workstream 01

Who are working learners, and how can we best recognize and honor their diversity?

The tens of millions of Americans who pursue paid employment and postsecondary credentials simultaneously are a spectacularly diverse population. They vary not only by race, class, gender, and age, but also by life circumstances and in the nature of the work and learning they pursue. The task of this workstream is to develop a conceptual framework that might enable researchers to recognize this diversity even while building cumulative knowledge about how best to serve working learners as a target group.


Ilana Horwitz

Rick Settersten


Working Learner College Students: A Diverse Not-So-New Majority

University of Arizona sociologist and higher education researcher Regina Deil-Amen offers an aerial view of how the evolution of the US racial-political economy has substantially grown the ranks of working learners in college, creating new opportunities for individual and institutional transformation, but also new forms of precarity for working learners.



Ilana Horwitz
Education Fellow, Stanford University
I have been the Education Fellow in the "New Map of Life" initiative at the Stanford Center on Longevity for the past two years. In this capacity, I have been thinking a lot about how education and learning needs to be redesigned for century-long lives. I am happy to bring my views on the lifecourse and education to these sessions. thanks for invite!
Rick Settersten
University Distinguished Professor of Human Development, Oregon State University
Fostering discussion about the changing role of higher education in the life course, and how a changing life course creates new opportunities for higher education.
Dani Aivazian
Senior Organizational Effectiveness Specialist, Stanford University
Christine Baker-Smith
Executive Director, Hope Center for College, Community and Justice
Kelsey Berkowitz
Senior Policy Analyst, New America
I'm interested in how we can transform our workforce development system to be human-centered so it meets the needs of everyone, including adult learners. As part of that, I'm interested in how we can help prepare adult learners for a changing jobs landscape and ensure that everyone has the ability to obtain high-quality jobs.
Marie Cini
I am interesting in designing new models for working learners to gain learning over a lifetime, with the accompanying evaluation of these models.
David Croom
Assistant Director for Postsecondary, Ascend at the Aspen Institute
Sergio Diaz Luna
Student, Stanford University
I'm interested to learn more about the workforce development space, particularly as it relates to low-income first-generation students graduating high school or college. A colleague I've worked with that is currently leading workforce development efforts for these populations as Director of Program Strategy is Kevin Lumowah at Bright Propect - or He would definitely have insights as to current conversations in this space and would appreciate learning more about how to approach the work.
Christine Gabali
Director, Residential & Dining Services, Stanford University
To have the opportunity to hear colleagues about offering pertinent, inclusive, and sustainable adult learning opportunities. I have been involved in the Workplace Education and Life Skills program here at Stanford for the past 19 years, which offers education and vocational learning opportunities to workers while also offering service-learning opportunities for our Stanford students to tutor participants attending the program.
Melissa Goldberg
Managing Partner, Volta Learning Group
This is a very timely convening pursuing answers to crucial questions. While I believe all are important, I feel I could best contribute to the conversation around fostering stronger connections between working learners, colleges, universities and workplaces
Michael Hill
Postdoctoral Scholar, University of California, Irvine
My work focuses on non-traditional students, particularly adult learners in fully online or blended learning settings. In addition to my research work, I spent five years as a director and senior academic advisor for Brandman University, then part of the Chapman University System (now UMass Global), an adult-learner focused private nonprofit university. I worked closely with adult learners. For three of the five years, I was focused on military and veteran students.
Alicia Hoffmann
Working Learner, Stanford University/Foothill College
As a person who has been a part of the working world for over a decade and is now returning to school, I feel this is very relevant to my interests and current life situation!
Elisabeth Jacobs
Senior Fellow/Deputy Director, Urban Institute/WorkRise
WorkRise is a research-to-action network dedicated to advancing the actionable evidence base on how to improve economic well-being -- both economic security and economic mobility -- for low-wage workers, especially Black and other workers of color + women. I am eager to learn from this community on how best WorkRise might contribute to this vibrant space, particularly in light of the opportunities and challenges posed by COVID, the post-COVID labor market, and its interaction with workers' and families' lives.
Christie Ko
Executive Director, HAI Digital Economy Lab, Stanford University
Christopher Loss
Associate Professor of Education and of US History, Vanderbilt University
The convening of this working group on working learners is timely and important. The asymmetry between the composition and demographics of our current college student population and the prevailing research that is being done on that population is striking. Although the average student is in fact a working learner--older, part-time, commuter, and employed--the education research complex and main funding vessels that support it continue to focus on the traditionally aged college student experience. While research on elite, residential education is important, a deeper and more sustained focus on broad-access colleges and the students who attend them is probably more important. The working learners' group can bring attention to the challenges and issues facing our nation's growing population of working learners whose education and training is vital for the future of higher education as well as the country's economic, political, and civic well being. I will look forward to engaging with this group. Chris Loss
Judy Miner
Chancellor, Foothill-De Anza Community College District
Sue Mukherjee
Chief Strategy Officer; Sr. Associate Provost, Shippensburg University
Elizabeth Narehood
Doctoral Student, James Madison University/College Promise
Fueling a knowledge based economy will require the ability to better serve working learners to continue their education or transition to new career pathways. Fast-paced changes in technology make life-long learning a necessity in today's society. The ability for higher education to adapt to meet the needs of working learners will only grow in importance due to coming shifts in postsecondary student demographics that is expected to impact the sustainability of higher education institutions. I'm most interested in learning about better defining what a working learner friendly model could look like from both a four-year and two-year institutional perspective. Along with currently working on the completion of a doctorate at JMU in partnership with College Promise, I also work for Central Virginia Community College. At CVCC, I have held roles in workforce development and managing a five-year US Department of Education Title III grant for the institution. The study of non-traditional students has been a key interest area for both my doctoral research as well serving as a practitioner in the field.
Kelly Nielsen
Senior Research Analyst, UC San Diego
This convening is incredibly timely. I am currently working on a UC Office of the President initiative to align regional workforce needs with educational programming and identify ways to support people who left higher education without finishing their degrees in completing a postsecondary degree. Along with my team in the Center for Research and Evaluation at UC San Diego Extension, I am helping to develop a labor market research tool to identify regional skills demand and develop a survey of postsecondary non-completers in California. We are also working on the development of a career pathway resource for adults interested in the broad field of computer programming. This involves aligning knowledge of skills, occupations, and training opportunities to help people map a career in the field and take steps toward their goals. We are focused, in particular, on supporting underrepresented groups in computer programming. If sharing our work in progress can contribute to the convening, I would be very happy to discuss what we are doing at CR+E, and look forward to learning from others about how to expand and improve this work.
Matthew Rascoff
Special Advisor, Stanford University
How can universities organize themselves to more effectively serve adult learners?
Jennifer Silva
Assistant Professor, Indiana University
I am interested in connecting working-class young adults and older adults to training and educational opportunities and restoring pathways to mobility.
Will Simpkins
Vice President for Student Affairs, Metropolitan State University of Denver
As the VP for Student Affairs at MSU Denver, I'm charged with managing our enrollment, supporting students as they work toward a degree, and building a new hub for industry partners to engage with (and hire!) our students. Denver, one of the fasted growing regional economies in the country, is home to what the Atlantic called "The Colorado Paradox" - we have one of the most educated workforces in the country, but that is driven by companies recruiting out of state workers. We have an opportunity to dramatically re-think the relationship between education and industry in Colorado, centered on the work of regional public comprehensive universities like MSU Denver. In my work, I bridge the community and our college, seeking ways to engage and empower for exponential growth. I created a team of Industry Navigators in our new Classroom to Career (C2) Hub, each focused on a growth industry cluster defined by the Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation, who work to provide concierge navigation for industry partners to engage with the University. In just a few months, we have pulled together over 60 construction industry leaders to build a new talent pipeline accelerator structure focused on "up-skilling" and "pre-skilling" and diversifying the industry's talent pool through concrete partnerships between all industry partners, labor groups and trade associations, and P-20 educational partners. I would love to learn more about strategies others are seeing as effective to inform our work, and hopefully be able to share some of our proof of concept successes with those looking to impact their regional economies.
Burck Smith
CEO, StraighterLine
StraighterLine has offered low-cost, low-risk, extremely flexible, credit-bearing online coursework and pathways for college students since 2008. Not surprisingly, "non-traditional" students tend to be our heaviest users. Though this is partly due to the the format and delivery of StraighterLine's courses, it's also due to the fact that the higher ed market is structured such that colleges with stronger brands and bigger residential programs have limited incentive to award credit from lower-priced providers. We can provide insights from nearly 15 years of delivering online coursework to several hundred thousand students.
Olatunde Sobomehin
CEO, StreetCode Academy
Communties of color face barriers to tech and innovation opportunities, and when tech and innovation is the future of work, we need to address these barriers so that we can have the fullest future.
Rehshetta Wells
Project Assistant - Research, Keeling & Associates
As an adult educator, researcher, and lifelong learner, I am most interested in this convening addressing ways in which we can best address the unique needs of working learners. Especially during a time where there is an industry wide labor shortage and a decline in returning to colleges/universities, that seems to be lacking a lens of andragogy to determine the root cause.