Google and the Universities at Shady Grove (USG), a regional higher education center in Maryland, are partnering to help shape how higher education institutions can best ensure the success of a rapidly changing and increasingly less traditional student population, by building targeted pathways to degree completion and strong career opportunities.

Google has provided a $500,000 gift to USG to support the development of educational pathway analytics, with a long view of systemic change in the way higher education serves the “fluid” learner of today and tomorrow. The goal is to develop an applied research framework for measuring, assessing and learning how to design and implement pathway programs that lead students to college degree completion and career success, and support workforce development. This gift is part of the Grow with Google initiative that helps create new career opportunities through skill development and new pathways to the workforce.

USG is a regional higher education center of the University System of Maryland (USM) in Rockville, Md., which offers nearly 80 undergraduate and graduate-level programs from nine different state universities on one campus. All undergraduate programs offered at the campus provide the upper-division coursework toward bachelor’s degrees and are tailored to serving transfer students, many of whom follow a path from high school to community college, before being admitted into one of the universities that offer some of their programs at USG.

In recent years, USG and its partner universities have worked closely with Montgomery County Public Schools and Montgomery College to create a number of signature programs that provide a seamless and supportive pathway for students, leading them to degree attainment and strong career opportunities. The funding from Google will enable USG to better evaluate and plan for the success of such educational pathway programs, with a laser focus on preparing students to emerge career-ready.

“We are so grateful to the visionary team at Google for having the vision to invest in the important work we are doing at USG, together with our university partners,” said Dr. Anne Khademian, Executive Director of USG and Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs for USM. “We are especially focused on embracing the opportunity to serve what I often refer to as ‘fluid’ students – those who are often described as non-traditional, but are now the largest and fastest growing segment of the college-going audience. Our goal is to build successful pathway programs and initiatives that lead students to where they want to go – to earning their degrees and achieving their career goals.”

“Building a diverse, highly skilled talent pool is vital to ensuring continued economic growth and the success of any industry,” said Shanika Hope, Director of Google’s Education for Social Impact team. “We commend the Universities at Shady Grove, its university partners in Maryland, and its educational partners at the K-12 and community college levels for working innovatively to create effective pathway programs that can lead students to great careers. By measuring and assessing what works best, we hope they can continue to model and scale such successful pathways.”

“This partnership between Google and the Universities at Shady Grove is just another example of how we are creating a more economically competitive and equitable state for everyone," said Maryland Governor Wes Moore. “Maryland is fortunate to have not only world-class public universities, but also a full-service regional higher education center such as USG, which makes it possible for so many students to have access to our universities, and assure their career success.”

“This gift is another affirmation of USG’s leadership in designing the opportunities, pathways, flexibility, and support that students need — not just to earn a degree but to earn one that puts them exactly where they want to be,” said USM Chancellor Jay A. Perman. “It’s anachronistic to call USG’s students ‘nontraditional.’ They’re our students, plain and simple. And I’m thrilled that USG and Google will bring their collective strengths to showing us — and the nation — how we can best serve them.”

The purpose of this initiative will be to build and activate an equity-centered ARF, intentionally focused on measuring and assessing the impact of educational pathways, in order to inform, disrupt and transform education in partnership with multiple stakeholders in the educational ecosystem. 

Key to the work at USG will be the infusion of career competency training into all aspects of the student experience, along with strengthening ties between educational and industry partners to better support workforce and economic development needs. The framework will be built to help facilitate the replication and scaling of pathway programs and initiatives in communities nationwide.