Preview Mode Links will not work in preview mode

Getting Smart Podcast

Aug 9, 2019

Today’s episode features a fascinating interview with Connie Yowell and Paul LeBlanc.


In the most interesting deal of 2018, Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU), the leading online university, and LRNG, the leading out-of-school learning platform, merged. Connie Yowell, CEO of LRNG and EVP of SNHU, saw the merger as an opportunity to establish meaningful pathways to the middle class for youth that needs them most. And as the SNHU President, Paul LeBlanc saw LRNG as an opportunity to extend access to underserved youth in new ways.


Since the merger 10 months ago, SNHU and LRNG have launched pilot programs in Chicago and Bermingham and they’ve mapped over 30 LRNG badges that count for SNHU credit. SNHU is also actively serving refugees in five countries. And recently, Paul and Connie have returned from a trip to Africa to review programs and consider additional service opportunities.


Listen in as Tom talks to Connie and Paul about how they came into their leadership roles, how and why the merger happened, and where they’ll go from here!


Key Takeaways:

[:15] About today’s episode!

[1:34] Tom welcomes Connie Yowell and Paul LeBlanc to the podcast!

[1:42] Connie speaks about how she originally became interested in the public policy of youth development.

[2:43] What gave Connie hope that philanthropy was a path to better policy and better systems for youth development?

[3:28] Paul speaks about his past formal education.

[5:24] Early on in his career, how did Paul get from his graduate studies to leading a liberal arts school?

[8:07] Paul speaks about when he took over SNHU in 2003 and their growing online presence.

[9:17] Did Paul have a sense 16 years ago that SNHU could be a real innovator and leader in the online space?

[11:10] Connie speaks about some of her early insights into digital credentials and out-of-school learning experiences.

[14:28] Connie explains how and why LRNG came to be.

[16:12] When did Paul start to get the sense that some learning could be organized differently than traditional courses and that we could begin to use badges and micro-credentials for shorter bursts of learning?

[19:43] Connie and Paul speak about the merging of their two organizations (SNHU and LRNG) 6 months ago, and how they’ve figured out how they fit together organizationally and conceptually.

[22:38] How does LRNG fit in with SNHU? What does the roadmap look like for rolling out new badges for SNHU?

[23:38] Connie gives some examples of what these badges look like and what kinds of experiences make them up.

[24:50] Paul speaks about the benefits of badges and the implementing of badges at SNHU.

[29:06] Connie speaks about how they’re trying to support the work of the Museum of Contemporary Art’s Youth Design Workshops.

[32:32] Peter explains how SNHU is serving refugees and speaks about their global education initiative.

[37:03] What did Connie learn during her experience traveling to Africa with the team?

[39:07] Peter gives his closing thoughts on what the merging of SNHU and LRNG will be like several years in the future.

[41:09] Tom thanks Peter and Connie for joining him this podcast!


Mentioned in This Episode:

Connie Yowell (LinkedIn)

Paul LeBlanc (LinkedIn)


Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU)


One Summer Chicago

Youth Design Workshops by MCA Chicago


To Learn More About Southern New Hampshire, Listen to:

Podcast 122 that was recorded back in 2017, when Tom first talked to Paul LeBlanc!


Get Involved:

Check out the blog at

Find the Getting Smart Podcast on iTunes, leave a review and subscribe.


Is There Somebody You’ve Been Wanting to Learn From or a Topic You’d Like Covered?

To get in contact: Email and include ‘Podcast’ in the subject line.

The Getting Smart team will be sure to add them to their list!