Philadelphia University’s “Nexus Learning” Continues to Advance Professional Education

The rapid progression of Philadelphia University’s pioneering of transdisciplinary education – we call it Nexus Learning – has outpaced even our aggressive projections. From the Core 77 award in 2012 to the StateScoop 50 State Innovation of the Year Award in 2014, we have received national attention for our approach to higher education.

But we are never satisfied. Now, Philadelphia University is collaborating with Aalto University of Finland ( to intensively explore the richness of an education that imbues a broad understanding of value creation. Nexus Learning is a global phenomenon.

This weekend, Aalto University and PhilaU launched the first “Nexus Maximus” Sprint Project. Sponsored by Johnson and Johnson, 150 students from Finland and PhilaU, representing nine academic disciplines, formed three “legions” with four teams per legion. Twenty-two faculty members act as “Centurions” to guide the teams. The brief is to address a problem within the “Aging in Place” phenomenon and provide a solution. PhilaU occupational therapy students are advisors to the teams. Twenty workshops, presented by Aalto and PhilaU faculty, underpinned the intense learning and doing environment. Friday to Monday…problem-research-prototypes-solution-presentation…value creation.

Today, September 8, 2014, the teams present their solutions. The results can be reviewed at But the more important results will emerge over the next generation as the students take this experience into their careers and lead a global economy.

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PhilaU by the numbers

3, 8, 50, 94, 100.

As students, faculty, staff, and the whole PhilaU community prepare for the beginning of the Fall 2014 semester, I repeat these numbers to myself . They are the numbers that define how we at Philadelphia University fulfill our mission as a 21st-century institution that provides students with real-world experience and prepares them to be leaders in their evolving industries.

3 PhilaU students in the past five years have won the prestigious and coveted Fulbright Research Fellowships. For a relatively small school, this is a remarkable achievement. Our recipient from this past year is alumna Libby Nichols ‘14, a star lacrosse player who is traveling to Munich in September to study the cognitive effects that “heading” soccer balls has on youth soccer players.

8 of PhilaU’s programs have been nationally and internationally recognized: fashion design, physician assistant studies, midwifery, interior design, the online B.S. in professional communications, graphic design, occupational therapy, and the online B.S. in business management. This number is ever-increasing as PhilaU’s reputation grows.

50 years had passed since President John F. Kennedy’s assassination when PhilaU’s Single Bullet exhibition opened in October 2013. The first major project of the Arlen Specter Center for Public Service, the exhibition was the result of the collaborative work of architecture, graphic design, and law and society students and professors. Using documents donated by the late Senator Arlen Specter, this team constructed an interactive exhibit studying the various theories surrounding JFK’s assassination. The incredible public success of the very first project completed through the Specter Center has made the PhilaU community eager to see what the next project will be.

94% of the PhilaU Class of 2013 reported that within a year of graduation, they had jobs in their industries or had been accepted to graduate school. This percentage says it all: the PhilaU educational model is working. We treat students as creative and critical doers and professionals beginning with their very first day of college. Our students are provided every opportunity to nourish their innovative impulses by working with transdisciplinary teams and engaging in fast-paced industry projects that mimic the professional world. They become juggernauts in their industries.

100 individuals and teams have visited PhilaU’s Blackstone LaunchPad, part of our Entrepreneurship Center, since its opening earlier this year. The LaunchPad provides expertise and resources for student businesses to transform ideas into successful ventures. A number of the visitors have already launched businesses since visiting the LaunchPad. PhilaU does not just give students the tools to succeed – we show them how to use those tools.

PhilaU’s accolades never stop rolling in. I am overjoyed nearly every morning when I wake up, check my email, and see that yet another wonderful thing has happened in the PhilaU community. Students win prestigious competitions; professors are awarded fellowships to pursue research that benefits their industries as well as PhilaU; alumni earn leadership positions in influential companies. As our community grows, so does our reputation. By the numbers, and by all other methods of measurement, PhilaU is fulfilling its mission.

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Carpe vitae, “Seize the life”

I delivered these remarks to the graduating Physician Assistant Studies class of 2014.

University Presidents relish the opportunity to give a Carpe Diem speech. But seldom does the confluence of events and people make it as relevant as it does today.

You are graduating from a nationally ranked University program that has a 3% acceptance rate, 100% state exam pass rate and 100% career placement achievement. Your class has jobs across the USA and in virtually every medical specialty. You have residencies at diverse and interestings hospital from Jefferson to Johns Hopkins.

At the same time, the world and particularly the health fields are convulsing with the need for your skills and your leadership. Society yearns for the wonderful combination of professional excellent and strong leadership.

I have never been more confident that a class, the Class of 2014, will take the challenge. I don’t want you to Seize the Day… enjoy and celebrate this day… I implore you to Carpe Vitae, “Seize the Life,” heal our people and lead us to a better society.

When you need a rest or a welcoming hug, come home to Philadelphia University and lean on us. On occasion I make ask for a should our caring friend to continue advancing your alma mater.

Congratulations Physician Assistants, 2014.