Notes & Links
[00:00:08.550] – Rob Brodnick
Welcome to the Positive Turbulence Podcast: Stories from the periphery. Here we journey to the edge to talk to turbulators about their experiences creating positive change. In this episode we’ll be talking to Amelia Wiles the founder and CEO of College Confident, an organization whose mission is to get students into college and not into debt. Amelia wants to disrupt the world of higher education
[00:00:32.170] – Karyn Zuidinga
Hi I’m Karen Zuidinga, your co-host for the podcast. Getting to college has never been easy but for some there are so many hurdles that it’s a nearly impossible leap. And while more and more high school graduates now have options reductions in federal and state funding, shifting demographics, and runaway administrations have meant that costs have gone up. Along with that so has the level of student debt. Yet there are glimmers of hope through some positive turbulence Amelia and the work she’s doing through College Confident. As soon as we got into our conversation with Amelia the laughs began.
[00:01:05.980] – Sponsor Message
We’ll tune into it in just a second but first let’s hear from this episode sponsor, Sierra Learning Solutions combining innovation tools expert facilitation and strategic assessment to bring your vision to life. Learn more at SierraLearningSolutions.com. Also, we’d like to thank Mack Avenue as a contributing sponsor.
[00:01:31.340] – Karyn Zuidinga
That’s our warmup
[00:01:32.470] – Rob Brodnick
[00:01:33.640] – Karyn Zuidinga
Feeling limber now?
[00:01:34.440] – Rob Brodnick
I feel really really good. Amelia the instant you came on the screen I like loosened up and lightened up.
[00:01:41.100] – Emilia Wiles
Oh good! It’s fun! I think it’s just supposed to be fun.
[00:01:47.220] – Rob Brodnick
Really informal. We kind of just chat. We get into stuff. We don’t have this scripted. This is really organic. We’re just letting this process evolve.
[00:01:56.070] – Karyn Zuidinga
Take me back. There you were one day, and you decided oh I know what the world needs.
[00:02:06.420] – Emilia Wiles
Okay where was I? Ten or twelve years ago I was working for a bunch of non-profits across New York City and I was implementing different programs to service young people to kind of push them socially ahead. Social mobility programs I call them. There were different forms. I made one in the Bronx that was focused on photography and the arts, a different one that used a different platform etc. etc. I started a new one with the Gates Foundation and an organization in Brooklyn using college access.
And it finally hit me like wait a minute, everybody can come in from all these nonprofits and do all this stuff with young people at risk, and whatever the terms are everyone loves to use, but they’re not actually getting tools that push them forward economically. And their households and their communities. What is the missing piece for social mobility that everybody’s trying but it doesn’t actually work? And I said oh wait it’s moving social and economic classes through college. So there is a lot of upheaval at this one nonprofit. And I realize like wait a minute, I can’t even control the funds, there’s no more funds. Like, oh my gosh we’re supposed to be X amount of dollars to service X amount of students with X amount of staff and then the organization takes it and puts it somewhere else. Nonprofits are the worst.
[00:03:40.650] – Emilia Wiles
So I stepped down and said I’m just going to take my kids, at the time there were 14 students, and I said let’s just do this on our own. Can I swear on the podcast?
[00:03:54.470] – Karyn Zuidinga
Yes you can swear.
[00:03:56.040] – Emilia Wiles
OK F this. Let’s go fucking do this on our own. This isn’t working.
[00:04:04.120] – Karyn Zuidinga
So the parents at the time, those students were living at home? They’re high school students. Tell me about these students. What kind of kids are they? Are they kids who would normally be thinking about university?
[00:04:17.600] – Emilia Wiles
No no no no. These are all kids, a lot of them actually are now my current executive directors.
[00:04:24.590] – Karyn Zuidinga
[00:04:25.240] – Emilia Wiles
But at the time these are all kids from East New York section of Bushwick. They were just trying to stay alive. They weren’t really trying to go to college. If they did go to college they went to local universities and they weren’t really branching out. So we started to take them on overnights to Swarthmore and show them what an Ivy League looked like. We toured them around but I was like there’s still another missing piece. They’re not seeing kids like themselves on these campuses. Showing them that it can be done. So we started with one school and I made sure that we were a for-profit organization. So we’re a social enterprise. Everybody likes to use that word.
[00:05:11.340] – Karyn Zuidinga
It’s very hip right now. Very very hip.
[00:05:15.680] – Emilia Wiles
You and I had some words about it. We launched with one high school. We now are in fort- five high schools in six years.
[00:05:27.800] – Karyn Zuidinga
Wow. That’s huge. That’s massive growth.
[00:05:32.090] – Emilia Wiles
Yeah. We went from servicing 75 seniors to eight thousand kids a year. So it blew up and we have been operating kind of in this VUCA vacuum, from the book, ever since. It’s a constant state of chaos constant. We hire mostly our alumni because they know the process, they know the needs of our young people. We have expanded to different types of high schools. We started mostly with underprivileged communities and now we’re in very privileged communities [as well]. We use the same formula across the board.
[00:06:16.580] – Karyn Zuidinga
Oh interesting. Tell me about this formula.
[00:06:19.140] – Emilia Wiles
College Confident wants to solve the issue of college debt across America. College debt has crippled our families. It’s crippled our households. Young people are misinformed as are their families and they think that taking out all these loans means it’s worth it. And it’s not because you can’t get jobs you want. You have to get jobs you need. You can’t enter the housing market. There is a huge trickle down effect into the economy from college debt.
And I think if you look at other countries they don’t have that issue because colleges and universities are mostly free. So we said OK we have to create a hack. We have to disrupt what’s happening. And so we created pipelines to financially friendly colleges, and we created relationships where we can call up so-and-so and say okay here’s the list of kids you already interviewed them in October. Our quality is always 100 percent. We focus on quality of service. The quality of our counselors is most important. We don’t even have an office.
[00:07:34.180] – Rob Brodnick
Are you mostly in the northeast or have you moved to other parts of the country.
[00:07:40.710] – Emilia Wiles
We’re mostly in the Northeast. I’m moved out to Pittsburgh Pennsylvania I’ve been trying to launch here in certain schools and certain communities. What’s been happening in Pittsburgh is there’s a big tech boom. So this thing has morphed into an online program that I’m working with a team here in Pittsburgh to spread across America.
[00:08:05.790] – Karyn Zuidinga
Explain to me about the formula though, because my understanding, and I live in Canada, it’s a whole other system. It’s a whole other world. There are pros and cons but generally university isn’t quite as expensive. But there’s also not the same, at least in my experience with my kids when they were going through school, in the school there were at, it wasn’t the same kind of push and pressure towards university as I’ve seen with some of my friends, say, who live in the states whose kids are going to school there. So my view of the thing is that the kids that I know in the US, and granted it’s a tiny sample size, are like programmed. It’s not even an option to not go to university. Yeah, there’s lots talk about money and everything [but if the family can afford it, those kids will go to university]. So how are you different? What are you doing? Describe the problem to me so that I understand.
[00:08:58.900] – Emilia Wiles
College Confident and College Confident Prep use a two-tiered approach. We do a timeline, meaning that our kids are 50 percent ahead of the rest of American students going to college.
[00:09:12.270] – Karyn Zuidinga
And in what way are they ahead?
[00:09:13.780] – Emilia Wiles
So the [typical] timeline is a student starts their applications their senior year, they take a couple of SAT exams, the standardized test, maybe two or three times, they apply to three or four colleges, maybe eight. They have no assistance, so they don’t even know the price of the school. They don’t understand how much family money they have, and how those two are directly related, and how much financial aid they’re going to get. Nobody even tells them if they can afford this or not. And they kind of visit some schools, and have generic tours, and say okay I want to apply to these schools. They pay the fee of 50 to 80 dollars per school and they apply to maybe me like 8. So already they’re throwing down maybe two thousand dollars for the process, plus the testing fees, and they just say oh cool I got in and that’s it. And then their parents have to navigate the financial aid forms, and understand the numbers, and then they get tricked on the numbers because colleges package loans and they don’t understand what the loans really are. So there’s not a guide at that end process to get you over that hurdle. So for our students we start them junior year [of high school]. We start them with their financial aid understanding before we go to the college applications. So they understand I’m not applying to Temple University [for instance] — Sorry, I know, Rob that’s you’re alma mater.
[00:10:47.390] – Rob Brodnick
[00:10:50.170] – Emilia Wiles
We say whoa, Temple’s not going to give you any money, they haven’t given any of our kids any money for eight years. So you can apply but you probably won’t end up going. And so they say okay well my family income is under eighty thousand dollars and I have perfect S.A.T. Scores. And then we say okay you can definitely do the Ivys because they give you a free ride if your income is under 80. Or we understand that Syracuse is really financially friendly. Whatever package you initially get, you can barter 15 to 20 K off of it through the financial aid appeal process that happens in February and January. Past February and March schools don’t have any money. They’re out. They gave it all away. And anyone who is applying by January 1st is way too late. So that’s the regular decision deadline. All our kids apply by October 15th November 1st. It’s a timeline. They take the S.A.T. and the A.C.T. junior year 10 times. We cover all the fees. Then they apply to 20 colleges. We cover all the fees. It’s a numbers game. So you get accepted into 12 schools. Then you get to look at the numbers and say oh wait a minute I’m not going to Temple. I’m actually going to Allegheny College Honors Program because I got the full-ride. If you don’t have the full-ride then we work to ask which school is going to give you additional funding because you can’t meet whatever requirement.
[00:12:22.890] – Karyn Zuidinga
So how are you profitable? How does that model work? You’re paying for all their fees, time, lots of staff time. How are you making money?
[00:12:33.920] – Emilia Wiles
So the high schools pay us and we take care of every graduating senior. They have to graduate on their own, we’re not going to hold their hand in that process. That’s not our responsibility. We are responsible for their college and university education. So we take every kid who’s graduating and [we want to see them graduate] with one to three full ride options. The first year is always a little rocky because people are getting used to it. But by the second year the high school’s graduation rate goes up, and they get higher ratings on college acceptances, which means that they get bigger budgets from the city or the state.
[00:13:14.960] – Karyn Zuidinga
It’s a complete mystery to me. I don’t know about this. That’s not the model here [in Canada]. That’s not what I know.
[00:13:22.010] – Emilia Wiles
So they win, we win, the kids win, when everybody wins. And we’ve started doing online counseling [privately] with regular families –they pay a fee, about four thousand dollars or something for two years, the prices vary on the package that they’re looking for–and we do what we’re doing which is we do weekly virtual check ins with the kid and parents. The parents can ask us all the questions. Everybody’s informed and everybody’s on the timeline. So right now my juniors have taken the S.A.T. three to four times already.
[00:13:57.940] – Karyn Zuidinga
So you start to engage with the students when they’re juniors?
[00:14:01.800] – Emilia Wiles
10th grade. And it’s done by end of junior year. If you’re calling us in senior year it’s a cleanup job. So if you apply early decision or early action to your universities you get anywhere between 25 to 50 percent more financial aid automatically. And those deadlines November 1st to November 15th. But families don’t know this. I guess the crossroads I have is how much do you want to be a disruptor? Because lots of colleges and universities could be very upset.
[00:14:34.030] – Karyn Zuidinga
In what way?
[00:14:35.180] – Emilia Wiles
Because we might be ruining their business in the sense that we are steering our students away from certain schools colleges and universities that aren’t financially friendly. And it’s a new dialogue that can put certain schools out of business. Certain universities and colleges.
[00:14:54.900] – Karyn Zuidinga
Wow. And so that’s the head of the needle that you’re dancing on right now? Trying to decide how disruptive you want to be?
[00:15:01.480] – Emilia Wiles
And how public. Do I self publish a book and give it to everybody? And then the whole system crashes and has to be reborn. I don’t know if I want to do that.
[00:15:12.950] – Karyn Zuidinga
[00:15:14.800] – Emilia Wiles
[00:15:15.740] – Karyn Zuidinga
[00:15:16.670] – Emilia Wiles
These are established businesses and people’s careers are on the line.
[00:15:27.220] – Karyn Zuidinga
But isn’t our future also on the line? I mean our future is our children. If we’re not educating them well, and if we’re not preparing them well for life–and that may not include going to university. It may include going to..
[00:15:40.960] – Emilia Wiles
Community college, or a work program…
[00:15:43.810] – Karyn Zuidinga
Or trade school?
[00:15:44.920] – Emilia Wiles
Trade schools are phenomenal! Welders are making way more than doctors these days. So it’s all of that information being out there in one place. I’m not sure how much positive turbulence that is.
[00:16:00.220] – Rob Brodnick
Well you know I was thinking you’re generating value. And you’re generating a lot of value, particularly for the kids. But you also mentioned value for the high schools. I’ve been thinking about the turbulence that you’re creating by what you’re doing. Who else is in the value receiving side of the equation?
[00:16:19.890] – Emilia Wiles
The parents are avoiding debt. And the parents are avoiding even more financial burdens from having to take care of their own students post college. Because if the students are graduating with a reasonable amount of debt, or are debt free, they are free to fly. But when they aren’t free to fly they come back because their wings are clipped from the debt. And this burdens the family.
[00:16:47.740] – Rob Brodnick
Is there any value that is getting created for the receiving colleges and universities? Talk about that a little bit.
[00:16:54.850] – Emilia Wiles
Our financially friendly schools, we’ll send them the best kids. They have to meet quotas: we need X amount of Native American students, X amount of African-American, X amount of first-generation students to fill certain pressures that are put on their financial aid offices. We’re able to say okay we’ve fulfilled your quota, and we know that these kids are the best of the best that you’re looking for.
Each college and university is different. So we know that Brandeis or Wheaton is looking for a much different type of student in the Boston area then per say, Harvard. We can kind of filter our students and say okay this one has a huge resumé has done everything. That’s the Brandeis kid. That’s the one who can shake everybody’s hand. And that’s the right match. They fill [their] quotas and I also know that they’re getting a good student. And sometimes our kids get rejected and that’s fine too because there are options. Every student [we work with] is going to have 15 to 20 schools.
[00:18:06.720] – Karyn Zuidinga
[00:18:07.020] – Emilia Wiles
We’re gonna get into a few.
[00:18:09.550] – Rob Brodnick
Even for those colleges and universities where you’re generating value you are creating turbulence.
[00:18:14.420] – Emilia Wiles
Yeah we’re putting different students in their classrooms.
[00:18:18.010] – Rob Brodnick
Yeah. And so how is that turbulence resulting in maybe both positive and negative outcomes for the industry.
[00:18:25.390] – Emilia Wiles
Great question. I think I’m going to bring this strategy towards a concept that is called Opportunity Hoarding.
[00:18:36.840] – Emilia Wiles
Opportunity Hoarding is something that gated communities use, private elite [groups in universities like] Skulls and Bones of Yale, or just the best high school in X town wants to keep it that way. So what they do is they kind of hoard their opportunities just for their population. Like: we have a pool and no one else can use it unless you have a key. Or our school has this and we’re going to make sure that this program is well-funded and all the parents are going to come together and make sure that they fundraise properly for it. So those opportunities are not in other communities.
We do Reverse Opportunity Hoarding which is like democratizing the process in a sense. We say, we know these opportunities, and we’re not giving them to certain communities, we’re going to distribute them for the common man. I’ve been reading this book called Leap Frog by Nathalie Molina Niño. It’s for female entrepreneurs and it’s called Leapfrog: The New Revolution for Women Entrepreneurs Outsmart the Status Quo Launch Fund and Grow Your Business. She talks about a concept called leap frogging. And she says since the beginning of time businesses, and no offense Rob, white guys have been using tricks to get ahead. Use your opportunity hoarding, or you use your social club, or you have somebody who you went to college with and they hook you up with a job. But often women entrepreneurs, and especially women of color, don’t have those opportunities. So they think okay I’m just gonna sit back and wait to let the system service me.
[00:20:28.750] – Karyn Zuidinga
And it never happens.
[00:20:29.970] – Emilia Wiles
And it never does. She’s talking about using those same hacks to get ahead for your business, and socially moving up, and expanding and feeding your kids, and your house, and that sort of thing. We’re taking the same leap frogging effect and giving it to our students. And saying, okay, so-and-so got into Yale because his dad was ex[Yale]. It’s not because this kid had good S.A.T. scores. So we’re going to take the S.A.T. 12 times, take that [other] kid out on his [lower] S.A.T. scores, move in, and sit right in the front row, and put your hand up. Then ask those questions that are going to make people uncomfortable. It’s taking that hacking of opportunity hording and leap frogging people forward.
[00:21:11.640] – Karyn Zuidinga
So those students who are coming, at least originally, more from disadvantaged neighborhoods, but now you’re applying a little more broadly, I can imagine it still has to feel a little bit alien. You know? I grew up in a neighborhood, you know maybe a disadvantaged neighborhood, maybe just like blue collar, or whatever. I did that I met you [College Confident]. Things happen. Bam! I think [if I’m that student] I’m feeling like I have two heads most of the time.
[00:21:40.520] – Emilia Wiles
And you do because you’re pivoting between two worlds.
[00:21:43.830] – Karyn Zuidinga
And how do you help students navigate that feeling? I can imagine it’s probably quite intimidating. And perhaps inhibits their success in this place where they’re not like everybody else in the room.
[00:21:57.690] – Emilia Wiles
We’ve been studying different support systems on how to do this. We don’t have the funding to run a full operation to the way that we want. But we do, because we’re sending all of our kids to the same schools, we use something called the posse effect. There’s a scholarship out there called the Posse Scholarship and they take kids in groups of six, or groups of 10. And they kind of induct them into [the college as a group]. We just had one from LaGuardia High School that’s going to Brandeis University. She’s going to be with 12 other kids on full scholarship from different high schools and they’re all going to progress together. We use that effect too. [Fo example] if a kid reaches and says I’ve been having a hard time. We’ll [connect them with one of our other kids who is at the same school but is a year or two ahead of them]. We’ll get the kid that’s further ahead to keep an eye out and make sure the one who is just starting out is not getting in with the wrong crowd or just signing up for the easier classes freshman year. It’s a community effect.
[00:23:11.230] – Rob Brodnick
That’s super cool.
[00:23:14.730] – Sponsor Message
Hi it’s Rob Brodnick here jumping in with a very short sponsor break. This episode is brought to you by Sierra Learning Solutions where we’re rethinking the traditional tools used for planning strategy. Check out our Web site SierraLearningSolutions.com.
[00:23:30.090] – Rob Brodnick
I’ve wanted to ask about the name of the company. It refers back to some of the earlier things we talked about turbulence is change and disruption in the system that has many kinds of outcomes. And we talked about fear as something that exists in the environment that we’re talking about. So confidence and confident; I’m curious about the different forms of that word, and how you came to it, and how it might battle some fear in the system.
[00:23:59.880] – Emilia Wiles
College Confident was created because it wanted to illustrate just what you said. We wanted to give families and students confidence and create confident young people moving forward. So how do you do that? You eliminate fear. You provide trust, and guidance. You give a safe space to a normally chaotic experience. So it’s always operating –and back to the third characteristic of turbulence of operating in disorder confusion and chaos. So you’re always facing the greatest fear you could have and moving backward. So it only gets better as you move forward. I guess. For the young person, if you say, okay you’re in an absolute terrifying space of the unknown. You have no answers. It’s chaotic. Everyone’s fighting: Go to my alma matter, no I don’t want to go to your alma matter. your Aunt Lucy went there you should go there. So, there’s all kinds of different information bombarding this fragile young mind. And we say, okay, listen we’re just gonna go through these same steps together. You can ask me questions anytime. I’m available reasonable hours of the day. You can e-mail me. Right now I’m personally I’m working with a young woman in Greece. We’re operating on a five hour time difference. But she’s doing great. And we also give voice to the parents so that they can come in with all their fears. Because all of this fighting and chaos is just a point of fear. I guess we’re just professional fear removers.
[00:25:42.080] – Rob Brodnick
I love that.
[00:25:42.970] – Karyn Zuidinga
I love it. Yeah. So, do you also help the students choose what program they’re trying to apply to? Look at what they want to do? My story: when my daughter was coming into that place and trying to apply for university and I was like look we should go see somebody — because she’s a bright kid could do just about anything — but she really didn’t know how she wanted to focus. She resisted me for months on talking to somebody. And finally I was asking what is the problem? Why do you hate this? In British Columbia we’ve got a course called Planning 10, which is supposed to be your prep for college or university course. She said, “It’s Planning 10! All I got from that was that I’m orange or should be a taxidermist!”
[00:26:37.230] – Karyn Zuidinga
First of all, it seems to be the wrong question to be asking what your job should be rather than what your field of study should be. And secondly, it seems to me, that the tools that students have, at least my experience, in my world, are let’s just say, limited at best. So what’s different with you [College Confident]? What do you do?
[00:26:57.870] – Emilia Wiles
We don’t expect anything from them. We assume they don’t know. And so we don’t plan accordingly. The average person changes their career three to five times in their lifetime. All of our students will start somewhere and end somewhere else. So we focus on giving them opportunities. Students come in and we can size them up in five minutes. Just a couple of questions. All you have to do is sit and listen. Which is a lost art form. Culturally speaking. I think that has a lot of significance to solving people and social problems.
Sometimes a student loves art. And that’s okay. We’re doing art schools, no problem. Or the student says I’m going to be a doctor because I love [medicine]. Or a veterinarian becasue I want to save dogs. Okay let’s do it. And then we’ll just shape all those [applications in that way]. But unless that student comes in with a very specific career, we just say, okay we’re gonna send you out into these communities that you can choose. You can shop around. You can do liberal arts, and you can study this. You don’t have to know. That’s totally normal. You’re 17. It’s okay to be in chaos.
[00:28:07.330] – Karyn Zuidinga
The students, I could totally see how they would relate to finally someone who removes the pressure and just says I’m gonna just listen to you. Don’t worry there’s no decision you need to make today. We’re going to walk you through the process. The parents! How you stop them? Because those people they’re often…
[00:28:25.590] – Emilia Wiles
[00:28:26.630] – Karyn Zuidinga
Yeah! Obviously they love their children. And they want their children to do well. And they think they’re being helpful. It’s not that they’re doing it out of a sense of malice. But it’s the pressure that I see kids are under to go to Aunt Emelia’s alma matter. Or to study this thing because I didn’t study this thing and that’s what I always wanted to do. How do you deal with them?
[00:28:54.430] – Emilia Wiles
We call it a voting block. We treat it like a co-op. Almost. Everybody gets a vote. The kid’s got 20 applications. Mom you get to pick three schools. Everybody who’s fighting gets voice and they get to pick a few schools. They don’t get to pick all the schools. The child gets to pick the majority. We get to pick a few because we know what’s going to put money in the pocket. If the dad wants the kid to go to OSU, Ohio State University –we know that kid’s not going to get in — but fine we’ll apply, but then we’re going to make sure there’s five others that we know he’s going to get in to and that have better funding. Democracy.
[00:29:38.320] – Karyn Zuidinga
Well, and at the end of the day when the acceptance letters come in and the offers of scholarship come in that can do a lot to…
[00:29:46.840] – Emilia Wiles
Then it’s a whole new discussion.
[00:29:49.180] – Karyn Zuidinga
Little Billy got a full ride over here. Okay, so it’s not where I wanted him to go. But it’s a full ride.
[00:29:55.930] – Emilia Wiles
You got it. So then the family makes their own decision at that point. That’s what is the most important. And different families have different needs. Some families are all about the money. Some families really want their kid to just do internships so they want to make sure their kid is in a city where they have access to working in hospitals. It’s always different. We just want to make sure they have the options to choose from and they’re not forced to go to one of the three schools they got into.
[00:30:26.530] – Karyn Zuidinga
So magic wand. Emelia here’s the magic wand question: You’ve got a magic wand. You can do one big thing. What are you going to do with that magic wand.
[00:30:35.140] – Emilia Wiles
This is a great question. Naturally I want to answer more questions to that question. I would like to change society to improve people’s lives. So if I have to share all the information with everybody that’s what I would do and. I would probably do it anonymously.
[00:31:00.630] – Karyn Zuidinga
So to paraphrase, you would like to kind of blow the doors off that industry. Everybody gets the level playing field.
[00:31:07.920] – Emilia Wiles
The doors of your gated community are busted off. Because now the kid from Kentucky can go to Princeton just the way that your kid with the key to the pool can. Bring it.
[00:31:22.080] – Karyn Zuidinga
Wouldn’t that be lovely?
[00:31:23.610] – Emilia Wiles
It would. It would create a whole new everything.
[00:31:28.090] – Karyn Zuidinga
[00:31:28.400] – Emilia Wiles
So much turbulence!
[00:31:33.320] – Karyn Zuidinga
But it would be amazing, right? if that kid from Kentucky could hang out at Princeton?
[00:31:38.540] – Emilia Wiles
It would bring understanding. It would bring communication. It would bring so many things that have divided us for so long. It would bring more peace.
[00:31:48.030] – Rob Brodnick
So one of the tips that we talk about is be intentional about positive turbulence as a strategy. And I think you’ve done that. Earlier in our conversation you mentioned, I’m disrupting this industry, I’m a little worried because people work there, and they have jobs and all that. I would say in response to that is trust your instincts here. What you just said. You’re being strategic about disrupting an industry, and honestly they need it. They’ll respond in some kind of way. And we don’t know exactly how that’ll be.
[00:32:21.120] – Emilia Wiles
My name is Janice Smith and I live in Boston!
[00:32:28.850] – Karyn Zuidinga
Poor Janice who lives in Boston! She’s about to get a lot of mail, a lot of angry letters.
Well you know that’s delightful. There’s a lot of disruption ahead for you. If you’re successful you’re out of a job Emilia. Are you going to move on to disrupting industry next year?
[00:32:52.320] – Emilia Wiles
I’ve already got like three other ideas. I’ll be creating turbulence until the day I die.
[00:32:59.970] – Rob Brodnick
So you’re a serial turbulator is what you are.
[00:33:04.080] – Emilia Wiles
If it’s not sparking change and sparking new thought, what is it doing? We get one short lived time on this rock. Let’s just do the best we can. Make it better. Be creative. And do things different every time.
[00:33:21.880] – Rob Brodnick
Don’t play it safe.
[00:33:24.930] – Emilia Wiles
Never play it safe. Never.
[00:33:25.560] – Karyn Zuidinga
One last question for me anyway. Flipping that magic wand on its head if you could sit down and have a conversation with the Dean at Harvard. That disruption wave is coming. And sooner or later it’s going to crash on those Ivy League shores . If you could sit down. I don’t know with a guy at Stanford or whoever. One of those really senior people in these organizations. Somebody who has the power to change things. What would you tell them to do?
[00:33:55.170] – Emilia Wiles
I would say, dear president of Northwestern, or Stanford, or… This change is already in motion. If you’re smart you would study it and change your organization to adapt to it. Be ready for it. Absorb it and make it into something even more powerful.
[00:34:17.070] – Karyn Zuidinga
Oh thank you so much for your time today. Really enjoyed talking to you.
[00:34:20.860] – Rob Brodnick
This is fun. Thank you. Yes.
[00:34:22.990] – Emilia Wiles
Yes. So much fun. I’m so glad you’re both doing this.
[00:34:26.900] – Rob Brodnick
I appreciate the boost.
[00:34:28.230] – Karyn Zuidinga
It’s such a gift.
[00:34:29.860] – Sponsor Message
Sierra Learning Solutions helps organizations craft effective strategies and build cultures of innovation. Learn more at SierraLearningSolutions.com.
[00:34:38.720] – Sponsor Message
Thank you to AMI who have nurtured us in developing this podcast, is the source of so many of our guests, and of course the founder, Stan Gryskiewcz is also the author of the original book, and dare I say… the O.G. of Positive Turbulence.
[00:34:52.690] – Sponsor Message
AMI is a pioneering non-profit organization comprised of committed individuals who foster and leverage creativity and innovation in organizations and society. AMI identifies leading-edge innovation, shares experiences, sponsors research, and recognizes innovation and creative processes. Find out more at AMinnovation.org.
[00:35:13.600] – Sponsor Message
And thank you to Mack Avenue our contributing sponsor for providing our podcast soundtrack, Late Night Sunrise.
[00:35:19.540] – Karyn Zuidinga
If you want to find out more about your hosts, positive turbulence, our guests, or check out our very cool and very diverse reading list, head on over to positiveturbulence.com. Until next time, keep the turbulence positive!
Notes & Links
In this episode, we talk to Emilia Wiles, the founder and CEO of College Confident, an organization whose mission is to get students into college and not into debt. Emilia is disrupting the world of higher education.
As the founder of numerous companies including College Confident, College Confident Tours and College Confident Prep for private clients, Emilia specializes in unique college access programming for high school students. She is a youth development specialist with over ten years of experience in developing successful programming. She is a graduate of Wesleyan University and Parsons New School for Design.
Emilia’s work has not only put young people in schools they would never have dreamed of, but in doing so is changing the schools themselves. Ultimately she’s looking to blow the doors off these gated communities and change the way higher education works in the United States. Our conversation with her is lively, thought-provoking and engaging. A MUST listen for any parent whose children are nearing or at the high school stage.
Find out more about Emilia and the work she’s doing to help end student debt in America:
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