Adult education is becoming more of an issue. Competency-based learning that ties into employment directly is necessary to mitigate the unemployment problems in America and elsewhere. WGU has an interesting model.
Sramana Mitra: Ray, let’s start by giving our audience a little bit of background about you as well as your institution.
Ray Martinez: My name is Ray Martinez. I’m the Chancellor of Western Governors University (WGU) Texas. We go by WGU Texas. I have worked primarily in higher education policy over the last seven years. I’ve worked in various aspects of public policy either at the federal or state level for most of my career over the last 25 years or so. In particular, in the last seven years I have focused primarily upon higher education public policy – not necessarily academic policy issues but more of public policy issues that impact our higher education institutions. Approximately one year ago is when I became Chancellor of WGU Texas. We’re located here in Austin although we have students across the state of Texas.
I’m a native Texan. I grew up in a small town in South Texas which is close to a larger city Corpus Christi. I’m a first generation college graduate. I have three older siblings. I was the first in my immediate family to graduate from college. I was also the first in my immediate family to go on and get a graduate degree. I went to law school and have been a licensed attorney for about 15 years now.
The journey that adult learners have to take navigating career choices, the rising cost of higher education, and the importance of finding a curriculum or degree program that is flexible to fit the lives of busy adult learners is something that I care very much about.
My undergraduate degree was in a traditional brick-and-mortar university. My law degree came several years later when I was an adult learner myself well into my late 20s and early 30s. I had to find a law degree program that not just allowed me to work full-time but also to go to school in the evening and structure a degree program around my life. That was, in many ways, what WGU does nationally for over 45,000 students across the nation. We do it as well at WGU Texas. We offer degree programs that fit the lives of busy adult learners. I think that’s a very important addition to the higher education infrastructure that we’ve seen particularly over the last 10 to 15 years.