Frequently Asked Questions
What is the mission of the Aspire Institute?
What is the Aspire Institute's connection to Wheelock College?
Is the Aspire Institute a research center?
Who are Aspire's main partners?
How does Aspire choose to start a project or program?
What is the life cycle of a project at Aspire?
Does Aspire have a board of directors?
Who decides the strategic direction of the Aspire Institute?
What is the funding structure of the Aspire Institute?
Does Aspire use any social media?
Who is eligible to blog for the Aspire Wire?
How can I get involved with the Aspire Institute?
Aspire's mission is to advance knowledge and solutions in response to social and educational challenges. To fulfill this mission, we collaborate with Wheelock faculty, staff, and community partners to envision and develop new, effective policy and practice in the fields of education, child and human development, and health and wellness.
The Aspire Institute was founded in 2007 to serve as an "innovation lab" for Wheelock College. Wheelock's mission of improving the lives of children and families directly informs Aspire's mission, values and activities. Wheelock President, Jackie Jenkins-Scott charged Aspire with:
Mobilizing faculty and external partners to test new ideas and program models for addressing social and education challenges in our communities, locally and nationally
Responding quickly to these challenges by moving nimbly, creatively and efficiently from issue to action
Partnering within the Wheelock community-with staff and faculty-to explore different learning models, in areas such as continuing and adult learning, teacher education, and online learning
Today, Aspire develops, manages, and hosts several of Wheelock's college-community initiatives. Aspire is also leading the college's development in new areas, such as online learning, new teacher residency models, and next generation school-family engagement strategies.
Is the Aspire Institute a research center?
While the Aspire Institute does do research to inform its program decisions and works with Wheelock faculty and community partners to produce community-wide reports and resources, its primary function is not as an education or social science research center. Our chief activities include developing new, evidence-based and sustainable program models, convening community partners and experts to problem-solve and assessing what works at Wheelock and beyond to improve social and education outcomes.
Aspire has partnered with over 30 community organizations and 30 Wheelock faculty over the past five years. This has included state agencies, such as the MA Department of Early Education and Care and the Mass Service Alliance, schools districts, such as Boston, and community service and funding agencies, such as the Cambridge Agenda for Children, BPE and the State Street Foundation. Click here for a page listing all of our partners.
Typically, there are four stages in choosing a project or program to pursue and develop. First, we assess community challenges through outreach, needs assessments and research, or we explore potential funding opportunities aligned with our focus areas of education, health and wellness, and child and human development . Second, we determine whether there is a role Wheelock can play in addressing these challenges or in responding to an opportunity. Specifically, we assess whether Aspire and Wheelock and have the internal capacity and expertise, or through partnership we can secure the right capacity and expertise. If we believe there is a role we can play, we often first develop and pilot a project on a small scale. With success of a pilot project, we then may focus on a longer-term plan to scale the project and/or transition it to Wheelock or a partner organization.
Because Aspire functions as an "innovation lab," every project or program has a different life cycle. Programs typically span from 1-3 years. If initiatives are successful, we seek to secure additional funding, or transition the project to the college, or to a community partner. While we value innovation, we also want to ensure that effective initiatives are sustained.
Aspire does not have its own board of directors. It is overseen by Wheelock's Board of Trustees and Senior Leadership.
Aspire's strategic direction is determined by the Vice President of Academic Affairs and the Senior Director, in conjunction with the College President.
Aspire is primarily funded by public and private grant funds. This funding supports Aspire staff, Wheelock faculty, Wheelock personnel and other direct project costs to provide deliverables required by funders. Over 90% of Aspire's funding is restricted and all expenses are directly related to projects and approved by funders.
Yes! Aspire is on Facebook and Twitter. We also have a blog called the Aspire Wire, where we feature individuals writing about the educational issues of the day. Please connect with us to learn more about what we are talking about.
While we most often have people from our partner organizations blog, we are open to all kinds of writers. Please email Julie at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in blogging for us.
If you wish to get involved with Aspire or have questions related our programs, please email email@example.com.