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CAEL Pathways Blog

Q&A With CAEL Staff: William McKinney

For more than 30 years, Dr. William McKinney has devoted his leadership and teaching expertise to advance postsecondary education’s capacity to sustain equitable economic mobility. Serving on CAEL’s Advisory Council from 2012 until he joined CAEL as senior director of higher education initiatives, McKinney was previously a senior fellow in the office of the president at the American Association of Colleges and Universities. His many additional leadership roles in the postsecondary space include senior advisor for regional campus affairs at Indiana University; president of Valdosta State University; vice chancellor for academic affairs at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne; and founding dean of the college of humanities, fine, and performing arts at Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania. His teaching roles include professor and chairperson of philosophy and religion at Southeast Missouri State University; assistant and associate professor of philosophy at Southeast Missouri State University; and visiting assistant professor of philosophy at the University of Kentucky. 

mckinney Headshot

What's your favorite example of CAELs impact?
At its best, I have always thought that CAEL functions like the Rosetta Stone, translating between the cultures of higher education and employers and bringing them together to benefit adult learners and their communities. The best examples of that can be heard in the voices of the learners we all serve.

What drew you to CAEL?

I have a long history with CAEL. In 2012, as a fairly new university president, I was invited to serve on CAEL's Board of Trustees in 2012. I knew of CAEL and had always admired its work, but it took only one trip to the conference to solidify in my mind that CAEL's focus on serving returning adults in the space where educators and employers intersect was absolutely essential to the future of higher education and our nation's economy. Once CAEL was acquired by Strada, I transitioned to CAEL's Advisory Council, and continued to embed CAEL's mission and values into my own work. After eight wonderful years in the Indiana University System, I knew that I wanted to devote my full focus on the intersection of education, employment, and equity. The opportunity work in that space full time is what drew me here!

If there's one piece of advice you could give adult learners and one piece of advice you could give to institutions/organizations committed to better serving them, what would it be?
For adult learners, my one piece of advice would be that once you make that decision to either further your education or return to school, make that decision in such a manner that you can confidently keep you eyes focused on your goal without looking back. Once you have done that, the requisite patience and persistence come easily. For institutions and organizations, my advice would be that we live in a highly networked economy where collaboration, innovation, and new alliances will determine success. Gone are the days when these entities can survive as islands, assuming that there will always be a steady stream of new students and employees. They must think ecosystemically.

What gives you the most hope about the future of the adult learner ecosystem?
First of all, the very fact that we see the term "adult learner ecosystem" gives me hope that this kind of thinking is becoming more the norm. That ecosystem is inextricably tied to equity for all students. Consequently, it is essential for the future of higher education, for our economy, and for our democracy. 

What is the last book/movie you read/watched?
I am currently deep in Ted Gioia's The History of Jazz.

What do you enjoy doing outside of work?  
Any time I can spend with my wife of nearly 25 years is the epitome of time well-spent! 

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