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Contact: Heather Jack
Voice: 408-792-3144
E-mail: hjack@highereducation.org

November 15, 2003

Barbara Leigh Smith and Jean MacGregor Honored with Virginia B. Smith Innovative Leadership Award for 2003


San Diego, CA-- Two outstanding leaders in higher education-Barbara Leigh Smith and Jean MacGregor-will be awarded the Virginia B. Smith Innovative Leadership Award for 2003 in San Diego, California, on November 15, 2003.

This award recognizes individuals who have demonstrated their ability to foster changes in higher education that result in substantial improvement-measured by the benefits to students and more effective use of resources.

Smith and MacGregor co-direct The Pew Charitable Trusts' National Learning Communities Project-a four-year initiative aimed at strengthening the learning community movement across the country. Learning communities link courses around themes and enroll a common group of students. These initiatives are designed to foster community, coherence, and connections among courses, and to encourage a more sustained intellectual interaction among learners and teachers. Learning communities are now found at more than 500 colleges and universities (public and private, two- and four-year) across the United States and Canada.

Since its inception in 2000, the National Learning Communities Project has supported regional meetings across the country on learning community practices; held summer institutes for campus teams at The Evergreen State College on learning communities; commissioned papers on learning community theory and practice; and provided a searchable Web site on learning community information (http://learningcommons.evergreen.edu).

Prior to creating the National Learning Communities Project, Smith and MacGregor were founding directors of the Washington Center for Improving the Quality of Undergraduate Education at The Evergreen State College, a 50-college grass-roots partnership working on curricular reform and faculty development for the state of Washington. They have also collaborated on writing efforts, including Learning Communities: Creating Connections Among Students, Faculty and Disciplines (Jossey-Bass, 1990) and Learning Communities: Reforming Undergraduate Education (Jossey-Bass, forthcoming 2004).

Smith is a faculty member at The Evergreen State College, where she has also served as Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs from 1999 to 2001. From 1978 to 1994, she served as Academic Dean.

Along with her learning community work, MacGregor's career has involved teaching and community organizing in environmental studies, environmental education, and community development. For her leadership in learning communities, Change magazine named MacGregor one of eleven "agenda setters" among its eighty "past, present and future leaders of higher education" in 1998.

Both Smith and MacGregor have written extensively on educational reform, collaborative learning, and learning communities.

The award is named for and honors Virginia B. Smith, an innovative leader in higher education, who has made extraordinary contributions throughout her career as an educator, foundation director, and public policy scholar. Smith is President Emerita of Vassar College, was a founding director of the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education, and former Associate Director of the Carnegie Commission on Higher Education. She is currently a member of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Accrediting Commission. Smith is also a founding board member of the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education.

Previous winners of this award include 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 Institute; Peter Ewell, Senior Associate at the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems (NCHEMS); and Susana Navarro, Executive Director of the El Paso Collaborative for Academic Excellence..

The Virginia B. Smith Innovative Leadership Award is jointly administered by the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL) and the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education. A steering committee for the award oversees nominations, and a stipend of $2,500 accompanies each award.

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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.

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.


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