Today's Students,
Tomorrow's Talent

The Podcast

Lumina Foundation presents conversations with newsmakers and thought leaders in the field of education and training after high school. Hear from people working to attract, retain, and cultivate the talent America needs for the 21st century. 

Episode 20

Going back to college after 30 years

Johnathan Williams and Charletta Thomas

37 million adults in the United States have some college credit but have yet to earn a degree.  The first step in re-engaging these adults is to listen and learn from them.  On today’s show, I am joined by Johnathan Williams and Charletta Thomas, two people who returned to school to complete their degree. Read more »

Episode 19

Six Predictions for Higher Ed in 2020 w/ Jesse O’Connell

College affordability, education for incarcerated or formerly incarcerated populations, the continued growth of mega-universities and the closure of small institutions are some of the issues likely to dominate education policy and generate headlines in 2020. Jesse O’Connell, strategy director for federal policy at Lumina Foundation, shares his six higher ed predictions for 2020. Read more »

Episode 18

University of California sued over SAT use in admissions

Does the SAT predict college success? A conversation with Elissa Nadworny of NPR and Elaine Allensworth of UChicago Consortium.

For over half a century, the SAT has been used by colleges and universities in admissions decisions. A lawsuit filed in December 2019 against the University of California system challenges this long-held practice, calling the use of SAT scores in admission decisions illegal, discriminatory, and unconstitutional. On today’s show, we are joined by Elissa Nadworny, reporter and editor for NPR’s Education team who has been following the lawsuit. We are also joined by Dr. Elaine Allensworth from the UChicago Consortium on School Research, who recently wrote a paper showing a student’s grades are four times more predictive of college success than standardized exam scores. Read more »

Episode 17

Chambers and Presidential Campaigns with David Rattray, Paola Santana, and Jesse O’Connell

Chambers of commerce can be a champion in education and business, and a growing subset of the roughly 4,000 chambers across the United States are doing just that.  Today we talk with David Rattray of the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce and Paola Santana at Lumina Foundation about the growing movement of chamber-led education initiatives.  On segment two of the show, our recurring guest Jesse O’Connell joins us to review the most recent Democratic Presidential Debate. Read more »

Episode 16

A Conversation with the Brookings Institution, Institute for Higher Education Policy, and the Pell Institute

Three new reports highlight what’s going well and what we need to fix to meet tomorrow’s education and workforce needs.  Joe Parilla from the Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program discusses how economic development organizations can catalyze education and workforce training programs around the country.  Julie Ajinkya and Leanne Davis from the Institute for Higher Education Policy share insights on four partnerships boosting college enrollment and completion rates for youth and adults in rural communities.  Finally, Margaret Cahalan and Laura Perna, authors of the latest Equity Indicators report, discuss how Pell funding has not kept up with demand. Read more »

Episode 15

“I don’t even know what to ask.”

What Veterans Need for Success in Education

Service members leave the military with substantial training and education, but very little of that knowledge and experience counts in higher education. Our guests today include Navy veterans who shared their experiences and advice in navigating higher education, and leaders of organizations focused on improving outcomes for service members and veterans across the country. Read more »

Guests: Lauren Runco, Lumina Foundation; Tanya Ang, Veterans for Education Success; Brandon Nivens, US Navy Veteran; Michele Poitier, US Navy Veteran; John Sullivan, US Navy Veteran.

Episode 14

“Community providers are essential”

Race, jobs, and the American postsecondary system

Marc Morial, President and CEO of the National Urban League, believes that community-based education providers are critical to America’s success.  Morial shares his thoughts on how greater attention and investment in community-based programs can address structural racism and produce the talent America needs.  Also joining this episode is Dr. Jasmine Haywood, who shares lessons from the field on operationalizing equity. Read more: Urban League's Marc Morial: Good jobs critical in erasing effects of discrimination.

Episode 13

“We can see the change coming, but we haven’t moved fast enough”

Preparing for the Future

Lumina Foundation’s President and CEO Jamie Merisotis returns from sabbatical with fresh idea and reflections about America’s future.  We talk about what he learned while abroad, what climate change can teach us about talent development, and whether we are talking about the right issues in the 2020 election. Read more »

Episode 12

“Now we question what truth is”

Getting to Truth Through Pop Culture and Inclusive Research

Pop culture permeates our lives—whether it’s music blaring from car windows, billboards we see or watching Netflix in the evening. Professors can use the information their students are exposed to as a way to meet students where they are and make learning relevant. I’m joined by Dr. Katherine Wheatle, Lumina’s strategy officer for finance and federal policy, and Bridget Yuhas, director of student affairs assessment and planning at Butler University. Bridget studies the use of pop culture in higher education and helps extend Katherine’s episode 3 segment “Pop Ed”. Liz Dozier, founder, and CEO of Chicago Beyond, also joins us to talk about their new guidebook called “Why Am I Always Being Researched.”  The guidebook gives practical advice for community organizations, researchers and funders to try to create a level playing field for non-profits, researchers and funders.

Episode 11

“Nobody is coming to save us.”

Companies cultivating their own talent

On the job training is a billion-dollar industry, yet many employer-based training programs fail to deliver results.  This episode features employers that have designed effective programs that serve the individual, the company, and society.  We begin with Jon Kaplan, former Chief Learning Officer of Discover Financial, who describes national trends of employer-supported learning.  Rob Lauber, Senior Vice President and Chief Learning Officer at McDonald’s Corporation, shares that McDonald’s wants to be a person’s “best, first job”, and discusses their Archway’s to Opportunity program designed to propel employee’s success.  Linda Carpenter runs Cigna’s Education Reimbursement Program, which does much more than reimburse employees for tuition.  Throughout the show, Lumina’s own Haley Glover joins the conversation, bringing resources, ROI studies, and her professional insight into the world of employer support learning.

Episode 10

“It’s not one thing, it’s the whole thing.”

Providing supports for community college students

37 percent of today’s college students are 25 or older.  Nearly two-thirds of college students work.  Half of today’s students are on their own financially with many supporting family members and children of their own. Helping today’s students requires a different kind of college experience then what we see in movies; one that supports more than academic needs.  We feature two successful programs working to provide comprehensive support to community college students.  Nadine Browne, Director of Accelerated Study in Associate Programs, or ASAP, at Bronx Community College talks about her experience implementing the successful program in New York.  Paige Ponder and Veronica Herrero also join us to share preliminary results from the Chicago-based One Million Degrees program.

Episode 9

“The business model of higher ed is broken.”

Impacts of college closures: Part 2

In this second part of our series, we explore college closures from the perspective of those in the industry. Laura De Veau talks about her recent blog and experience closing Mt. Ida college.  Jamienne Studley, president of WSCUC, discusses her role as an accreditor and how their role must shift to better support their members. And Brad Kelsheimer, Vice President and CFO of Lumina Foundation, explains how the business model of higher education is broken, and describes three drivers of college closures.


Episode 8

 “I’m not jobless, I’m career-less.”

Impacts of college closures: Part 1

Hundreds of colleges have closed or consolidated in recent years, including public and private, nonprofit and for-profit schools across the country.  These closures impact students, faculty, staff, communities, and our nation, especially when poorly managed.  In part one of our two-part series, we explore how one college closure left Unique Johnson with debt and no prospects of continuing her education where she left off.  Scott Jaschik, editor at Inside Higher Ed, discusses the reasons many colleges are facing closure and what we might expect from the future.  Finally, Senator J.D. Ford of Indiana discusses his ideas for how Indiana can support students impacted by college closures.  Also, if you have been impacted by a college closure, we want to hear from you.  Take a short video of yourself telling your story and send it to

See also: Students feel the pain when for-profit colleges close »


Episode 7

Politics and Policy – Coast to coast

Our guests Scott Jenkins and Jesse O’Connell give a coast-to-coast roundup on politics and postsecondary policy. Join us as we discuss which federal and state leaders to keep an eye on, how political party shifts may impact legislation and regulation, and what to expect from the 2020 election. Scott Jenkins is Strategy Director for State Policy at Lumina Foundation. Jesse O’Connell is Strategy Director for Federal Policy at Lumina Foundation.


Episode 6

“Living up to the designation”

Hispanic Serving Institutions

As of 2016, the Latino population in the United States has reached nearly 58 million people.  Latinos now account for 18% of the population and are the second-largest racial or ethnic group in the United States. We have dedicated today’s show to talking about those colleges and universities that are serving Hispanic students.  Known as Hispanic-Serving Institutions, we explore what they are, how they are working, and what more they can be doing to live up to their mission.  Our first guest today is Beatriz Ceja-Williams, division director at the U.S. Department of Education, who leads the department’s division focused on Hispanic-Serving Institutions.  We are also joined by Dr. Gina Garcia, assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh, who studies equity and diversity within higher education.  Finally, Deborah Santiago, co-founder and CEO of Excelencia in Education, joins us to discuss her organization’s efforts to accelerate Latino student success in higher education. Read more »

Episode 5

 “Education is public safety.”

Supporting justice-involved learners

The United States has the highest rate of incarceration in the world with more than 2 million Americans incarcerated at any point in time. Each year, our prison system releases nearly 600,000 individuals back to their families and communities. Our guests today are focused on ensuring that all those impacted by incarceration – the individual, family, community, and America broadly – have the support and opportunities inside and outside of prison to lead a successful life. We begin with Dr. Danette Howard and Haley Glover from Lumina Foundation who provide a national perspective on this work and describe Lumina’s emerging efforts to better serve those impacted by incarceration. Michael Mendoza from the Anti-Recidivism Coalition joins us to talk about his efforts in California before we conclude with Syrita Steib-Martin from Operation Restoration in New Orleans who is providing direct support to women and girls impacted by incarceration and leading “Ban the Box” initiatives around the United States. Read more »

Episode 4

“Love the students you have, not the ones you wish you had.”

Making college accessible and affordable for adults

Across the country, leaders in education are working to make college accessible and affordable—not only for traditional students but for adults who want to go back to school to complete the degrees that in many cases they started years ago. Join us as we talk with Dr. Shanna Jackson, president of Nashville State Community College, Dr. Rachelle Sharpe, deputy director of the Washington Student Achievement Council, and Ben Cannon, executive director of the Oregon Higher Education Commission, about their plans to support adults’ postsecondary plans. Read more »

Episode 3

“No more waiting.”

Student voice in creating change

For many, the speed of change in academia is too slow, and the process too exclusionary.  Students themselves are often left out of these important conversations - that is until they insert themselves through organizing and advocacy to make sure their voices are heard. Our guests today are no strangers to inserting student voice into important policy and practice decisions. Through their efforts, they are making sure students are heard and accounted for in education reform. Join us as Lauren Schandevel talks about her student-led activism to better support low-income students at the University of Michigan, followed by a conversation with Rachel Fleischer, the executive director of Young Invincibles, who leads national campaigns to elevate student voice in important policy decisions.  Our episode closes with a new segment called Pop Ed, where we explore the growing and eccentric overlap between higher education and pop culture with Lumina’s own Dr. Katherine Wheatle. Read more »

Episode 2

“I decided to keep going.”

High school dropout to college freshman

Over 30 million working-age adults lack a high school diploma. There are few employment opportunities in today’s economy for these Americans as most jobs require some kind of education or training after high school There are even fewer pathways for adults who were failed by the K-12 system to earn their high school diploma, let alone a postsecondary credential. The Goodwill Excel Centers are changing that for thousands of adults each year, giving people a chance to earn a high school diploma, college credit, and/or an industry-recognized credential. Betsy Delgado, Vice President of Mission and Education at Goodwill of Central and Southern Indiana, and Nyla Wills, a recent alum of the Excel Center, discuss the program and the impact it’s having on people’s lives. Later in the show Dr. Chauncy Lennon, Lumina’s new vice president for the future of learning and work, discusses his new role at Lumina and explores emerging trends in the future of work. Read more »

Episode 1

“I know my price.”

Investing in majority-black communities

There are 1,200 majority-black places in the United States.  Each community has economic, social, and political strength, yet lacks investments commensurate with its assets. Dr. Andre Perry, a fellow at the Brookings Institution, explains that it is not talent the prevents black communities from thriving; It’s inequity. Read more »