(This article originally appeared in IU Today.)
By Jen Bratton
Over the summer, Jay Gladden became associate vice president of the Learning Technologies division of University Information Technology Services. Gladden comes to UITS from IUPUI, where he served as associate vice chancellor for undergraduate education. He shared his background, his vision for Learning Technologies’ future and his preference in Chicago baseball teams:
Question: What was your career path to this role?
Answer: My path has always been a little bit nonlinear. I grew up north of Chicago, went to DePauw University, majored in communications, and honestly didn’t know what I wanted to do when I graduated.
The typical path for a communications major was sales, so I gave that a try. I worked for Ralston Purina selling dog and cat chow, and I learned a lot in terms of selling, like the importance of listening. I also learned I didn’t have a passion for selling dog chow, so I got my master’s degree in sports management from Ohio State, then traveled all over North America doing research at sports and lifestyle events.
From there I got my Ph.D. in sports management at the University of Massachusetts and stayed there as a tenure-track faculty member, eventually becoming associate dean of the business school.
I came to IUPUI in 2009 as the dean of the School of Physical Education and Tourism Management, and in 2017 moved into a campus-level role as associate vice chancellor of undergraduate education, as well as dean of the University College and acting dean of the Honors College.
In each of those roles I was furthering my abilities to support student success, and throughout my career I’ve become more immersed in what we can do to help students succeed, graduate and pursue their goals.
Q: What makes you passionate about student success?
A: It comes from those moments in the classroom where students light up and see connections, and the tools that we use to facilitate those moments. They see the relevance or implications of concept and how it applies in life. And they would not have otherwise realized this without something you talked about or created discussion around in the classroom.
I think one of the most exciting things for me as a faculty member is the notion that you’re never perfect in the classroom, and there are always new ways that you can employ to get students excited about learning. Here at IU, we have tremendous support, particularly on the technology side for helping and facilitating learning.
Early on, I knew that active learning methods, applied learning methods and high-impact practices were central to helping students see connections and have formative experiences — ones that, when theyThat’s a huge part of the goal, in my opinion.
Q: What have you learned throughout your career about supporting students and their success?
A: During the pandemic, when we talked to students, the thing they missed most was connecting to peers and feeling a connection to the institution, which usually means a faculty or a staff member. There’s a lot of research out there that suggests if students feel like the university or someone at the university cares about them, they’re much more likely to succeed.
Early on, I knew that active learning methods, applied learning methods and high-impact practices were central to helping students see connections and have formative experiences — ones that, when they’re five years out of college, they’ll look back and say, “That changed me.” That’s a huge part of the goal, in my opinion.
Q: What do you see as the most important ways IU can support student success?
A: One thing we can do to support student success is help people understand who our students are today, what their pressures are — in particular, what they’ve just experienced from the pandemic — and how they prefer to consume information.
Another thing I think is key and is also really challenging is helping people understand the tools available to help students succeed. Specifically, with teaching and learning, there are so many [tools], and there’s some complexity associated with them.
Q: What do you see as the future of Learning Technologies at IU?
A: I think it is further leveraging what we already have, enhancing the support for faculty, adopting tools that will facilitate active learning and helping students see all that’s available to them while they’re at IU.
Beyond that, it’s the two-way communication with faculty about what they like, what they don’t like, what they need and what they’re not getting. Because many times there’s a solution to a problem they have, but they are not aware of it.
Q: How does your background in sports and marketing play into your role in Learning Technologies?
A: I grew up playing sports, and way beyond winning and losing, what I took away from those experiences is your role on a team. Everybody has a role, and roles can change, grow and evolve, but we’re all learning and growing, and that’s important.
There is a similarity between sports and education: They are both attempting to create a memorable experience, the best possible experience. Students leave IU with memories of those experiences they had, so with teaching and learning, how do we create those incredible moments in a classroom? How do we help support and facilitate those experiences?
Q: Last question, and most important question: Cubs or White Sox?
A: I grew up going to White Sox games even though we lived north of the city, in part because my father’s first exposure was living south of the city. I was a White Sox fan until 1997, when [they] traded away most of their good players and they were only four games out of first place. I swore at the time, and I have a couple witnesses to that, that I was done being a White Sox fan.
But I had to follow Chicago teams, so I became a Cubs fan. I’m a little sad to see where they are today, but we had 2016. I guess I’m still a little elated over that.
Jen Bratton is the Learning Technologies project manager and social media manager for the IT Communications Office in UITS.