Community Spotlight: Graduate! ABQ

Community Spotlight with Dan Mendelsohn, Director of Graduate! ABQ

How did an adult completion agenda first come about in your community?

Graduate! ABQ is part of a larger initiative in our community called Mission: Graduate, which is focused on increasing the number of degrees and certificates by 60,000 by the year 2020. The key stakeholders in that effort realized that adults were essential to reaching that goal. Through focus groups and community conversations, we found that adults did indeed want to go back to school but need help overcoming barriers to enrollment. Graduate! ABQ was set up to overcome those barriers, and with the support of partner institutions we are working to improve the adult education pipeline city-wide.

What inspires you to do this work?

Postsecondary education can be a powerful lever of change, but those most in need of that opportunity often are unable to access it. When people are appropriately trained and motivated to do their work everyone in our community benefits, from businesses to families. We need to work together to increase access to education because the success of each individual has a ripple effect across our community and across generations to come. This work needs to be done at both the systems and personal levels, which is why Graduate! ABQ focuses on intensive personal service and uses that learning to fuel systems level improvement.

What is most successful about your approach with your partners – higher ed institutions, local businesses, government agencies, or funders?

We prioritize getting to know each partner; how they work, what their goals are, and what challenges they face on a daily basis. Without a mutual understanding of our work, we risk playing the blame game and never reaching the level of collaboration we need to solve these larger problems. Once we know each of these partners well, it’s easy to identify weaknesses in our adult education ecosystem and work together to improve them.

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