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University of Phoenix Leadership Joins 2024 SXSW EDU Panel on Non-Traditional Learners

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Vice President Nathan Jones joined leaders in education Yichen Feng, Dr. Eva Meija, and Dr. Andrew Frishman to share insights on making education more equitable and relevant for learners of all ages, including working adult learners

PHOENIX–(BUSINESS WIRE)–University of Phoenix is pleased to share that Nathan Jones, vice president of Product for Workforce Solutions, joined the proceedings of SXSW EDU, March 4 – 7, 2024, in Austin, Texas. Jones participated in a panel discussion on March 6 with other education leaders Yichen Feng of Lumos Capital Group, Andrew Frishman, Ed.L.D., of Big Picture Learning, and Eva Meija, Ed.L.D., of IDEO, discussing learning poverty across education systems and potential interventions for non-traditional learners.

“We are dedicated to reaching learners across multiple generations, in an era where artificial intelligence is profoundly impacting the fusion of work and learning,” stated Jones. “At University of Phoenix, our focus is on leveraging automation and technology to create a more personalized student experience. We aim to harness these tools to enhance learner motivation, remove barriers within learning systems, and illuminate clear pathways for individuals in their educational and career journeys.”

The SXSW EDU event brings together leading minds in education to share ideas, network, and create the future of teaching and learning. The SXSW EDU Conference & Festival celebrates innovation and learning in the education industry offering a wide range of sessions, in-depth workshops, learning experiences, mentorship, film screenings, future-focused competitions, an expo, networking opportunities, performances, and is a component of the South by Southwest® (SXSW®) family of conferences and festivals.

The panel, titled “Bringing Back the Lost Generation,” discussed how learning poverty is estimated to reach up to 70% of ALL global students, generating unprecedented intergenerational inequity, and worked to address the question: what should be done to re-engage students who have left the education system during the pandemic? As a recovering society, the reality of how to bring back a “lost generation” of learners requires coordination across sectors. Focusing on the possibility and potential of approaches that have centered non-traditional learners across all segments of the spectrum from preK to grey, the panel shared an array of interventions from practitioners.

As Vice President of Product for Workforce Solutions at University of Phoenix, Jones enables organizations to solve their most pressing talent and business challenges with education. In his more than 19 years with University of Phoenix, he has held leadership roles in Employee Development, Enrollment Management, Academic Operations, Product Leadership, and Workforce Solutions. He now combines that experience with the unique capabilities of University of Phoenix to deliver a range of talent acquisition, upskilling, and employee development solutions for employers.

Feng is an operator, investor, and organizer of companies, funds, and programs that create a sustainable future. She is a board advisor for Lumos Capital Group and Kachuwa Impact Fund, an Investment Committee member of SK2 Fund, and a faculty member of the Just Economy Institute. As a board member of the National HeadStarter Network, her work weaves between the public and private sectors, strengthening collaboration to unlock value for all learners.

“Recency bias has led us to think that learning loss is a relatively recent phenomenon, induced by COVID. The reality is that student disengagement has been something institutions have long struggled with – particularly students who do not fit a certain mold,” Feng shared. “We stand to learn a lot about how to design and build programs for all learners when we focus on organizations like UOPX who have been doing this work of engaging non-traditional learners, successfully, for nearly 50 years.”

Frishman is Co-Executive Director of Big Picture Learning, an organization founded in 1995 with the mission of putting students directly at the center of their own learning. It quickly grew from a single model school, The Met in Providence, RI, to a Big Picture Learning network with more than 110 schools in 27 states, and hundreds more around the world. Frishman was a teacher at the Met in Providence and then at the Met Sacramento, and has been on the National Big Picture leadership team since 2013. He has melded experiences from a Master of Arts in Teaching, an administrative credential focused on urban schools, and a Health Leadership Program, into a belief that student-centered education is a crucial determinant of both individual life outcomes and community well-being.

Frishman shared that, “We need to ensure that high schools attend to creating the conditions that enable young people to cultivate relationships and social capital. Furthermore the best way to engage young people is to enable them to explore their interests and pursue their passions. The best kind of learning that will prepare them to thrive as adults is giving them opportunities to engage in work-based learning situated in the workplace where they can meet adult expert mentors in career fields that they want to explore.”

Mejia leads the education practice at IDEO, an award-winning global design firm that takes a human-centered, design-based approach to help organizations innovate and grow. She has over 20 years of experience across education and youth development as a trusted strategist, leadership & improvement coach, and social worker, giving her a discerning eye for the intersection of equity and innovation that ultimately upholds the dignity of all people.

Prior to IDEO, Mejia served as the Chief Program & Strategy Officer at Big Picture Learning, where she steered strategic thinking and programs for the network of innovative BPL schools dedicated to personalized, real-world learning. She was also the Director of Networked Improvement Science for the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, leading and mentoring coaching teams in network development, improvement science, and systems thinking. She has served as a Curriculum Designer and Improvement Coach for the Data Wise Project at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and as an institutional effectiveness consultant helping community college and university teams use data to inform their student success programming. Mejia holds an Education Leadership Doctorate (Ed.L.D.) from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, as well as a Bachelor of Arts in psychology, and a Master of Arts in sociology from Stanford University.

Learn more here about the conference .

About University of Phoenix

University of Phoenix innovates to help working adults enhance their careers and develop skills in a rapidly changing world. Flexible schedules, relevant courses, interactive learning, skills-mapped curriculum for our bachelor’s and master’s degree programs and a Career Services for Life® commitment help students more effectively pursue career and personal aspirations while balancing their busy lives. For more information, visit


Sharla Hooper

University of Phoenix