Knowledge Institute Podcasts
Community Colleges – The Key to Success with Dr. Sue Ellspermann
Dr. Sue Ellspermann, President of Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana, describes the social and economic impact of Indiana’s innovative and research-based approach to designing and delivering post-secondary curriculum and training.
Hosted by Jeff Kavanaugh, VP and Head of the Infosys Knowledge Institute.
“Our goal is to make sure that we are the place that that first-generation student, that student of color, that student who financially can't go other places, that they know they can get a high quality education and launch their career with us.”
- Dr. Sue Ellspermann
Can you share a particularly poignant example of how community colleges can help U.S business think global, but act local?
Jeff introduces Sue
What inspired you in the earlier days to get on your academic path?
How did your background in business and politics shape your interest in academia or was it the other way around?
So that combination of hard and soft creative thinking, how have you brought that to bear at Ivy Tech?
How are you developing those 50,000 credentials per year, and when will it become a reality?
This virtuous cycle that you're mentioning or referring to, how does that actually work? Because does it influence your curriculum? Do you play a role in helping them attract more businesses so that there can be more employees? How does that work?
What are you able to do that is local or in-person versus virtual and what do you see the next year play out?
What impact has the Ivy tech approach had on diversity and inclusiveness?
I was really intrigued by this idea of a four-quadrant approach and how you look at your courses and align them so students get the most from them as well as other most effective. Could you just go through that with us?
Speaking of building and scale, how do you scale this complexity and Indiana as your scope, how do people listening scale this to other states and across the country?
How do you measure success? Is it for example, measuring it longitudinally, how well someone does after they graduate. How do you measure it?
How does Ivy Tech rate, for example, in terms of income per tuition dollar?
Why isn't this already widespread? It sounds so common sense. Why isn't everyone doing it? And even in your own state, how do you overcome challenges so businesses get on board?
We've got listeners now all revved up and you're thinking, great. I want to do something. Can you lay out a few things they can do to take steps now?
Any advice you can provide to someone in high school, looking outward to the great unknown?
What are books or people that stand out as significant influences?
What online resources do you recommend either from your own institution or others for further learning?
Sue shares her contact information.
Jeff Kavanaugh: U.S companies are struggling to find talent, particularly talent resembling the rest of the country. As a result, executives focusing solely on the Ivy League, or a handful of elite universities, are failing to prepare for the future. The solution might be homegrown and right under their nose, the nation's 1050 community colleges. These may hold the key to U.S success. Supplying digital jobs, providing first-generation college students a path, the American dream, improving inclusion, and doing it all at the most economical rate of any institution of higher learning. Dr. Sue Ellspermann, in May 2016, you were selected to serve as President of Ivy Tech Community College System of Indiana. Can you share a particularly poignant example of how community colleges can help U.S business think global, but act local?
Sue Ellspermann: As I came into community college, I didn't realize what a different student we have than the traditional four year institutions. A group that came to my attention were single parents. 72% of single moms will never complete college, and you think about that. The reason they'd want to do post-secondary degree or credential is for the future of their family. The reason they can't, is because of their family. And so, we went on this passionate route to see how we could better serve single moms.
Sue Ellspermann: We were going to pilot something we call Learn Anywhere, which allows the mom to take that class in person, virtual or online. Whatever she wants to do, week to week. When COVID hit, we decided now was the time to really launch it. I'm very proud to say that we now have 400 sections of Learn Anywhere going in Indiana, and that says to me, that's how we get to, as you spoke to, that hidden student, that hidden professional that often gets overlooked just because of a life circumstance and because our systems aren't built to adapt to them. I think that's a good example.
Jeff Kavanaugh: And community colleges as the key to success is what we'll be exploring today's conversation. Welcome to the Knowledge Institute Podcast, where we talk with experts on business trends, deconstruct main ideas and share their insights. I'm Jeff Kavanaugh, Head of the Infosys Knowledge Institute. Today we're here with Dr. Sue Ellspermann, President of Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana, America's largest singly accredited statewide community college system.
Jeff Kavanaugh: Prior to joining Ivy Tech, Sue was Indiana's 50th Lieutenant Governor from 2013 until March 2016. Elected as Mike Pence's running mate in the 2012 gubernatorial election, she served as the President of the Senate, Secretary of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, and oversaw just a whole bunch of agencies I won't get into right now. From 2006 to 2012, Sue serves the Founding Director of the Center of Applied Research and Economic Development at the University of Southern Indiana, Evansville. She also holds a PhD and Master's from the University of Louisville in Industrial Engineering. Sue's also highly engaged in the community and was recently named to OneAmerica Board of Directors. She also serves as Indiana Honorary Chair of the Million Women Mentors and Advisory Board for the Indiana Conference for Women. Sue, thanks so much for joining us.
Sue Ellspermann: My pleasure.
Jeff Kavanaugh: What inspired you in the earlier days to get on your academic path?
Sue Ellspermann: I want to start kind of being a girl in Indiana, as you know Jeff and I liked math, I liked drafting. Guys I was in class with were going to be engineers, so my path was, I did not want to be a teacher, a nurse, or an accountant, which other girls typically were. It was important to me. I wanted to do something different and it took some overcoming, some of my counselors in high school, but finally agreed that being an engineer was a good thing. For me, it's been about trying to take a path a little less taken as a female, but also then knowing that and understanding how important that post-secondary preparation is, to open up the doors that we need in life to go further.
Jeff Kavanaugh: How did your background in business and politics shape your interest in academia or was it the other way around?
Sue Ellspermann: It was really the other way. I always knew that I wanted to be a professional in the workplace and CEO someday, but it was in my work. The part of my career that we didn't talk about in the bio was my first 20 years, early 20 years from the age 26 when I went into consulting on my own, based on the experience I had had at Frito-Lay doing this thing called simplex creative problem solving.
Sue Ellspermann: In doing that, I worked with lots of companies and understood how important innovation was and understood the importance of helping groups of people work more effectively together to come up with new and novel solutions. In that, drove my interest to go back for that Master's and PhD. Then after I did the Masters and PhD, said, I want to go back into academia someday. They really work together. That experience of seeing innovation, experiencing it, wanting to test if what we were doing and the ways we were doing it were really driving the change and being a true expert in the field.
Jeff Kavanaugh: Since you brought it up, I've got to take you back then to Purdue just a little bit with your BS, Industrial Engineering, because your thesis, I actually post then was called, let's see dissertation, “The Impact of Creative Thinking, Training and Problem Structuring Heuristics on the Formulation of Ill Structured Problems.” I only mentioned that because leading an institution like this, people might not associate that hardcore engineering and that combination of… probably the precursor design thinking. So that combination of hard and soft creative thinking, how have you brought that to bear at Ivy Tech?
Sue Ellspermann: What you just described, we used that heuristic at Ivy tech. It's the “Why? What’s stopping?” analysis. And it's the way we think through, from global to tactical, from vision mission, to strategies, to tactics, to actions and helping people work together on what we call “fuzzy situations.” So even when I was in the State House, I brought simplex creative problem solving to work on problems there. But at Ivy Tech, we have truly integrated that thinking alongside lean, alongside design thinking, which as you said, you're correct.
Sue Ellspermann: We were the kind of the grandfather of design thinking, but all those tools, which help us think through problems and opportunities more effectively. I don't know how else you do it. And one of my goals has been to build the most agile community college in the nation. And that means bringing the thinking skills top to bottom in the organization. We offer that kind of thinking to all of our faculty and staff, and it is now part of our nomenclature and part of our culture at Ivy Tech.
Jeff Kavanaugh: That's amazing. Just don't get too much of this practicality close to government now. I'm not sure if they can handle it.
Sue Ellspermann: We bring partners around our table all the time to try to get important problems solved. And we do get interesting looks as we engage them, but it's important work and it builds morale, it builds confidence and it builds agility in the workforce. So it's a win at many levels.
Jeff Kavanaugh: All joking aside, being facetious there, that's fantastic. There's nothing like going from a blaming or a victim situation to very empowered, trying to solve a problem. Speaking of mission at Ivy Tech, I believe at one point you said, “It's serving all the students of the state, the employers’ needs and the communities in which we serve.” We know that two thirds of all new jobs are going to require some post-secondary degrees or credentials. That turns into a million jobs that Hoosiers need to fill by 2025. And you believe half of those are in the sub-baccalaureate space, less than four years. You need to be contributing 50,000 degrees or credentials a year to help Hoosiers have those skills. How are you developing those 50,000 credentials per year, and when will it become a reality?
Sue Ellspermann: It is exactly the reason we set the big vision as at 50,000. That would be producing more credentials in any other institution in the state. And it would be a big down payment on what the state needs to get to the 60% goal. So some of the things we've done as you probably know in your field, the micro-credentials, the sub-associate credentials are critically important, as well as associate bachelor's, master's degrees. The biggest growth we've had are in those certifications and short-term certificates. So we have, while our associate production remains very stable, we have nearly doubled the others and we've added measuring certifications, which most people don't measure yet.
Sue Ellspermann: Many of those industry certifications are the most valuable out there. So we've gone from 21,000 credentials being awarded a year to last year being 35,000 plus. We will be knocking on the door to 40,000 this year on the way to the 50,000 and the way we measure a quality credential, meaning it has to pay above median wage. So that's what we, we don't count short-term credentials that are going to earn a person 10 or 12 dollars an hour. It has to be above Indiana's median wage. And of course that changes every year, but we think that's how we hold ourselves accountable to making sure that we're focused on high wage, high demand, credentials of value.
Sue Ellspermann: It's been fun to watch. There's more to do, constantly changing. So we work closely with industry to see what they need in the IT space. As you can imagine, there's many new credentials that we're developing, but it's understanding the “stackability” of credentials as well. Sometimes the best thing we can do is help stack them so that a student can come in, earn a certificate for say, 18 credit hours and go out and get a better job, then continue on to an associate degree in that same area or related area, earn more and then be well-poised to get the bachelor's, master's, beyond.
Sue Ellspermann: That stability is one of those secrets that have such high potential for both the student and the employer, making sure that we're always looking to where can that student go next? What can they stack into next? But understanding that if you're a low income American, you may not have the luxury of taking four years of your life to go back. You need something that in three months, six months, nine months, you can go out and get a better job while you're probably working full-time and maybe raising a family at the same time. So stackability is an incredible advantage to our students.
Jeff Kavanaugh: So you're meeting them where they are?
Sue Ellspermann: Absolutely.
Jeff Kavanaugh: In the real world, not in the world of either yesterday or in our minds. It's funny, you mentioned the sheer numbers because 35,000, that's a substantial number. And it also implies that you're working closely with business and of course, government. This virtuous cycle that you're mentioning or referring to, how does that actually work? Because does it influence your curriculum? Do you play a role in helping them attract more businesses so that there can be more employees? How does that work?
Sue Ellspermann: Well, I look at Indiana. We have plenty of Hoosiers who have not yet had that opportunity to participate in post-secondary. So, first of all, we have to make sure that all of those young adults, those 18 year olds who should be going, are going. Then we work very closely with our employers. We have a program we call achieve your degree where it's a partnership with the employers and many of our larger ones like the Amazons of the world, McDonald's, others, where they understand that the entry-level workforce they have may not stay with them. They may go on to other jobs, some will stay with them. And those, they would like to have additional skills and credentials to move into management and beyond. But they also realize they're happy if they can keep that employee for three, four, five years while they're pursuing that degree or credential with us.
Sue Ellspermann: And so that's one of the things that creates that virtuous cycle, because there are always those entry-level employees who need to scale up and we'll continue to work with companies to do as much as they want to do internal and work with their HR departments in that “achieve your degree” model. We flipped tuition. So we don't charge the student ever. The bill goes straight to the employer. And by the way, we talk about those single moms and that lower income employee. They don't have a thousand dollars at the beginning of the semester to pay out, right? That's a stopper right there, a major barrier.
Sue Ellspermann: But when we can work with their employer and their employer says, "Hey, Jeff, have you thought about going back to school? You've got a lot of potential. We could, see you in these roles." Then you come to us, we then get you in the right program of study and then at the end of the semester, we bill your employer. That model has worked extremely well. We have over a hundred employers in Indiana in that model. COVID has made it a little more difficult in the short term, but it's a model that needed to be flipped. When in the old days, tuition reimbursement was being used in my day for those pursuing master's degrees, we could afford the front end investment, not the case for that entry-level employee.
Jeff Kavanaugh: Since you brought it up, let's go ahead and talk about COVID-19 for a moment. You've got all these campuses, although you are centralized, you're also very federated or you have your campuses. What are you able to do that is local or in-person versus virtual and what do you see the next year play out?
Sue Ellspermann: So again, I think our students prepared us better than anything. We have seen for the last number of years that our students have wanted to go more online. And so we had been spending almost the last two years, trying to eliminate the gap in performance and pass rates, if you will, between our online courses and our face-to-face courses. There was about a 10% gap. So we've been working hard to improve the quality of online. We'd put a lot of resources in, we've trained faculty, we've improved our technologies and then COVID hit. So when we had to go virtual, we were very well poised to do it. And it happened seamlessly. We knew then that some courses, remember we do both the workforce programs as well as the transfer program. So some workforce programs like nursing, you can't do it all online, right? You've got to have labs, or welding classes.
Sue Ellspermann: So we knew we needed both. And so we came into this fall with this plan for about a third, a third, a third. So, about a third of our courses have an in-person component, very low density, in fact, most of my faculty and staff are not on my campuses right now, unless they need to be face-to-face with their students. They're working remotely to keep the density down on our campuses so that those who need to be there are there and have the student support the faculty staff that they need to support them. About third of our courses are virtual. So they're doing some version of Zoom or other real time courses. Or the third is online, which is of course asynchronous. And then that version that I described earlier, Learn Anywhere, is about 5% of our total. But as you can imagine, being statewide, we have thousands of sections of courses.
Sue Ellspermann: Interestingly, this summer we surveyed our students to see what their preference was. Turned out that their number one preference was hybrid, their number two was online, their number three was virtual and their fourth was in-person. Our students are very practical and they're concerned about their safety as well. The nice thing about community college is we really can meet them where they are. We're watching our 18 campuses and 40 locations. We have a kind of a rubric, if you will. We have a watch list of those campuses that we might have to pause for a week or two or three, but we're not going to shut down 100,000 students across our state at one time. So it's overall working pretty well and we're learning flexibility and innovation around every corner as we learn to provide all the services that we have from assessment to testing and learning to do all of that virtual. And again, my compliments to faculty and staff who have figured it out and continue to innovate.
Jeff Kavanaugh: You mentioned more than once this idea and notion of a first generation college student, and especially given the increased visibility on diversity, especially racial diversity, this year. What impact has the high Ivy tech approach had on diversity and inclusiveness?
Sue Ellspermann: It's one of our goals as a college. We know that more students of color will come to Ivy tech than any other institution in the state of Indiana. And while we're doing okay, we do the state average, we should do much better. Our goal is to make sure that we are the place that that first-generation student, that student of color, that student who financially can't go other places that they know they can get a high quality education and launch their career with us. So many efforts underway. First and foremost, making sure that we're the community college that those students need. So that means being very inclusive, having an environment and a commitment to equity, making sure that we're providing the supports, whether that means tutoring, whether means wraparound services, for many who may have food insecurity, may have mental health challenges.
Jeff Kavanaugh: In speaking with one of your colleagues recently, I was really intrigued by this idea of a four-quadrant approach and how you look at your courses and align them so students get the most from them as well as other most effective. Could you just go through that with us?
Sue Ellspermann: The four quadrants are really us aligning to the jobs and industry, and you can think about it in supply and demand. So quadrant one is where we have lots of jobs in the Hoosier economy, but we don't have enough students in the seats to fill those jobs. So those are ones where we need to be marketing quadrant one, the growing quadrant, if you will. We've got to make sure that not only do we have the programs, but that we're recruiting intentionally into those. Quadrant two is those programs that, we have the program but they are limited in their enrollment. Nursing is a classic. We have 3000 students every year who applied to become a nurse, but we can't take any more nurses. We fill every seat on every campus. Nursing's an expensive program and as a community college, our tuition doesn't cover all those.
Sue Ellspermann: So we have to figure out how do we expand the program, whatever that takes across the state, across each campus so that we can meet the need out there. Quadrant three is, some of those programs, we don't need as many graduates as are in them. Even though you remember watching the CSI programs, everyone wanted to be a forensics person, right? Criminal justice is one of those majors for us. We need some graduates, but we don't need thousands of graduates there. So we have to right size, shrink in some case, some case not every campus needs it. And then finally quadrant four is really the ideal. It is equilibrium. And so we put every program into one of those four quadrants based on economic data. We use Emsi and other BLS, and other data along with, at the campus level, their own employers.
Sue Ellspermann: So there, we have advisory boards of employers there. So we put every program into one of those quadrants and then we measure ourselves against it. So over time, our goal is over this four year period, to get 80% of our programs into equilibrium. Now that's really hard because just now this COVID run, we'll do a whole lot of shifting with those programs based on the economy that we have in our state. But that's what we need to be doing.
Sue Ellspermann: That's what employers need us to do. And as we share that, I don't know of another college or community college in the country that is holding themselves that accountable to being what our employers and what our state need us to be. And now we're figuring post COVID, how do we make that even more real time? How do we anticipate six months, a year, two years from now? There is no data that actually tells us that. So how are we going to do that at the floor level? How do we get that information? And we're working with our employers to try to get that kind of intelligence up front so that we're building the programs that they will need for the future.
Jeff Kavanaugh: Speaking of building and scale, how do you scale this complexity and Indiana as your scope, how do people listening scale this to other states and across the country?
Sue Ellspermann: I'd say the first thing they ought to do, if they don't already have a statewide community college, they should consider lobbying their state to consolidate into that statewide system. Because what that does for us in Indiana, it means if you're in nursing in Fort Wayne, but transfer to Evansville, it's the same nursing program. It's the same accreditation. You're going to get the same quality. That also means that if one campus doesn't have it here, that employer can go to our next campus. And we can shift those programs across the state as needed to meet the additional demand. IT is a good area in our software development and cyber programs. We can't begin to meet all the need in Indianapolis, but our other campuses around the state are helping to provide those graduates and can take on more of the jobs in central Indiana. That's a powerful way to operate and it takes away the competition, it simplifies things.
Sue Ellspermann: So that's one place that we can scale. Our online program is another. We centralized our online so that now that faculty member, we can do this now with virtual as well, that faculty member may sit in Evansville, but they may be teaching students in Fort Wayne or Gary Indiana virtually or online. And it's again, because we're singly accredited, it's the same course, it's the same program, the same learning outcomes, the same quality. That's a big advantage as we're in this more virtual world. And we're just beginning now. We've seen it in the online, but now with COVID, we're seeing how we can do that in a virtual world as well, to help meet demands real time, to most efficiently use resources and be able to take advantage of those faculty that may reside in a different part of the state, but the need is in somewhere else on another campus. So we're really beginning to see how we can scale in this more virtual world.
Jeff Kavanaugh: How do you measure success? Is it for example, measuring it longitudinally, how well someone does after they graduate. How do you measure it?
Sue Ellspermann: Our big measurement is what are our students earning when they leave us? So we actually were one, again, one of the only institutions, one of the very few institutions in the country that measure the wages, all wages, not just by surveys, but through our Department of Revenue. We, because we're statewide, we can see where those graduates went, and one year out, what are they earning? So when we started measuring, it was 38% of our students one year out, were earning above median wage. You'll hear a theme here with median wage. A year later it’s 41%. Now it's up to 47%. So in two years, we've lifted that almost 10%. That's pretty powerful. We're changing the lives, the prosperity of many Hoosiers as they go out, they're getting a good job and they're making above median wage, a living wage going forward into those middle skills.
Sue Ellspermann: So that's one of our measures of how we see success, because we think the economy is pretty efficient, how it measures things, right? If it values what we do, what if it values the product that we make, then they ought to be making more. And we continue to work with employers on that to say, look, this is how we're going to measure ourselves. So we count on employers as well to reward the contributions of those productive workers. But I think that's that now longitudinally, we may find another way to continue that over time and see the growth over time. But for now we're measuring ourselves heavily on how did we impact the success of this graduate.
Jeff Kavanaugh: That's one dimension on the earning part. As far as the cost area, it's hard not to know or hear about student debt. And with 1.4 trillion of outstanding debt, student loans are now the second largest U.S category of household debt. How does Ivy Tech rate, for example, in terms of income per tuition dollar?
Sue Ellspermann: So we know that the average graduate leaving Ivy Tech is, of those that have student loan, many don't ever have a student loan at all. But those that do it's about $10,000. Now think about that. That's a pretty easy ROI to go out and make 40, 50, 60, or in tech, and some other fields 80 to a 100,000, 10,000 is very affordable. But even at that, we are looking at other ways of financing, that kind of debt. So whether that's income share agreements and some of the other tools, we think those are worth studying as well because again, that student, the student that we serve often doesn't come with many degrees of freedom in how they're going to navigate life.
Sue Ellspermann: So we want to minimize that debt for $150 a credit hour. And I always say, that's not to be confused with being cheap or low quality. We're funded by our state. And most community colleges are funded by their communities to be affordable. That doesn't mean they're any lower quality. You're getting the same class from us as you would pay five to 10 times for in a private or a public four year or a research institution. So it's there, we're here to be of service and to provide that education in the sub-baccalaureate space.
Jeff Kavanaugh: Sounds pretty compelling. Why isn't this already widespread? It sounds so common sense. Why isn't everyone doing it? And even in your own state, how do you overcome challenges so businesses get on board?
Sue Ellspermann: Being the best kept secret is not always a good thing. I think a number of our businesses do understand it. In Indiana, we didn't have a community college until less than 20 years ago. We were one of the later ones. We had IU regional campuses across the state and they played that role. Ivy Tech was Indiana Vocational Technical College. So it was the workforce technical trade school, if you will, in the sixties, and eighties and still owns that part of our mission, but the community college is new to Indiana.
Sue Ellspermann: So we're still growing into it. The more people know the more they like. I think also those of us who, I can say this about my generation, the Baby Boomers, we really were taught that a four year degree is what you needed. And it's only in the last few years that I think industry is understanding, four year degrees are fine, but we really need people that have these skills and we need more people to have these middle skills, if you will, these entry, middle level management positions. They don't all need to be four year and beyond.
Sue Ellspermann: They certainly don't all need to be, as you said, computer science degrees. We have many that are going to be required in this higher tech economy that we have, in this advanced skills economy that we have. And we need more people to come in and by artificially saying that needs to be a bachelor's degree, especially if that doesn't include the technical skills, that's a shame. You're not getting the student graduate employee that you really want. So community colleges are coming into our own, the micro-credentials are proving themselves out, I think our student graduates are proving themselves out and we don't want them to stop with what they get with us.
Sue Ellspermann: We want them to launch with the degree or credential they get with us. And then we want them to continue as many of us do, to go back, finish a bachelor's get a master's if that's important, continue to scale up the rest of their lives. But I think community colleges play the most critical role at making sure that many more Americans have those post-secondary skills, credentials, knowledge, to help move industry forward and make sure that the American economy is the best in the world.
Jeff Kavanaugh: We've got listeners now all revved up and you're thinking, great. I want to do something. Can you lay out a few things they can do to take steps now?
Sue Ellspermann: If they're in a company and they don't have a relationship with their local community college, I encourage them to do that. And what does that mean? That means being part of advisory boards and thought leader groups to share the direction of the kinds of skills, the kind of professionals are looking at in their business, going forward. It's to provide work and learn experiences. Hey, I was a co-op in general motors in the early part of my career. I wouldn't trade anything about that experience to be able to get that hands-on learning while I was gaining my education. We would hope every community college student has that opportunity to do some kind of work-and-learn while they're in school. That creates the professional, the business wants down the road, when they graduate. So they should get involved and they should adopt in the sense of if there are programs that they want to develop real lanes of graduates, that they are hosting cohorts, that they are in coaching, mentoring in those programs, that they create the path into their own company.
Sue Ellspermann: And then I talked about achieve your degree. All companies should have that next level of tuition reimbursement where they're putting it out there to help encourage those employees they already have to come back. We need that deep partnership with industry, with leaders, with mentors, because you won't find, another part of higher education, that's going to listen with more open ears than community colleges will. We're in this together. We sit in your community with you. We're cheerleading, cheerleaders for the industries that are there and we're here to serve. So let's work together tightly, but don't wait, offer to be engaged. And that's what we see in our best partners.
Jeff Kavanaugh: From a cheerleader, with business to a mentor for the youngsters, any advice you can provide to someone in high school, looking outward to the great unknown?
Sue Ellspermann: I would say, start earning a credential early. While you're in high school, take dual credit, dual enrollment, try to earn your first credential. The reason I became an engineer is I took, back in the day, drafting, that tells you how old I am, pre CAD. But having that is what directed. The more we can help our young people taste those careers while they're still in high school. And by the way, earning your first credential can be the best way to boost your earning while you're going through college, whatever that means. But it gives you a taste of both what you're going to like and what you're not going to like as you're moving forward. But as high school students I'd say, get a job. Athletics are important to a point, but get out there and get a job. I always told my daughters, I don't care if you like your job or not.
Sue Ellspermann: Now you can knock some things off your list. You know what you don't want to be as much as you what you want to be, but you need those experiences. And as parents are coaching their students, they need to put them in that world of work to start touching it, feeling it, tasting it, as early as they can, along with the academic rigor that I know so many of our schools are good at providing. Schools struggle to do that latter part, which is the real career preparation. And then don't hesitate to take courses at your local community college while you're in high school in the summer, in the evenings. It's going to be the most affordable way to get ahead, so that when you go on, that they are well positioned to complete in a timely manner.
Jeff Kavanaugh: What are books or people that stand out as significant influences?
Sue Ellspermann: My life as you can tell has been pretty experiential, so my reading is less than my experiencing, but there are some people I really admire. One of those is Jamie Merisotis from Lumina. We talked about at the beginning, that 60% goal of all of our American workforce, having a quality post-secondary degree or credential by 2025. His insights, as he has studied education, to work force, not only in America, but across the world.
Sue Ellspermann: Those are people that I value the insight. And what Lumina has done as an institution to raise that to a level that almost every state in the nation now has some level of goal. They're not all at 60%, but it's that recognition that if America is going to stay in the front, if we're going to have the quality education and economy we want, we have to work for it. And we have to figure this out and we can't leave anyone behind as we do it. So Jamie's one of my favorite people. He happens to live here in Indianapolis, but we're blessed to be home to Lumina and the great work that they do to help all of us strive to achieve more.
Jeff Kavanaugh: What online resources do you recommend either from your own institution or others for further learning?
Sue Ellspermann: The one that I'm following right now because of COVID, and again, this is a great organization- Strada Education Network has been doing so much research, real time, on what are students thinking? Where are they going? What are they going to do? What are Americans thinking about as they're being impacted? And we're seeing real time, the barriers that they're experiencing as well as their preference of two year, four, year micro-credential, online, face-to-face all those things.
Sue Ellspermann: But it is understanding, the world is moving under our feet in this world of both higher education and workforce and those that can see those trends soonest and pivot in a way that supports students going forward and employers going forward are going to be the ones who have the greatest impact. And we're watching carefully, we're engaging with them. But if you get a chance, those are weekly webinars by Strada Education Network, their websites chalked full with their learnings. And it's showing how the world of higher ed is changing, in some ways very good and in some ways, a little scary to traditional higher education. So, there's lots of us watching this unfold.
Jeff Kavanaugh: Got it. And the last question, how can people find you online?
Sue Ellspermann: LinkedIn. They can find me on Twitter, though I'm a very careful person at a tweet because I learned as a Lieutenant Governor, you should always have a Twitter buddy before you send something. And I think we all know that's good guidance out there, but you can find me those places. And of course you can always find me through my firstname.lastname@example.org. I welcome any kind of outreach. I appreciate what people are doing, trying to do, invite other people's insights and then happy to share what Ivy Tech is doing for our part of ensuring Indiana's future economy and future prosperity.
Jeff Kavanaugh: You can find details on our show notes and transcripts at infosys.com/IKI and our podcast section will have all the links and all the great resources that Sue mentioned. Sue thank you much for your time and a very interesting discussion.
Sue Ellspermann: Thank you, Jeff.
Jeff Kavanaugh: Everyone. You've been listening to the Knowledge Institute where we talk with experts on business trends, deconstruct main ideas and share their insights. Don't forget to hit the subscribe button and give us a rating and review. Thanks to our producers, Catherine Burdette, Kerry Taylor, and the entire Knowledge Institute team. Until next time, keep learning and keep sharing.
About Sue Ellspermann
Dr. Sue Ellspermann has more than 30 years of experience in higher education, economic and workforce development, and public service. In January 2018, under Ellspermann’s leadership, Ivy Tech launched its new five-year Strategic Plan, “Our Communities. Your College. Pathways for Student Success and a Stronger Indiana.” The plan’s vision is for Ivy Tech students to earn 50,000 high-quality certifications, certificates, and degrees per year aligned with workforce needs.
The plan aligns with Indiana’s goal to equip 60 percent of the workforce with a high-value, post-secondary degree or credential by 2025. Through achievement of this goal, the College will help increase Hoosier per capita income and support the transformation of the state’s advanced industries economy. The plan development covered 18 months, including a restructure of the College, comprehensive fact finding conducted internally and externally, including thousands of faculty, staff, students and statewide stakeholders.
In May 2016, she was selected to serve as President of Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana. She is the ninth individual to hold the position and first female president for the college. She replaced Thomas J. Snyder who announced his retirement in September of 2015 after serving as President since 2007. Ellspermann assumed the role of President on July 1, 2016. Prior to officially assuming the role as President, Ellspermann visited all 14 regions and 22 different locations in June of 2016 as President-elect. She convened 52 small groups meeting with an estimated 750+ faculty and staff on a listening tour prior to July 1.
Ellspermann most recently served as Indiana’s 50th Lieutenant Governor from 2013 until March of this year. She served as President of the Senate and Secretary of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, as well as oversaw six agencies including Office of Small Business and Entrepreneurship, Indiana Office of Tourism, Indiana State Department of Agriculture, Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority, Office of Community and Rural Affairs, and Office of Defense Development. She served as the co-chair for the Blue Ribbon Panel on Transportation Infrastructure and the Rural Broadband Working Group and led agriculture trade missions to Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and China.
Being named president of the nation’s largest singly accredited statewide community college system marks a return to higher education for Ellspermann. From 2006 to 2012 she served as the founding Director of the Center of Applied Research and Economic Development at the University of Southern Indiana (USI). She also has classroom experience teaching at USI, University of Evansville and University of Louisville.
In her role with the Center of Applied Research and Economic Development at the University of Southern Indiana she engaged faculty, staff and students in applied research and consulting in more than 200 different projects to impact economic development in southwest Indiana, the state and region. With her background in industrial engineering, she also assisted the department of engineering through accreditation and developing industrial engineering curriculum. She also helped launch and later facilitate the college’s strategic planning process during her six years at USI.
Ellspermann’s educational and workforce development experience is extensive. As Lieutenant Governor she was vice chair of the Indiana Career Council tasked to align Indiana’s education and workforce development system to meet the needs of employers.
As the chair of the Pathways and Implementation Committee Ellspermann helped lead efforts on a strategic plan
that aligns K-12, higher education and workforce development efforts to employer needs. She also served on the State Workforce Investment Council, an organization charged with developing opportunities for Hoosiers to gain employment and earn competitive wages, as well as developing and implementing workforce solutions based on the input of representatives of local workforce development boards. In 2016, Ellspermann accepted a nonpartisan fellowship with the Hunt Institute’s new program, the Hunt-Kean Leadership Fellows, which brings together reform-oriented state leaders to study best practices and policy in education and workforce.
In 2010 Ellspermann was elected as the State Representative for District 74 (portion of Dubois, Spencer, Perry and Warrick counties). While in office she served as the Vice-Chair of the Employment, Labor and Pensions Committee, as well as served on the Small Business, Commerce and Economic Development Committee and the Elections and Reapportionment Committee. She was nominated for and participated in the 2011 Emerging Leaders Program at the University of Virginia focused on developing the next generation of leaders in state legislators. She served one term during the 2011-12 legislative session before running for Lieutenant Governor in 2012.
The 20 years prior to joining the University of Southern Indiana, she owned and operated Ellspermann and Associates, Inc., d/b/a Basadur Applied Creativity, an independent consulting firm licensed in the training and facilitation of Simplex Creative Problem Solving. Her clients included Kimball International, Microsoft, Mead Johnson and numerous small businesses and non-profit organizations. She was the first associate of Dr. Min Basadur, founder of Simplex Creative Problem Solving, and achieved the highest level as Master Simplex Consultant.
Early in her career she spent time with Frito-Lay in Dallas, Texas. During her tenure at Frito-Lay, Ellspermann served as a production and shipping supervisor and plant industrial engineer followed by a promotion as a corporate industrial engineer where she was responsible for corporate productivity initiatives. She also spent time at Michelin Tire Corporation in Greenville, S.C., where she completed an extensive industrial engineering program including pace rating, plant layout, work design and material handling.
Ellspermann holds a Ph.D. and M.S. from the University of Louisville in Industrial Engineering. She conducted quantitative research on problem formulation within unstructured problem solving with dissertation titled, “The Impact of Creative Thinking Training and Problem Structuring Heuristics on the Formulation of Ill-Structured Problems.” Her dissertation was recognized by Emerald Management Reviews as one of the top 50 articles published in 2007.
Her thesis was titled, “Implementation of Creative Problem Solving Technology in the Business Organization” utilizing case studies toward the development of a prescriptive model for implementation. She holds a B.S. from Purdue University also in Industrial Engineering. While at Purdue she completed the cooperative engineering program with AC Spark Plug, a division of General Motors in Flint, Mich., and served as a residence hall counselor and teaching assistant.
Ellspermann has published research and reports on various topics including workforce development, innovation, and problem solving. She is highly engaged in the community and was recently named to the OneAmerica board of directors. She also serves as Indiana Honorary Chair of the Million Women Mentors, Advisory Board of the Indiana Conference for Women, and has served on numerous committees and nonprofit boards, including the Evansville Chamber of Commerce Board and Executive Committee, Diocese of Evansville Strategic Planning Committee, Indiana HomeTown Competitiveness Steering Committee, Tri-County YMCA Capital Campaign Advisory Board, Little Sisters of the Poor Advisory Board, and Good Shepherd Catholic Church Pastoral Council.
She is married to James Mehling, a principal at Forest Park Junior-Senior High School. She has a blended family of four daughters, three sons-in-law, two grandsons and two granddaughters.
- Ivy Tech Community College System of Indiana
- Request copies of Sue Ellspermann’s research publications
- “Ivy Tech adopts new ‘learning anywhere’ program” WTHI-TV - August 23, 2020
- Center of Applied Research and Economic Development at the University of Southern Indiana, Evansville
- Million Women Mentors
- Indiana Conference for Women
Mentioned in the podcast:
Simplex Creative Problem Solving: Creative problem solving process that is used to identify solutions to complex problems. Many of the problems we encounter are fuzzy situations, meaning that they are ambiguous, unstructured, and do not have a clear solution. The Simplex process provides a systematic approach for problem solving that encourages innovation and creativity through critical thinking.
Simplex takes participants through 8 steps from problem finding to action, by applying creative thinking skills of diverging, converging and deferral of judgment.
Step 1-Problem Finding
Step 2-Fact Finding
Step 3-Problem Definition
Step 4-Idea Finding
Step 5-Evaluation and Selection
Step 6-Action Planning
Step 7-Gaining Acceptance
Source- University of Southern Indiana Lifelong Learning website