Learn More
Filter by Category
Filter by Category

CoffeeBreak Conversation: Nelson Baker, UPCEA

CoffeeBreak Conversations Logo

Our blog series, CoffeeBreak Conversations, is meant to be read in less time than it takes you to enjoy a cup of your favorite break-time beverage. We'll be interviewing members of the career and education technology ecosystem and sharing their different perspectives, experiences, and predictions for our industry. Stay tuned!

Today, we are talking with Nelson Baker, President Elect of UPCEA and Dean of Professional Education at the Georgia Tech Institute of Technology. 

Want to nominate someone for a CoffeeBreak Conversation? email us.


First off, Congratulations on being elected President of UPCEA! UPCEA is the leading association Professional, Continuing Ed. and Online (PCO) education. At the recent regional conferences, we heard how PCO schools are becoming innovation incubators within their institution. Can you share some examples?

I’m thrilled to see so much excitement and engagement by attendees at the conferences. PCO stakeholders need and seek out these programs. They have a “we can do this” attitude and are listening intently to the needs being presented and are offering up new ideas, new business models, new delivery methods, and new programs. Most importantly, their needs are being met.


There were also discussions on rethinking the professional, continuing ed. and online student experience, what are you hearing that institutions are doing in this area?

In essence, they’re meeting students where they are with what they need, when they need it. People are considering more blended learning opportunities such as mixing online with residential or blending different instructional modalities. They’re also interested in various forms of alternative credentials, including competency based education, so that they can show the value of their learning and put the new knowledge to work quickly. Innovative institutions are responding to and delivering on these needs. Thinking through how to provide access and affordability, and improving quality are key.

Also at the conference there was a lot of talk about the importance of career advancement to the adult learner. Traditionally, career services has been targeted towards the traditional students, how can institutions provide a more tailored experience for working adults?

The key is to listen to these learners and then create what they need. We need to consider career pathways and how jobs and careers will evolve with the increasing rates of new knowledge and new technologies. We need to support learners along their career journeys. To do this, we should be asking what they need to know today, tomorrow and in the future – and what their aspirations are for their careers.


In traditional undergraduate programs, there are certain standards that have been set guiding institutions on what outcome and first destination data. This type of information is useful to prospective students. Are you seeing the prospective professional, continuing ed. and online students wanting this same type of data from Professional, Continuing Ed and Online programs to help make their enrollment decisions? 

In this regard, PCO programs are no different from traditional undergraduate programs. Adult learners want to know the value of professional and continuing education programs. What they’ll be able to do with the new information they gain is top of mind for them.

Related to the last question, do you think that we’ll see any movement to standardize the collection of outcome data in Continuing, Professional and Online Education and what metrics would be critical to measure?

Standardizing outcome data is difficult to do especially across changing careers. At best, we might be in the early stages of considering what it could take to develop guidelines. However, to standardize outcome data when companies have not standardized, is a difficult goal to achieve in the near future.

We've been interviewing you today for our Coffee Break Conversation, I'd love to know if you could have a coffee break conversation with anyone, doesn't matter if they're fictional or real, current or not, related to any topic, who would you choose?

I would really like to talk more with Linda Gratton and Andrew Scott, co-authors of “The 100-Year Life: Living and Working in an Age of Longevity.” I have talked once with Andrew but I’d love to discuss the subject of the book in more depth. As new knowledge and technologies are changing our lives, and as new medical techniques are discovered, all of us are living longer. What are the social implications of these changes and how will they be manifested? How will education need to change to meet these new social implications? How can, or should, PCO units also need to change under these conditions? It would be fascinating to explore what the authors have to say on this topic.

Nelson, thank you so much for your insight!

 Stay tuned for our next CoffeeBreak Conversation, featuring another very special guest!


The Career Education Tech Stack at #CSTM19
Mercy College Facilitates Intentional Career Exploration for All Students

About Author

Lisa Philpott
Lisa Philpott

Related Posts
Ways to Fight for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Higher Education
Ways to Fight for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Higher Education
Delivering and Scaling Career Services for Online and Adult Learners: Data and Strategies
Delivering and Scaling Career Services for Online and Adult Learners: Data and Strategies
How To Support Alumni Career Development with the Resources You Already Have
How To Support Alumni Career Development with the Resources You Already Have