Great educational leaders are student and employer-obsessed. They focus on what is best for their students so that they can effectively advance along their career pathways. Moreover, with a data and insights-driven approach, these education leaders completely understand their learners, circumstances, and aspirations. Overcoming obstacles in students’ educational journeys, such leaders amplify the student learning experience. Victor Aluise (Vice President and Dean, WGU’s College of Business) is one such mindful leader enlivening the educational lives of millions of students.
His journey of as an undergraduate student at Carnegie Mellon University inspired Victor to embark on a pathway to leadership. While focusing on his senior thesis, Victor worked with low-literate adults in the Military who needed to improve their reading comprehension skills of technical material. There, he designed and developed an interactive online learning program solution. These learning modules offered learners real-world practice opportunities to improve reading fluency through a series of problems directly related to their work. Seeing how adults were engaged with real-world material influenced Victor’s decision to devote his career to the development of customer-obsessed digital learning products.
Later, he enrolled in Columbia University’s doctoral program in learning science and educational technology while working full-time in online product development with institutions such as Scholastic, McGraw-Hill Education, and ETS. Starting as a product manager at Scholastic, he eventually served as Vice President and General Manager of Digital Teaching and Learning for K 12 digital products. He transitioned into the Higher Education space and worked in college publishing. Later, he served as the Divisional Vice President of Digital Teaching and Learning Operations across the US, Latin America, Europe, and Asia when he joined Laureate International Universities.
Boosting Online Learning
Working on various educational campuses with academic and business leaders, Victor and his team reached 1.2 million students and supported over 70,000 faculty members across many international regions. Moreover, catering to the increase in the online learning demand, he grew online enrollments by 25% within 4 years. This experience helped him see the diversity of students and faculty members across the globe, the struggling issues of learners, and how a well-designed student-centric experience is essential for student success.
Additionally, Victor led product management and higher education programs at Amazon (AWS) education. Serving as Head of Learning Systems at Amazon, he reached a global audience, partnering with large K-12 and university systems across the United States, Europe, LATAM, and Asia. With the goal to upskill and reskill learners of all ages—intent on pursuing careers in Cloud, digital business, and AI-driven systems—he focused on personalized learning reaching millions of students. For that, he partnered with Ivy League institutions, public state university systems, community colleges, military education institutions, and employer consortia.
One of Victor’s professional role models was the late Dick Robinson, former CEO and Chairman of Scholastic, the world’s largest children’s publisher. Victor recalls working with Dick on Scholastic’s digital teaching and learning strategy. Dick taught him to always think of the needs of students and teachers first and to offer timesaving solutions that help amplify great teaching and learning. Dick always reminded his team that solutions should both develop and delight students and instructors and ultimately build trust with customers. Currently, Victor is serving as the Vice President and Dean within the College of Business at the Western Governors Association (WGU).
The Inception of WGU
Western Governors Association (WGU) is a non-profit, online organization founded 25 years ago by 19 U.S. governors with the belief in education’s transformative power and commitment to improving its quality, accessibility, and outcomes. WGU is characterized by flexible learning architecture and multi-dimensional delivery. This allows for better-personalized learning, adapting to changing workforce needs, and providing relevant pathways for an individual’s first and next opportunity. Moreover, the organization pioneered competency-based education and created a model that other colleges and universities wish to replicate. The competency-based education measures skills and learning rather than time spent in a classroom. 24/7 access to online learning as well as personalized, one-on-one learning support from faculty members helps students embark on their educational journey.
Exciting Academic Programs
WGU is home to the largest online college of business with yearly enrollments exceeding 40,000 students. The college offers accredited undergraduate and graduates degrees in management, marketing, human resource management, accounting, leadership, technology management, and healthcare administration. Moreover, it is planning to launch new exciting programs at the intersection of business, digital transformation, and social impact. All students are paired with mentors and instructors who support them throughout their learning experience. The flat-fee learning model allows students to take as many courses as they want in one term; that too for minimal fees.
A Leader committed to Excellence
Victor serves as Vice President and Dean of WGU’s College of Business. Being an innovative and visionary leader, he is committed to excellence in online learner success and employability. His work is focused on innovating competency-based digital programs and products with high quality and efficacy. He also focuses on evolving the faculty model and instructional effectiveness for all learners. Under his guidance, his team focuses on helping stranded learners pivot to high-resiliency careers. He works with the mission to help these students by offering the best program experiences so that they can increase their earning potential and improve their lives. Moreover, he is the owner of the portfolio review team for academic degrees, professional learning, certificates, and micro-degrees that deal with operational success and leading students.
New Mindset and Approach
The rapid integration of technology into industry boosted innovation in business, workflows, and processes. Moreover, employer and job market skills requirements are changing rapidly and the pandemic has only accelerated these changes. As a result, people find that they need to acquire new skills throughout their professional careers. With a new mindset and approach to learning, WGU helps students and employees navigate the changing workforce landscape and quickly acquire these new market skills.
Additionally, WGU provides flexible learning solutions that deliver an ROI. In this, students demand to see the payoff in increased earning potential as a result of their degree completion. WGU keeps a track record of students who increase their earnings by a considerable amount. The Wall Street Journal ranked the WGU MBA program as the top in terms of ROI for students.
According to Victor, the current education system largely embraces a learning model that tracks and reports on learning based on “seat time” which includes rewarding students on the basis of hours accrued. However, WGU takes a different approach and awards students competency units based on student demonstration of proficiency of competency through assessments. This is advantageous for students as assessments can be taken at any time when students feel that they have mastered the learning.
Victor appreciates the learning model and adds, “I am dedicated to the competency-based learning model and have further evolved learning experiences to include real-world industry application and connections within programs.” With this method, students apply theories, concepts, and models to real-work challenges that employers face. Victor has co-created a coaching model that helps students actualize their professional learning plan. Coaches work with students to spot barriers to achieving their goals and develop a viable action plan to put solutions in the place. Moreover, he adds that the new model, job-embedded leadership coaching, is based on the real-time needs of the leader as well as designed to build a shared, supportive, and interactive relationship between leaders and their teams.
Along with the relentless work Victor does for WGU, he believes in work-life balance too. For that, he prioritizes quality time with family and friends interacting with his spouse, siblings, friends, and work colleagues. He admits that this interaction refreshes him and changes his perspectives to accept new challenges and opportunities. Victor is an avid traveler and language learner. He often travels internationally to explore and appreciates various cultures.
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