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Thomas University’s delegates to the recent Yes We Must Coalition Institute included (from left) Dr. Gary Bonvillian, TU President; David Barnett, Director of Career Services and Instructor of Rehabilitation Studies; Dr. Jill Dennis, Associate Vice President for Enrollment Management and Marketing; and Dr. Ann Landis, Provost and Executive Vice President.


Thomas University officials participate

in Yes We Must COALITION Institute

Four representatives from Thomas University were among attendees representing 39 colleges and universities at the 2015 Yes We Must Coalition Institute held Nov. 11-13 in Roanoke, Virginia. Funding for the institute was provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Representing Thomas University were Dr. Gary Bonvillian, President; Dr. Ann Landis, Provost and Executive Vice President; Dr. Jill Dennis, Associate Vice President for Enrollment Management and Marketing: and David Barnett, Director of Career Services and Instructor of Rehabilitation Studies. Bonvillian is one of the founding directors of the YWMC.

“Thomas University has been a primary leader in forming this national coalition of like-minded colleges and universities committed to helping low-income Americans afford post-secondary opportunities and succeed in reaching higher education goals,” Landis said. “The federal government recognizes that two-year schools and degrees help to address this need through affordability, but the Yes We Must Coalition is made up of private not-for-profit colleges, like TU, who have policies, approaches and programs that take into account the realities of low-income students’ lives and support them as they pursue bachelor’s and master’s degrees that open doors to professions and greater earning power.”

The 2015 institute focused on the theme “Collaborating to Fulfill Our Responsibility to the New Student Majority.” Discussion centered on several collaborative projects among member colleges aimed at improving the outcome for students’ greater access to and affordability of higher education, graduation and realizing career goals. While collaboration among institutions tends to be rare in today’s higher education, YWMC members agree that it is necessary for the organization to accomplish its mission.

“The Yes We Must Coalition has now become a part of the conversation at the highest levels in the U.S., advocating for policies that benefit and protect students with need,” Landis said. “Through the Coalition’s work, the U.S. Department of Education and major foundations who support educational initiatives see that colleges like TU are taking responsibility for giving low-income Americans the same educational options that others with more means have.”

During the conference YWMC participants discussed how to create smoother pathways to degree completion that are responsive to the lives of students; how to integrate professional preparation into the full undergraduate experiences and create networks of employers for graduates; and how to reduce the costs of institutional operation in order to make higher education more affordable.

“At this conference, we developed concrete projects for ‘evening the playing field,’ such as addressing textbook costs, building professional networks for our students, and increasing flexibility so working students can stay on course toward a degree,” Landis said. “Education is so important for quality of life, and it’s exciting to discover how much more of an impact we can make in serving all Americans by combining our efforts with other private colleges committed to the same mission.”

For more information about the YWMC, visit

Education that Engages... Empowers... TRANSFORMS

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