San Jose, CA—
Ralph Wolff, a distinguished leader in higher education, has been awarded the Virginia B. Smith Innovative Leadership Award for 2008.
This award is presented to individuals who, through their work, have made exemplary contributions to American higher education.
Wolff serves as the Executive Director of the Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges and Universities of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). In this capacity, he helped to place the Commission at the forefront of regional and national discussions about educational quality, and methods to develop campus cultures focused on student and organizational learning.
Wolff has led the development of a new framework for accreditation through new models of self-study and team visits. The changes have influenced accrediting processes in several other regions of the country.
"Not only does Ralph Wolff's work at the Commission help to enrich the schools participating in the accreditation process," said Patrick M. Callan, president of the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, "but it assists them in better meeting the needs of their students, and society as well."
The purpose of the Commission is to foster excellence in education programs through evaluation and by granting accreditation to the schools that meet an acceptable level of quality.
Through Wolff's efforts, the Commission has received a number of grants totaling over $2.3 million from The Pew Charitable Trusts and The James Irvine Foundation to redesign the accreditation process to address the needs of the 21st century. Expanding on concept development sessions, "dream teams" undertaking experimental reviews, and regional conversations, the Commission has now adopted a completely revised and learning-focused accreditation review process.
Wolff is the founder of the Institute for Creative Thinking, which has served as a forum for creative change for higher education leaders in California. In addition, Wolff was on the law faculty of the University of Dayton Law School, and was the founder of the Antioch School of Law, the first of its kind created to prepare lawyers to serve in public interest or poverty law positions.
He holds a bachelor's degree in history from Tufts University and a J.D. degree, with honors, from the National Law Center of George Washington University.
The Innovative Leadership Award was established in 1999 and is named for Virginia B. Smith. A highly-regarded innovative thinker and leader in higher education, Smith has made invaluable contributions towards advancing innovative strategies to improve opportunity and excellence in higher education during her career as an educator, foundation director, and public policy scholar.
Smith is president emerita of Vassar College. Previously, she was the founding director of the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE) and the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, associate director of the Carnegie Commission on Higher Education, and assistant vice president of the University of California system.
Earlier winners of the Innovative Leadership Award include Carol Twigg, president and CEO of the National Center for Academic Transformation; David Spence, president of the Southern Regional Education Board; George Kuh, director of the National Survey of Student Engagement and chancellor's professor of higher education at Indiana University Bloomington; Barbara Leigh Smith, emerita faculty member of The Evergreen State College; Jean MacGregor, senior scholar and director of the Curriculum for the Bioregion Initiative at The Evergreen State College; Robert Olin, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Alabama; Tim Riordan, professor of philosophy and associate dean for academic affairs at Alverno College; Peter Ewell, vice president of the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems; and Susana Navarro, executive director of the El Paso Collaborative for Academic Excellence.
The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education and the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning jointly administer the Virginia B. Smith Award, and a steering committee oversees nominations. A stipend of $2,500 is given to the award recipient.
The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education is an independent, nonprofit, nonpartisan organization. It is not affiliated with any institution of higher education or with any government agency. The National Center conducts policy research and fosters public awareness and discussion of public policy issues affecting education and training beyond high school. The purpose of the National Center's studies and reports is to stimulate public policies that will improve the effectiveness and accessibility of higher education.
The Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL) is a nonprofit organization committed to providing better access to education for adults through partnerships with business, government, labor, and higher education. CAEL works to remove policy and organizational barriers to learning opportunities, identifies and disseminates effective practices, and delivers value-added services.
For more information about the Virginia B. Smith Innovative Leadership Award, including how to nominate an individual, please visit the National Center's Web site: www.highereducation.org/vsmithaward/.