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Highlights From CAEL's 2022 Field of Award Nominees

Every year, CAEL’s award presentations are among its conference highlights. If actions speak louder than words, the actions of these honorees, which embody what it is to meet adult learners where they are, speak volumes. As we look ahead to this year’s conference, here’s a look back at some recent winners in three of our award categories and a sneak peek at what has distinguished 2022’s nominees. As always, members of the CAEL community submitted the nominations. If you’d like to participate, subscribe to conference updates to be notified when nominations reopen in 2023.

Morris T. Keeton Award
Like its eponym, the founding president of CAEL, Morris T. Keeton Award recipients have enabled significant strides in adult learning through contributions in experiential learning, workforce development, or other areas that foster synergies within the intersections of learning and work. 

Recent winners include Dr. Betty Vandenbosch (2019), then chancellor of Purdue University Global; Dr. Zakiya Smith Ellis (2020), then chief policy advisor for New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy; and Marcia Anderson (2021), director emerita of the Student-Directed Learning Office of Metro State University. Highlights of their award presentations include:

During her award ceremony, presenters noted Dr. Vandenbosch’s development of a competency-based education model to create a personalized learning experience for students that incorporates their prior knowledge to support degree completion. Dr. Smith Ellis, who twice was named to the Forbes 30 Under 30 list for her education work, served as a Presidential and Department of Education senior education advisor. And Marcia Anderson, whose lifelong advocacy for underserved students began when she herself was a student, directed a statewide CPL network that supports CPL implementation at more than 30 colleges and universities.

Those are tough acts to follow, but here is a sample of this year’s nominees:

  • A former member of a state task force on prior learning whose tireless dedication to adult learners included the use of personal funds to help students overcome barriers that threatened their completion.
  • A mighty army of one whose singlehanded work to evangelize CPL practices has fueled steady growth in CPL participation over several decades.
  • A writer, scholar, teacher, practitioner, and, perhaps most importantly, someone who has taken the time to individually mentor hundreds of adult learners during a renowned career.

Adult Learner Impact Award|
The Adult Learner Impact Award is presented to recognize CAEL member institutions and other organizations that have provided outstanding programs and services for adult learners. Our three most recent winners are: The CUNY School of Professional Studies (2019), Texas State University (2020), and the University of Nebraska at Omaha (2021). 

Adding an experiential learning manager, launching an online career services platform, and creating a performance-based admissions process focusing on alternate completion pathways for returning adult learners were among CUNY SPS’ award highlights. The award presentation for Texas State University, which has offered specialized services for adult learners since the 1970s, highlighted its work to expand CPL opportunities to veterans and service members. And the division of continuing studies degree program, which meets diverse, multigenerational learners where they are with features such as flexible transfer credit policies, student-customizable study plans, and enhanced CPL opportunities, was prominent in the recognition of the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

A sampling of 2022 nominees:

  • A pioneer of competency-based education that values demonstrated competencies over seat time and offers completion pathways that adult learners can travel at their preferred pace. 
  • A leading researcher that has created innovative alternative completion pathways for adult learners. 
  • An institution that has bolstered its adult learner resources with a program dedicated to immigrant and refugee workers among adult learner resources.
  • The home of a CPL program that has generated tuition savings of more than $500 million over the past four years.
  • A leader in expanding data and digital marketing strategies to increase CPL usage.

Learner of the Year Award
The Learner of the Year Award is an always-welcomed reminder that ideals can be made real. It celebrates individuals who overcome multiple barriers to further their education.

2019 award winner Caprice Morales faced challenges that included domestic abuse, addiction, and incarceration. She would go on to become an advocate for women who were victims of abuse during their incarceration, a writer for Dwight's Newspaper, and a member of the honor society Alpha Beta Sigma. In 2020, widowed father of six Alphur “Slim” Willock won the award in recognition of his family, career, and educational success, which was supported by NACTEL education benefits. Last year’s winner, Javier Garcia, left his home country to pursue a new life in the United States. Arriving there in 2000, he spoke little English. He would go on to become a police officer and graduate summa cum laude while working full time. A father of two, Garcia received an academic medal of excellence from Union University. 

Here is a sampling of our 2022 field of nominees:

  • A lifelong learner from an underserved community became a mentor and teacher who fosters an entrepreneurial mindset among career and technical education students and today is building on his associate degree through a full-tuition scholarship program that awards students who demonstrate their personal involvement and positive impact on the communities in which they live and serve.
  • A veteran who enrolled in the armed forces immediately after high school, served in multiple overseas deployments, became an officer, raised a family, and recently capped off a 15-year postsecondary education journey with a master’s degree.
  • A 55-year old workforce star whose lack of a degree had nonetheless barred further progress along a rewarding career path availed herself of alternative learning pathways to complete a bachelor’s degree – and a 4.0 GPA.
  • A paraprofessional whose own excellence in serving students prompted her coworkers to encourage her to complete a teaching degree, which she did despite health challenges, family obligations, and her continuing workplace duties. 
  • Siblings who fled an abusive family life to enroll in college only to depart soon after because of financial challenges; they would go on to become successful entrepreneurs and use CPL to return to a path to degree completion.
  • An emigrant who arrived in the United States at the age of 21 who overcame homelessness and other hardships to complete a non-degree program that launched him on a career pathway in information technology. 

These are just a few highlights from the many nominations for CAEL’s 2022 annual awards program. While there may be only one winner per category, similar stories are unfolding in the daily work that takes place throughout the CAEL community to support adult learners. We look forward to honoring them at future events. In the meantime, to hear the full stories behind this year’s awards, join us (virtually or in person) in November at our annual conference. Do you have your own success story you’d like told (about you, your organization, an individual adult learner, or a strategic partner)? Email us at marketing@cael.org to learn how to share it with the broader CAEL community. 



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