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2016 Changemaker: Tracy Petrillo, EdD, CAE

For creating “speaker-free” meetings and for her passion for the power of alternative credentialing in continuing adult education

Tracy Petrillo, EdD, CAE, Educause

Chief Learning Officer

Making Change
When I accepted the role as chief learning officer at Educause three years ago, I was charged with reimagining our regional conference model. Working closely with a member committee, I created a “speaker-free,” highly interactive learning event called Connect. Beginning with the call for proposals, we seek “content leaders,” not speakers. These content leaders attend mandatory pre-event training to prepare them to facilitate knowledge sharing and create engaging activities. The on-site immersive sessions allow participants to personalize their learning experience, build community, and apply this knowledge back at their workplace.

I presented our Educause Connect event model at the American Society for Association Executives and California’s CalSAE conferences to demonstrate best practices in adult learning and to inspire meeting planners and professional development staff to innovate by focusing on the participants’ learning experience, rather than “sage on the stage” traditional presenters. If conferences continue to invite “speakers,” attendees will continue to be passive listeners. It is time to engage participants in every session room, remove theater seating, and prepare content leaders to facilitate true personalized learning.

What’s Next?
My passion is alternative credentialing, including certification, micro-learning, and digital badging. I recently completed my doctoral degree in educational leadership and management, studying the value of certification for association professionals. One of my findings: Executives tend to fear learning and testing. After implementing a digital badging program at Educause, I’ve seen that motivated learners seek recognition in small chunks, which builds confidence in their ability to achieve further professional learning, high-level credentialing, and advanced degrees.

We are moving out of the past flat-text résumé world into a world of visual, data-driven portfolios of practice and lifelong learning. I believe the future of learning involves digital badges that are visual representations of learning/accomplishment/recognition that have API/URL-type links back to the issuer for immediate validation. I see micro-credentialing as complementary to traditional degrees and credentialing programs. There is much to gain, for both the learner and the employer, to fill skills gaps when professional associations, the workforce, and higher education align. To encourage change, I’ve shared knowledge on alternative credentialing at SXSWedu, Masie’s Learning conferences, national webinars for meeting planners, ASAE, and CalSAE.

Managing Change
While there can be value in building stakeholder support to share the risk and gain buy-in while implementing change, true innovation often requires getting out in front of the knowledge and comfort levels of the majority.

Role Model
In my first association job, the acting executive director convinced me to relocate and accept a chal-lenge to advance my career. She continued to throw me into projects that were over my head. She gave me extensive independence in decision-making, but also coached me to grow in collaborative decision-making and patience.

Best Business Advice
Don’t let office politics and peer jealousy change who you are. Be yourself and find work you love.

Thinking Differently
I have always brought diverse groups of people together around shared interests. When I was a schoolgirl, I choreographed after-school group dances for everyone who showed up. We would have been viral if we’d had YouTube back then.

Giving Back
I serve on the ASAE Certified Association Executive Commission, the ASAE Gold Circle committee, and recently chaired the ASAE Assessments Task Force and the ASAE Foundation’s Research Knowledge Management Task Force. I served as a board advisor to CalSAE and the California Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Got a Spare Hour?
I walk my dog or take a nap. Exercise and quality sleep are critical to health and productivity.

Previous: Changemaker Fiona Pelham

Next: Changemaker Karin Pontelandolfo, CMP

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