Press Release

AAC&U Announces Appointment of Kate McConnell as Vice President for Curricular and Pedagogical Innovation and Executive Director of VALUE

Washington, DC—The Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) announced today the retirement of Terrel Rhodes, effective April 1, 2021, and the promotion of Kate McConnell to AAC&U’s executive leadership team as the Vice President for Curricular and Pedagogical Innovation and the Executive Director of VALUE. In this role, she will focus on making quality and equity the foundations for excellence in undergraduate education through research, capacity-building, and advocacy focused on changing teaching, learning, and assessment practices—including but not limited to the VALUE approach to assessment—at the system, institutional, curricular, and course levels.

“Terry has had an enormous impact on higher education over the course of his distinguished career, an impact that has been felt especially strongly through his work with and on behalf of our members,” said AAC&U President Lynn Pasquerella. “Kate is an inspiring and innovative scholar in the areas of curriculum, pedagogy, and assessment. At this moment of opportunity to reimagine higher education for the future, I am thrilled that Kate will be playing a leadership role, building upon Terry’s legacy, while taking AAC&U’s work in new and exciting directions.”

Rhodes has served as Vice President of the Office of Quality, Curriculum, and Assessment since 2006 and as the Executive Director of the Valid Assessment of Learning in Undergraduate Education (VALUE) initiative since 2017. Rhodes created the VALUE initiative, including its centerpiece rubrics for the Essential Learning Outcomes, as well as the VALUE Institute. Rhodes co-led Preparing Critical Faculty for the Future, which examined how to enhance the voices, roles, and success of women of color in STEM as models for creating greater support and equity across all disciplinary areas for women of color. Before joining AAC&U, Rhodes worked as a faculty member at St. John’s University (MN), the University of North Carolina–Charlotte, and Portland State University. Rhodes has published extensively on undergraduate education reform issues as well as public policy and administration.

“I never thought of leaving my faculty role on a university campus until I encountered AAC&U through one of their nationwide projects,” said Rhodes. “I discovered a national association deeply committed to the vision and practice of developing students, faculty, staff, and structures as well as the lived strengths of liberal education needed to achieve quality and equity for every student no matter who they are or how they come to us. I cannot think of a better person to lead this mission forward than Kate.”

McConnell earned her doctorate in educational psychology at Virginia Tech, where she ultimately served as the Director of Assessment for Undergraduate Academic Affairs and as affiliate faculty in Virginia Tech’s graduate program in educational psychology, teaching courses on cognitive processes and effective college teaching. McConnell first became involved with AAC&U through its LEAP States work in Virginia and was a member of one of the VALUE rubric development teams. McConnell has served as AAC&U’s Assistant Vice President for Research and Assessment and Director of the VALUE Institute in the Office of Quality, Curriculum, and Assessment for almost six years.

Under McConnell’s leadership, the Office of Quality, Curriculum, and Assessment will be renamed the Office of Curricular and Pedagogical Innovation to reflect the full range of work and activities. The office’s initiatives draw upon and contribute to the most current and robust research on institutional change and learning sciences. They promote capacity-building by providing concrete, actionable innovations that can be implemented at all levels of undergraduate education reform. Pedagogical innovations range from the VALUE approach to assessment and assignment (re)design to promoting Open Educational Resources, while curricular innovations are focused on general education and system/state-level change.

“Terry has been an amazing mentor and colleague to me since we met in 2009—well before I went to work for him,” said McConnell. “Reporting to him for the last six years has been and will undoubtedly continue to be one of the highlights of my career. It is no exaggeration to say that through his work, he has helped transform undergraduate education, and he did so with the powerful combination of his innate creativity and kindness. I am humbled by the opportunity to step into this role, and excited to join the incredible executive leadership team that Lynn has created.”

About AAC&U

AAC&U is the leading national association dedicated to advancing the vitality and public standing of liberal education by making quality and equity the foundations for excellence in undergraduate education in service to democracy. Its members are committed to extending the advantages of a liberal education to all students, regardless of academic specialization or intended career. Founded in 1915, AAC&U now comprises more than 1,200 member institutions—including accredited public and private colleges, community colleges, research universities, and comprehensive universities of every type and size.

AAC&U functions as a catalyst and facilitator, forging links among presidents, administrators, faculty, and staff engaged in institutional and curricular planning. Through a broad range of activities, AAC&U reinforces the collective commitment to liberal education at the national, local, and global levels. Its high-quality programs, publications, research, meetings, institutes, public outreach efforts, and campus-based projects help individual institutions ensure that the quality of student learning is central to their work as they evolve to meet new economic and social challenges.