Spotlight on the Academic Partnership Team

At UW Continuum College, we turn ideas into impact. Succeeding takes inspiration, dedication and motivation. And that’s just what our Academic Partnership team, charged with managing the University of Washington’s fee-based programs, is all about.

“We want our campus partners to know that our motivation is to help their programs to be sustainable,” says Sandra Janusch, Assistant Vice Provost of International & Academic Programs. “We’ve recently looked at how we work with academic departments and are thinking about how we can add even more value to these partnerships. We’re here to ensure all fee-based programs thrive.” 

This past summer, Continuum College reorganized the portfolios of work for our directors and program managers. Instead of being assigned to a mix of credit and noncredit programs, teams are now dedicated either to noncredit certificate programs or to academic partnership for credit programs, such as fee-based degrees. The Academic Partnership team also supports Early Fall Start, Summer Quarter and UW in the High School.  

This 14-member Academic Partnership team is here “to provide personalized support for degrees, based on the needs of the departments,” says Janusch, who leads the team along with directors Eric Irvin and Britta Simon. Janusch arrived at the UW in 2015 to lead the International & English Language Programs; last year, she took on her current role as Assistant Vice Provost also leading Academic Programs. 

Starting a new degree program can be a daunting task, particularly for departments who have never created a fee-based degree program. That’s where the Academic Partnership team comes in. With dedicated points of contact in the Graduate School, the Office of Planning and Budgeting, the Office of the Provost, Disability Services, the Registrar’s Office and Financial Aid, the Academic Partnership team leverages their network to plan and launch a program.  

“We provide program management, guiding the initial setup process, including the program budget creation. We also liaise with marketing and market research to ensure financial sustainability,” says Simon, who earned her Ph.D. in Germanics from the UW and came to work for the University in 2010 after a career as a linguist and program manager at Microsoft. 

Partnering with the Academic Partnership team saves departments time as they don’t have to do the research on requirements, deadlines and who’s who; instead, their Academic Partnership team program manager does that for them. 

“It all starts with a conversation,” explains Irvin, who has worked at the UW for 15 years and came to Continuum College 10 years ago from the School of Pharmacy. “We talk through a department's or faculty member’s idea for a credit program and the requirements — and we help them understand the implications.”   

While there are common best practices, each new program idea generates its own unique questions — in part because each UW department is structured distinctively and because the goals for each program vary. Academic Partnership team program managers also help departments determine the right learning format, or modality (classroom, online or a combination), for their program.    

In some instances, departments already running a program are interested in growing it or exploring changes and need help evaluating how those changes will impact students. The Academic Partnership team is well positioned to help.  

“Our group works with almost 80 programs. We have a broad understanding of program types and formats, which can help guide success,” says Irvin. “Our expertise is helpful in that we know how fee-based, self-sustaining programs work within a university context.” 

A benefit to working with Continuum College that often surprises departments is that Continuum College takes on the financial risk of the programs they administer. “In the startup phase, programs go into deficit,” says Simon. “Our organization provides teams with funding during that period. Once revenue comes in, the deficit is reduced, but sometimes that takes several years.” 

This initial safety net means that departments can focus on their students and on a program's content rather than its near-term financial performance. “We’re a pathway to being able to offer new and innovative programs in a time when there may not be state funding, or other funding, available to support that,” says Irvin. 

Since 1912, University of Washington Continuum College has provided innovative learning paths that boost career success and inspire more meaningful lives. With a flexible approach to delivering the right programs for the right people at the right time, Continuum College provides over 50,000 students each year with a high-quality University of Washington education that’s relevant for today’s world and accessible to learners in Seattle and around the globe.