Hi, I’m Bernard,
an educator, college president, applied researcher, writer, and designer who is passionate about championing and supporting inspired and inspiring learning communities.
After graduating from Concordia University Wisconsin in 1994, I accepted a call to serve at Rockford Lutheran Middle and High School in Rockford, Illinois. Over the next six years, I had the joy of being a middle and high school teacher; religion department chair; technology coordinator; designer of one the first online high school pilot programs in the nation; and leader of experiential learning trips to Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, and domestic locations. I used evenings and summers to read voraciously and study at over eight colleges, eventually earning a M.A. in curriculum and instruction and a doctorate in instructional technology with a cognate in qualitative / ethnographic research.
At the same time, I started my first consulting business, Servant Innovations (1995-2000), helping non-profits and other organizations analyze emerging trends and devise strategic plans and projects intended to prepare them to thrive and accomplish their mission in these new and emerging contexts. I continued that work in various forms and under different names while still working full-time in schools, up to the present.
From Rockford, I moved on to be a teacher at Milwaukee Lutheran High School while completing a second master’s, this time a Master of Liberal Studies with a focus upon interdisciplinary approaches to teaching digital culture and media ecology. I spend six years there before becoming the creative director for a special grant-funded project devoted to experimenting with the design of experiential learning and online Spanish and math curricula for rural and other schools.
In the Middle
After a dozen years working in K-12 schools; earning a few degrees; and being a trend analysis, forecasting, and scenario planning consultant; I became a professor of education and founding director of the Instructional Design Center at Concordia University Wisconsin. I spent the next twelve years there, serving in a variety of roles: professor, Assistant Vice President of Academics, Chief Innovation Officer, and Vice Provost of Curriculum and Academic Innovation. One of many joys and highlights of this time was helping to launch a team that grew online enrollment from a few hundred to a few thousand in less than five years.
It was during this time at Concordia that I also devoted myself to more research and writing (academic and popular). While still broad, I refined my scholarship around a number of key themes: 1) futures in education & education trend analysis, 2) current and emerging models of alternative education and self-directed learning, 3) R&D and innovation models and frameworks in the education sector, 4) critical issues and emerging models in Christian education, 5) the intersection of education and digital culture, and most recently, 6) human-centered learning principles and environments (centered on largely universal human connections with concepts like wonder, mystery, curiosity, a love of learning, play, meaning, purpose, and mastery).
I created the blog Etale, which eventually ranked as one of the top 50 education blogs on the Internet for almost a decade. I wrote lots of articles, created the Moonshot Edu Show podcast, worked with others to launch over a dozen academic degree programs, designed and led a few well-known MOOCs (including what became known as #CheatMOOC), created the first master’s degree program in the world designed around competency-based (and project-based) digital badges, expanded my consulting, launched and became CEO of Birdhouse Learning Labs, gave well over 100 invited and keynote presentation throughout the United States and around the world, and had the joy of writing/co-writing/editing a number of books.
In 2018 I was honored to be awarded the Jonathan D. Harber Fellowship in Educational Entrepreneurship at Wesleyan University. I took a sabbatical from Concordia and moved to the East coast. While there I wrote the draft of my next two books & conducted hundreds of interviews with educational innovators and entrepreneurs while also designing and teaching a course on social entrepreneurship in education. Then an email arrived that changed the trajectory of my career, a call for applications for President of a small college in central Vermont.
While never wanting to be a college President, out of curiosity I applied for the presidency at Goddard College, one of the original experimental and learner-driven schools in the United States. I was thinking about bowing out of the search process before it got too far until I learned that the school, a source of inspiration for my work on self-directed learning over the years, was on the brink of closure. It was in serious trouble with the accreditors, had a five year downward enrollment trend, and was in the middle of a financial crisis. Something compelled me to want the job more than ever, to be part of saving one of the great learner-driven higher education experiments in US history. They offered me the job and I moved to Vermont. Over the next couple of years we addressed many of the major concerns, were removed from probation with the accreditors, built back some financial stability, rebuilt admissions/marketing/development, and even achieved the largest incoming fall and spring classes in five years during a global pandemic.
Another unexpected twist arrived in 2020. I was contacted about putting my name in as a candidate for another position. This one would bring me back to my home in Lutheran higher education to serve as the next President of Concordia University Nebraska (CUNE). While hesitant to leave Goddard College so soon, Lutheran higher higher education is home for me. When a call was extended, I was honored to accept it, with the plan of beginning as President of CUNE in August of 2021.
As much as I embrace the call to lead, I’m still an applied researcher, designer, educator, and writer at heart. As such, I find it important to carve out time for passion projects: hosting the EduFutures podcast and a forthcoming show called Inspired Learning, offering informal musings on my Youtube channel, and always being at some stage of progress toward finishing my next book or article.
I have the dream of venturing into new forms of applied research, especially documentary filmmaking, serious game design, and alternative reality game design.