The “Fundamentally Transformative” Power of Higher Education: A Conversation Between Paul LeBlanc and Ted Mitchell

Podcast Episode: The “Fundamentally Transformative” Power of Higher Education

Commencement ceremonies
at Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) are among the best parts of Dr. Paul J. LeBlanc’s job. 

As SNHU president, these events are where LeBlanc hears about the incredible diversity of SNHU’s graduates. They are people who have been formerly incarcerated, veterans, refugees, and people with disabilities; graduates of all ages, races, and ethnicities. Their stories are a testament to the “fundamentally transformative” power of higher education, a topic LeBlanc discusses in depth in a new podcast with Ted Mitchell, president of the American Council of Education (ACE). Listen to the full conversation and review key conversation takeaways below. 


Key Conversation Insights and Takeaways


The SNHU Advantage: Supporting Students Through Faculty Development

Serving more than 150,000 learners, SNHU offers approximately 200 accredited undergraduate, graduate, and certificate programs available online and on its 300-acre campus in Manchester, New Hampshire. As one of the most innovative, fastest-growing, and impactful institutions of higher education in the country, LeBlanc says a central part of SNHU’s success has been its commitment of faculty to students and their surrounding communities.  

A “major gap,” he laments, is ensuring faculty receive the support, training, and professional development they need to set today’s learners up for success. 

“Faculty are being asked to do so much,” LeBlanc says. “Mental health challenges, rapidly changing technology, and the need to effectively serve a wide range of learners are things that all institutions must grapple with, but faculty can often be sidelined from that work.”


SNHU’s Partnership With ACUE 

One of the most consistent pieces of feedback that SNHU hears from its faculty is a desire for more structured opportunities to engage in high quality professional development. In this episode, President LeBlanc says that faculty who have earned ACUE’s nationally recognized teaching credentials have reported transformative impact. 

“The beauty of [ACUE] is that the thing I learned today I get to put to work tomorrow. Like, it’s immediate. And honestly, I’ve never heard faculty gush about a professional development experience the way they talk about this,” says LeBlanc.

Since SNHU’s partnership with ACUE launched in December 2022, a total of 17 cohorts have completed or started ACUE’s credential program. After starting with two cohorts, SNHU has quickly expanded the opportunity in response to faculty demand and popularity.  

LeBlanc says the experience has earned high praise from all types of faculty, including SNHU’s most seasoned educators.  

One example is Bryan Belanger, who has been teaching online courses for nearly 10 years. “It sometimes feels like I’ve already tried it all,” he shares on LinkedIn. “This was a great way to stretch my thinking, revisit how I approach my courses each term and learn new ways to ensure student success!”


The Connection Between Belonging & Higher Retention

From his vantage point as president of ACE, which has endorsed ACUE’s nationally recognized teaching credentials, Ted Mitchell shares how ACUE partner institutions foster belonging on their campuses and online. It starts, he says, with “building a community of learners among faculty.”  

Mitchell and LeBlanc say that they are seeing measurable impact for faculty and students, as well as across campus.  

“When faculty learn and implement these evidence-based practices, students stay in school longer and equity gaps close,” says Mitchell. “An ACUE-certified faculty member essentially retains two additional students per year. If you think about that from a student’s point of view, those are two people whose pathways will continue to expand as a result of their higher ed experience.”


To learn more about how to bring ACUE programs to your course or campus, please visit or contact our partnerships team at [email protected].


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