Office Hours with John Gardner graphic with John Gardner and Tristan Denley

Episode 11 – Transforming the Dream of College

Office Hours with John Gardner

Guest Bio

Dr. Tristan Denley currently serves as Deputy Commissioner for Academic Affairs and Innovation at the Louisiana Board of Regents. Before moving to Louisiana in January 2022, he served as Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Chief Academic Officer at the University System of Georgia, Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs at the Tennessee Board of Regents and Vice President for Academic Affairs at Austin Peay State. Originally from Penzance, England, Dr. Denley earned his PhD in Mathematics from Trinity College Cambridge, and has held positions in Sweden, Canada, and the University of Mississippi. At Ole Miss he served as Chair of Mathematics, and Senior Fellow of the Residential College program.

Throughout his career, he has taken a hands-on approach in a variety of initiatives impacting student success. In 2007, he was chosen as a Redesign Scholar by the National Center for Academic Transformation for his work in rethinking the teaching of freshmen mathematics classes. 

At Austin Peay he created Degree Compass, a course recommendation system that successfully pairs current students with the courses that best fit their talents and program of study for upcoming semesters. This system, which combines hundreds of thousands of past students’ grades with each particular student’s transcript, to make individualized recommendations for current students has received recognition from Educause, Complete College America, Lumina Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and President Obama and won a platinum IMS Global Learning Impact Award in 2014. 

In 2016 he was selected as one of the Washington Monthly’s sixteen most innovative people in Higher Education, one of the Center for Digital Education’s Top 30 Technologists, Transformers and Trailblazers and was invited to the White House to address recipients of President Obama’s First in the World grants as a model of what could be achieved by a higher education system. He was the recipient of the 2016 Newel Perry Award from the National Federation of the Blind for his leadership of a systemic approach to the accessibility of educational content. In 2017 he was recognized as one of five higher education leaders to watch in 2017 (and beyond) by Education Dive, and was named as a Complete College America Fellow. 

Amongst his most recent work has been the development and implementation of a comprehensive system-scale student success strategy, the Momentum Year, that transforms developmental education and advising. Implementation of the Momentum Year strategies in Georgia increased system-wide 4yr graduation rates by 20%, and by 30% for African American students. He also developed and launched the nexus degree, the first new degree structure in the United States in more than 100 years.

His work continues in using a data informed approach to implement a wide variety of state-wide initiatives surrounding college completion, stretching from education redesign in a variety of disciplines, to the role of predictive analytics and data mining, cognitive psychology and behavioral economics in higher education. 

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