We believe in the transformative power of education

The Shank Institute brings together thought leaders and subject matter experts in higher education policy, business, technology, and government to consider how to best use technology and innovation in education. The Institute aims to address the important challenges of access, completion, and outcomes-based accountability in education, and engages in select projects to test proposed ideas for improvement.


The innovators

Stephen ShankSteve ShankStephen Shank founded Capella Education Company, the parent company of Capella University, in 1991, and served as CEO of the company until his 2009 retirement. He retired as the chairman of Capella Education Company in 2010, a position he held since the company went public in 2006. He remains on the company's board of directors. Prior to founding Capella, Shank served for 12 years as chairman and chief executive officer of Tonka Corporation. During this time, The Wall Street Transcript twice recognized Shank as the industry's most outstanding chief executive officer. Shank began his career as an attorney with the Minneapolis law firm of Dorsey & Whitney. He holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Iowa, a Master of Arts from The Fletcher School, a joint program of Tufts and Harvard Universities, and a Juris Doctor from Harvard Law School.

Shank’s vision to expand access to high quality education is continuing through the Shank Institute for Innovative Learning, a nonprofit organization that supports advancements in higher education.


Linda BaerLinda BaerLinda Baer is a nationally respected speaker on academic innovations, educational transformation, development of alliances and partnerships, the campus of the future, and most recently on action analytics. Recent publications include “Smart Change” published in Planning for Higher Education and “Action Analytics: Measuring and Improving Performance that Matters in Higher Education” in EDUCAUSE Review.

Under Dr. Baer’s leadership, Minnesota Online, the gateway to online programs and courses offered by the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities, received the 2006 Institutional Service Award from the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning and the 2006 Tekne Award that recognizes Minnesota's leading innovators in technology. In addition, Dr. Baer has received the International Exemplary Leader award by The Chair Academy, an international organization that provides leadership training for postsecondary education leaders. She was cited for her role in strengthening ties among colleges and universities and the workplace; and improving assessment and accountability. She serves on the Board of Directors for the Society for College and University Planning, is a founding board member of the Shank Institute for Innovative Learning, and a charter member of the Action Analytics Education Partnership, AAEP.


Michael J. OffermanMichael J. OffermanMichael J. Offerman served as President of Capella University from 2001 through 2007. During his presidency, Capella University grew from 2,000 students to 22,000 students and developed its award winning learning outcomes assessment model. He has returned to that role, as Interim President, beginning March 26, 2010.

From 2008 until March 2010, he was Vice Chairman of Capella Education Company. In that role he worked on external university initiatives, including government affairs, regulatory affairs, investor relations, and public relations. He has led a national consumer information and accountability effort for colleges and universities serving adult students at a distance known as Transparency by Design that publishes the Web site College Choices for Adults. He also publishes the blog The Other 85%: Working Adults and the New World of Higher Education.

He was formerly the Dean of Continuing Education at the University of Wisconsin-Extension and founding Executive Director of the University of Wisconsin’s Learning Innovations Center. Dr. Offerman also held leadership positions at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, the University of Arizona, and the Quad-Cities Graduate Study Center. He earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Iowa and his doctorate from Northern Illinois University.

Stephen G. Shank's qoute