Expanding access to education

Deborah Keyek-Franssen

The University of Utah is expanding and reimagining programs in online and continuing education and has selected a new leader to build the initiative.

Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Dan Reed announced this week that Deborah Keyek-Franssen, associate vice president for Digital Education and Engagement for the University of Colorado System, will be the university’s new associate vice president and dean of Continuing and Online Education.

Keyek-Franssen’s long career in information technology, combined with her humanities undergraduate and graduate education, “make her the perfect leader to build bridges as the university expands access to education, enhances student success, and works to meet the needs of Utah’s changing workforce,” Reed said.

Building on the recommendations of the university’s yearlong Educational Futures and Student Success Task Force, the integrated online and continuing education program will expand the pathways available to students for degrees, certificates and lifelong education. University leaders are working to stay ahead of exponential changes in the way students learn and prepare for the jobs of tomorrow, Reed said. Expanded and enhanced online education is intrinsic to that transformation.

Keyek-Franssen will work closely with academic deans and schools across the university, as well as with community groups and Utah business leaders. Continuing Education and Online programs will serve undergraduates, graduate students, professionals, and non-degree seeking students.

“We are in an unprecedented time for higher and digital education,” Keyek-Franssen said. “Even without the turmoil caused by the spread of the coronavirus, online and continuing education are increasingly important in our region, the nation, and the world. Together, they have the potential to create a wide range of high-quality learning opportunities that have tangible individual and societal benefits.”

Since 2013, Keyek-Franssen has worked as the University of Colorado’s associate vice president for Digital Education and Engagement, promoting cross-campus collaborations, developing massive open online courses (MOOCs), and leading a multi-campus project for open education resources. From 2007 to 2013, Keyek-Franssen was director of Academic Technology at the University of Colorado Boulder. For the past 13 years, Keyek-Franssen has managed the regional Colorado Learning and Teaching with Technology (COLTT) Conference.

She earned her bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth College in German, then two master’s degrees—in Germanic Languages and Higher and Postsecondary Education—and a Ph.D. in Germanic Languages and Literatures from the University of Michigan.

Keyek-Franssen said now is the time to be strategic about resolving inequalities in access to technology, developing collaborations with corporate and community partners, and expanding lifelong learning opportunities for urban and rural populations.

“In recent weeks, we have seen firsthand the increasing importance of online and continuing education, but these volatile times also present opportunities,” she added. “We can ensure we are collectively prepared for this rapidly changing world and society and for the learner and workforce needs that will emerge over the coming months and years.”

Following the completion of the university approval process, Keyek-Franssen will begin May 15, 2020.