How We Organize Our Work
Fully formed, mature set of activities guided by a business and financial model. Programs are sufficiently resourced; utilize existing SNHU products; have a clearly articulated type of learner or community served; can at minimum be replicated, and possibly scaled; and consistently yield effective outcomes and impact.
Pilots or time-bound projects that utilize existing SNHU products and are organized to define problems and experiment with solutions to problems that may affect learners or the communities that support them.
One time program-related investments that may support adjacent programs or initiatives that assist in accelerating outcomes and impact for learners or their communities.
Programs and Initiatives
The Social Impact Collective is focused on expanding access to education through the creation of high quality, affordable, and innovative pathways for learners for whom our incumbent, scaled offerings are not yet yielding equitable outcomes. Our work extends on campus, online, in the community, and in country.
Global Education Movement
The Global Education Movement (GEM) is the first large-scale online learning initiative for refugees across the world. We partner with in-country organizations to deliver high-quality, low-cost education tailored to meet the needs of displaced learners.
Our model blends academic instruction, internships and on-the-job training, individualized coaching, psychosocial support, and career counseling. It’s designed to grow the strengths that can lead to new livelihood opportunities and stability.
Competency-based education offers the flexibility to meet the needs of learners in difficult situations.
Learners grappling with issues such as the disruptions posed by COVID-19, political or economic crises, or other substantial challenges can still pursue their degrees thanks to the flexibility of competency-based education. For example, a current learner living in Lebanon has access to electricity and the Internet for only two to three hours per day. CBE allows her to organize her studies around the availability of these unreliable but crucial resources.
Digital work is an important outcome of COVID-19 for refugee learners.
Many of our refugee learners are beginning digital work projects, which also may offer a way for SNHU to overcome difficult policy environments. As an example, two SNHU learners co-founded a no-code/low-code development company in Lebanon, which allows developers to to build apps without learning a coding language. An additional three SNHU learners are interns at the company.
HEERF grants provided great relief for challenges learners face.
In March 2021, President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, which appropriated approximately $39.6 billion for the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF). Students who are or were enrolled in an institution of higher education during the COVID-19 national emergency are eligible for emergency financial aid grants from the HEERF, regardless of whether they completed a Free Application for Federal Student Aid or are eligible for Title IV.
We launched the Innovation Creation Studio to meet the needs of the many learners seeking entrepreneurship opportunities. The studio is led by Charli Kemp.
We partnered with SNHU’s Data Insight team to research the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on our refugee learners. More than 75 percent of learners reported that COVID-19 negatively impacted their financial circumstances, health, housing, and/or job. More than 67 percent experienced greater academic challenges. A surprising yet positive finding was that nearly one in four learners reported making more academic progress due to the closure of many of their normal activities, leading to more time to focus on their academic work.
Remy Gakwaya, a 2020 GEM and Jesuit Worldwide Learning alumnus, was a 2021 Falling Walls winner in the Future Learning category, and a finalist for the Science Breakthrough of the Year award for “Breaking the Wall to Technoligical Education for Marginalized Communities.” He founded the TakenoLab Technology School to teach digital and business skills to fellow individuals living in Malawi’s Dzaleka Refugee Camp.
GEM learners participated in the biannual ULTRA (Uplifting Langa Through Reachable Art) Street Art Competition in Cape Town, South Africa. The contest brings artists together to transform the Langa township through public art.
The Chandler Center
The Chandler Center envisions a campus where all students are civically engaged and committed to social action. We provide leadership and educational opportunities for students focused on active citizenship. We facilitate community-based experiential learning, provide volunteer opportunities locally and around the world, engage students in elections through voter registration efforts and opportunities to learn about what’s on their ballot, and focus on college access work in the city of Manchester.
We learned how to develop high-quality, virtual service-learning opportunities.
We developed partnerships with new community organizations, helped facilitate virtual reflection sessions, and found new ways to support existing partnerships with our community.
Breakthrough Manchester-College Bound moved from the SNHU School of Education to The Chandler Center. During the year, the program’s staff grew from 18 volunteers to 21 paid employees (mostly college students who serve as peer advisors). In addition, BTM-CB offered 58 workshops on college access, success, and community building to nearly 100 students.
In November, we facilitated a simulation activity for a lesson on social stratification for the First-Year Seminar class. Six hundred learners participated with the help of 80 total instructors and volunteers from across SNHU.
Thirty-one alumni were inducted into The Active Citizen Network, an honor society for alumni who made community engagement a significant aspect of their SNHU learner.
The Community Impact team partners with local communities—primarily in Southern New Hampshire and Tucson, AZ—to drive impact through charitable giving, partnerships, collaborations with policymakers, and philanthropic initiatives.
This team also works with SNHU’s Human Resources and Employee Engagement teams to help university employees make informed choices on how to use their volunteer time off and become involved with their communities locally.
The Community Impact team, in partnership with the YWCA NH, also is responsible for the SNHU Center for New Americans, whose goal is to create a pathway to higher education for immigrant and refugee families in Manchester.
Flexibility is key.
Given the COVID-19 pandemic, very few of our planned activities came to fruition over the past two years, and many unexpected initiatives took their place. The Community Impact team has learned to build in as much flexibility as possible to be able to handle the unknown.
Building family relationships benefits our learners.
At the Center for New Americans, the pandemic provided us an opportunity to strengthen relationships with families through home visits and consistent communications. This is a positive for the youth served in the Amiko Youth Program, as their families are involved at greater levels than they were prior to the pandemic.
Relationships with elected officials and policymakers can help us reach our goals.
Both the American Rescue Plan Act funding and the congressionally directed spend requests came out of strong relationships with Mayor Joyce Craig and Senator Jeanne Shaheen. SNHU has further collaborated with government officials in transporting SNHU students from Afghanistan during the U.S. withdrawal from the war. These relationships have led to important progress seen this year.
The Center for New Americans now enrolls 350 youth, up from 250 in March 2020, in its Amiko Youth Program, an after school enrichment program for children newly arrived to the United States, or who are first generation Americans born in the United States to immigrant or refugee parents.
Enrollment for HiSET test preparation increased to 30 active monthly learners, up from 10 in August. The HiSET test provides learners with a high school equivalency credential.
SNHU wrapped up its Fuel Our Families program, which distributed 215,000 meals between March 2020 and June 2021, in partnership with the Manchester School District, Granite YMCA, and Granite United Way.
The Community Partner model blends the low cost and flexibility of online, competency-based education with a personalized touch of face-to-face, customized support unique and specific to each geographic location and student.
With its community-focused, locally-driven approach, the Community Partner model delivers a flexible, workforce-relevant curriculum in a supportive, accessible and approachable environment. It’s built upon the belief that no two students, and no two journeys, are the same.
Developing a standardized assessment criteria helps us identify the partners who are the best match for us.
In 2021, we shifted focus from pilot programs with new partners to partner organizations with a demonstrated commitment and intent to grow.
Recognizing that we cannot attain our scale goals through one-off pilot partnerships and programs, we implemented a set of assessment criteria for new partners, as well as an annual evaluation for existing partners. Prospective partners are evaluated for their fit and alignment, and existing partners for their ongoing alignment with our priorities and goals.
In addition, we introduced post-term start meetings for all partners, as well as strategic planning meetings with our largest, national-scale partners (Duet, PelotonU, Trio). These meetings are designed to hold partners accountable for enrollment growth, and provide an opportunity to debrief on each term start and identify gaps and opportunities related to projected versus actual enrollments. Likewise, regular meetings with strategic growth partners provide a collaborative space for intentional co-creation around growth strategies and priorities.
Transformational partnerships are required to achieve our goals.
Our national scale strategy and ambitious growth plans cannot be achieved through transactional relationships, in which we manage our work on a day-to-basis, and are reactive to partner issues and learner problems.
Instead, we have shifted our focus to transformational partnerships that we define as collaborative and strategic. This means that we continue to deliver exceptional operational support to our partners, but also are proactively and intentionally removing barriers and driving institutional and programmatic change.
The coaching model leads to success.
Our data reveals consistent and improved programmatic performance and learner engagement overall. We attribute this success to the coaching model, and the time, attention, and care our partners take to cultivate productive working relationships with our learners.
While the place-based nature of our program is key to certain learners’ success, data has shown that the coach/learner dynamic is of the utmost importance to the learners we serve, whether delivered virtually or in person. Our partners have seamlessly and successfully adapted their coaching models, maintaining the high-touch, high-impact nature of the Community Partners program, for the world we’re living in today.
Between January 1 and December 31, 2021, Community Partners served 2,060 unique learners representing 3,458 total term enrollments across six term starts. Additionally, our three largest term starts in our history were in 2021. We served 32 percent more learners and recorded 53 percent more enrollments in 2021 than 2019. We sustained this growth during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic through the end of 2021.
Unique Learners Served
Heading into 2021, there was significant uncertainty regarding the residual impact of COVID-19 on both our learners and partners. Our data has shown that partners have successfully navigated this shift, keeping learners enrolled at greater rates than previously observed.
Learners have made greater academic gains, with increased rates of submission and mastery when compared to 2019. Community Partner learners’ pace to their degree significantly improved as well, decreasing from 3.7 years for learners beginning in 2019 to 2.6 years for learners beginning 2021.
Median Years to Graduate
Trio, our national-scale partner, launched its residency program with Duet in June, culminating in the founding of its first three sites: Gateway U in Newark, NJ; Degree Forward in Detroit; and Camden U in Camden, NJ. Gateway U and Degree forward launched in October; Camden U launched in January 2022.
SNHU received approval from NECHE to allow individual transfer credit into our direct assessment programs above the existing 60-credit transfer limit. This will open additional opportunities for learners to transfer prior learning to reduce time and cost to degree. Most significantly, the approval allows us to accept transfer credits into our CBE associate’s degree programs, an option previously unavailable to learners beginning their studies at the associate’s level. Working with the Office of the University Registrar, we established processes for tracking and evaluating transfer credits for direct equate equivalencies in our competency-based education associate’s and bachelor’s degree programs.
Our Strategic Initiatives program is the formal mechanism for the Social Impact Collective to explore new well-defined projects, proposals, and growth opportunities. We leverage the social impact strategy design and implementation expertise of our team to develop, bolster, or augment initiatives that create long standing societal change. It encompasses the areas of impact measurement, emerging initiatives, project and portfolio management, and grants management.
Collaboration is critical, but can be challenging to implement.
Collaboration is a shared goal across programs and stakeholders, but finding the space and time for it can be challenging; it requires much intentionality and effort. We’ve found that to execute our goal of being a better connector for the university, we must start by breaking down the silos within our own team and unit. We plan to continue aiding in this as we move into the next phases of our work.
Skills and processes needed for new initiatives
Lifting new bodies of work comes with a unique set of challenges and opportunities. We have learned that building out processes that allow for building understanding and setting expectations upfront is incredibly valuable. Additionally, flexibility in building out timelines is essential because often there are unexpected needs or challenges that can be difficult to anticipate on the front-end.
Began developing an impact measurement framework and evaluation plan including:
Articulating theories of change
Developing program logic models
Provided leadership and support for unit efforts including:
Grants management and development of a funding dashboard
Employee engagement activities
To support our work, we are forming focused advisory groups to provide valuable expertise, insights, and recommendations. These non-governing advisories comprise up to eight individuals from both SNHU and external organizations.
Futures Analyses and Insights Advisory:
Provide periodic landscape analyses relative to social impact; recognize or identify signals and trends that may inform the focus or strategic approach for the unit.
Voice of the Learner Advisory:
Serve as a connector and convener of different aspects of the University that are researching and analyzing our student and learner journeys that informs the work of our unit.
Technology and Digital Enablement Advisory:
Provide insights into how Social Impact operations, programs, and initiatives support enterprise technology and learner-centric platforms. Launching in FY23.