Research Projects

It’s no secret that effective governing boards are essential to successful organizations. What is less obvious, mostly invisible, and often simply accepted without scrutiny is the impact of board culture. The ways trustees interact, discuss issues, and make decisions determines outcomes.

We have designed a survey to identify and examine board culture in order to:

  1. Reveal predominant board behaviors and how they affect board work both positively and negatively;
  2. Create meaningful, comparative board culture profiles; and,  
  3. Engage trustees in critical thinking about the relationship between board culture and higher governance and organizational performance.

The result for boards is a roadmap to improved governance. The Board Culture Profile will help boards take better advantage of their cultural strengths, reveal possible blindspots, and mitigate weaknesses as they relate to the work they are facing and the contexts in which they operate.

Key Cultural Dimensions

Our approach to board culture focuses on four key dimensions:

  1. How boards act;
  2. How boards decide;
  3. What boards have as a predominant mindset; and,
  4. How boards perceive their roles.

Our approach is grounded in research on organizational culture and dynamics, team function/dysfunction, and field-based research on boards. Each element matters to board behavior, and together they paint a deep and comprehensive picture of the culture of each board.

Board Culture Project Detail Overview

Please click here for additional information about this approach.

Project Principals

Cathy Trower, President, Trower & Trower, Inc.

Peter Eckel, Senior Fellow and Director of Leadership Programs, Penn AHEAD

Matt Hartley, Professor of Education at the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education and Executive Director of AHEAD

For more information about this project or to learn more about how to participate, please contact Cathy Trower or Peter Eckel.

To improve equity in higher education attainment, policymakers and practitioners need current and appropriate data that document the status of inequity in important higher education outcomes. This project is intended to improve the availability and use of data documenting trends in the status of inequity in higher education opportunity and outcomes. this project will produce the following outcomes: internal systems and processes that enable sustainable production of Indicators reports into the future; a user-friendly data interface that enables any interested individual to easily obtain relevant indicators of higher education equity; additional indicators of equity in higher education so as to ensure a current and comprehensive description of higher education equity; and appropriate state-level indicators of higher education equity.


View the Project

Over the last decade, but especially in the past few years, programs with a “promise” label have been advanced at the local, state, and federal levels. An emerging body of research begins to shed ligh on various aspects of these programs, but too little is known about the full range of program outcomes or the ideal structure or design of programs serving different groups of students. This project is designed to improve research-based knowledge that can inform understanding of how to design and structure a promise program to achieve particular goals and outcomes.

To improve equity in higher education attainment, policymakers and practitioners need knowledge of the policies and practices that will effectively improve higher education attainment especially among groups that are historically underrepresented in higher education. This project is intended to improve knowledge of the policies and practices that will effectively improve higher education attainment especially among groups that are historically underrepresented in higher education.

This project focuses on addressing the following question: How can changes in conversations around Lumina's federal policy priorities be measured and monitored?

In today’s global, technology-driven economy, education is critical to national competitiveness and individual opportunity.  Literacy, numeracy and problem-solving skills are the foundation for how adults engage in the workplace, at home, and in the community. The Survey of Adults Skills, a new data collection effort led by the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), provides useful insights for understanding the characteristics of the learning economy and the readiness of adults to prosper in this learning economy.  The OECD’s Survey of Adult Skills enhances understanding of workplace readiness by offering assessments of proficiency (from low to high) on measures of literacy, numeracy and problem-solving with information technology tools -- critical cognitive and workplace skills -- for individuals in 24 participating countries and sub-national regions (OECD, 2013a).  As such, the findings have important implications for policy and practice.

In this report, we first discuss the importance of education and skills in the 21st century. Then we briefly describe the methodology for the survey and present key findings, focusing on skills of adults in the United States.  We conclude by identifying implications of the survey and its findings for policy and practice. 

Among the recommendations the report identifies for colleges and universities and other stakeholders:

  • Develop a common framework for adult basic education. Too often stakeholders seek to provide education in a variety of different settings—a common framework based on the OECD measurements could provide an overarching approach.
  • Promote stackable credentials. Giving adult learners the ability to document what they know while moving in and out of educational opportunities will help them move incrementally toward credentials.
  • Offer flexible scheduling and delivery options that provide students with work, family and other responsibilities easy access to education.
  • Leverage technology, such as adaptive software, that can that assess and target specific learning needs, and social media tools, which can help provide guidance and support.
  • Partner with employers in the development of workforce training and educational programs, as well as funding, and providing learners release time to learn.


American Council on Education

Despite decades of substantial investments by the federal government, state governments, colleges and universities, private foundations, and other entities, students from low-income families and racial/ethnic minority groups continue to have substantially lower levels of postsecondary educational attainment than individuals from other groups.  These gaps persist at a time when college access and completion are more important to society and individuals than ever before.  

This volume draws together leading researchers to summarize the state of college access and success for students nationwide and provide recommendations for how federal and state policymakers and institutional leaders may effectively improve the entire spectrum of college access and success, from early information in high school to completion of a baccalaureate degree.  Together, the chapters in this volume describe trends in various outcomes along the pathway from college access and success, document persisting gaps in these outcomes based on students’ demographic characteristics, synthesize what is known and not known from existing research about how to improve these outcomes, and offer recommendations for strategies to improve these outcomes and raise attainment for all students.  The volume also includes explicit attention to the state of college access and success not only for traditional college-age students, but also for the substantial and growing number of “nontraditional” college students

The community-based teaching and learning seminar meets monthly and offers an opportunity for approximately fifteen Penn faculty and staff members to come together to discuss both the design of service-learning courses and the opportunities and challenges of developing longstanding university-community partnerships that are reciprocal and mutually beneficial.

Co-sponsored by the Netter Center for Community Partnerships, Penn’s Institute for Urban Research and AHEAD, the Promoting College Access and Democracy seminar is designed to promote a community of practice among faculty, practitioners, and policy experts who share an interest in improving college access and completion among students from low-income families and students from racial/ethnic groups that are underrepresented in higher education.