How To Become the “Top of Mind” CE Institution In Your Region with Dr. Jenni Murphy

How To Become the “Top of Mind” CE Institution In Your Region with Dr. Jenni Murphy

The three people hired at Sacramento State University before Dr. Jenni Murphy only lasted three months. In rapid succession, each one left the position that had been created to develop new programs.

So when she was hired on as a program manager in 2001, there may have been bets taken out on how long she’d last.

Two decades later and now the Dean of the entire College of Continuing Education at Sac State, she’s still just getting started. 

Now as a 20-year veteran of the university, Jenni sees the future of continuing education differently than most — and we mean that in the very best way.  

In her own words: “[The future of CE] is about meeting people where they’re at. It is about folks having on-ramps and off-ramps it is about individuals having the choice to pursue their education in stackable models. It’s really about learning over a lifetime. Not earning a certain status in a certain amount of time in a certain roadmap that’s been presented for you. It is about a compass over a map.”

As a dean, she leads her team at the intersection of workforce impact, economic development and higher education. She also heads up ProjectAttain, a region-wide effort to increase the number of working age adults with high-quality degrees, certificates and other credentials to 60 percent by 2025. 

In short, she’s someone who gets things done and always keeps her eye on the big picture goals — raising educational attainment and narrowing the equity gap in higher ed.

On Episode 05 of the Education Beyond Degrees podcast, Jenni shares all the details about being part of the California State University (CSU) system, and how she and her team have made Sacramento State top-of-mind for any continuing and professional education needs the Sacramento region may have.

You can tune in above👆 or on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, the RSS feed or anywhere you get your podcasts.

On this episode, you’ll learn:

  • How any university can gain a competitive advantage by being “embedded” in the day-to-day work of its top clients
  • How to launch a long-haul marketing and recruitment strategy to boost the health of your university or college for decades
  • Why she segments her program portfolio by ‘College to Learner’ and ‘College to Organization’ — and has different strategies to deliver on both
  • The best advice Jenni ever got about managing up to presidents and provosts

What to listen for:

[5:15] How to nail the transition between associate dean and dean when you’re ascending through the ranks in your career.

[9:48] Jenni’s philosophy on nurturing her “business trust” and why she tries to consistently make “deposits” in her colleague’s emotional and professional bank accounts before she ever needs to make a “withdrawal.” 

[10:52] What it’s like to be part of the largest four-year public institution system in the United States and how she works collaboratively with other deans across 23 institutions.

[13:14] The importance of public trust and why the CSU is working to become more student and externally focused while moving away from operating based on their internal structures.

[14:10] Are the deans of the CSU competitive amongst each other? It depends where you live. 

[15:04] Why CSU leaders tend to embrace co-opetition rather than competition in developing programs.

[16:30] The often overlooked perks of having your university or college in the state capital. 

[18:00] The unique opportunity to influence state legislative policy with pilot programs and “test cases” in the capital city.

[19:22] Do universities in the state capital really get special preference for government funding opportunities? Jenni shares her perspective.

[21:48] The perks of having a reputation that attracts opportunities right to your door — but the responsibility that comes with that.

[22:44] All about Sacramento State’s portfolio that relies on both a vertical and horizontal approach to addressing student needs.

[24:41] How Sacramento State has doubled down on programs for learners before and after the “traditional” age.

[25:26]  Why developing youth programs is creating a long-haul marketing and recruitment strategy for the long-term health of the organization.

[26:13] Making continuing education a family affair, with parents and kids coming to take their respective classes at the same time.

[27:37] Why it’s crucial presidents and provosts understand the entrepreneurial capacity of extended education units — and the best advice Jenni has got on managing up to leadership.

[28:50] We tackle the CSU naming conventions once and for all — what is the difference between extension units vs. continuing education and why it actually matters a lot to Jenni.

[22:15:] Why you don’t have to “fit the mold” to be a leader in academia. Plus, what Jenni sees as her legacy in the CSU system.

[31:28] It’s official: Jenni and Meni are starting a committee to rally all continuing educators together to describe themselves and their divisions consistently (Just kidding… or are we?) 

Links from the episode👇👇
The College of Continuing Education at Sacramento State
Dr. Jenni Murphy’s LinkedIn
Meni’s LinkedIn
The Education Beyond Degrees Homepage

Transcript from the episode

*Today’s weather has 100% chance of some spelling errors in the AI-powered transcript below. Hope you won’t hold it against me! 

Meni: Jenni Murphy, thank you so much for coming on the podcast today. I really appreciate you joining us.

Jenni: Well, thank you for having me and I’m excited and I’m also nervous. This is my first podcast.

Meni: Well, that makes two of us, because I have no idea what I’m doing and we’re just trying this out to see what it goes. So this is going to be really fun. I’ve been so excited to have you come on because every time we see each other at conferences or wherever we get the opportunity, see each other, I always have such a good time talking to you.

I remember the first time we met, you were actually in one of my conference sessions at one of the regional conferences, I think it was talking about organizations. And at that point you were going through a major transition in your role. So take us back, tell us how your role has evolved. How did you come into the continuing ed space to where you are today?

Jenni: Yeah. Okay. So long story, but I’ll try to stay on point. I actually have been in extended education for I’m coming up on my 20th year, actually this month.

And I stumbled into continuing education, like many of us do. It was back in the .com era. I was working as a corporate trainer for a technology and entertainment company that had NASCAR racing simulators and we were opening up centers across the United States. It was exciting and thrilling and I had been in corporate training and I loved it, and I loved working with adults, right? That’s why I was in corporate training and doing that kind of work.

And we lost our funding and I lost my job and it was an opportunity to think about how do I reinvent myself? What do I want to do? What does this look like? And I literally went onto, which was new at the time as was internet, wasn’t all the thing at that time either.

But I took one of those what do you want to be when you grow up or what would you be good at tests, and it came back with, I would be a good college administrator, but I didn’t know what a college administrator was. And so I looked that up and was talking to my local workforce board about what programs I thought I should be eligible for because I had paid into unemployment insurance my whole working career, and didn’t understand why I wasn’t qualifying for certain things.

I applied for a job with them but didn’t follow any of the right rules and testing and didn’t understand the government process of having to be on a list to be hired. They were kind enough or got tired enough of me showing up and wanting some help or some advice and said, ‘Oh, you should take this program at Sac State in HR Management, a certificate program.’

And so I realized I had already taken some of those classes and I’ll pause for a second and set a concept construct here. I had been working remotely and traveling in the .com that I had moved from Arizona to Sacramento. So I did not have a professional network here in where I was living to find a new job. So everything was new.

So anyway, I had already taken a couple of the classes in the certificate program and I went ahead and signed up for one that I was missing, but I reached out to the faculty members that I had taken courses with they said, ‘Hey, you should apply for a job there. Don’t just, take the class.’

So I did, and I got hired it really quickly, which is odd for a public institution and I of course thought it was cause I was good and qualified, and I was and they thought so too. But it went so fast cause they had actually already hired three people that didn’t stay past three months. And so I know there were wagers on how long I was going to make it.

And 20 years later, I am still here. I have moved up through the ranks. I started as a program manager. I became a founding director for our, what we call extension programs was really our certificate area and started our organizational development programs and partnerships with state agencies here in Sacramento.

We are the capital of California and have a government it’s just a large industry, for sure. And then I moved into a role as special assistant to the dean for some time to do strategic planning and look at grant funding and that was in the era of the ARRA funding, the America and re-invest reinvestment and recovery act.

And so it was able to build some skills in grant and foundation funding at that time. I then took what I thought was a temporary position as the director of strategic communications and Emerging Markets, which was really looking for new markets, new endeavors, and also building up our marketing area, from not just the creative and graphics, but sort of more to a more holistic approach to marketing, the market position, the market framing the market assessment, as well as promotion and outreach. And then I became the associate dean; an interim associate dean and then applied for the position and got it.

And then I spent, I did two iterations as an interim dean while we were in transition and have been the dean for our college in my third year, I believe maybe three and a half. I became the official dean in 2018. So there we go.

Meni: I know that, moving up through those ranks, because I did the same thing starting in CE, how have those transition levels been for you? I know for me, it was the most difficult one was going from that associate dean to dean role, because it was so different. How have those transitions been for you?

Jenni: So, yeah, I agree with you. Transitions are well, they’re changed, right? They’re transitions, no matter what. And for me, there’s always a ying and a yang, a pro and a con and high-highs and low-lows as you go through it because you’re learning a new job and you’re going forward and you are ready most in most cases. You’re learning something new and while you’re learning something new, you have to let go of what you used to do and how you used to do it.

So I think there’s always been that tension for me of the excitement of the new, they’re really willing to take it on. Knowing that I was like better than 50% ready, but that I wasn’t a hundred percent there, but also the grieving process, right? And the letting go and purging of what you used to do and that looks very differently because, at least my experience in moving up inside of the organization, oftentimes the position behind me wasn’t filled for a very long time. So there was this, you’re still doing your old job and you’re bringing it into your new job, but you should be focused on your new job.

So I’ve always gone through that. And I think that I’m now in my third year as a dean I feel that I’ve stepped into where I want to lead and how I want to lead as a dean. But the first two years, there was just as much bumbling as being a new dean as there was bumbling when I was a new program manager, right? There’s finding your way.

Meni: What’s really funny about that is most people who haven’t been a dean before, don’t really fully understand the high level, I don’t want to say thinking, but the high-level strategy that you have to be looking at from a dean’s perspective, rather than, an associate dean. A lot of the work, they do deals in the day to day, whereas a dean doesn’t necessarily have that same, calendar of events as an associate dean would.

And I’m curious before you became a dean, were you aware of how much, I’m not going to say it’s politics and stuff, but how many other things you have to learn on the job there were for becoming a dean?

Jenni: Yeah, so that’s a fantastic question. So yes and no, right? I always consider myself really being really good at being an up and comer that had always been part of my identity and always good at being the right hand, the number two, for my boss. And so, I love to support others. I’m that service oriented.

And so I did always have the opportunity at every level to, help my boss be successful to make my boss be successful, to bring them ideas and suggestions. And in doing so, I did get the opportunity to be exposed to, I think, more things that my dean or my associate deans were going through and try to understand that and help them.

So in those ways, I felt like I knew what I was heading into. I think when I was in the interim role, I had two different sets of advice and of course the situation was different each time. The first time I was an interim dean the campus was going through a lot of changes and it really was a situation where I think I was being tested how I would step into the interim. I didn’t see that way as that way, because I thought and understood. I was like holding the ship together and that it was okay to ask a lot of questions and I don’t think that wasn’t the right thing at the right time with the right people.

It’s true to who I am. And so I wouldn’t do it differently even going back because I learned so much from that. And I was smart enough to sit back and look and listen a lot. And then the second time when I was an interim dean, it was very much clear step into this, not as an interim step into it, as you’re the dean and show us what you got.

And those are just different approaches. There is so much more big thinking – is not as I say that I struggle with that word. I think it’s a complexity of thinking. I think it is the reflection and the humble question asking it is the importance of relationships, not just when you need something but always building relationships so that you have a business trust with everyone that you work with. It’s about sort of investing in that emotional and professional bank account before you need to make a withdrawal because I make plenty of mistakes, but I do plenty of things right. And I really try to concentrate on doing a lot of things right. So that when I make a mistake I, my reputation, my college’s reputation is not on the line.

Meni: And the other thing, from a dean’s role, especially in the California State university system, which Sac State is in, a dean plays a pretty significant role in the system.

So for those of you who don’t know, California State University has 23 campuses. Most all of them have some version of extended ed or whatever naming convention they’ve taken, which we could talk about in a second also because I think that’s a funny conversation. But in terms of system-wide, talk to me a little bit about what it’s like to be part of a system and not what you do in the system, but how do the deans of all the extension units come together?

Just take us a little through what it’s like to be part of a big system because it is one of the bigger systems in the country.

Jenni: Yes. And I actually believe we say that the CSU is the largest four-year public institution system in the United States.

Meni: Is it? Okay!

Jenni: I don’t have the raw data on that. I can only speak from my lens, right? And I am part of the only system I’ve been a part of is the CSU system. And the only college I’ve been at as is Sacramento State. And we have, as you said, 23 campuses across California. Being in professional and continuing education means that all of our continuing education units at each of our institutions looks different because of responding to the market of where they’re at regionally, but also the talents and discipline and focus of that particular university.

In the CSU system, we are a federated model and I understand from others not all systems are that way. Some are a hybrid, some things are top down, some things are bottom up. In the CSU system, in the sixties, when we became a system, there were many existing universities. Sac State is one of them that became part of one system. And then other universities opened that are part of the CSU system along the way. So you have this real rich, deep history of land-grant and place-based and autonomy that is now part of a system where there’s a lot of bottom up and there sometimes, or is top down. And there are certainly regulations and executive orders, but there’s this real entrepreneurial spirit, this real home rule, that’s part of our history and part of not just our history, it’s our operating structures, it’s our policies, it’s our funding in California, and I think that’s interesting to be in from the outside world.

I think it’s a challenge and has been a challenge for our students and our families to be like, wait, I’m going to a CSU and my credits don’t transfer from San Diego to Long Beach to Sacramento? What do you mean that cost doesn’t count? And so we’re part of this big powerhouse that’s federated and we have this autonomy in some areas and not autonomy in others. And I don’t know that we always look at ourselves, about how does the public perceive us? There’s been tremendous work to shift that over the years and to get more student focused and think more about how we appear to the outside world as opposed to a structure for ourselves.

And I really liked that part of the movement because it is how does the public view us what does the public need from us? And for me in a public institution, whether we’re self-funded or have state funding to do our job, we’re part of a public institution, which means we’re part of a public trust. And that means the public needs to trust us to do the right things and it needs to make sense in the simplest of language. And to have to explain, well, this credit doesn’t transfer, or you can do it this way here, not this way there, we’re we don’t when we do it that way, we’re not living up to that public trust.

Meni: I know a lot of the deans in the CSU and we’ve done a lot of work in the CSU is I’m always curious, are you guys competitive amongst each other?

Jenni: Well, so of course we are. We’re competitive by nature. We probably wouldn’t be in a leadership role. I think the pockets of competitiveness are different across the state.

In Sacramento, I don’t have other CSU, like in our backyard. I’m not like my colleagues in LA where people live all over and LA is a big basin and largely populated, and you have, five institutions that are CSU to choose from. Up in Northern California, Chico is really what I consider our closest CSU and we don’t compete for the same employers are the same students. We actually try to share programs when we can and help each other out. Same thing with Sonoma state and all of that. I think we’re we might be competitive individually. We like to have that, ‘well, how many programs do you have? And here’s what I was able to do on my campus.’

And so it’s a friendly, competitive, almost like co-op-petition instead of competition. What I love though is that we are just incredibly sharing with one another ideas you can pick up the phone, you can call a colleague. We have system-wide gatherings. Sheila Thomas who’s the head of continuing ed and she’s at our chancellor’s office ean for professional and continuing education and associate vice chancellor.

She ensures and facilitates that we can have time together. Some of my, what I consider my dearest professional friends, I’ve met in continuing ed and our deans as well, whether they’re still in our system or not. And it’s just a great group. So the competition, the co-op-petition, and yet the greater good of the work we do is, brings us all together.

Meni: I think one of the things that makes your campus really interesting is that you’re in Sacramento, right? It’s the capital of California and that comes with its own perks and it comes with its own challenges. And so I’m curious, it’s interesting because you’ve only been at Sacramento State, so what do you think if you were to give a list of the top three perks of being in the state capital. And really, I think this will resonate with others that are in the state capital. And maybe I could give a perspective since I live in Chicago and not in Springfield, Illinois, but what do you think are some of the perks of being in the capital of a state?

Jenni: That’s a unique question and a important one. So one of the perks I see is really the government is an industry in and of itself. And folks really think like in this part of the world, well, are you going to work in private sector or are you going to work in government? And it’s funny how those two sectors are just like private or government.

If government, well, you know that any government town actually often has a very strong non-profit and non-governmental and community-based sector. And so there’s this kind of hidden third sector, which I think is a perk in terms of pursuing and serving that group. So there’s that, and then this government town that we are, every government agency and department is its own discipline.

So if you’re a business major, if you’re a CPA, if you’re a cybersecurity or you’re a social worker, you could work for a hospital and do your job. You could work for a state agency that provides healthcare services. You can be in any discipline and work private or public or nonprofit sector in our region.

And so that opens up our opportunity and our responsibility for creative programming. One of the other perks that I love is with the programs we offer and the ability to do test cases or pilot projects or demonstration projects. I feel like we have the opportunity to influence the state to influence policy.

There’s usually like a ten-year gap between policy and practice, but we have the opportunity to demonstrate successes and let that influence how policy around workforce and education plays out across the state. And so being able to be their training partner, oftentimes their in-house training agent except not in house, but we’re all part of state government. So we’re gonna assist our state agency being able to help them meet their organizational performance goals through investing in the talent inside of their organization with organizational development and talent development really helps shape, California as well.

Meni: I’ve never had the experience of working in a state capital. I’ve worked in Chicago, in Las Vegas, which obviously aren’t the state capitals, but one of the things that I noticed, and maybe you could confirm that this is true or not. One of the things that I’ve noticed is when there are state funding opportunities available for public institutions, there tends to be a lean towards institutions that are located near the capital or near that region. Have you noticed that? Have you ever seen or heard anybody else say something similar to that?

Jenni: I have heard people say that and I see some pockets of that, but I also see the opposite of that. And I think the opposite of that is really grounded in our focus in California on access. Because we, as much as I’m in Sacramento there San Francisco people think of San Diego or LA the big cities, we have a tremendous rural population and mountainous communities that don’t have access to education or broadband. And so we do see a lot of work on a lot of the funding from the legislature go to are areas that haven’t been as well-served over the years. Pilot projects, when we can be a part of them locally, or they’re a test case, I think that those often do go to our urban centers and of course. The downside of being part of those is we are in the backyard, so it’s easier for a legislator or a staff or an elected official to come look, see, be a part of the project on our campus than it is for them to potentially travel to a parallel project in LA or San Diego. So there’s increased scrutiny, which helps move things along, but also makes you a little nervous when you get some of this funding and these opportunities.

Meni: Are you guys approached by the government in California to do training programs for the government? We know that a lot of schools conduct government training programs. Have they approached you guys? Are you typically their first stop, do you think?

Jenni: Well I’d like to say we’re their first stop. I know we are the first stop for many. But I, we have great colleagues and other institutions in the region. The Los Rios Community College District It does a lot of training for government agencies as does UC Davis and then there are some private institutions here locally. In fact, the three local public institutions, when I was a director of extension programs, it was the same three of us from the same institutions that would show up at a presentation and talk about our services and what we could do.

And there again, a nice competitive, but collaborative spirit. There are things that, that we’re not good at in my institution. They’re a better fit at my colleague over at UC Davis or with the Los Rios district. So we used to, talk about the three of us, ‘Hey, there’s a better fit for us. You guys we’re at capacity. It’s not our discipline, not our specialty.’

So there was that and we are approached and there’s an, it’s a nice place to be approached and be one of the top entities that’s looked at for a variety of reasons, right? We don’t have to go out and do cold calls. We have established a reputation, a solid one, and a good one. And that comes with sustaining that reputation and always delivering on our value promise and always delivering on our brand and making it right when we don’t deliver on that. And also being a trusted partner, we’ve increased our competency about how government works because we do so much work. And so the discovery time in building a program or providing training is a lot less in working with us then some other institutions or private training companies that, that aren’t embedded and haven’t been doing this work for, 20 or more years.

Meni: So the question we always get asked is what are other units doing? So talk to us a little bit about your portfolio. Tell us the blend of credit and non-credit, or maybe give us some of the winners that the programs that you’re known for. We’d love to hear what types of programs that you’re currently doing.

Jenni: So super exciting time for us. We have grown organically, like many institutions and many program areas. We have that typical portfolio of, some post-bach certificates. We have some graduate programs. We have more and more degree completion programs and we’re doing some youth programming, we’ve grown in that area. What’s exciting now is that we’re bundling those program areas like a portfolio in and of itself under the umbrella of college to learner programs.

And it’s working in this vertical way and this horizontal way of what programs do we have that we could deliver to a different market. Or what does a market need like new programs or current programs into that new park market? I know that portfolio that we call college to learner is often or may be the only portfolio mix that other extended education entities have.

For us, it’s important to distinguish the college to learner because that’s a different way than doing college to organization. All the sharing that I did about our work with government and institutions and doing organizational development and convenings and conferences, that’s a large part of our portfolio. And so we call that our college to organization programs, and we’re now large enough and stable enough in each of those areas to really look at, we have two organizations within our bigger organization.

And so it’s exciting to be doing These conferences and these convenings with state agencies that are really addressing, not just needs of their employees, but they are tackling like just big, hairy, ugly, sticky problems for society. And so we will be their partner in the convening and the scheduling and the facilitation.

And it’s not just a logistical service. It’s a true sense-making partner. So that’s very exciting for us and we continue to grow in that work. In our college to learn our programs. We’re just doubling down on our work with the, before they get to the traditional age and the after they get past the traditional age.

So we have a focus on the some college, no degree and the returners, and then near complete our population. In partnership with our full university and we’re leading a regional and initiative called project detain. And then we have just welcomed some other youth programs into our portfolio so that we can have a broader service to, not just a high school students, but also junior high students and enable them to have a college experience, some applied academics. And so that they’re more prepared not only in what they might want to study, but they’re prepared for the college environment.

Meni: I love when I hear people continuing to work on youth programs, especially because most people don’t realize that when you build youth programs, what you’re actually doing is marketing your future programs to the students. I used to always tell people when I used to build youth programs what you’re giving a younger person is the memory that they enjoyed themselves on your college campus. So when it comes time for them to choose where they’re going to go to school, you will always come first in mind because they enjoyed their time while they were there.

Jenni: Absolutely.

Meni: Oh, I’m so happy to hear that you’re doing that. I wish more schools would put some focus on it because it’s such a good marketing and recruitment tool.

Jenni: Well, yeah, I think it is it’s a great marketing and recruitment tool for us. One in 20 alumni or one in 20 residents is an alumnus of Sacramento State. So we’re really rich in that. And so there’s this community drive with that as well, too, right? It’s marketing and giving. The youth, a good experience and an introduction to the institution and that influences, their future decisions and their comfort level, just with college in general.

But for families and parents who graduated from Sac State or are near completers and need to come back and need to finish a degree or a credential for their kids to have an experience for them to feel more comfortable with the institution. We not only from a marketing and enrollment perspective, but from an impacting the culture multi-generational attainment level in our region.

It’s just so nice when all of the human and the fiscal things come together.

Meni: On your campus, do you have buy-in from administration for the things that you? Do they come asking you to try innovative and new things or is extension, as many universities, a second thought to what administrators are currently doing?

Jenni: So I have lived through all of the above. I am just absolutely grateful, blessed and privileged for administrators at Sac State especially now under the leadership of president Robert Nelson and provost, Steve Perez they are supportive and fans and understand the entrepreneurial capacity of extended education.

I wouldn’t, I don’t want to say they come to us and ask us to do things nor do they not come to us. I would share them some advice that I got many years ago from an administrator when I was asking, ‘well, how do you focus on things?’ How do you know what to prioritize? And she said, ‘I’m a busy president and I only know what is put in front of me.’

And that advice for me really spoke volumes. And it’s something I still think about is that we can have great ideas, but as a Dean, if I don’t get those ideas in front of our provost in front of our president, in front of our faculty at faculty senate meetings to make sure that there are policies and processes that allow these great ideas to move forward and our ability to do that kind of entrepreneurial work with the faculty, with the community. They’ve got so many other things going on it won’t be because I didn’t have good ideas. It will be, because I didn’t do the job to bring those things to them. So that’s the way I work based on the advice I got and right now it’s working.

Meni: That’s so smart. That’s so smart. I love it. I’m curious. Why are some units called extension units? Why are some called continuing ed? Try to come into this conversation and actually give an explanation because I’ve been trying it for years and I cannot understand why we just can’t settle on one name because of all the programs that we offer. What are your thoughts on that?

Jenni: So my thoughts on that is it is this lack of a universal name is the greatest disservice that we give to our profession as a whole. We are diluting our brand as professionals that serve adults and youth and non-traditional learners, when we all call ourselves something different.

Even in the CSU, we now have at the system level, it’s called Professional and Continuing Education. At my university, we are called the College of Continuing Education, so we’ve got some of that. The rules in our state and state law, we’ll still talk about programs that need to be offered through extended education. So this nomenclature that we have across, even in our own system, even my own little backyard, but also across the nation it’s a disservice and it would be great if we could land on something.

I don’t know that we’ll ever land completely on something. And I think that actually goes to, it goes to our entrepreneurial spirit, right? We’re constantly reinventing and building new things and being market leaders. And so you always rebrand yourself when you’re a market leader and often that comes with a name change.

Meni: Well, maybe we just put it out there for those people that are listening. If you’re interested, we could start a nationwide campaign and create the biggest committee to officially rename what we do. But you’re totally right, we do a disservice because nobody knows what we do because nobody has a standard understanding of what we are.

When people ask, ‘Hey, Jenni, what do you do for a living?’ What do you answer them?

Jenni: So I actually think of myself as an adult education advocate. And I have the privilege to lead an organization that serves adult learners and nontraditional learners and increases access for our university. And that’s usually, honestly, sometimes people are just looking for a short answer.

And that’s the shortest answer I can give them. Cause if you start talking about, well, we do this for government and then we do these certificates and we do this degree completion, but we do it in self-support. There’s no state funding, it’s just down a rabbit hole.

We need a universal movement. So yes, I’m on board to be part of your largest committee to, to identify ourselves, get our nomenclature in place and really Stand tall. Be loud and proud in the space that we work in and the difference we make.

Meni: Oh man, I’m on it. I am going to start this movement and see how far I could go. So come summertime. We’ll do an update episode and where we’re at and hopefully it’s actually made traction.

So this is the question that I like ending on. It’s a two-part question. So, first, what do you see as the future of what we’re doing in continuing ed as it relates to the higher ed space?

Jenni: So I think whatever we want to call it, extended education or professional continuing education or professional and continuing on online education. I think that what we have been doing for years and what is in our DNA, Is part of the DNA for the future of higher education in general.

It is about meeting people where they’re at. It is about folks having on-ramps and off-ramps it is about individuals having the choice to pursue their education in stackable models. It’s really about learning over a lifetime. Not earning a certain status in a certain amount of time in a certain roadmap that’s been presented for you. It is about it’s a compass over a map.

Meni: That’s an interesting way to look at it. So what do you want your legacy to be? When you’ve retired and you’ve gone on to just enjoy every day without having to go to work. What do you want your legacy to be in our industry?

Jenni: Well, that’s a great question. So, in our industry, I will first start with what I want my legacy to be for the people that I work for and work with. I want folks to know you don’t have to fit the mold to be a leader in academia. You have to be passionate. You have to work hard and you have to be technically competent in what you do.

So I want that legacy to be that anyone can find their path to anything they want as a leader, as an employee, as a staff or a faculty in continuing ed or in education as a whole, but continuing ed was my path. Legacy wise for making an impact, especially in California, I really want to make sure that when I retire, when I leave the workforce, that California has an adult education attainment that no adult in California is walking with any kind of shame because they didn’t complete their degree or their certificate, or even their high school diploma for whatever the reason. That there is a way to finish what they started, that institutions of all shapes and sizes have a way to welcome and cater to adults and are adult friendly in every way.

Meni: Well, I know you, I want to say pretty well, and you are definitely one of those leaders in our industry that could make change and impact happen.

And so thank you for that and even bigger thank you for coming on this podcast with me today. It has been so nice chatting with you about this and talking about what you do at Sac State.

They thank you so much, Jenni.

Jenni: Thank you so much. Thanks for your work in this space. For always being present for being creative and being such a great partner to so many institutions.