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Introducing CMU Innovation and Online

| Author: Ari Harris
As demand grows for greater flexibility in higher education, Central Michigan University is positioning itself to remain a leader in innovative online learning.

Throughout CMU’s Strategic Envisioning Process, launched in 2019, faculty, staff, students, alumni and community partners have discussed the need to redefine and strengthen CMU’s off-campus and online programs. 

Based on their findings and recommendations, CMU has restructured its Global Campus to create a new academic unit called CMU Innovation and Online. The name was approved by the CMU Board of Trustees during its June meeting.

The new unit, housed in the provost’s division, will be funded using existing Global Campus resources.

“We have pooled existing positions and resources that were spread across the university and consolidated them into this new division,” Davies said. “This will increase efficiency and efficacy as we pursue our new goals and priorities.”

Goals and growth
CMU has been a leader in distance education and online learning for more than 50 years; however, it must continue to adapt to meet changing student needs and to align with emerging trends, Davies said. 

The new academic unit will be future-oriented, inclusive and, most importantly, student-centered.

“Student success is our number one priority, for our students on campus as well as for those who may never come to Mount Pleasant,” Davies said. “We must ensure we provide the outstanding academic programs and services our students need and deserve, regardless of their location or preferred learning modality.” 

CMU has identified several immediate priorities and tentative goals for the year ahead, including:

  • Analyze CMU’s current online offerings and processes for Prior Learning Assessment. 
  • Expand partnerships with business, industry and community organizations to identify and address employee skill gaps.
  • Develop stackable degrees and competency-based educational programs.
  • Expand non-credit courses, training and workshops to meet the needs of adult learners seeking to upskill or reskill throughout their careers.
  • Build upon CMU’s strong history of serving U.S. military service members and veterans.
In addition, CMU Innovation and Online will partner with University Communications to launch the new unit’s online presence and to assist with marketing new programs later this year. 

Kirby to lead new unit
President Davies appointed Elizabeth “Betty” Kirby to lead the new unit. Kirby will serve as the first vice president of CMU Innovation and Online.

Prior to this appointment, Kirby served as interim dean of the College of the Arts and Media, a position she accepted in 2020 following the retirement of the former dean, Janet Hethorn. Kirby had previously served as dean of the College of Education and Human Services.

“Dr. Kirby is a proven transformational leader at CMU who has strong leadership abilities, the respect of the necessary internal constituencies, and the external acumen to be successful,” Davies said. “She has demonstrated outstanding commitment to serving students and I know she will do so with clear vision and unparalleled enthusiasm for the opportunities ahead.”

Kirby has been a member of the CMU community since 2004 when she joined the faculty in the educational leadership department. During her tenure at CMU, she also has served as a department chair, associate dean and senior associate dean/director of professional education.

Kirby is a two-time CMU graduate, earning both a doctoral degree in education and a master’s degree in reading at the university. She also holds a bachelor’s degree from Drake University. 

She has been actively engaged in the process to reimagine CMU’s off-campus and online programs and served as a co-convener of pathway five in the Strategic Envisioning Process.