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Marni Baker Stein, Ph.D. - Western Governors University. Salt Lake City, UT, US

Marni Baker Stein, Ph.D. Marni Baker Stein, Ph.D.

Provost, Chief Academic Officer | Western Governors University


Dr. Marni Baker Stein has expertise in developing and implementing programs that improve student access and success in higher education.






SXSW EDU: How Data & Automation Humanize Student Experience 2019 SXSW EDU - Understanding Students as Consumers of Higher Education




Dr. Marni Baker Stein is Provost and Chief Academic Officer at Western Governors University where she leads WGU’s academic programs, faculty, and supporting design, evaluation and student experience teams. In this role, she is accountable for driving the university’s focus on academic quality and student success.

Stein has more than 25 years of experience in designing and scaling programs to improve access, affordability, and student success. Prior to joining WGU, she worked for several educational institutions in the U.S. and abroad on the development and administration of pioneering high school, undergraduate, graduate and continuing and professional programming models delivered through competency-based, online, and hybrid formats. These institutions include: The University of Texas System, Columbia University in the City of New York, The University of Pennsylvania, The University of California Santa Barbara, The Pennsylvania State University, SUNY Buffalo (Latvia), and the United States Information Agency (Turkey, Japan).

Stein has a Ph.D. in Teaching, Learning and Curriculum from the University of Pennsylvania.

Areas of Expertise (7)

Competency-based Education Innovation Higher Education E-Learning Instructional Design Distance Learning Leadership

Education (3)

University of Pennsylvania: Ph.D., Educational Leadership 2008

Penn State University: M.A., Speech Communication and TESOL 1992

Penn State University: B.S., French 1990

Selected Media Appearances (8)

With Skills Mapping, Colleges Create A 'Universal Language' to Explain Value

Education Dive  online


While community colleges and online programs such as Western Governors University have used skills mapping for years, four-year schools are increasingly interested in meeting this demand, said Sheila Martin, vice president of economic development and community engagement for the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities. "There's an acceptance (of the practice) to make sure students are set up for a good career," she said.

Even if the troika of employer-school-student agrees on the need to list skills, coming up with a system through which everyone is speaking about them in the same way can be onerous.

"The problem is, there's no universal language for communicating these skills," said Marni Baker Stein, provost and chief academic officer at Western Governors University. The many different definitions of skills and competencies can cause frustration all around, she added.

The challenge for schools is twofold: identify which skills are already present in existing curricula and change courses as needed to address missing information.

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5 Ideas for Change in Higher Ed from SXSW EDU

Education Dive  online


With a growing focus on performance-based state funding and student outcomes, colleges want to be sure their graduates can find gainful employment. That's raising calls for colleges to bolster their career services offerings and more directly connect curriculum to skills required in related professions.

One example comes from Western Governors University, which works with employers to determine what hard and soft skills are needed among people employed in specific fields. The nonprofit online college, which uses a competency-based education model, then works with faculty to layer curriculum atop that map, said its provost and chief academic officer, Marni Baker Stein.

Knowing what skills are needed, and why, Western Governors can also segment offerings for its primarily adult learners. "If they have to leave us for a time and then come back and finish the degree later, we want to make sure they have something of value to take with them," she said.

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The Rise of Colleges Without Classes or Professors

Voice of America  online


Marni Baker Stein says the people who set up Western Governors University in 1997 knew there would be a growing need for different methods of higher education.

Stein is the chief academic officer at WGU. Stein told VOA that in recent years, more and more nontraditional students have been entering U.S. higher education. Many are people who decided to attend college later in life, instead of right after high school, as most Americans who go to college do. They also include men and women who may have attended college at one point, but left without earning a degree.

Most nontraditional students have full-time jobs, notes Stein. They see higher education as the best path towards getting better jobs and improving their positions in life. But they need to do so at a rate that works for them and their day-to-day activities.

In the United States, most traditional colleges and universities operate around set time periods. Classes usually start in the late summer and end in the spring of every year. These academic calendars are usually divided into two or three study terms, each lasting around 15 weeks.

Stein notes that in a CBE program, students can start any time they want. If students work hard, they can finish a class as soon as they successfully complete the final skills test, meaning they can earn their degree faster than in a traditional academic program.

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5 ways data humanizes the student experience

eCampus News  online


One online university is leveraging data to improve teaching and learning

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Creating Leaders for a Shape-Shifting Future

Wall Street Journal  online


The knowledge economy “is moving at the speed of light. It’s a really important question for higher education to deal with, especially in professional education,” says Marni Baker Stein, provost and chief academic officer at Western Governors University, an all-online private nonprofit institution based in Salt Lake City. “The focus needs to be on skills and competencies for the future of work and not just what’s needed today.”

Such skills include sense-making, or determining the deeper meaning of what’s going on; critical thinking; social abilities; adaptive thinking; the ability to work across cultures and generations; the ability to handle large bodies of data and draw insights and create new strategies; the ability to understand context in media and to use that to advantage, she says.

“Curricula need to be super-dynamic to support fields that are changing sometimes quarter to quarter,” Dr. Baker Stein says. “Students are going out into dynamic environments and they need to be adaptive.”

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Movers and Shakers: Marni Baker Stein

Inside Higher Ed  online


The Opportunity at WGU: Stein has spent most of her career to date helping well-established traditional universities -- Columbia University, the University of Pennsylvania, and most recently the 14 campuses of the University of Texas System -- "move toward learning-centeredness" and adopt new approaches to personalized learning.

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Reimagining the College Transcript

Inside Higher Ed  online


New kinds of transcripts are all the rage. With assistance from the Lumina Foundation and the support of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, various institutions are experimenting with transcripts that provide a more comprehensive record of a student’s accomplishments and proficiencies as a better way to demonstrate the value of a higher education to parents, business, and government.

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Disrupting Higher Education

Huffpost  online


Throughout my career as chief customer officer, and chief marketing officer, I’ve had the privilege to collaborate and serve numerous executives in the higher education industry. Based on my experience, I strongly believe that two of the most disruptive executive thought leaders in higher education are Dr. Marni Baker Stein and Phil Komarny at the University of Texas System (UTx) and the Institute for Transformational Learning (ITL).

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Event Appearances (2)


Understanding Students as Consumers of Higher Education  Austin, TX



How Data and Automation Humanize Student Experience  Austin, Texas