Sunday, November 29 , 2015, 6:14 am | Fair 43º

Nancy Leffert: A Vision for Antioch University Santa Barbara

Remaining true to our school's proud legacy, we're transforming the college education experience

By Nancy Leffert Ph.D. |

[Noozhawk’s note: Nancy Leffert Ph.D. will be sworn in on Saturday as the new president of Antioch University Santa Barbara. A nationally known scholar of adolescent development, she previously served as provost and CEO of AUSB, and as associate dean at Fielding Graduate University.]

Nancy Leffert
Nancy Leffert

For more than three decades, Antioch University’s Santa Barbara campus has been part of the higher education community on the Central Coast, and also part of the rich cultural and intellectual tradition of a historic, national academic institution.

Originally a single campus college, founded in Yellow Springs, Ohio, in 1852, Antioch’s history includes an impressive list of “firsts,” which are consistent with the progressive values deeply embedded in Santa Barbara. Antioch was one of the first coeducational colleges to offer the same curriculum to male and female students, and the first to grant a tenured professorship to a woman. Antioch was also one of the first historically all-white colleges and universities to eliminate race as an admission requirement, and to actively recruit African-American students. In addition, during the 1950s, Antioch’s administration stood up to pressure from the House Un-American Activities Committee by refusing to expel students and faculty accused of having communist leanings.

More than two decades ago, a William T. Grant Foundation report described the “forgotten half,” referring to those American youths who did not have the privilege of higher education and therefore were at risk of being denied full participation in society.

Today, education has become more essential than ever, and yet it has become inaccessible in new and different ways, as students juggle multiple roles and responsibilities and contend with new social and economic challenges. My vision as Antioch’s new president includes creating and growing opportunities for students who are confronted by these new realities, and developing methods to assist them in taking advantage of these innovative and flexible options.

Students’ busy lives and diverse responsibilities require institutions to provide new means of access, to enable students to fit education into their lives, rather than expecting them to fit their lives into the possibility of an education. Because the majority of students finance their own educations, they must have the flexibility to attend classes scheduled around their work and availability. Students tell me they want and must attend classes at varied times, using delivery models that meet their needs. At Antioch, increased weekend and evening offerings, along with online and hybrid course options, will help them to meet their educational goals. We must also use new technologies to facilitate inquiries, academic planning and other student services.

Our alumni say they have been transformed by their Antioch Santa Barbara education, and I am determined to ensure that motivated and qualified students have increased access to that transformative educational experience. To do so, we must also increase access by growing our scholarship funds and finding ways to diversify sources of revenue to control rising educational costs.

For example, our Bridge Program represents a close relationship with SBCC that enables students to transfer up to one full year more of academic credit than is accepted by our state college and university systems. Our Early Decider option allows students to complete some of the coursework for the teaching credential concurrently with undergraduate requirements, allowing students to enter the job market earlier than otherwise possible. Partnerships and institutional flexibility have become increasingly important as economic realities pressure our students, while options to transfer to California’s college and university systems have been severely constrained.

At a time when the wise use of resources avoids redundancy and supports mutual sustainability, the entire community will benefit from our unique new collaboration with the Hutton Parker Foundation, which has had enormous impact by purchasing commercial real estate and providing long-term leases to nonprofit organizations that assist them in “achieving the highest level of performance and delivery of services.”

The Hutton Parker Foundation recently purchased the building at the corner of Anacapa and Cota streets that will soon become our new campus. This highly visible and accessible downtown location will have a vibrant and inclusive interior design that will meet future educational needs in our community.

It will provide for enrollment growth and the classrooms and offices necessary to accommodate and support that growth and increase access to higher education in Santa Barbara. The exciting interior will have spaces for students and faculty to easily engage and collaborate, as well as for community meetings and special events. Our new library space will use best practices in information literacy, providing access to what the world’s libraries offer. Forward-thinking technology will enhance real-time contact and remove barriers of distance and time. This special partnership marks the development of our campus, a development enhanced by our 30-year reputation in Santa Barbara and more than 3,500 passionate campus alumni.

Margaret Mead said that we should “never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.” Antioch’s founding president, Horace Mann, who is credited as the “father” of progressive education in our country, has inspired our institution to do just that, so that in our lifetimes “we have won some victory for humanity.” That legacy has brought us to where we are today, and it guides us still.

Click here for more information about Antioch University Santa Barbara, or call 805.962.8179. Follow AUSB on Twitter: @antiochsb. Become a fan on Facebook.

— Nancy Leffert Ph.D. is the incoming president of Antioch University Santa Barbara. A nationally known scholar of adolescent development, she previously served as provost and CEO of AUSB, and as associate dean at Fielding Graduate University.

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