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NEST 2011 – Networking Ed Entrepreneurs for Social Transformation

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I attended the NEST 2011 Conference at the University of Pennsylvania last week.  Sponsored by Penn’s Graduate School of Education (GSE) (of which I am a graduate), the conference attempts to match education entrepreneurs with investors, educators, and a policy maker or two.  The two day event included a business plan competition sponsored by Penn GSE and the Milken Family Foundation as well as the Startl Prize for Open Educational Resources in partnership with the Hewlett Foundation.  The latter award is for the “best business plan that leverages openly licensed content to change the paradigm around the production, delivery, sharing, and experience of learning.”

Penn GSE’s Vice Dean, Douglas Lynch, has built a NEST community of approximately 130 people who are committed to encouraging and/or supporting ed entrepreneurs.  Members of the community volunteer as judges for the business plan competition and enjoy meeting like-minded individuals at the conference.   Day one of the conference revolved around presentations by teams from the finalists for the business plan competition.  Alexandre Scialom won a prize for his startup company, theCourseBook.  TheCourseBook.com is a website that lists courses for adult learners and rates them, similar to Yelp.  While the beta prototype for the company is currently limited to a few cities in California, its goal is to widen its span nationally.  The second day of the conference was more interactive with the members of NEST.  After a short talk from Andy Porter, Dean of Penn GSE, members of the group participated in discussions about research and its importance to the education entrepreneurs/business community as well as other topics such as national regulations, for-profit and non-profit ventures, etc.

I congratulate Andy Porter, Doug Lynch and the rest of the team at Penn GSE for sponsoring the NEST conference and initiative.  When a graduate school at one of America’s great research universities can arrange a connection with entrepreneurs, investors, educators, and policy makers, hopefully better communications and understanding at a national level will be a result.

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Wally Boston Dr. Wallace E. Boston was appointed President and Chief Executive Officer of American Public University System (APUS) and its parent company, American Public Education, Inc. (APEI) in July 2004. He joined APUS as its Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer in 2002. In September 2019, Dr. Boston retired as CEO of APEI and retired as APUS President in August 2020. Dr. Boston guided APUS through its successful initial accreditation with the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association in 2006 and ten-year reaccreditation in 2011. In November 2007, he led APEI to an initial public offering on the NASDAQ Exchange. For four years from 2009 through 2012, APEI was ranked in Forbes' Top 10 list of America's Best Small Public Companies. During his tenure as president, APUS grew to over 85,000 students, 200 degree and certificate programs, and approximately 100,000 alumni. While serving as APEI CEO and APUS President, Dr. Boston was a board member of APEI, APUS, Hondros College of Nursing, and Fidelis, Inc. Dr. Boston continues to serve as a member of the Board of Advisors of the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA), a member of the Board of Overseers of the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education, and as a member of the board of New Horizons Worldwide. He has authored and co-authored papers on the topic of online post-secondary student retention, and is a frequent speaker on the impact of technology on higher education. Dr. Boston is a past Treasurer of the Board of Trustees of the McDonogh School, a private K-12 school in Baltimore. In his career prior to APEI and APUS, Dr. Boston served as either CFO, COO, or CEO of Meridian Healthcare, Manor Healthcare, Neighborcare Pharmacies, and Sun Healthcare Group. Dr. Boston is a Certified Public Accountant, Certified Management Accountant, and Chartered Global Management Accountant. He earned an A.B. degree in History from Duke University, an MBA in Marketing and Accounting from Tulane University’s Freeman School of Business Administration, and a Doctorate in Higher Education Management from the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education. In 2008, the Board of Trustees of APUS awarded him a Doctorate in Business Administration, honoris causa, and, in April 2017, also bestowed him with the title President Emeritus. In August 2020, the Board of Trustees of APUS appointed him Trustee Emeritus. In November 2020, the Board of Trustees announced that the APUS School of Business would be renamed the Dr. Wallace E Boston School of Business in recognition of Dr. Boston's service to the university. Dr. Boston lives with his family in Austin, Texas.

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