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Linked Learning Alliance Discusses Vision for the UC's Next President

January 14, 2020 | Anne Stanton

What kind of leadership does the University of California most need to carry it into tomorrow? Which skills and experiences should the UC look for in a new president? What are the top issues facing today’s students and how should UC leadership address them?

Before commencing the search for the next President of the University of California, the University of California Regents requested observations and advice to inform the search process. The Linked Learning Alliance provided the following testimony at a public forum at the University of California, Los Angeles on January 14. A recording of the event is also available; Alliance remarks begin at minute 46.

Opening Remarks

Anne Stanton, President and CEO, Linked Learning Alliance

Hello, and thank you for the opportunity to speak on behalf of the Linked Learning field.

I’m here today because of a promise that everyone engaged in Linked Learning has made to our students. And that promise is to ensure that students graduate high school prepared for success in both college AND career.

When we combine college and career preparation, we put every student in the position to successfully pursue a full range of postsecondary options. We call that the “power of plus.”

Linked Learning is a standard of excellence for integrated college and career pathways. It helps entire communities benefit through the power of plus. And with it, we’ve seen students make extraordinary progress, landing with firm footing on an upward trajectory as they enroll in postsecondary. Even as we stand here today there are 250,000 students in Linked Learning college and career pathways primed for postsecondary achievement.

But we’re not done. You see, if we motivate students to think bigger about the future, then we need to deliver on the promise of access and opportunity.

As you kick off the search for the next UC president, we urge you to look for a bold and transformative leader who understands the intersections between K–12 and postsecondary, and the amplifying effect of college AND career readiness; and who realizes that there is far more to be gained, than lost, through planned and purposeful partnerships.

Intentional partnerships that not only work across segments of education, but also fuel connections between traditional academic subjects and careers, so more young people understand the importance of a college degree, and how going to college can ignite their passions, and turn aspirations into rewarding careers.

With that I’m pleased to introduce you to William Lopez, an accomplished first-year student here at UCLA and a Linked Learning alum. Take it away, William…

Student Testimony

William Lopez, Freshman, UCLA and Linked Learning Alumni

Hello and thank you for having me here today.

My name is William Lopez and I’m a freshman here at UCLA.

My dorm is just a short walk from where we are right now.

I have to say, I’m so excited to be here, at UCLA, at one of my top choices for college.

I wasn’t always sure that I’d end up here. But I do know that the experience I had in high school definitely helped me get to where I am today.

The future president of the UC system should understand what’s working for students like myself in high school, what worked to help get me into college and how some kind of continuation of this experience could help students like me not only enroll in college, but also have a rewarding experience and graduate with a degree that leads to a life changing career.

I came here four years ago from El Salvador. I was living with my aunt in a new country, a new city. I didn’t know many people and I didn’t speak English. I attended the Los Angeles High School of the Arts where I spent two years in an English language program. In my sophomore year, I enrolled in a design Linked Learning pathway. I didn’t realize it at the time, but being part of a Linked Learning school made a huge impact on my life and my future. For example, I was able to take college classes with a local community college.

I’ll be honest—at first, I wasn’t all that excited about the design pathway. I wasn’t sure if I had any interest in visual design. But I ended up loving it. I saw my own communication and collaboration skills improving with every class, presentation and work-based learning experience. It also made me so much more open to new experiences, which has been very important in college, so far.

My teachers worked together to make sure my coursework in my core academic classes somehow related to the visual design projects I was doing in my pathway, so I could show not only what I knew, but also what I could do. For example, analyzing a Shakespearean script of Macbeth in my design class helped me understand and write an essay for my English class.

Everything I did motivated me to work hard and aim higher. I have a lot of cousins here that did not make it to college. But because of my high school experience, I’m the first person in my family to attend college and will hopefully be the first to graduate.

As I think back to high school and how I got here, I remember my teachers and counselors, my support system. They introduced us to scholarships and helped with our college applications during school, after school—whenever we needed anything. And they made sure I was earning college credits whenever possible, which has given me a head start here.

Most importantly, it showed me what I was capable of. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t always sure I had what it took to be a college student. But that all changed with my senior defense when I had to demonstrate my learning over the course of the last four years. I was able to see for myself the culmination of what I learned and what I was capable of. That was when I knew that I was ready for college and could live up to UCLA.

But let’s be real. College is a huge transition, regardless of how prepared or supported you feel. But my high school experience gave me the agency to seek out resources and support when I got to UCLA, but for kids that might not have had this experience, it would be great if that kind of support was initiated by the UC universities.

So, what are the top qualities for the next UC president?

The next president of the UC system should look deeper at the stories of prospective students. A young person is bigger than just a number. Behind an SAT score, there is someone who is working hard, despite personal struggles. There are students who are motivated and capable of so much, students who have already earned college credits, and are driven to earn more college credits and graduate with a degree.

The incoming UC leadership needs to recognize that students need support to not only get by in college, but also to take advantage of the incredible opportunity in front of us. An opportunity that I’m grateful for every single day.

Thank you for your time and for giving me the chance to share my story and perspective.

I’ll now hand things back over to Anne.

Closing Remarks

Anne Stanton, President and CEO, Linked Learning Alliance

Thank you, William! I want to underscore a few of William’s points.

William’s story is emblematic of so many young people. High school graduation rates are hitting historic highs. More students are engaging in college-level coursework and work-based learning before they complete high school—experiences that are formative, shaping students’ understanding of their career options and helping crystallize their personal aspirations.

More motivated students, like William, are leaving high school with unlimited potential and hope for their futures.

But the journey to and through college is so hard to navigate alone and without a clear sense of purpose. Persistence and success continue to allude us—as evidenced by the fact that by 2030, California will face a shortage of up to 1.1. million workers holding a bachelor’s degree.

The new president’s ability to close the gap between career and college will be the true litmus test for his/her success.

So how can the next president ensure more students like William transition seamlessly to and through high school to UC and go on to earn degrees that will fuel the state’s economy into the future?

  • He/she should be committed to forging a new compact that rewards the intersection of college and career—and purposely breaks down the traditional siloes between K12 and postsecondary and education and industry to help more young people see a transparent and compelling path forward.
  • The incoming UC President should demand that there are more UC organizations and institutions ready to welcome, support and embrace students—ensuring that comprehensive and integrated student supports that smooth transitions to and through college are the norm—not the exception—for all.
  • He/she can empower admissions officers to explore new ways to get a full picture of what a college and career ready student looks like—and offer ways for young people to demonstrate not only what they know—but also, what they can do.
  • And they can expand access to accelerated college opportunities—putting all students in the fast lane on the road to postsecondary and career success.

Thank you again, William, for sharing your experience, and to the Regents and College Futures Foundation for providing us with the opportunity to weigh in at this stage in the search.

Seeing the representation from across education, industry and communities in this room today, I am optimistic about the possibilities for the future, working together on behalf of California’s young people.