Daniel Ash, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Psychology
Jefferson Community and Technical College
An expert in workplace psychology and training program development, Dr. Ash served as the founding executive director of Metropolitan College at its inception in 1998, which has since established itself as a national and international model for education business partnerships and has received praiseworthy coverage by a multitude of media outlets including CNN, the Chronicle for Higher Education, the New York Times, U.S. News and World Report, and the Wall Street Journal. Metropolitan College provided more than $7 million in educational benefits to more than 8,000 participants who successfully completed more than 89,000 college credit hours. Dr. Ash was instrumental in establishing similar programs at Norton Healthcare, Humana, ResCare, and the UPS Chicago Area Consolidation Hub.
Since 2009, Dr. Ash has served on the leadership team responsible for creating a regional education initiative—55 Thousand Degrees—with the goal of moving Louisville into the top tier among its peer cities by raising education attainment so that by 2020, 40% of working-age adults hold a bachelor’s degree and 10% an associate’ s degree.
Q&A with Daniel Ash
What do you see as a key role of the ACT Foundation?
The fundamental landscape of higher education is going through enormous change. What we are seeing is a “popcorn fiasco”—many disaggregated ideas and programs that don’t actually focus on the bigger picture of systemically helping working learners. The ACT Foundation has the opportunity to be the connector across these disaggregated efforts to create systemization of programs and policies that result in better learning outcomes and life opportunities for individuals.
What does this future landscape look like for higher education?
My prediction is that in 20 years, we have two kinds of institutions: the traditional institutions like Harvard and Yale and a totally new system based on competency-based learning and achievement. This new system is the best way to support working learners. The ACT Foundation can help this vision become reality by helping to define this new ecology of higher education, providing states, economic developers, and other enterprises with empirical foundations upon which to base strategies and metrics.
What are some big questions you would like to answer in order to reach this new ecology?
The competency-based approach to learning gives us the opportunity to help define what success looks like for the learner. We need to understand the optimal learning pathways a person can take that yield the best results. What method of competency delivery is most effective—technology focused, face-to-face, or a hybrid of the two? What sort of learning environment produces the greatest amount of learning?
What excites you about working with the ACT Foundation and its Aces Research Network?
I am excited about designing research projects with the other Aces that look at key issues from the perspectives of working learners. One of these key issues is how to create balance between three areas of life—work life, personal life, and time they need to invest in learning. How can we get students to balance these areas in a meaningful way?
How is the Aces Research Network poised to take on a research agenda for working learners?
The Aces network is made up of a diverse group of researchers and practitioners whose work complements and enhances one another. Each of us represents a complete picture of the issues related to working learners. The group represents the spectrum of critical points in time when individuals make decisions about learning: in K-12 and higher education as well as throughout their working life. What is most important is how we look at these issues and defining moments through the eyes of working learners. We will be successful only if we gain insight into their perspectives.
Where do you hope to have the most impact?
If I were to dream, success would like this: working learners, businesses, workforce and economic development agencies, and educational institutions all working together in a system of mutual benefit in which individuals learning for career and life success is the common goal.