Part I Of The Exclusive Ideagen Interview With Lumina Foundation’s Dr. Danette Howard With Ideagen’s George Sifakis

Could you please describe the mission and goals of Lumina Foundation?

Dr. Howard: Lumina Foundation is the only national foundation that has a sole commitment to increasing and enhancing post secondary access and success. Our main focus is to increase the number of Americans who are able to obtain high quality degrees and credentials because we believe that our nation thoroughly needs to have an educated population and workforce. We also know that when individuals receive those post secondary degrees and credentials they are not only able to make a difference in the workforce, but those credentials also have an impact and meaningful, lasting impression on their own lives.

How has your work at Lumina Foundation inspired you?

Dr. Howard: Well it’s really wonderful to be able to work everyday with a group of individuals who are so committed to the same goal. Everyone here at Lumina really has an earnest and deep-seeded commitment to helping the nation’s population become more educated and securing those credentials that I spoke about previously. It is an incredible honor to be able to work with individuals who have that commitment to that same goal. We think that our work can make a difference; we think that we can help the country meet its goals in terms of post-secondary achievement and also having a more educated workforce. Everything that we do is focused on post-secondary education and success. Every grant that we make, every meeting that we host, every opportunity that we have to be a thought leader in this space is all devoted to that one singular mission and goal. It is privilege to be able to work in this kind of an environment.

Please describe the goals for 2025?

Dr. Howard: Several years ago, under the leadership of our CEO, Jamie Merisotis, Lumina Foundation developed goal 2025. The goal articulates that by the year 2025 60% of Americans will hold a degree or high quality post-secondary credentials. When we say degree or high quality post-secondary credential, we mean one with clear learning outcomes, and that will lead to further opportunities both in terms of employment and post-secondary education. Right now, the nation stands at about 40%; that is, 40% of adults in this country have either a certificate, degree, or other high quality credential. But we believe, that in order to fuel the workforce of the 21st century, America has to have at least 60% of its population with those degrees and credentials. Again, everything that we do at Lumina is focused on that goal. Our grant making is focused on that goal, as are all the other activities and initiatives that we are involved in and that we have the good fortune to support.

Why are these goals so urgent?

Dr. Howard: I think that these goals are urgent for a number of reasons. One, it is very clear that 2/3 of the jobs that will be available in the year 2020 will require some education beyond high school, and so in order to ensure that individuals are prepared to fill those jobs we have to make sure that they have access to high quality post-secondary opportunities that will prepare them to thrive in those employment opportunities. That’s one reason. There is a great sense of urgency around that because the year 2020 is right around the corner. The other is, when you look at where the nation sits now relative to other nations, we have really slipped in terms of the level of post-secondary attainment of the United States. We were once number one in terms of the world’s countries with college degree holders. We no longer hold that position; we actually have dropped quite a number of spots. The nation’s economic competitiveness relies upon our ability to make sure that more of our citizens are educated with some sort of post-secondary education. If an individual is going to be able to have an opportunity to join the middle class, to have the kind of standard of living that most people aspire to, we know that there is a really clear link between post-secondary education and the ability to join the middle class. For those reasons, we at Lumina Foundation believe that there is a great sense of urgency around Goal 2025 and we take seriously our role in being able to champion the goal and we also think that we have a role to influence others to adopt the goal and take it on as their own.

07/26/2016 04:30 pm ET

Wisdom, Technology and Education: Ideagen Talk by Dr. Kiko Suarez

Lumina Foundation’s Dr. Kiko Suarez - Exclusive Ideagen Talk

Dr. Kiko Suarez of Lumina Foundation discusses wisdom, technology, and education

During a recent Ideagen Talk, Dr. Kiko Suarez from Lumina Foundation discussed wisdom and technological changes. He expressed his concern not only about “the skills gap” but also “the wisdom gap.” Dr. Suarez said, “...If you are able to see the patterns in a complex world, then you will feel at ease. And that’s what wisdom brings.” In describing wisdom, he referred his framework as saying, “wisdom is out GPS for complexity.... we are all born with it, we just have to nurture the senses.” After research, Suarez “...came up with eight senses...out of the many that wisdom has. ...When it comes down to data, there are two that come to mind. The rational sense.... and the practical sense.”

Dr. Suarez continued to discuss the way that senses often refer back to outcomes. Aesthetic sense, he described, means “beautiful outcomes,” saying that “learning and equity” are beautiful outcomes. Suarez referred to another sense as well, which he called “timeness”, known as “the perspective of time,” which Suarez said, “we are losing...sometimes.” Timeness, he said, is the “ability to put in perspective past, present, and future.” According to Suarez, this perspective is “the strongest of the dimensions” in the wise people he researches. Timeness “is not knowledge, it is not experience. It is the ability to put things in perspective, in time.”

Discussing Lumina Foundation, Dr. Suarez talked about Lumina’s Goal 2025. Dr. Suarez referred back to his initial interview with Lumina, and how he said “2025 means something to me and my family.” He thought about how he has “little ones. Now, those little ones will be college age by 2025.... it was very obvious that I had something at stake [in Goal 2025].” Suarez then referred to his father, who “when he was 9 or 10, he was boarding one of these trains, and he went to Belgium,” something that Dr. Suarez “cannot imagine myself or my wife going through.”

Dr. Suarez then went on to describe the rapid changes in technology, and said, “...In 1976, in a conversation with my dad, he reminded me that he saw his first ATM.” Suarez said, “In 2001, my dad passed. And the iPod was launched.” Then, in 2007, “the iPhone comes out.... since the iPhone launched, everything has changed.... the Internet is in our hands now, and a lot of things are happening that we couldn’t even imagine.” Then, in 2010, “the first iPad comes out.... And now, it’s all over the place.” Now, “In 2015, Alexa comes here.... a little piece of technology [from Amazon]...similar to ask questions, and you address Alexa.” Suarez said, “The first question [my kids] asked was ‘Alexa, can you make breakfast and clean my bed?’”

Dr. Suarez said he looks “at the curve of progression, and it would be a pity if we didn’t take advantage of technology,” and that there “has to be data out there that we can use for good.” Talking again about Goal 2025, Suarez argued that “we live in an era of technology and change, and we are in the business of challenging higher ed,” which needs data added “to the conversation.” Dr. Suarez finished his Ideagen Talk by discussing how income inequality can make it more difficult for less wealthy students to graduate college. He said, “Look at the income level - if you are a wealthy kid, you will graduate.... If you are not, it is not likely that you will.” He added “...if you don’t have any higher education in America.... You stay in the lowest quintile [of wealth].”

These critical insights are essential to the work Dr. Suarez and Lumina Foundation are working to address via Goal 2025 and support of programs across the nation that hold the potential to provide opportunity for every citizen.

09/23/2015 10:36 am ET