A For-Profit-College Company Embraces Its Technology-Focused Past and Its Evolving Future

"Lisa W. Wardell, the new president and chief executive officer of the DeVry Education Group, talks about changes in the regulatory environment she expects under the Trump administration, what she, as an education outsider, is still learning about 'the complexities around learning science,' and why DeVry University recently settled several legal issues with federal enforcement bodies," The Chronicle of Higher Education reports.

"... GOLDIE BLUMENSTYK: First off, I wanted — I'd be interested in your background. You come as the CEO of DeVry without really a lot of experience in higher education, none in a leadership role. How has that been any kind of advantage and also a disadvantage to you as you've taken on this job?

LISA WARDELL: Sure, I came from two other industries, primarily hotel and retail, commercial real estate, and then also automotive industry. It's been an advantage because I have a new lens. I'm very passionate about education, and I recognize that our students come first in everything we do. But I'm also able to think about what are new ways that we can do things in this industry and as thought leaders for education. Think from a disadvantaged perspective, I have to rely very heavily on my academics of my faculty. But that's good because we get good communication.

GOLDIE BLUMENSTYK: Have there been some things that you've learned right from the start in that process?

LISA WARDELL: Yes, I would say the biggest learning for me from an academic and student perspective is just really all the complexities around learning science and how people learn. I really think of things — or did think of things — as what people learn. But a lot of it is how people learn, especially for adult learners. A lot of who we have at our institutions.

GOLDIE BLUMENSTYK: Since you've come on to DeVry, it's been about a year and a half or so, is that right?

LISA WARDELL: Nine months.

GOLDIE BLUMENSTYK: Nine months, time does fly. That DeVry's been spending a lot of time settling complaints against the company. I know you've settled some issues with the FTC, with the Department of Education, with the New York State attorney general. I'm frankly — in one case at this point DeVry has probably made the biggest settlement of any for-profit-college company in the country. What should we take from that? I mean that was a $100-million settlement with the FTC.

LISA WARDELL: The takeaway there is we want to get that behind us. Because DeVry has been educating for over 80 years. We have seven different institutions. DeVry University is one of them. We educate nurses, doctors, allied health professionals, and so forth. It was important to get that in the past, resolve it, and be able to move forward with some credibility and authenticity as a higher-education leader."

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Publication Date: 3/20/2017

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