Gates's New Postsecondary Leader

May 30, 2012

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has selected an architect of the University of California's online learning strategy to lead its efforts in postsecondary education.

Daniel Greenstein, vice provost for academic planning, programs and coordination at the UC system, will become director of the postsecondary success strategy at Gates, the foundation announced Tuesday. Greenstein will replace Hilary Pennington, who left the job in April after five years.

Greenstein, who has moved his way up through the academic hierarchy of the University of California president's office over the last decade after beginning his career as a librarian and historian, is known as a smart and intellectually curious person with an inclination toward what George H.W. Bush might have called "the vision thing."

Over the course of his career, he has offered prescriptions for the future of academic libraries and university presses, and he led organizations (in both Britain and the U.S.) focused on helping libraries transform their collections into digital formats.

But those who have worked with him say that Greenstein has a track record of executing on both his own visions and those he has adopted, as is the case with the University of California's efforts to expand undergraduate instruction through online education, which he has co-led.

And while Gates may have defined the areas on which it wants to focus over the next several years -- including some, like innovation and technology in which Greenstein has significant experience, and others, such as community colleges, in which he has relatively little -- how it works in those areas will need constant reframing to keep it on track, say several people familiar with the foundation's work.

"Gates does have a vision, and whoever is coming into that slot is going to have to operate in that vision," said Catherine Casserly, CEO of Creative Commons, who met Greenstein through her work as director of the open educational resources program at the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, which funded UC's efforts. "But a vision like that has to be continually updated and refreshed, and the road will meander, and someone like Dan will be able to reframe and recalibrate the vision to keep it on track."

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