When Scott Pulsipher started out in the technology and customer service industry, he didn’t know it would eventually morph into a whole new field of academics. But in the tech world of 2016, that’s a transition that makes sense.
Today, he’s the president of Western Governors University, an online, nonprofit school based in the Salt Lake City area. He came into the position April 2016.
“I want to make a difference with my life and I’ve always thought of how to do that,” says Pulsipher, who earned his MBA from Harvard University. “I knew that education remains the single biggest catalyst in changing lives.”
Pulsipher wants to combine his business experience with academics so he can create a deeply meaningful experience for his students and his employees, he says. This transformation needs to include relevant technology. Tech is the future, he says. And not using it can be a big mistake.
He should know. Pulsipher’s business experience spans more than 20 years. His past work experience is tied to big names, such as Amazon, where he worked as Amazon Webstore’s general manager.
“The Amazon experience and the WGU experience—it seemed like such a great fit for me and my personal interests and motivation,” he says. Pulsipher’s tech experience means he’s worked with customers from retail, banking, e-commerce and manufacturing. Tech is the future of all those industries, he says. And while education is the catalyst to change lives, technology is the catalyst to change education. “It’s hard to see change happen today where tech isn’t at the root of it,” he says.
Pulsipher taps into his Amazon experience at WGU. He left the Amazon environment knowing that size and quality don’t work against each other—they work with each other. Knowing that will change the way he does business at WGU, he says.
“People think it’s harder to maintain [size and quality] and it’s completely proven false. You can look no further than Amazon,” he says.
Pulsipher says he feels a significant mantle of stewardship as WGU’s leader. He wants to grow the university while also advancing the quality of education and programs offered.
WGU appealed to him because the school connected him with passions he’s fed throughout his entire career: technology and innovation. It’s one of the main reasons Pulsipher was drawn to leading business startups. As a business leader, he says he was in a position to influence and motivate his employees and customers while using technology and new ideas.
WGU is now where he hopes to make that difference. Pulsipher says the WGU experience is unique because it often serves non-traditional students, veterans and students from rural communities or low-income areas.
“They’ve overcome—in many cases—so many life challenges to get to where they’re getting to,” he says. “Seeing that is such an inspiration to us. Everything we do is trying to increase the probability and likelihood that they will be successful in their endeavor. That’s our promise to them.”
Going forward, he wants to make sure WGU’s priorities and technology resources advance student learning and student outcomes. In the end, he wants to create a meaningful student experience.
“It’s pretty darn cool personally to be part of that every day,” he says.