2022 Community Leadership Award Recipient

Lisa A. Stephens

Lisa A. Stephens

Assistant Dean, School of Engineering and Applied Sciences,
University at Buffalo
Senior Strategist, Academic Innovation, SUNY



For exhibiting leadership in exemplary cross-institutional innovation and collaboration; for inspiring interest, talent, and energy toward a common effort; for maintaining unwavering commitment to applying the ideals of higher education for bettering individual lives and society as a whole

The 2022 EDUCAUSE Community Leadership Award is presented to Lisa Stephens for her exceptional creativity, leadership, and community-building skills in championing educational innovation and collaboration. With early professional experience in commercial and community television, Lisa began her career in higher education in the mid-1990s. Moving through successive roles with increasing levels of responsibility and focusing primarily on distance learning, she has held her current position as both Assistant Dean for Online Education, School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), at the University at Buffalo and Senior Strategist for Academic Innovation with the Office of the SUNY Provost since 2011.

With responsibilities for strategic and operational support of program development and innovation for the SEAS and related programs, Lisa played a leading role as one of the founders of the Flexible Learning Environments eXchange (FLEXspace), which began as a provost’s desire to share new active learning pedagogy in classrooms within SUNY and then rapidly evolved into a global portal and shared community of practice. Now an international collaboration, FLEXspace has connected and engaged an inspiring breadth of thought leadership from professional organizations, educational institutions, and commercial sponsors and has developed into an open-access repository of best practices and learning environments. Its success is a result of the strong partnership with the EDUCAUSE Learning Space Design Community Group members and the recent integration of the Learning Space Rating System (LSRS). FLEXspace 3.0 is now under development and is expected to grow beyond the 6,000 registered users from 1,400 educational institutions across 70-plus countries. The game‐changing nature of this effort was recognized by Campus Technology magazine with its coveted Innovation Award in 2016. It is a testament to the value of FLEXspace that what started as a handful of SUNY‐related records has grown to over 700 published examples. Among the myriad ways it has been useful, the FLEXspace “Toolkit” section proved invaluable during the COVID-19 pandemic, when reconfiguring space safely was a key topic of interest. But perhaps one of its biggest contributions is the way it bridges cultures within the IT profession, allowing the development of pathways for staff to better understand each other’s primary focus while keeping student learning at the forefront.

From the inception, Lisa has been active in describing FLEXspace at EDUCAUSE conferences and a variety of other association and professional events, and she is regularly quoted in publications such as the EDUCAUSE 7 Things You Should Know About... series and in EDUCAUSE QuickTalks. She has also been a frequent proposal reviewer for EDUCAUSE conference and program committees. Lisa co-authors a monthly column about FLEXspace for Higher Education AV Magazine, has done presentations internationally, and has also developed webinars that focus on the usefulness of FLEXspace to the interests and needs of targeted communities.

The skills that enabled Lisa to foster and lead FLEXspace were evident when SUNY asked her to launch two other major initiatives: the SUNY MOOC development effort and the Innovative Instruction Technology Grants (IITG) program. In recognition of her achievements, Lisa received a SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in 2021. As one colleague observed: “Lisa has a special talent for first establishing success with small visionary and exploratory projects and then using her exceptional leadership skills to turn them into full‐scale institution- and system-impacting programs. For such a creative spirit, she is unusually organized, personable, kind, and adept at the complex diplomacy and politics of management required to successfully develop innovative thinking at all levels.”

Inspiring others to come together in the spirit of cooperation, Lisa Stephens has deeply enriched EDUCAUSE and the greater higher education community through her gifted leadership, foresight, and unwavering commitment to cross-institutional collaboration and student success.

This EDUCAUSE Award is sponsored by Moran Technology Consulting, Gold Partner.