How Drexel is Transforming Education for Veterans
By: Mary L. Hagy,
The Philadelphia Business Journal
Some 18 months ago, a quiet force in U.S. military veterans’ education settled into a third-floor corner office, a stone’s throw west of 30th Street Station in Philadelphia. Although her position as senior vice president of Online Learning and president of Drexel University Online enables
her to lead the academic careers of students from all backgrounds, military veterans have long been a passion for Susan C. Aldridge. From the first course she taught two decades ago to military members and veterans at Holloman Air Force Base, NM, Aldridge has dedicated her talents to improving their educational experiences and opportunities for career advancement.
“I was invited to teach a masters degree course in management,” Aldridge recalled. “My students included a flight surgeon, two nurses, three Stealth bomber pilots, and three veterans. They were incredibly smart people, and they challenged me as their professor. I was struck by their personal stories and their patriotism. I knew I always wanted to work with and for these students.”
Aldridge’s transition from professor to administrator capitalized on her business acumen, and led to positions as Vice Chancellor of Troy University and as President of the University of Maryland University College (UMUC), the top two educational institutions in the U.S. serving military and veteran populations. While UMUC President, Aldridge delivered education to some 94,000 students in 28 countries.
At Drexel, President John Fry has charged Aldridge with reimagining the university’s online education enterprise.
“Susan brings years of higher education leadership experience, and has built an international reputation as one of the premier innovators in online and distance education,” Fry said, when welcoming her aboard. “I am confident Susan is the perfect choice to make Drexel one of the world’s leading providers of online learning.”
In a bookshelf photo with Colin Powell as Secretary of State, the petite Aldridge barely reaches his shoulder. While she could be nominated for an always-dressed-for-elegance award, her leadership in higher education and technology has been widely recognized. She has twice been named by The Washingtonian as one of Washington D.C.’s 100 most powerful women, and in 2013, was inducted into the U.S. Distance Learning Association Hall of Fame, "for her significant contribution to the field of distance learning through leadership, technology, research and teaching."
An easy humor emerges beneath her twin passions for veteran students and the business of education. Those passions, together with the experience and talents of career success, uniquely position Aldridge and Drexel for launching what could become a revolutionary approach to serving the educational needs of veterans and the corporations that employ them.
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