Talk about a coup.
2U, which provides software that big-name universities are using to offer full-fledged online master degree programs, said today that Jim Shelton, formerly deputy secretary at the US Department of Education, is joining the company as its Chief Impact Officer.
"2U is going through hypergrowth and needed C-suite leadership at the highest level of the company," says Chip Paucek, chief executive of 2U. "Look at who Jim is. You couldn't create a more transformational leader than he is."
Shelton left the education department at the end of 2014 after serving six years in the Obama administration, where he also led the President's My Brother's Keeper initiative, which has catalyzed efforts around the country to build opportunities that will lead to strong futures for boys and men of color.
Within the edtech world, speculation has swirled for months around where Shelton would land, with a number of people expecting him to follow the well-trod path of former government leaders to finance or other high-income opportunities.
That Shelton took a different path shouldn't surprise anyone who knows him. In a letter, Shelton spells out his reasons for taking the job with 2U. He says he asked himself four questions:
- Is it important?
- Is it a good business opportunity? If not, is it so important that it should be considered anyway?
- Is it a great organization with people whom you want to spend lots of hours?
- Is it aligned with how you want to live your life?
Bottom line, he writes:
"In my final weeks as Deputy Secretary and Executive Director of the President’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative (both culminating experiences), I reflected on my life and career to date and realized that I wanted to take time to make sure I was clear about what and who is important to me and the kind of person I want to be. This moment caused me to step back and ensure my professional choices would enable an overall high integrity life (i.e. one consistent my values and aspirations)."
And the answer, he decided, was to join 2U.
In spite of the Silicon Valley-esque title, Shelton already has a hefty stack of responsibilities in his new post: He will oversee 2U's partner program, research and university relations--the lifeblood of the company. And Shelton will "help define 2U’s broader social impact strategy as it seeks to engage its staff, assets and core capabilities in making opportunity and upward mobility available to all," according to the company.
"I couldn't feel better," Paucek says, knowing that Shelton is joining the company. "Hire people who could replace you."