UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Jennifer Sparrow, associate vice president for Teaching and Learning with Technology (TLT) at Penn State, has been elected to EDUCAUSE’s board of directors. She will begin serving her four-year term in October 2019.
EDUCAUSE is a nonprofit organization comprised of IT leaders throughout higher education. According to its website, EDUCAUSE and its members, “contribute to thought leadership on major issues, help clarify the current environment, document effective practices, and highlight how emerging trends and technologies may influence the evolution of IT in higher education.”
Sparrow has been with Penn State and TLT since October 2014. She first joined the organization as senior director of TLT before being appointed associate vice president in July 2019. In that role, she sets the course for more than 100 team members who focus on: innovation in teaching and learning with technology, strategic faculty development, advancing flexible and active learning spaces, researching the scholarship of technology-enhanced teaching and learning, and more.
“I’m incredibly honored to be able to serve the EDUCAUSE community,” Sparrow said of her election to the board of directors. “[It] has had such a profound impact on my career and professional development, and I’m thrilled to be in a position to give back and ensure that EDUCAUSE continues to meet its members’ needs.”
“EDUCAUSE is very important to Penn State,” noted Don Welch, Penn State’s interim vice president for information technology and chief information officer. “Having a great leader like Jennifer Sparrow join the board will help ensure that EDUCAUSE remains a valuable asset to higher education.”
In October 2016, EDUCAUSE set strategic priorities in place that would guide the organization’s work through 2021. Through focus groups and surveys, thousands of voices contributed to setting personalized membership experience, reimagined professional learning, and expanded partnerships and collaboration as the group’s priorities.
For Sparrow, the professional learning priority holds particular importance.
“I have been involved in EDUCAUSE for more than 10 years and found the organization to be valuable on so many levels. The networking that happens at the events is probably one of the most important things that occurs. The opportunity to meet other professionals facing the same challenges and to learn from each other is invaluable,” she said.
“The professional learning opportunities have had a profound impact on my professional growth,” Sparrow continued. “I’ve participated in the Learning Technology Leadership program both as a participant and as faculty. I know that I learned more as a faculty member than I did as a participant. The Leading Change Institute, which EDUCAUSE co-sponsors, was a flashpoint in my professional development.”
EDUCAUSE’s events, its membership, and its board of directors all feature diverse populations, represented by large and small institutions, research schools, and liberal arts schools. Sparrow understands that diversity is a fair representation of the higher education world and its different technology needs.
“I hope that in the course of my time as an EDUCAUSE board member that I can listen intently to the needs of our diverse membership and ensure that all voices are heard in setting strategic priorities,” she said.
Her professional and educational background will help Sparrow grasp the wide-ranging needs of EDUCAUSE's membership.
“While I’ve most recently worked at large R1 institutions, my background includes my bachelor’s degree from Smith College, which espouses a liberal arts education, and work at Florida Gulf Coast University have exposed me to institutions that do not have the same demographics or priorities as a large land-grant institution,” she added.
At Penn State, digital innovation and enhancing teaching and learning through technology are two driving forces in the University’s strategic plan. It takes much collaboration and input from all corners of the Penn State community to make those goals achievable. Sparrow believes that even broader input can help advance those initiatives.
“When we talk at Penn State about transforming education and driving digital innovation, our ideas for achieving these goals are made better with input from smart people across the country,” she said. “EDUCAUSE provides a time and a space for exchanging ideas, for gaining insight into how others are approaching their institutional challenges, and feedback on how we make the ideas the best they can be for Penn State.”
The newly elected board member won’t have to wait long to interact with the EDUCAUSE community in her new role. Sparrow noted that she’s excited to travel to the Midwest when asked about her next step on the board of directors.
“Chicago — EDUCAUSE’s annual meeting will be held there in two weeks. I wouldn't miss it for the world; it's where the 'best thinking in higher ed IT’ happens,” she said.