On this episode of the RAISE podcast, Brent chats with Jason Patenaude, Executive Director at Schuler Education Foundation & the Schuler Scholar Program.
On the day Brent and Jason recorded this conversation, we had just announced our EverTrue-ThankView merger. Jason had just launched the new Schuler Access Initiative. Needless to say, this episode will get you fired up.
Brent and Jason discuss their experiences as first-generation, low-income students at elite universities; how technology can transform and unlock the potential of “dinosaur” industries; and how 5 colleges increased their young alumni donor base by 54% in just three years.
Catch the full episode, plus some highlights, here.
Some highlights from the episode…
“They were like my second set of parents.” Jason reflects on how the course of his life changed because two high school teachers, Frank and Barbara Rose, insisted on connecting him with opportunities that would expand his horizon. They took him under their wing and exposed him to things like Beethoven symphonies, classic literature and cinema, and college applications.
“There were times when I felt poor. But mostly I just felt foreign.” Jason and Brent discuss their experiences as first-generation students from low-income families at elite universities. They talk about the importance of intentionally connecting low-income and first-gen students with opportunities that they may not be aware of or have easy access to when they arrive on campus – like spring break, study abroad, and extracurriculars.
“I left college sure that I would publish a novel in 6 months and become a famous writer.” Instead, Jason joined Waterstones, a publication company based in the UK. He learned how to run a business; how to manage inventory, payroll, employees; and how to lean into tech to automate processes and make the company sustainable.
“I was fascinated by the fact that the internet and e-commerce allowed you to understand more about customers so that you could give them a better experience.” Throughout his career Jason has been unafraid to try to transform and digitize legacy businesses against all odds: bookstore chains, publishing companies, and now higher education. There are lots of people who would advise Jason not to spend his time trying to prop up the “dinosaurs” – but he believes really strongly in the importance of these industries, and in technology’s ability to unlock their potential.
“If you don’t want to miss an entire generation of support, you have to engage, and you have to engage genuinely.” Jason headed up the Schuler Initiative, a three-year pilot program to better understand young alumni featuring Bates, Carleton, Middlebury, Wellesley, and Williams. Through this program, these colleges sought to expand the count of young alumni making gifts to their alma mater and increase retention. Teaser: they saw a 54% growth in their young alumni donor base, and 74% donor retention.
“The annual fund is actually a collection of very specific use cases.” Jason is an advocate for rethinking “unrestricted” annual fund giving. Most people don’t know the difference between giving $1k and $2k to the annual fund. But they do know the difference between providing a computer to one student or two students.
“We’re hoping to add 15-20 schools.” The Schuler Initiative will give $500MM in matching funds to selected liberal arts colleges to substantially expand access for undocumented students and Pell-eligible students. The next round of applications for partner institutions begins in September, 2022.
More about Jason…
Jason Patenaude is the Executive Director and COO of the Schuler Education Foundation and the Schuler Scholar Program. Prior to joining Schuler, Jason served as the Chief Operating Officer of the award-winning education company Cricket Media, and as the Chief Operating Officer of Reading In Motion, a non-profit focused on early childhood literacy.
Jason had an experience in high school very like that of a Schuler Scholar, and it made a profound difference in his life. Having grown up in a low-income household where college was not considered as a realistic option, Jason was fortunate enough in high school to be mentored by two of his teachers who introduced him to new cultural experiences, pushed him academically, and visited liberal arts colleges with him to ensure he would continue his education. With their support, he became the first person in his family to graduate from college. That education changed the trajectory of Jason’s life, and he has tried to honor his teachers’ belief in him by dedicating his career to furthering education.
As an executive, Jason has focused on scaling small, family-run organizations through an approach that balances intelligent growth with operational efficiency and technological innovation. Jason has an MBA from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth and a BA in English from Bates College.