Dr. Horowitz on Forbes: “Borrowing from Business: Continuous Improvement in Higher Education”


TCS President Dr. Michael Horowitz, Ph.D., recently published his latest article for the Forbes Nonprofit Council. In “Borrowing from Business: Continuous Improvement in Higher Education,” he shares his perspective on the importance of enhancing student success while optimizing efficiency through continuous improvement and outlines several key principles on this topic. Read the full article here.

Dr. Horowitz on Forbes: “The Myth of the Blank Slate: Why the Principles of Andragogy Deserve Our Attention Now More than Ever”


TCS President Dr. Michael Horowitz, Ph.D., recently published his latest article for the Forbes Nonprofit Council. In “The Myth of the Blank Slate: Why the Principles of Andragogy Deserve Our Attention Now More than Ever,” he shares his perspective on the importance of learning through lived experience, applied skills, discussion, and practical problem-solving.


Informed by the success of students and institutions within the TCS community, Dr. Horowitz argues the inherent value of andragogy over pedagogy as a more inclusive, more effective educational philosophy to support today’s learners. Read the full article here.



Dr. Horowitz on Forbes: Three Principles to Embrace for the Future of Higher Ed


Our very own President Michael Horowitz was recently accepted into the Forbes Nonprofit Council, an invitation-only community for leaders of successful nonprofit organizations. In his first article published for the Council, Dr. Horowitz shares insights from a decade of TCS leadership and explores how these ideas might translate to the higher education sector more broadly during the period of post-pandemic recovery and transformation. Read the full article here.

How 2020 has changed us for the better

While 2020 has been a tumultuous year, the TCS community has come further than we could have imagined, both professionally and personally. We need look no further for evidence of this than the response by our leadership team in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. Leaders from across each institution and the System Office met daily or weekly, as was necessary, to strategize and discuss action plans that would smooth operations for all and create as seamless an experience as possible for students.

Recently, these leaders came together to consider the past year and the ways our communities have continually shown up for each other. We encourage you to take a moment to also reflect on the silver linings of the past year.

Dr. Michael Horowitz, President of TCS Education System

Radical Cooperation

Michael Horowitz headshot

The spirit of Radical Cooperation is the philosophy that has guided TCS since its inception, and this year we’ve seen it in action like never before. One of my favorite stories is about a French relay team that wins its race—not because they are the fastest but because they worked together so well. That’s what Radical Cooperation is about. I’m humbled and inspired when I think about the ways that we’ve all come together to serve our community of more than 10,000—from students to faculty and staff. Our whole community has kept moving forward in spite of the world around us. Not only have we continued the work needed to positively impact the world, but we’ve also shown up for our students every day. With an abundance of positive stories sharing innovative solutions and personal support, I’m reinvigorated by the people who make up our system—each and every one of them. Our leadership, philosophy of Radical Cooperation, and our culture of community matter—they are how we work toward our ultimate goal of serving students and changing communities around the world.

Dr. Michele Nealon, President of The Chicago School of Professional Psychology

Connection and impact

Michele Nealon headshotThis year more than 40% of Americans reported experiencing mental health issues because of the pandemic. This horrible statistic has had one positive effect: destigmatizing mental health issues. It’s a positive step that people are coming forward, but it also sheds light on how important mental illness treatment is. This past year, The Chicago School has become a national leader in telehealth trainings and mental health workshops for organizations across the country, and we’re proud to help meet this need for our communities. We’ve had numerous faculty offer their knowledge and skills pro bono to provide psychoeducation for external and internal audiences on matters related to mental health, stress, and self-care. I’m inspired by the ways that our community has leveraged our expertise and resources to help everyone get through this period. We’ve come together across campuses, colleges, states, and even nations to meet this need.

Dr. Jack Paduntin, President of Pacific Oaks College & Children’s School

Adaptability and service

Jack Paduntin headshotWe won’t know the long-term effects of our physically distant 2020 for years to come, but when I think of those who have likely been affected more than most, it’s children. With more than 75 years of service, Pacific Oaks Children’s School has met the moment time and time again, and this year’s pandemic was no different. The adaptability of the Children’s School and its community has exceeded all of my hopes and expectations. Determining how to open this fall while keeping students, teachers, and parents safe was an incredible feat that could not have been accomplished without collaboration and skill. We knew that we wanted to remain focused on our goal of community service, and with adaptability as a key competency, I’ve seen more hope on the horizon than ever before. Being able to see the hope even during our collective trauma is key for children and adults alike. Every day is meaningful when you have hope, and I’ve seen this throughout our community of parents and children who benefit from their education at the Children’s School.

Dr. Matt Nehmer, President of The Colleges of Law

Spirit of connectedness and innovation

Matthew Nehmer headshotThis year I’ve seen connection take on a new meaning. I’m more connected to our community of students, leaders at the Colleges of Law, and at TCS than ever before—and it’s not just because we’re seeing and meeting with each other on Zoom more. It’s because we’re spending more time acknowledging and inquiring about each other. A sense of positivity resonates throughout our interactions, which I believe will continue to help us focus on what really matters. I like the concept of “anti-fragility,” which even more than resiliency means that we are actually better because of pressure. We don’t just stand up to pressure, we become stronger because of it. The circumstances of this past year have given us the opportunity to reset how we spend our time and where we place our focus. The Colleges of Law has long been devoted to innovation, and in that spirit we’ve embraced this moment to make the experience better for all of our students. Personally, I’ve also been able to connect with students in ways I haven’t had the time to do in the past. From reading personal statements to emailing students individually about their experiences, I feel more in tune with our mission and values than ever before.

Dr. Nathan Long, President of Saybrook University

Commitment and follow-through

Nathan Long headshot

This year has reminded me of a quote by the late Kirk Douglas from a movie of long ago: “Remember the follow through.” Nothing has been quite as important or motivating to me this year than the value of following through. This has been a triple pandemic—COVID-19, the economy, and racial injustice. We’ve been thrust into a moment that demands we meet the needs of our family, friends, and ourselves in ways we may not have had to before. Through it all, I’ve been inspired by the way that Saybrook University and each of the colleges in The Community Solution have come together in our collective commitment to improve our communities in the ways that we each do best. There is not a one-size-fits-all approach. The problems are large enough that each of us needs to do what we can separately and together to accomplish a better way forward. I’m proud that we are committed together for the short-, mid-, and long-term work for our collective mission to be agents of change.

Dr. Tiffany Masson, President of Kansas Health Science Center

Persistence and determination

Tiffany Masson headshot

With a new college like ours, or any startup really, it would’ve been very easy to give up this year. In fact, I imagine that many startups did. With a pandemic and social justice issues, there were competing priorities everywhere. I’m thankful, however, that the TCS community wrapped its arms around KHSC and helped us move forward—it motivated us to continue working toward our ultimate goal. In fact, these crises encouraged us to reimagine our developing curriculum, to focus even more on diversity, inclusion, and the values that I know will set us on a path to a more equitable future in osteopathic education and beyond. I am continually invigorated by the ways that our community engages in deeper conversation and how we think outside the box to serve our students and each other now and in the future.


Deborah Markos, M.S., TCS Education System Chief Operating Officer

Appreciation and inspiration

Deborah Markos headshotThe most inspiring aspect this year to me is not the metrics and goals that we’ve achieved—it’s the way that we’ve supported and connected with each other to advance the organization. We’ve all experienced exhaustion—mentally and physically—but the ways that we’ve taken the time to support each other through the personal challenges many have experienced and encouraging our teams to care for their mental and physical health, has allowed us to continue to meet the moment and remain successful. Any organization can define success in a number of ways. This year, more than any other, has shown us that a very important part of success for TCS Education System is the quality of our relationships.

Rick Merrick, TCS Education System Chief Information Officer

Purposeful and communicative

Rick Merrick headshot

When we started discussions about moving to a completely remote work environment, it was immediately clear to me that the IT department would be a key component to our success or failure. What I found humbling during this transition was the way that everyone across the system adapted. From training to implementing, each department and individual supported these changes, and therefore we didn’t skip a beat as an organization. We did not flounder in the beginning—we made the decision to offer remote work stipends; we made the decision early about learning in the fall. And then we prioritized communicating this to our community. I was inspired by this purposeful direction, and it’s changed me as a leader as well. From beginning to host all-team meetings, to launching a new IT newsletter that features our employees, I know that as a community we’ve gotten closer—and it’s not just because the technology has allowed us into each other’s homes; it’s because we’re supporting and collaborating with each other purposefully.

Shari Mikos, M.S., TCS Education System Chief of Staff

Compassion and focus

Shari Mikos headshot

TCS has been focused on what matters—students—for more than 10 years. But this year, amid all of the challenges, I feel we really honed in on that sense of community and focused on what matters more than ever. The support we give our community system-wide is always awe inspiring to me and has become even more extraordinary as TCS has rallied together, showing compassion and empathy, while remaining steadfast to our work. The cohesion of our community is why we are able to work together to help educate agents of change throughout the world.


Don Packham, MBA, TCS Education System Chief Human Resources Officer

Optimism and resiliency

Don Packham headshot

We’ve brought new meaning to the word “community” this year. We’ve supported each other when people got sick, or employees lost loved ones. Time and time again, I saw our community surround these members with resources of all types. We have been resilient through every difficult situation we’ve faced this year, and it is because of our devotion to the human spirit. Our leadership team feared neither the darkness nor the light, and because of that, our community has not only survived this year but has also come closer together and is stronger for it.

Mehul Patel, MBA, TCS Education System Chief Financial Officer

Change and performance

Mehul Patel headshot

Most of us have never seen this amount of change—across every element of our lives—during our lifetime. Personally, how we interact with loved ones, our personal health, securing childcare—we’ve had to constantly adjust to address the external changes we’ve faced. When we think about our professional lives, this change wreaked just as much havoc. Now when we put these changes up against our accomplishments this year, it is astounding. Our community has done a great job. Despite the unknowns consistently thrown at us, we’ve adjusted well and continued to excel—all the while connecting and supporting our teams on a human level.

Dr. Leanne Wruck, TCS Education Chief Academic Officer

Celebration and renewal

Leanne Wruck headshot

To be a part of an organization that celebrates people is so wonderful, and I’m proud of the ways that we’ve kept this feeling virtually even in these difficult times. Our natural sense of celebration and personal connection has only deepened. We’ve been let into people’s homes and families. I’ve watched a colleague sooth her child during a particularly tough moment that happened to take place during a meeting and been on the phone with another while they ran home to grab a forgotten permission slip. The personal has become the professional and vice versa. As a leader now, it is about more than just knowing the names of the kids—it’s actually seeing them—on the good days and the bad. This type of connection hasn’t stopped at our System Office community; it’s gone deeper because of the resources our partner colleges have provided. Through hosting sessions and leading conversations about social justice and equity, I’ve seen a renewed effort to help ensure that our curriculum has more diverse sources of thought. I have been inspired by the realization that our community provides spaces to help us each see how we can make the effort to solve these larger systemic issues.

TCS Education System welcomes new Vice President of Academic Affairs

Leanne Wruck, Ph.D., joins TCS following a 16-year career at Argosy, where she worked as Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs.

By TCS Education System

leanne wruckLeanne Wruck, Ph.D., has had an unconventional path to higher education—sprinkled with positions at Sprint, Dataserve, and Hallmark and driven by mentors—that led her to TCS Education System.

“I wouldn’t change anything about my path, because every decision I made led me to where I am right now,” says Dr. Wruck, who joined the Chicago office in February 2019.

Dr. Wruck currently oversees the Office of Institutional Research, Academic Program Implementation, Compliance and Records, Library and Information Resources, Instructional Design, Education Technology, and Data Analytics. Her team has a role in each part of the student life cycle: from the time they request information from one of our partner universities (academic operations), to when they complete their degree and enter the workforce as a distinguished alumnus.

Along the way, developing strong relationships is part of what continued to propel her. Whether it was professors in college telling her she should be a teacher, to someone at Hallmark inspiring her to build up her technical skills, to her manager at Dataserve encouraging her to take IT classes, to her time at Sprint, which inspired her to pursue a doctorate in education, Dr. Wruck has taken every opportunity with gratitude.

Prior to joining TCS Education System, Dr. Wruck spent 16 years working at Argosy University from Director of Curriculum and Instruction, to the Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs. She built the position and her teams at Argosy from the ground up, pouring “blood, sweat, and tears” into the process. While there, she helped with reaccreditation, facilitated mock WASC campus and administrative office visits, digitalized all textbooks and the course catalog, and changed the entire faculty model to align with industry standards to help give them more structure.

This led to the latest stage of her career, one that combines all of her skills in an ideal balance: leading academic affairs for a multi-institutional higher education organization.

While at Argosy Dr. Wruck was responsible for establishing many critical organizational structures, but at TCS she has inherited teams that already have a solid foundation. Dr. Wruck views this as an opportunity to see things from a different perspective—using past experiences to ask questions and challenge existing processes. It’s this background and inquisitiveness that will help to further TCS’ model.

“If you see a gap, you ask around to make sure no one is working on the gap, and then come up with a solution to fill the need,” Dr. Wruck says. “It keeps me going.”

Dr. Wruck already sees ways to expand TCS’ mission, while continuing to learn herself. She’s aiding the system to vet additional potential partnerships, a side of the business she has never experienced before. Dr. Wruck is also meeting with the leaders in her department to reimagine how TCS can support the colleges’ academic structures, and how they can be better and stronger.

Dr. Wruck is excited to work with a company that has such a strong mission. She admires the strong leadership and clear vision that Michael Horowitz, Ph.D., has for TCS, and sees a long future for herself here.

“TCS has an impressive collection of people that have come together to form this impactful working model,” Dr. Wruck says. “I am excited to get to know the people here and to help strengthen, advance, and grow our system and our mission.”

Key Questions to Answer Before Seriously Considering a Merger


By: Michael Horowitz, Ph.D. 

This article originally appeared in the Chronicle of Higher Education on October 21, 2018

In a higher-education landscape marked by an increase in college closures and an uncertain future for some of those able to keep their doors open in the short term, institutional mergers are top of mind for many. It’s imperative, however, to weigh options for institutional survival beyond just cost-cutting and program expansion. Drawn from nearly 10 years of experience gleaned at the front line of the college-closure crisis through more than a hundred conversations with officials of struggling colleges and universities, TCS Education System President Dr. Michael Horowitz recommends five key considerations as these opportunities are entertained.  

Do our institutions have mission alignment? Consider whether the merger you’re exploring supports or dilutes your colleges’ missions and identities, whether college names or institutional traditions. This is crucial to creating successful academic pairings. When examining alignment, collaboratively decide what’s important by identifying how the institutions complement each other, what your college offers a potential partner, and what institutional deficits each college helps to resolve. Mergers that fall short of equal, collaborative partnerships can quickly result in fractured culture and control inequities that cause everything to disintegrate. There is no shortage of deals gone south as a result of disproportionate control.

What is my institution’s financial reality? This fundamental question will help distinguish between 11th-hour financial dire straits and potential opportunities for a strategic turnaround. In higher education, the two best qualifiers of relative financial health are operating results and the balance sheet.

Take a hard, comprehensive look at your financials for the past five years and what you expect for the next five. Will you conceivably have the assets to deal with infrastructure, buildings, and bond expenses? Are you positioned to keep up with lender covenants on revolving debt? What are the surplus and loss positions in your operating budget?

If you’re unable to run a surplus for the five-year period ahead, you are at serious risk. In every case, an unbiased, external examination of your financial state, with involvement by the governing board’s finance committee, is recommended to reveal your current reality.

How might existing institutional assets be leveraged for growth? In this tumultuous higher-education climate, many colleges are operating on the assumption that a break-even financial state is the goal. However, to survive — if not thrive — requires consistent investments in innovation to drive enrollment and growth.

Rarely can sizable investments to launch a groundbreaking academic program or meaningfully upgrade a digital platform to attract more students be viably financed by scrimping, saving, and cobbling funds together from already tight operating budgets. More often than not, they require universities to make creative use of their institutional assets.

Evaluating how your assets can be maximized for growth requires you to get past previously conceived notions. Do you have aging campus real estate that you’re emotionally beholden to, based solely on its storied history and connection to your community? Can those beliefs be overcome for the asset’s sale to finance your college turnaround through debt elimination and academic innovation?

Are there options besides merging? Mergers can be an attractive option for financially struggling small to midsize colleges. But before making the commitment, consider alternative resources and partnership opportunities that are available in the form of outside service providers, college consortia, and college systems. Whether IT management, group health-insurance plans, marketing services, or retirement funds, merger alternatives exist with varying degrees of structural and cultural change.

For some colleges, collaborations can be the best option. Some benefits are that institutions can preserve their autonomy, including maintaining their distinct mission, history, board of trustees, and important, their brand, which engenders loyalty and long-term support. Collaboration also creates a spirit of generosity instead of competition, and an environment of academic community in which opportunities for innovation are central. Instead of lobbying to advance legacy academic programs in a merger scenario and vying for funds to do so, the focus of collaborative partnerships is on what can be done together using common platforms, like shared courses and dual degrees.

What is my institution’s current capacity for academic innovation? Are the necessary resources to drive enrollment or student success through programmatic innovation in place? If not, are they within reach? Fueled largely by your standing partnerships and relative financial health, answering this question can help identify the best strategic option for your institution in the long term.

Unfortunately, where there is a will, there is not always a way. A candid evaluation of the steps toward academic innovation available to you — whether from academic deans or instructional-design teams or online platforms — and the affordability of acquiring what you don’t have can quickly narrow down your options and clarify how attractive a merger may be for your institution.

As higher education evolves at an accelerating pace, few institutions will maintain the extended luxury of operating as islands, without the benefit of others’ resources. The most successful players on tomorrow’s playing field will be those that evaluate the alternative institutional models available to them, and make distinctions between the merits and viability of mergers and cooperatively banding together with others. While this process is, of course, different for every institution, one thing remains constant: A broader view is needed to realize a more promising future.

A TCS Agent of Change in The Making: First Generation College Student, Marylin Marquez Orellana

By Dr. Michael Horowitz 

Marylin MarquezAt the very center of the TCS Education System mission to create change agents that serve the global community are our partner college students. The individual strides they each make to favorably impact local communities during their education and throughout their lives elevates our entire System to make a meaningful impact around the world.  Seeing the successful rise of each individual TCS student Agent of Change is what drives us, and especially so when those change agents are the first in their families to attend college – as either the children of U.S. immigrants, or immigrants themselves. Their passionate path to make the world a better place is not only inspiring to our entire TCS community, but often enthusiastically rewarded with financial support in the form of a Jeannie and Michael Horowitz Scholarship award to further fuel their academic goals. One of these inspiring Agents of Change is International Psychology doctoral student, Marylin Marquez Orellana of The Chicago School of Professional Psychology.

Marylin is motivated by her immediate family’s traumatic history in El Salvador and their subsequent U.S. immigration experience. She aspires to serve the Latino community in Washington, D.C., and reframe immigration trauma as a human rights issue to ultimately shape U.S. public policy and advance resilience among those impacted. As not only the first in her family to pursue post-graduate education—but the first to earn an undergraduate degree, she strives to make a meaningful difference in these respective areas nationally and internationally through Latino population research.

Born in Washington D.C. as the eldest child of El Salvadorian immigrant parents, Marylin’s exposure to her family’s traumas had a profound impact on her life and desire to make a difference in the community. Her father and mother both fled from El Salvador during the 12-year civil war in the 1970s and 1980s. The fifth of six children born into poverty, Marylin’s father dropped out of school in the second grade to work 15 hour days as a land tender for the wealthy to help support his family. At 15 he enlisted in the El Salvadorian military in an attempt to overcome poverty, where he fought in the Salvadorian and Honduran 100-hour war, and witnessed the 1979 San Salvador Cathedral massacre.  Having learned that guerilla soldiers were actively seeking past and current military soldiers for execution, he fled to the United States. The oldest of nine children born to a well-respected, middle-class family in El Salvador, Marylin’s mother was a freshman in college studying nursing when she was captured by guerilla soldiers and held for three days. Able to escape only with the help of her uncles, who were captains in the Salvadorian military, she was forced to flee the country within 72 hours of her high profile escape with her father, leaving the rest of the family behind.

While these traumas were substantial, Marylin came to learn that her parents’ trauma did not end with their escape from El Salvador. In fact, they were compounded by trauma inflicted during their migration journey to the U.S., and by assimilating to a new way of life in a new country peppered with discrimination and other injustices. A common experience among immigrants from Central America during the 1970’s and 1980’s, this shared history has inspired Marylin through her doctoral program to identify the distinct stages of trauma within cultural contexts to facilitate new therapeutic psychological methodologies.

On her path to fulfilling these goals, Marylin is already working with Central American immigrant families that have suffered war, gang violence, and migration and acculturation-related traumas as a licensed mental health counselor. Her advocacy for the Latino population doesn’t end there, however. On a volunteer basis, Marylin also serves as a Catholic church support group leader for Latino youth dealing with issues related to migration, acculturation, relationships, peer pressure, and social media.

The breadth and depth of Marylin’s commitment and service to others is the hallmark of our shared mission at TCS, and the linchpin of our collective efforts to be The Community Solution in higher education. We’re proud to have her as a vital member of our TCS community, and look forward to watching the meaningful difference she is well-positioned to make in the world!