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Campus Technology Insider Podcast March 2022 Bonus

Listen: Building a Culture of Innovation

Rhea Kelly: Hello and welcome to the Campus Technology Insider podcast! I'm Rhea Kelly, editor in chief of Campus Technology, and your host.

Digital transformation is not just about implementing new technologies — it's also about people and the ability to embrace change. In fact, you might say that's the hardest part: Culture is often cited as one of the biggest barriers to digital transformation in higher ed. In February, our Campus Technology Leadership Summit tackled that very topic with a wonderful panel discussion on building innovation into the culture of a university. I spoke with Christine Whitney Sanchez, chief culture officer for the University Technology Office at Arizona State University, and Chris Dellarocas, associate provost of Digital Learning & Innovation at Boston University, about how they are working to transform institutional culture, incubate new ideas, support collaboration and experimentation, and more. Here's that conversation.

First, I'd like to ask each panelist to introduce yourself, your role and a little bit about the work you do. Christine, maybe we could start with you.

Christine Whitney Sanchez: Thank you so much. I, this is Christine Whitney Sanchez coming to you from Tempe, Arizona, where it is actually raining today. We've had super warm hiking weather out here. And it's nice that it's given us a little bit of moisture today. As the chief culture officer at the University Technology Office, my role is really to hold the well being of the entire organization and culture in particular. But I certainly don't do that alone. I do that with a huge group of volunteers who are in this work with me.

Kelly: And Chris, how about you?

Chris Dellarocas: Hi, everybody. Good morning. Good afternoon, depending on where you are. Thank you so much for having me. My name is Chris Dellarocas. I serve as associate provost of Digital Learning and Innovation at Boston University. I'm also a professor at Questrom School of Business of the same institution. My role is to facilitate and catalyze innovation in digital learning and education throughout Boston University: innovation in teaching and learning, innovation in the student experience in general. And also to promote innovative programs that make use of digital technology: online programs, hybrid programs, lifelong learning programs, experimentation with ideas, like MOOCs, I mean, used to be a new idea, not anymore, right? And innovative program formats. I have an office that includes our Center of Teaching and Learning, it co-reports to myself and the associate provost for Undergraduate Affairs. The Educational Technologies group of the university reports to me. And also we have an instructional designers team and a unit we call the Digital Education Incubator that I will be happy to talk about later on, if, if you ask me the question.

Kelly: Great. So when we're talking about a culture of innovation, I think it's important to define that. You know, what does that mean to you and your institution? And why is it important? Chris, maybe we'll hand that one to you first.

Dellarocas: Thank you. Well, to me, a culture of innovation is a culture where, I think as you said it yourself at your introductory sentence, I think people are not afraid of change. People embrace change. People view change with excitement and curiosity. And they get a dopamine rush out of trying something new as opposed to being afraid of it. Right? I mean, to me, that's, that's, which, which of course is a culture of continuous improvement. It's a culture of experimentation, it's a culture of occasional mistakes, which are viewed very positively and as learning moments. And this is important because the world doesn't stand still. The world is changing. In particular, in our field, the world of work is changing very, very rapidly. The expectations and needs of our students are changing very, very rapidly. Even the industry structure of education is changing very rapidly, with the emergence of a lot of private institutions, especially in sectors that have to do with upskilling, reskilling and lifelong learning. And education institutions cannot stand still, you know, if everything changes, so must we, and we can do this more effectively if we are embracing the process and have fun with it as opposed to when we are afraid and are dragging our feet.

Kelly: I like the idea of having fun with it instead of it being painful. Christine, what does the culture of innovation mean to you?

Whitney Sanchez: Well, just to add on to all the wonderful things Chris just said, I think of it as creating the conditions so that people can bring their very best selves into the party. And also that the, part of those conditions are that we have an agile structure here, that makes it possible for people to fail without shame. So this curiosity and experimentation, I think is lifted up by some agreements that we have that we are agile first. We start there and have, create the support systems for people to do their very best work. In our organization, since it's technology focused, we have a lot of folks who are coding and building products and creating the online learning environments that have become so very important during COVID.

Kelly: You both mentioned being able to fail and learn from, from failure, you know, and failure not being a bad thing. So what are some common challenges or sort of common failures? And, and how do you see them as opportunities when it comes to innovation in higher ed? Christine?
Whitney Sanchez: The, if we're talking about the culture of innovation, I think one of the biggest challenges is that people are naturally built … my background's in psychotherapy, and so I tend to see both the organizational system, much like the human system, as having both a personality and a soul. So the soul of our organization goes a long way in terms of helping us to address the challenges: What is our higher purpose? What are the principles that we live by together? What are the practices that embody those principles? When you've got those kinds of things established, I think it makes it a lot easier for people to have that sense of experimentation and okayness with, with failure.

Kelly: Mm hmm. And Chris, what kinds of challenges do you see when it comes to innovation?

Dellarocas: Yeah, so, in, from my perspective, the biggest challenge in a research university, such as the one I work for, is the predominance of research as, as our, as one of our key functions, right? I mean, university innovates in many, many dimensions. First of all, we do innovate in terms of research, there is no doubt about it, that's, that's what we do. That's our bread and butter. If you're a research faculty, that's what you're doing. There's no problem there. But my job is to catalyze innovation in teaching and learning student experience. And the biggest challenge I'm facing is that in a place like Boston University, teaching and learning is not really at the top of mind of most of our research faculty, because their promotion, and their tenure, and their career trajectory predominantly depends on the research. And that means and, of course, the university also, I mean, you know, the rankings of the university, a lot of those things are, they're, they are tied in a very strong way to research excellence. And for that reason, the top leadership is reluctant to change the culture in a way that's going to rock that boat. Right? And therefore, therefore, and I know, you're gonna ask us more questions about that, if you really want to create a different culture, it is very difficult and in, with very few exceptions, you cannot rely on top down leadership. Right? You have to use persuasion, you have to find the lead adopters, you have to find the outliers, and you have to use a more subtle, a more subtle game that will bring about change from the ground up. As opposed to hoping for, let's say a visionary leader is going to force things from the top down. Simply because there is a, yeah, there is a misalignment right now between the incentives of research faculty, and the, all, the more and more pressing need to innovate in the domains of teaching, learning and student experience.

Whitney Sanchez: And I would love to add to that, because I think the, these motivations that are naturally built into the roles also tie into the identities that people have in their roles. And we at ASU, we're the, we've gotten the US News and World Report No. 1 in innovation for the seventh year in a row. Part of that, I think, is because there's a way of looking at our university not as just one enterprise or two enterprises, but three. We have an academic enterprise, which is what we typically think of as the, the students and the faculty and all of the learning that's going on in that more formal educational environment. We have the knowledge enterprise, which is the researchers, basically, to your point, Chris, and those two are often at not, I would call it some creative tension, at the very least. And then we have a learning enterprise that's just been the last year that is about lifelong learning, universal learning, we call it here. And it's beginning to just explore itself. It's literally just being formed up and created as a new offering to society. So the, the willingness on the part of leadership to take some really bold steps and create this new organizational frame, I think has been important to the culture of innovation as well.

Dellarocas: Yeah, Christine, you raise some very, very good points. And yeah, even in our institution, there are, I mean, first of all, the opportunity capital to the challenge at places as large as ASU or BU, as you said, they're very, very diverse. Yes, you have research faculty, but that's not the only faculty you have. And as, as you say you can frame it as a number of parallel enterprises, or you can view it as you know, within every school and within the spectrum of schools and colleges of a place like this, there are several people who have an appetite and a passion for innovation. And I believe that one of the first steps, if you want to bring about change, is to find those people and bring them to the foreground. And try to work with them, in order to, you know, leverage their passions and their interests to try out new things, develop pilots, do experiments, and if those are successful, then spread the gospel, you know, to everyone else.

Whitney Sanchez: Just to build one more thing on there. And I have a really strong bias, and I think it's being proven out through our results here, that those folks that we're talking about including in this journey have to be across the organization. They can't just be people at a certain level or positional title or years of education or anything else, because there are people, for instance, in the University Technology Office, who are, don't, don't have college degrees yet. So there are people working on campus that are working also to become a degreed person.

Kelly: So you know, Christine, you mentioned, you know, the, the diversity of missions across the university. Is that a challenge in terms of, do you have to make a different argument for innovation when, when you're talking to those different audiences?

Whitney Sanchez: Yes. I'd say there's sort of a broad theme that the reason we innovate in the first place is to serve our charter, which is about serving those, we are more focused on whom we include rather than whom we exclude. So it's focused on really bringing in a wide variety of partners and students. And we've, we've done a pretty good job with that. I think also the, the charter has an explicit call to serving the community, and having an impact on society. And so that binds together, I think, it provides the bond anyway, for those of us that are working in really disparate parts of this very vast system.

Kelly: Okay, so you're finding kind of like a common mission across all those different areas. Interesting. So, when you're working to transform institutional culture, let's talk about the best places to start when you're laying the foundation for change. Chris, I know you touched on finding it, finding the champions. Could you maybe talk more about those first steps?

Dellarocas: Oh, yeah, I can. I can, I can talk about what we did. And of course, one thing I've learned is that there is no single recipe for innovation; it really depends on the specifics of the organization. So historically, my journey in this space started back in 2013, 2012 actually, which some of you might remember, it's almost ancient history now, is the year of the MOOC. So you know, universities such as ours, were just thinking, Okay, what is this new thing? How's it going to change us and what should we do about it? So we created, we joined edX, and we created an ad hoc organization a the time called the Digital Learning Initiative to build capacity for MOOC experimentation and you know, and generally introduce a culture of educational innovation on campus. And then I was asked to lead it, because I guess I joined the university committee that took place the year before and I was just very vocal and very excited, I had a lot of dopamine rush, as we said, and as you know, you know how this works in academia. So one of the things we did is, as I said, we created an education, a distance education incubator. That is a team of project managers, specialized project managers with a budget, right, and we welcomed ideas and proposals from anywhere on campus. We said anybody with an idea for something new, anything you want to try in your teaching, or you could be a faculty member, could be a department, could be an entire school, come to us, right, and we'll work with you. And you know, if we have some money to, to fund and we have project managers to help manage the idea, and if necessary, we get some contract developers or other skill sets that we may not have on campus. So and, you know, we went from school to school and from department to department to kind of advertise our wares. And that was the first thing we did, you know, we actually went around campus, and there was some publicity that was given to this unit, from the university. And over the next I would say, two to three years, we had an initial set of people that we identified. I mean, the people who responded to the call were, in some ways the, the people who had already ideas, and were somehow some of the kind of champions, and then they were eager to just jump into innovation. They said, Gee, you know, I always wanted to do this and didn't know where to go, now I have a place, I have a place that has, you know, both willing ears to hear me out and plus has the resources to fund me and other ways to help me. So that way, we got a first set of, group of people were our first champions. The other, at the same time, so that was more of a kind of pull approach, we said, we have an open door, we have resources, we are available, come to see us, right. The other thing that we did is, you know, in, based on our conversations and our participation in, you know, national networks, like this one, in our readings, we understand, or we have some opinions about what areas are important to promote, within BU, you know, what areas of innovation. So when we do that, what we try to do then is again, we actually go a little bit out pitching, again. We go out to our 17 schools and colleges, we go through our group of friends, right? In any other way we know, we try to find where we might find fertile ground, to create a pilot, to do an experiment, to try out a new idea. And the goal is, and our goal is always to start from somewhere, have a success, maybe, you know, a success after a couple of failures, which is totally okay. And I can tell you stories about that. And then hopefully, when the success happens, I mean, then of course, highlight it and then see it replicate. Because of course, the best motivator for faculty is success, if they see success in their colleagues, right. No matter how much I can pitch, you know, I cannot be as convincing as a colleague who tried something and said, Gee, you know, I tried this, and it was such a big success, and my students are loving it. So that's, that's how we start, where we started from.

Whitney Sanchez: I like the, the messiness, and, and the success of that journey, Chris. So when I think about our, our journey here, it has taken several things to really anchor the cultural work for sure. And that, one of, the first is, of course, some top down support. We have to have some sense from leadership that this is something they're going to stand behind for the long haul, because cultural transformation isn't something you do in a year, and then it's done. It's an ongoing process. And then my own approach has been, with that support, has been to really go to the grassroots. The, the position I'm in was sort of created as an, as a brand new thought. And so when I came in, I was bringing years of experience as a consultant, and as a therapist, since that's part of my background. My consulting work had been primarily with helping large institutions do large scale change. And my experience there was that it was very important to get an, what we call in organization development a diagonal slice across the system, people from all kinds of different positional levels and functional levels within the organization, who can bring, if we bring them together, we have a set of collective intelligence that we can work with. And that has proven to be very successful because, since people tend to commit to that which they create together, there's no need for buy in from the people that have been working on it. And then they sort of act on it as ambassadors throughout the rest of the organization, and take what they're learning back to their teams. And so I think it's been a pretty successful approach. The other two things that, that are, I learned much more about in coming to university is how important having a way to visualize data is for the people that are going to be doing the work and making the decisions. So I partner a lot with our data, data and business intelligence team to sort of tell that story in that way.

Kelly: I really like that you brought up data, and also the visual of the diagonal slice is really a, that really makes so much sense. So you both mentioned institutional leadership, and this is a common question that comes up, you know, how do you get that buy in from the top down? Because obviously, you need support at all levels. But if you're going to have the budget to spend on, on something, or, you're going to need that leadership support. So do you have any advice on that end, Christine?

Whitney Sanchez: Very much like what I was saying about being able to visualize the journey, that goes through the highest level leaders as well. So they need to know that there's a there there, something is already working, something's already established that is working, but also be able to see into the future. And with the kind of visionary leadership that I experience here, that's a really key part of it. Because they're thinking 20, 30, 100 years ahead. How is what we're doing now tied to this desired future that we're looking at together?

Kelly: And, Chris, how about you? How do you encourage, you know, the administrations to embrace innovation?

Dellarocas: Well, first of all, I am a member of the administration. But yeah, we've been talking about the top leadership. Yeah, you know, I guess, first of all, anything I say, really depends on the top leadership, right? What seems to be working here at BU, I mean, the top leadership is not, is rarely going to be receptive to a bold new idea without any proof of concept. Right? So the idea here is to, my strategy has been, as I said, more of a groundswell strategy, which is to gradually bring something to the point where the evidence and the case is compelling for the top leadership to say yes, right? Just to give you a couple of examples: So one example is the enterprise wide, the campus wide adoption of Adobe Creative Cloud as a toolkit on which we're basing our students' multimedia literacy efforts. Right? So initially, that was adopted by a couple of our schools, School of Communication had adopted it, I don't remember which other school had it, the School of Fine Arts, I think had adopted it, right? And then what we do is we promote the ideas, you know, we get, you know, we monitor how this is used. When we have successes, we broadcast them, right? And then we try to see who else could we try to get on board in order to get to a critical mass and a tipping point, that will basically convince the leadership. In this case, it's a simple case, right? Make an enterprise license, right? You know, the tipping point to, was for a writing program. The Writing Program, which is something that touches every undergrad from campus, decided that they really wanted to get serious about multimedia literacy. Right? And they want, and you know, and they said, gee, we like the Adobe Creative Cloud Suite. And we're gonna adopt it. That was a point where we then we made a case to the leadership and the leadership said yes, now it makes sense for us to have an enterprise license for the software. That's a very small thing, right? So you just build it. I mean, another thing is, if, if you want to see bigger change, we break it into smaller pieces. And typically, we first start with pieces that are more, most innocuous, right, and most unlikely to face resistance. Like, you know, one of the things that we are actually still working on is to have a more organic relationship of alumni in our academic programs. Not to view alumni simply as donors, etc., but to have them organically involved with our students, and also to have alumni involved after the graduation, you know, in various programmatic ways. We said, where do we start? And you know, we said, well okay, one of the most innocuous first steps is to say, well, let's actually see how you can use alumni as advisors for undergraduate students. I mean, which dean or program would say no to that, right? It doesn't disrupt anything. It doesn't require anybody to change anything. It's an addition which if successful, we, we have pure added value, right? And it actually remedies also some dysfunctions that exist perhaps in some areas with respect to having, let's say, faculty advisors, or other kinds of advisor. So we pitch that first idea. And then again, we found a school that was willing to pilot it. And, you know, we actually built some technologies to do this through an online community, then this thing succeeded. Then another couple of schools adopted the same technology. Then the Development Office became interested and then we were a, we were on the table for further discussions about how to involve alumni. I mean, that's, that's, this is just a couple of stories of how we start doing things. In general, in general, you have to slowly build a case, which is compelling enough so that the, the top leadership sees the value and appreciates the risk, because one thing I've come to appreciate actually, is the wisdom. You know, I'm a technologist by background, and I tend to be so excited about all proclamations of new and disruption, right? And our president, who is wise, you know, and has seen a lot. He told me, he was telling me always, I've seen so many proclamations of disruptive change in education, you know, and those things just fizzle after five years. So I've come to appreciate his skepticism. And I know now that if we really want top leadership to change things, or to fund things, I have to really build the case to the point where it is solid enough. And that's something that we do gradually from baby steps.

Kelly: So when you're building the case, or looking for proof, proofs of concept, how do you prioritize, you know, pilots or areas where innovation is possible or desirable? You know, that's, especially with with Chris your groundswell approach, it just seems like there's so many possibilities. So how do you manage or prioritize what you're going to work on?

Dellarocas: Well, I mean, okay. A lot, a lot of it, of course, I will say is instinct and dopamine. But no, that's not the right answer, right? So, so actually, it's, we actually in this process right now, because post-COVID, we feel that there is an increased appetite and readiness of our faculty to engage in residential transformation. The question is no longer modality, online versus residential, things like you know, more inclusive teaching, better student engagement, better commune sense of community in the classroom, better connection between what you do within the classroom, what you do outside of the classroom, and all these things, right. So we have all these ideas that are bubbling up. So basically, what I've asked my staff to do is to prioritize them in two categories. The first one is, which of these ideas will have the biggest impact, if implemented correctly, to our students, right? How in preparing our students be better prepared for the life and the work of today and tomorrow, right. And then the second, the second list is which of these ideas, if sufficiently communicated, are most likely to excite our faculty, right? Because you see, so it is first of all, which ideas are worth doing in terms of really what we aim to accomplish as an organization, and which ideas are more likely to be kind of, to excite those that are necessary, we have to work with as partners, because we cannot force any faculty to adopt any idea. We have to excite them, we have to convince them. Right? So, so I think those lists are what we're using in order to prioritize the themes that we're going to be rolling out and working towards.

Kelly: Yeah, and Christine, how do you prioritize areas that you know in need of culture change or areas of innovation at ASU?

Whitney Sanchez: Well, I think, I think I'll use an example we're working on right now. We, I've been part of an initiative at ASU to really rethink the way technology and the community of technologists are working together. There are about 1,200 of those folks around the university, about half of them are in the Technology Office, and the others are embedded in units and colleges. And so we designed a new framework, a new model that helps us see ourselves as networked, with nodes. So we are aiming to leverage that which is ubiquitous across the system, while honoring that which is unique. So my priority is not the same, probably, as somebody's priority in the knowledge enterprise, for instance, but, but we do have some shared understanding of the things that need to happen soon on a technological level, and the things that we need to be keeping our eyes on and forwarding for the future. And then back to the collective intelligence thinking here, by now we have had designers and people that have been creating the, the work that we're doing to make this network come to life. And we also have the highest leadership at the institutional level, who have chimed in with their priorities. So we right now have eight exemplar projects that we're working on, one of which is culture, talent and communications, which I'm leading. And that goes a long way in my mind to say, the technology community has now embraced the importance of things like culture and talent and communications in the overall landscape of technological health. And we've also done some good work helping people understand that there are both IT kinds of technology, high, high-tech, but there are also social technologies that we can make use of that get at the collective intelligence, help people make decisions on a really broad scale.

Kelly: So I thought it might help to visualize, you know, what does it look like to successfully change culture? So could you share an example of how you were able to change the culture in a specific area? Christine, maybe I'll start with you on that one.

Whitney Sanchez: Sure. Well, as I said, we started with this diagonal slice of folks who came in to design our initiative for culture change in the first place, that was about three years ago. And they decided that one of the ways to sort of instantiate a culture change engine was to have a community of practice. So we have a group that's called Culture Weavers, that's been meeting for about three years now. And they're just little engines, they're on fire about changing the culture themselves. We also have made culture and communications the number one strategic priority in our organization. And that gives it a lot of focus. And it includes a lot of different things, including finance and data and things that you might not typically think of as part of the culture journey. I would say it's the, as I said earlier, it's this top down support in terms of resourcing and in terms of just philosophy and communication, sharing the, the word about it. But we also have established really early on our set of what we call the positive core, which is our core values and our aspirations, our mission, and then went on to establish some leadership principles. So we've got some groundedness with, here's what we've agreed to together in terms of the ways that we're going to behave, and how we're going to treat each other. And that has, has been adopted by really most people, I would say, at the University Technology Office to certain degrees. And then we, we survey four times a year to see how that's going, based on all our values and principles, how do people feel we are living those in, in the organization, both in terms of individuals, teams, leadership, sort of all the way across the board. What we're seeing is that there has been a really strong adoption, we have a 4.1 out of five scale on how people are feeling on our latest results about the adoption of new cultural practices. And it really comes down to some pretty basic human things, you know, are we treating each other well? Do we trust each other? Are we really actually being inclusive and thinking about those things when we design anything we're working on?

And, Chris, how about you? Do you have a good example of changing the culture in a specific area?

Dellarocas: Absolutely, absolutely. I'll tell you the story, a story I love to tell. And first of all, let me start with a disclaimer, which is I don't think that anybody in particular has complete authority or responsibility for changing the culture. This is something systemic, and a lot of people in a lot of organizations play a role. But here's, here's one of, perhaps one of the, one of the biggest successes that my office helps at least catalyze, right? It is, it was a change of culture of our business school from being like a total laggard in online programs to becoming a, one of the most kind of revolutionary leaders. So it's interesting. So in 2000, I mean, 2017, as I mentioned, one of the things my office is doing is manage the relationship with edX. In 2016, 17 edX came up with a MicroMasters idea. And as in the typical way, we kind of started to shop around. We said, Okay, we would love to do a MicroMasters as a proof of concept at BU. So let's go around the colleges to see who might want to do something with us. At that time, the business school had absolutely no intention to engage in anything online. It was not really on the radar of the previous leadership of the school. But then, couple of my colleagues, in fact, I'm a professor at the business school, a couple of my colleagues came up with the idea, say, gee, we would like to maybe do a MicroMaster's in digital leadership. It was 100% faculty led initiative, the deans had almost no clue about it and you know, definitely were not willing to support it or do anything. They were not opposed to it, but they were not willing to support or dedicate any resources on that. And then, without even thinking about it, I told them, you know, guys, before, before you think about it twice, we'll do it. Right? And so my office fully funded it, we paid the faculty, we paid the developers and we developed, what was that, seven or eight courses. And even though this was not really, didn't have the full, the full support of the business school leadership, our calculation was that, that way, we're going to educate 10 to 12 of our best faculty into online teaching and learning. And we're going to put the seed that will make it easier next time around for some idea of this sort to be better received by the faculty. It was so interesting, I remember very vividly, there was one faculty member of marketing who was so opposed. I mean, actually, in fact she was one of the faculty teaching the course. She would say, why are we doing this? It's a waste of time, etc. So guess what, I mean, the MicroMasters was actually very well received. The, the university never tied it to a real masters, which is basically what you were supposed to do. But it really was very well received as a standalone certificate.

The courses were highly acclaimed because of their quality. In fact, the faculty member who was kind of complaining about it, her course was the most successful one. And then, and there were people stopping her at the airport and saying, gee, you're professor such and such, and I took your class, right? And so here's what happened. And that's where serendipity comes into play. Right? Two years later, edX was looking for a partner to do an online MBA, right, a low cost. And basically, at that time, our school was, I think, the only US business school that had content on edX. So the CEO of edX asked our provost, would be you want to partner with edX to produce an online MBA, a low cost online MBA. And then the provost got interested, right, and then the provost who could see the vision and then basically asked me and the new dean of the business school to make it happen, right? But because of all this groundwork we've done, right, the faculty was not alien. I mean, some very influential faculty in the school had taught the MicroMasters, and so they were, you know, indoctrinated, quote unquote, right? They have done it before, they actually realize it was a lot of work, but they enjoyed the experience. Right? And so this with much less resistance than, let me give you an example. So that was meant to be an online MBA that would be offered at one quarter, $24,000, one quarter of the cost of regular MBA. So it was pretty revolutionary. There were many questions about brand, about cannibalization, or things like that. And, but, but because of all the legwork we've done, there were faculty in the business school who basically stepped forward and said, this is a great idea. And yes, I'm going to assume the leadership of this and the leadership of that, and I'm going to teach that, you know. And that particular faculty member who was complaining was actually at the time member of the dean's inner circle, and she was also a big supporter of that. And then BU all of a sudden was, you know, one of the, we launched a very revolutionary $24,000 online MBA, which of course, then became the seed for the next level of change, which is now BU's launching a large scale, online at scale, degree unit. Right? That was, that, where we are transferring part of the resources we have developed over time. So to me that has been, it's really in many ways, this is a culmination of the journey we started with edX back in 2012. And it just shows how, by doing steps, right, and some of the steps are really bottom up. You know, there's this crucial thing that I really think facilitated everything that happened afterwards of course, these two faculty that came to me out of their own initiative in 2017 and said, we want to do this program. Right? And the fact that there was a, there was an office in the university that had the funds and the authority to create this program outside of the regular kind of hierarchy of having the deans and schools approve it.

Kelly: I love that story of the faculty member being recognized at the airport. Christine, did you want to add something?

Whitney Sanchez: I wanted to ask Chris a question. So I love the story as well. How much do you think the, the relationships had to do with the ultimate success?

Dellarocas: Relationships are important. Yeah, it is true that these two people were people from my school. They are people that I knew as a faculty member. But I like to think, I mean, before we converged on that plan, we had reached out to other schools who were considering this possibility, and then they eventually turned it down. If they have come from there, I think it would have been, I mean, I mean, one of the things we try to do is, of course, to, to be open to everybody. And, and of course, we also try to develop relationships with everybody, because you're right. I mean, it's all about relationships. It's all about relationships. I mean, one of the things that we have tried to do early on, is to connect with all the deans. Like, for example, one thing we tried for a while is to have like, tea evenings, right? Every three months, we had like an evening, you know, with, you know, tea and conversation, and we invited, you know, three or four deans, and with tea and appetizers and things like that. And we had conversations about, you know, what are some of the pain points, how we can help you. And plus, by being a member of the, the provost's cabinet, I mean, I meet with the deans very regularly and I try to meet, it's all really about, I mean, at the end of the day, it's all about relationships, right. And, in fact, one of the things that I enjoy the most about the job is the opportunity to connect and relate to people from all walks of campus.

Whitney Sanchez: Yeah.

Dellarocas: Being in the university campus is such a wonderful environment. I mean, any given school is diverse enough, but if you take all of our schools and colleges together, it's a wonderful, wonderful environment. And then you meet all these fantastic people who are so different from each other, and they are all, you know, a delight to relate to and to work with.

Kelly: Yeah, so we're just about out of time, but I want to ask you each for your final advice, brief advice. What's one takeaway that our audience you know, can go back to their institution and do right now? Christine?

Whitney Sanchez: Yeah, I would say trust in the people that you're working with, and, and trust the people that may be somewhat invisible. If you give them the opportunity to come forward, they'll really work with you.

Kelly: Great advice. And Chris?

Dellarocas: Well I'd like to, yeah, maybe echo what Christine said, which is, you know, there are diamonds everywhere, you know, and don't give up, don't give up. Even if your institution has a culture that doesn't seem as innovative, there are people who are really open and hungry and eager to innovate. So find those people. And the other thing is, it's all messy. I mean, one of the things that, yeah, one of the things that actually I've come to learn, in fact, I'm a lifelong learner of how to manage and bring change by persuasion. I mean, that's the thing, especially in the university, you will never have authority over, actually the people that you need to partner with, and just, just invest in learning how to bring about change by persuasion.

Kelly: Thank you for joining us. I'm Rhea Kelly, and this was the Campus Technology Insider podcast. You can find us on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, Spotify and Stitcher, or visit us online at Let us know what you think of this episode and what you'd like to hear in the future. Until next time.

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