Leadership Network Symposium: Strategies for Financial Sustainability and Innovation

Brief Abstract

As higher education institutions increasingly embrace digital and online learning, developing effective budget models is crucial for financial sustainability and fostering innovation. In this session, we will explore various budgeting approaches tailored to the unique challenges and opportunities of digital and online post-secondary education. Join us to discover best practices, cost optimization strategies, and innovative funding mechanisms that can propel your institution forward in the digital era.


The OLC Leadership Network Symposium will bring together trailblazers and influential voices in our field in a highly collaborative one-day event, fostering discussions and debates about our digital learning futures. Together, we will determine our top priorities for the upcoming year, addressing the most significant challenges and opportunities facing our field. It aims to collectively identify areas that require our focused attention in addressing the ubiquitous challenges and promising opportunities for creating equitable, inclusive, and quality online and blended education. This year’s symposium promises a truly engaging experience, featuring a keynote address, panel discussions, and numerous networking opportunities. Do not miss out on this unique and prestigious event, where you can connect with leaders from around the world and gain valuable insights into critical topics. Learn More and Register: https://onlinelearningconsortium.org/attend-2023/accelerate/leadership-network-symposium/


Adam Croom is an Assistant Professor of Advertising and serves as the Director of the Office of Digital Learning at the University of Oklahoma. In his role, he leads a dedicated team responsible for the design, development, and ongoing management of a diverse and expanding array of online programs and associated courses. This includes the successful launch of 25 professional master's degree programs spanning various disciplines, such as business, engineering, education, communication, and social sciences. His teaching portfolio encompasses a broad spectrum, ranging from large lecture courses to lab-based design, case study-oriented seminars, and experiential learning courses. Notably, his pedagogical excellence earned him the prestigious Owen Kulemeka Teacher of the Year Award. In addition to his teaching roles, Adam actively contributes to efforts aimed at advancing academic innovation. He has spearheaded faculty learning communities dedicated to integrating technology effectively in the classroom and has provided valuable insights to the administration on the selection of learning technology vendors, including system-wide learning management systems. Adam is also the founder of the TEDxOU, an independently organized TED event, a platform dedicated to the dissemination of transformative ideas. His achievements include receiving the Innovator of the Year and Achievers Under 40 awards from the Journal Record, reflecting his contributions to education and innovation.
Melissa Vito has over 35 years of experience in public higher education. As Vice Provost for Academic Innovation at the University of Texas San Antonio (UTSA), Melissa has transformed teaching and learning at UTSA, grown an infrastructure for fully online programs and created dynamic learning environments that prepare students to thrive in a world where digital literacy and fluency are required. She led the reorganization that brought together the areas of Teaching and Learning and Digital Learning into one area focused on modality-agnostic teaching, learning, and digital transformation. Under her leadership, UTSA Online, a fully-online university experience, climbed to the top 25% of all online U.S. News and World Report’s Best Online Programs list in 2023. Melissa was instrumental in uniting UTSA and Adobe Creative Campus and creating a research project to measure the impact of curricular use of Adobe tools on student learning. Melissa and her team have also reimagined physical learning environments. Academic Innovation transformed over 60 classrooms and four outdoor learning spaces. The Educause Horizon Report in 2022 recognized UTSA’s dynamic approach to integrating collaborative academic technologies into classrooms and faculty training. Melissa envisioned and created the Academic Innovation Center (AIC), an incubator and community space that brings faculty, students, and teaching and learning specialists together to experiment with new ideas, encourage creativity and inspire transformative teaching. Melissa has enhanced student success by creating innovative faculty professional development programs and dedicating more than $1 million to faculty grants and incentives. Prior to UTSA, Melissa served as Senior Vice President for Enrollment and Student Affairs and Senior Vice Provost for Academic Initiatives and Student Success at the University of Arizona (UA), retiring in July of 2018. During her UA career, she developed and launched UA’s online programs in 2015, and was recognized by UPCEA in 2019 for the Innovation in Transformation Award. She co-founded the Gender-Based Violence Center; co-coordinated efforts that led to UA’s designation as a Hispanic Serving Institution; envisioned and developed the Think Tank learning center; reimagined Career Services; and oversaw the development of the University’s first Veterans Center. Melissa’s vision to bring together all areas that impact student success resulted in the UA Student Success District, which opened in 2021. Melissa has consulted with large public universities and corporations on issues pertaining to higher education, fully online programs, leadership, crisis management, and faculty development. She speaks and writes frequently, including contributing to NASPA’s book Online & Engaged (March 2020) and From Grassroots to the Highly Orchestrated. Recognized nationally by NASPA as a Pillar of the Profession, she has also received the ACPA national award for Excellence in Practice, the National Association of Fraternity and Sorority Advisors Kent Gardner Award for Excellence, is a member of the Online Learning Consortium Board of Directors and on faculty for Educause’s Digital Leaders Institute. At UA, she earned a bachelor’s degree in Journalism and English and a master’s degree in Higher Education and Counseling. She has a Doctorate in Educational Leadership from Northern Arizona University
Katie Scheie is a seasoned professional with a passion for higher education and a remarkable 17-year journey in the field. Holding a Master of Arts in Education with a Specialization in Higher Education Administration, she has consistently demonstrated a commitment to innovation and excellence. In her current role as Chief Operating Officer, Katie spearheads a wide array of strategic initiatives that encompass marketing, communications, enrollment, matriculation, student affairs, institutional effectiveness, and cutting-edge student-facing technologies. With a strong foundation in planning and execution, she has achieved remarkable success in elevating the student experience and driving forward-thinking solutions. Katie's expertise extends to diverse domains including strategic thinking, budgeting, and forecasting. By skillfully combining data-informed decision-making with a relentless student focus, Katie ensures that every move aligns with the broader mission of enhancing the learner journey. Katie has played a pivotal role in steering her institution through transformative changes. Her strategic ability shone brightly during two major transitions within a three-year period. The first involved her university's purchase and affiliation agreement with the University of Arizona, which resulted in the University of Arizona Global Campus, a monumental step that required adept leadership and vision. The other pivotal transformation was the termination of the contract with the institution's OPM (Online Program Management) provider. Her strategic oversight paved the way for seamlessly bringing all those services in-house, an achievement that not only showcased her leadership acumen but also revolutionized the institution's operational landscape. As a leader in the online education space, Katie has demonstrated her ability in navigating complexities while serving a predominantly minority adult learner student population. Her strategic thinking, budgeting, and forecasting skills are matched only by her commitment to data-informed decision-making. Beyond her professional achievements, Katie finds joy in her role as a wife and mother of two children aged 11 and 8. She resides in San Diego, where she spends as much time outdoors camping and enjoying her family and friends.

Extended Abstract