Brandman University and Agnes Scott College Receive ACE/Fidelity Investments Award for Institutional Transformation
March 12, 2017

ACE announced today that Brandman University and Agnes Scott College are the recipients of the 2017 ACE/Fidelity Investments Award for Institutional Transformation.

The award was created to recognize institutions that have responded to higher education challenges in innovative and creative ways and achieved dramatic changes in a relatively brief period, and includes a $10,000 prize. ACE invited nominations and applications for the award from any U.S. college or university eligible for ACE membership.

The awards were presented at ACE2017, ACE’s 99th Annual Meeting, and were accepted by Brandman University Chancellor Gary Brahm and Agnes Scott College President Elizabeth Kiss on behalf of their respective institutions.

The award is divided into two categories: the first for institutions with student populations of 5,001 and more (Brandman University), and the second for institutions with student populations of up to 5,000 (Agnes Scott College).

“Brandman University and Agnes Scott College represent the ways in which American higher education institutions, and their leaders are rising to the challenges of innovation and meeting the needs of 21st century learners,” said ACE President Molly Corbett Broad. “We appreciate the generous support of Fidelity Investments for this award, which allows us each year to recognize institutions where this type of dramatic transformation has occurred.”

In 2006, leaders at Chapman University (CA) decided that Chapman University College (CUC), one of seven schools and colleges within the university, would better serve its student population by undertaking a different approach than a traditional institution. At the time, CUC was serving more than 10,000 students, many of whom were first generation students, a significant active military population and many students who were taking courses online.

After a thorough analysis and exploration, on June 1, 2008, CUC became a separate, accredited institution with its own board, faculty and administration. In September 2009, the name was formally changed to "Brandman University" to honor a significant founding gift. The school completely reinvented its approach from the ground up, including its core student services and academic advising, instruction delivery and a new curriculum based on the needs of the modern workforce.

Today, Brandman University serves more than 12,000 students (a 20 percent increase in enrollment in five years) through a network of 27 campus locations throughout California and Washington (with six of those located directly on military bases), and nationally through the highly ranked online campus.

“Innovation is the backbone of Brandman University. It’s our foundation. By becoming a separate university, we created an institution that enables us to focus on the needs—and successes—of our students. We have developed the mission, vision and values that unified the energy and excitement of our new enterprise to adopt best practices and implement innovations to better serve our non-traditional student body,” said Brahm. “We are gratified all this hard work from our team has resulted in seeing 70 percent of our students graduate, and that our success has been recognized by our peers.”

In 2011, Agnes Scott, a liberal arts college for women, found itself confronted with an unsustainable business model. Members of the Board of Trustees knew they had to chart a new course for the college, and so they adopted a strategic financial plan called the Roadmap to 2020. But they soon realized cost-cutting by itself was not a workable strategy.

Over the next three years, the school developed, market-tested and launched a signature initiative, SUMMIT, that serves to reinvent a liberal arts education for the 21st century by providing students, regardless of their major, with a robust focus on global learning and leadership development integrated with a digital portfolio and supported by a personal Board of Advisors.

SUMMIT was soft-launched in fall 2014 and fully launched in fall 2015. The impact was immediate and dramatic: enrollment increased 21 percent. Retention also increased and hit an all-time high of 87 percent, with dramatic increases in levels of student satisfaction.

"All of us at Agnes Scott are thrilled to receive this wonderful award. It took a tremendous amount of creativity, commitment and courage on the part of trustees, faculty and staff for us to launch an initiative as ambitious and innovative as SUMMIT. We knew we had to respond with urgency to the changing landscape of higher education and to address the challenges facing all liberal arts colleges, especially women’s colleges, in offering a distinctive value proposition that aligns with our mission and is compelling to prospective students and their families," said Kiss. “We are excited to have charted a bold, new course for our institution through offering our students an education that will enable them to engage, lead and succeed in a complex global society."

“Together with ACE, Fidelity is honored to celebrate higher education leaders creating innovative programs to help their students succeed on campus and in their careers,” said Alexandra Taussig, senior vice president, Tax-Exempt Market, Fidelity Investments. “Brandman University and Agnes Scott College exemplify how a commitment to continued progress can have significant impact throughout their communities—and ultimately drive academic achievement that provides a foundation for ongoing success.”

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