say flexible models, are you referring to composable credentials? Competency education?
Yes, definitely. Sophisticated credentials and competency-based education are part of the model – meaning you have to deliver an immediate return on investment. Many of our students are looking to change career opportunities with their current employer or want to move on to an entirely new set of work opportunities. But they don’t really have time to commit to a full-time degree program without seeing some benefit from that early period, so we’re seeing a lot of movement toward these buildable credentials.
To work closely with employers, we need to think about how to take professional development – which used to happen exclusively outside the university – and align it with what the university will be able to give credit for and bring it together so that in eventually get a degree.
This is only part of the model. The other part of the model is much more of an on-demand delivery system.
Competency-based education provides additional flexibility for busy students. When we first moved into the online space—and even into the adult market—we used to do synchronous online sessions at 5 o’clock, just when someone was getting home from work and dealing with kids and dinner and all those things that are part of life. It’s simply not realistic for people to work under strict deadlines that are more convenient for the institution than for the student. Those who will be competitive and successful in the needs of students will be able to handle it.
Some reports indicate that we may be headed for a recession. If this were to happen in the next year or two, what would it mean for UMass Global students?
There is a countercyclical relationship between unemployment and people going back to school. If unemployment rises and becomes a serious problem, we must be ready to help people get back to school and retool to get back into the workforce.
It also means working closely with industry, businesses and employers to make sure you produce exactly what they want. It also helps reduce the cost of acquiring a student. Rather than going directly to students in more retail models to see if they are interested in learning, how do you create the closest partnership with industry so that you provide exactly what the student needs?
Other systems and public universities are creating large online universities to serve adult students. Are you worried about increased national competition among students?
I think there will be some upheaval in that competition, but it forces us to be innovative in our delivery models. It also means that the brand makes a difference. With UMass Global, we have a very strong brand that is recognized both nationally and internationally.