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White Paper

Supporting Learner Success: Closing the Skills Gap Between Academe and Industry


This white paper provides a foundational reflection of the University of Phoenix focus on providing career-relevant, skills-based education and authentic assessment for working adult students, outlining the progress of the University over the past decade, beginning with establishing academic program life cycles that then supported innovations, policies, and processes that fostered a dynamic and institution-wide shift to skills-aligned learning. It offers an overview of components critical to creating a career-focused skills ecosystem including: work cultivating industry sector relationships, mapping and aligning skills within curriculum, authentic assessment construction, contributions to a career support ecosystem, the role of Classification of Instructional Programs and Standard Occupational Classification codes by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the rise of competency-based education, learning design alignment with learning experience, the implementation of digital badging, and elevating the learner voice.

Supporting Learner Success: Closing the Skills Gap Between Academe and Industry

Supporting Learner Success: Closing the Skills Gap Between Academe and Industry


Eve Krahe Billings

Eve Krahe Billings, PhD, EDAC, is Dean of Academic Innovation and Evaluation at University of Phoenix. Krahe Billings’ work at the University is grounded in the belief that learners benefit from socialization to the rigor, critical thinking, academic expectations, and longstanding traditions that are the hallmark of higher education. Balancing this with the institution’s skill-aligned curriculum initiative, she oversees student learning assessment across the University. Krahe Billings earned her Ph.D. in Complexity Science and Innovation at Arizona State University in 2013. Her interests lie in the successful facilitation of heart-centric environments where innovation can occur, as well as in the relationships necessary for emergent thinking to be successful and sustainable. Prior to joining UOPX, she was a tenure track associate professor and academic director at a large Research 1 university. Krahe Billings received peer reviewer status from Quality Matters in 2013 and completed a certificate in evidence-based design in 2018. Krahe Billings is a 2019 Wellesley cohort HERS fellow and a member of the Board of Directors of the American Association of University Administrators.

Mary Elizabeth Smith

Mary Elizabeth Smith has been involved in educational innovation for over thirty years. Currently the Director of Learning Innovation Strategy in the Center for Teaching and Learning at the University of Phoenix, she previously served as the Research and Implementation Strategist and the Director of Curriculum Development. Smith began her career working with K-12 pre-service teachers to integrate technology into lesson plans and produce hyper-card stacks. Her affinity for educational technology places her in the category of an ‘early adopter’ and she was one of the first faculty at a previous institution to convert an on-campus Computer Science course for online delivery in 1999. Smith’s career in education includes working in curriculum development, learning design, faculty development, faculty, and e-learning roles for four universities and several community colleges as well as two educational software companies. Smith holds a bachelor’s in Speech Communication and Journalism from Southern Illinois University and an M.Ed. in Educational Media and Computers from Arizona State University.

HIllary Halpern

Hillary Halpern has been with University of Phoenix for 16 years and currently serves as the Senior Director Program Deployment, where she has leveraged her in-depth insights from her student support and process improvement background to develop, improve, and maintain the University Program Lifecycle (UPL) process. Halpern helps guide the evolution of the program lifecycle process at the institution to help ensure academic programs are aligned to external standards and regulations, as well as how they can be best leveraged using occupational codes and jobs to build an infrastructure to connect courses and programs to skills. Recognized as "Rookie of the Year" examiner award in 2017 from Southwest Alliance of Excellence (SWAE), Halpern also earned the 2017 President’s Award from University of Phoenix for her contributions to the UPL process. She has served as a lead examiner for the SWAE and as a speaker on process improvement at regional and national conferences. Halpern has a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Arizona State University, and a Master of Business Administration and Graduate Certificate in Human Resource Management from University of Phoenix.

Doris Savron

Doris Savron has over 23 years of experience in higher education and as Vice Provost at University of Phoenix she oversees the strategy for University of Phoenix academic programs and curriculum design, institutional assessment and faculty, including oversight of strategy for degree, certificate and course offerings, design of curriculum and student learning outcomes. She works collaboratively with her team members to innovate academic solutions that enable the University to provide exceptional student experiences and learning environments to support student success. In her tenure with University of Phoenix she has served as associate faculty, campus vice president, and regional vice president of student services and college operations. Savron earned her MBA from Cleveland State University and is completing her doctorate in management in organizational leadership. Savron serves on several boards including Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce, Career Connectors, and Propenum College in Lusaka, Zambia. She also served on the advisory council for UPCEA and AACRAO’s new 2023 Convergence conference focused on the emerging field of alternative credentials in Higher Education. Savron is a frequent speaker at higher education events with expertise on mapping relevant skills in programs and building an infrastructure to support career tools in curriculum design, micro credentialing and other innovations in curriculum.