Berger concludes term with Indiana Commission for Higher Education
Ed Berger was looking for a new challenge, a way to leverage some of the hard-won lessons gleaned from his teaching and research experience at Purdue.
When he heard that Indiana’s Commission for Higher Education (CHE) was searching for a faculty representative, Berger decided to throw his name in the hat. That was in March of 2021. A few months later, he got a call from the Indiana governor’s office, along with an invitation to serve a two-year term as the Commission’s only faculty member.
Around the same time, Berger took on Purdue’s inaugural role of associate vice provost for learning innovation and director of the Innovation Hub, which focuses on course-based innovations at scale.
Over the past two years, in all roles, Berger has worked to enhance student learning and classroom engagement. As his two-year term with CHE concluded in July, Berger shared some reflections about his experiences with the Commission and how the activities intersect with his work at Purdue.
One of the most rewarding activities, Berger said, was hosting a bi-annual faculty-facing conference, which took place in February 2023. More than 200 faculty from across the state attended the conference, which Berger planned around student learning and engagement. According to Commission representatives, it was the best-attended faculty-facing and faculty-organized conference in the program’s history.
“The students in our classrooms today have been through a couple years of high school with virtual learning, so this engagement question has taken on a new urgency,” Berger said. “It was always on people’s minds, but now is a particularly good time to share best practices and exchange information with others who might be addressing engagement challenges in different ways.”
Ryan McCombs, director of the Disability Resource Center at Purdue Fort Wayne, said Berger invited him to the conference to present on access and equity and to talk about training practices recently implemented at the Fort Wayne campus. McCombs said the event provided an opportunity to network and brainstorm with others in higher education.
“Ed’s work with CHE for the past two years has given Purdue a voice within the Commission and a seat at the table,” McCombs shared. “Ed has a clear passion for ensuring that students have access – not just disability access, but access to higher education in general.”
McCombs noted that several faculty members reached out to him after the conference with additional questions about how to implement disability training at their campuses. It’s one example he shared of how Berger’s impact is rippling out across the state.
“Ed gave me the opportunity to network with the commissioner and the other board members, which is an experience I hadn’t had before,” McCombs recalled. “When you think about all the other connections, presentations and learning opportunities that occurred at the conference, you begin to understand the level of effort happening in Indiana to address the challenges we’re all facing in higher education and, ultimately, to move forward in our roles of supporting student success.”
Commissioner for Higher Education Chris Lowery said Berger was a strong advocate for students and faculty at Indiana’s institutions.
“Ed brought valuable insight to the programs, policies and partnerships of the Commission and always ensured the needs of students were at the forefront of the Commission’s work,” Lowery said. “He was an outstanding addition to the agency.”
According to Ken Sauer, CHE senior associate commissioner and chief academic officer, Berger had the unique distinction of serving as the first faculty representative to chair the Academic Affairs and Quality Committee for the entire time he served on the Commission.
“We’ve had close to 20 faculty members on the Commission over the years, and I wish more people could have this experience because you really learn a great deal from it,” Sauer said. “Inevitably, the knowledge and insights gained from serving on the Commission for two years will impact the conversations faculty have with colleagues at their universities.”
Sauer added that while faculty representatives draw upon their institutional experiences, the Commission requires a broader mindset.
“You have to think of all institutions and all students, not just the students who would go to a major research university like Purdue,” Sauer shared. “Ed knew right from the beginning that student engagement is so critical, and it reflects his own real commitment to being a quality instructor.
“He takes seriously the need to engage students, the need to share best practices about how faculty members can shape their courses in ways that will engage students – because the research has clearly indicated that when students are more engaged in their learning, they not only will learn more, but they will continue to persist in their programs.”
For more information on the Innovation Hub, please visit their website.
Last updated: August 15, 2023
Author: Andrea Mattingly, Director of Communication for Student Success Programs, firstname.lastname@example.org