On Wednesday, October 19, Dr. Robert Mendenhall, President Emeritus of Western Governors University, was recognized with the 2016 “Champions of E-Learning Award – Heavy Lifter” in Washington D.C. at the thirteenth annual meeting of the Presidents’ Forum, Measuring Progress: Catching Up with Innovation.
The award represents the highest honor bestowed by the Presidents’ Forum, a collaborative of over 150 institutions, associations, and policy makers engaged in online higher education. It recognizes individuals who have made significant contributions to academic integrity and improved access to postsecondary education for the historically underserved through advancements in technology and online learning. Previous winners include Russ Poulin, Deputy Director, Research and Analysis for WCET, and U.S. Representative Jared Polis, a key founder of the Congressional E-Learning Caucus.
“Bob Mendenhall has done two hard things across the last 20 years. He has built a new institution, with a new learning model, into an enormously successful University,” said Ed Klonoski, President at Charter Oak State College and Chair of the Presidents’ Forum. “But at the same time he was leading that work, he was also leading the non-traditional college sector to better policies, better student outcomes, and more national clarity about the efficacy of competency-based learning. In short, Bob always volunteered to do the hard things that would have the greatest chance of improving educational access and outcomes for America’s adult students.”
Over the course of his 30-year career in development, Dr. Mendenhall has become an authoritative voice in marketing and delivering technology-based education. From 1999 until April of 2016, he served as president of Western Governors University (WGU), a private, nonprofit leader in online competency-based education. Founded by 19 governors and over 20 corporations and foundations, WGU has been named one of Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies in 2013. WGU serves more than 74,000 students in all 50 states with online bachelor’s and master’s degree programs in business, information technology, K-12 teacher education, and health care, including nursing.
He has been the recipient of numerous industry awards including the McGraw Prize in Education and the U.S. Distance Learning Association (USDLA) award for Outstanding Leadership by an Individual in the Field of Distance Learning. In December 2011, Dr. Mendenhall was one of a select group of university presidents invited to the White House to participate in a roundtable discussion on college affordability with President Obama.
Dr. Mendenhall has served on the Spellings Commission on the Future of Higher Education; the NGA/ASTD Commission on Technology & Adult Learning; IBM’s Education Advisory Council; the National Forum on 21st Century Skills Education Advisory Board; the Technology Working Group for the California Postsecondary Education Commission; and is a former member of the Board of the Department of Business and Economic Development for the State of Utah.
“I’m pleased to be recognized by the Presidents’ Forum, which has been so instrumental as a voice for innovation in higher education, specifically serving working adults through distance education,” Dr. Mendenhall said. “The contribution of the Presidents’ Forum in initiating and establishing SARA (State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement) will prove to be a key accomplishment in expanding educational access.”
About the Presidents’ Forum
The Presidents’ Forum, established in 2004, is a collaboration of accredited, national, adult-serving institutions and programs which have embraced the power and potential of online education. The Mission of the Presidents’ Forum is to advance the recognition of innovative practice and excellence in online learning. This is accomplished by providing a venue for leaders in higher education and stakeholders to share their knowledge and learn from others’ best practices.