Ashford Honors College Dean Sparks Curiosity at Harvard, Penn State

eric klein smiling in his office

As more traditional universities try their hand at online education, Honors College Dean Dr. Eric Klein finds that they’re looking to Ashford University to figure out how to do it well and at scale. 

Klein attended the prestigious Harvard Management Development Program in the summer of 2017. With a rigorous selection process, the 12-day on-site program accepts only emerging leaders who are addressing current and future challenges in higher education in new ways.

Representing Ashford—the lone online-only institution represented—at the Harvard program, and at the Penn State Institute for Emerging Leadership in Online Learning program before that, Klein’s presence sparked plenty of curiosity.

“The number one question I get is, ‘How does Ashford differentiate itself?’” he says. “Many institutions advertise themselves as being affordable, accessible, and accelerated, but what is it about Ashford that’s special?” 

Having made the jump from practicing psychologist at Lehigh University to education, and now to administration at Ashford (to which he says he was “drawn by the mission”), Klein and the Honors College he helped start are part of the secret sauce. 

Launched on May 30, 2017, the college already has 158 students, who have on average a 3.90 GPA.
“These are high-achieving students,” he says. “’Academic all-stars,’ I like to call them.”

As a result, they receive a host of special support, including dedicated advisors and a faculty mentor, but also something that lasts much longer than their time at Ashford.

We owe it to our students to continually improve.

“Having the Ashford Honors College designation sends a message to future employers and graduate programs that says, ‘I’m a high-achieving student, and I’ll continue to be a top performer in your business or educational program,’” says Klein.

And Klein points out that it’s backed by Ashford’s commitment to quality. 

“I think we provide a great education for our students, and I’m really proud of the work that our faculty and staff do and how intentional we are in designing our courses,” he says. “For me, when I’m working with our faculty or hiring new faculty, I’m looking for people who are mission-driven and want to make a difference in people’s lives.”

Klein carries that focus into his prolific community involvement. He participates in the San Diego Downtown Development Partnership, two San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce committees (including the Education & Workforce Development committee), and is a founding member of the San Diego Leadership Alliance. Outside of San Diego, he is a mentor for SXSW EDU and serves on the editorial boards of the Journal of Instructional Research and InSight: A Journal of Scholarly Teaching.

“It’s important to give back to my community; I want to lead there as well as here,” he says. “We ask that of our students.”

Honoring students’ faith in Ashford and their commitment to their education is a central theme for Klein.

“Our biggest challenge is also our biggest opportunity—how to make the Honors College and all the different initiatives at Ashford even more special than they already are,” he says. “We owe it to our students to continually improve. How can we make it even better and make it stand out among our peers?”



Written by Ashford University staff

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