The Living Magazines

Hyde Park Living .....Hyde Park, Oakley, Mt. Lookout, O'Bryonville and East Walnut Hills
Wyoming Living
Indian Hill Living
Fort Thomas Living

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

A Conversation with Mary Welsh Schlueter - Founder and CEO of Partnership for Innovation in Education

By Anita Guy BurgessPhotos courtesy Mary Welsh Schlueter

In 2009, Hyde Park resident Mary Welsh Schlueter founded the nonprofit Partnership for Innovation in Education (PIE) as a way to highlight innovative ideas and educators around the country. A website was created that featured original blog content, a real-time RSS feed to educational news and video interviews. Hyde Park Living interviewed her at the time about the organization and her plans.
Fast forward to 2018 when Mary was named a Woman of the Year by the Cincinnati Enquirer and The Greater Cincinnati Foundation. Her nomination was not based on her professional credentials which are very impressive, but rather on the success of her nonprofit to spearhead case-based learning approaches in the local schools.  December marks the 10th anniversary of the founding of PIE, so we wanted to check with Mary to find out how the organization has grown and evolved.

And we learned plenty. In 10 years, PIE has evolved from an educational website into an organization which actively develops and implements transformational educational tools in order to prepare the 21st century workforce for success in the global marketplace.

2018 Enquirer Woman of the Year honor for Mary
The results speak for themselves. To date, more than 30,000 K-12 students in over 75 local schools have joined with 50 industry partners to collaborate, utilize skills and develop new skills in order to solve real world problems. These programs have improved academic achievement and brought excitement to the classroom. PIE programs also have sparked career aspirations and led to certifications, internships and job opportunities.

PIE has garnered numerous local and state-wide awards for its impact on student learning. PIE was recognized with Business WE Watch Awards in 2013 and 2015. More recently, PIE was named the Top Ohio Nonprofit of 2017 by the State of Ohio.  At the time, Lt. Governor John Husted said, “PIE programs feature bold and innovative partnerships creating transformational and result-driven educational tools that prepare Ohio’s 21st century workforce for success.”

Mary Welsh Schlueter
Michael Turner, principal of Taft IT High School has said, “Rarely can one nonprofit deliver so many opportunities to students …PIE’s work continues to excite our students.”

In addition to being named an Enquirer Woman of Year, Mary has also been recognized as a Difference Maker by Cincinnati Children’s Science Museum, as a Volunteer Citizen of the Year by Direct Energy and WKRC Local 12 and with a Civic Leadership Award by Venue and LEAD magazines. Eve Bolton, member of Cincinnati Public School (CPS) board of education, has applauded Mary for her legendary persistence and unmatched ability to leverage assets to benefit the students of CPS. 

Mary shares with you the impressive evolution of PIE.

How did PIE evolve over the years?
“Well, I really thought that PIE would be a vehicle for education news. At the time I was a small-business owner and professor at University of Cincinnati (UC) in the business school teaching marketing classes.  I was using case-based studies like I was taught at the Harvard Business School. I found students to be more engaged in learning when asked to solve real-world problems.

“I had children at Kilgour Elementary and I was always very involved. Next thing you know I was asked to teach a Monday course involving a case study. I reached out to my contacts at Harvard University and they allowed me to use one of their case studies, which I adapted for elementary school-aged kids. I taught every grade from 1st through 6th from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

“So in 2011 we explored why lemon sales were down and what we could we do to increase sales. I taught SWOT [Strengths, Weaknesses, and Opportunities & Threats] analysis, the 5 Ps of marketing and the product life cycle. The kids were really engaged with learning new concepts and working on solutions. I learned that 1st through 3rd graders were highly innovative in their thinking and approach, while 4th through 6th graders were more focused on making money!

“The next year we partnered with Northern Kentucky University to create an app for Android devices called Lemon Smash.” [The app was launched in 2012 with Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory issuing a formal proclamation recognizing June 5 as Lemon Smash Day.]  “This made Kilgour Elementary the first public school to use a case-based, problem-solving approach in the classroom and the first to develop and launch an app.”

What was the next major step for the organization?
“It was winning a 1.1 million dollar grant from the Straight A Fund created by then Governor Kasich in 2014. This funding really catapulted us into the next phase. Of the 600 grant applications received state-wide, our PIE project was the only one funded in Southwest Ohio. We proposed to expose 4-6th graders in 12 Cincinnati Public schools and six Milford schools to case-based, experiential learning and development of an app. PIE partnered with UC to develop 18 different case studies, along with industry leaders and with NKU to create the apps.

“In the first year, the grant funded 35 iPads at each school, teacher training and teacher stipends. The students collaborated on their case study for 10 weeks for a minimum of 10 classroom hours the first year. We followed up with student evaluations in the following four years. We partnered with Miami University on the evaluations, and their research indicated that 85% of all participating students showed increased academic and career-based competency. Other research showed participating students were better able to set goals, problem solve and perform analytical skill sets.

“We received recognition from the Dean of the Harvard Business School, who noted that PIE was the only organization globally to introduce case-based learning at the elementary level. And it’s interesting that, as of this year, the first year curriculum at Harvard is almost entirely case-based, experiential learning.”

What have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced?
“Early on it was grant writing, but I’ve become adept at that. Educating people about the benefits of case-based learning is time consuming. Writing a case study is time consuming. Getting funding can be challenging. There are a lot of non-profits out there doing good work. It can be hard to break through.

“Lining up industry partners who actually come into the classroom to present the problem and give the background is the easiest part. They are more than willing to be involved and they act as mentors with a window to the real world and opportunities for internships. And they really want the kids to learn and they value their input.”

Tell us about your proudest moments or accomplishments.
“Our gelato flavor case study at Kilgour is up there at the top because it has been on-going now for six years. The kids love it and look forward to working on it as 6th graders. The case study asks students to create a new gelato flavor that is packaged by Madisono’s, our industry partner, and sold at the Kilgour Festival. A portion of the profits go to school. The case study involves taste preferences, taste testing, flavor development, cost analysis and packaging considerations. This work has been life-changing. Seeing the light come on and kids become confident in their abilities and desire to learn and create has just been amazing!

“I’m also proud of the drone program.  Lt. Governor Jon Husted emphasized the need for programs that provide credentialing and a pathway to employment. We responded by developing and getting funding from the Ohio Department of Education Community Connectors for the drone program at Taft IT High School. Students who are at least 16 years old and complete the program earn six points out of the 12 required for industry credentials as an FAA drone pilot.

“I am proud of work we have done with our industry and academic partners and the recognition we received. The Enquirer Women of the Year was a huge honor. And I was also honored to be the keynote speaker at Heidelberg University last spring. I was thrilled to have PIE recognized by the city of Cincinnati in a formal proclamation of PIE Day and by the State of Ohio as the top nonprofit in 2017.  It was so encouraging when Governor John Kasich recognized PIE is a pipeline for hope and when the 2018-2024 Department of Education Strategic Plan mentioned several times the value of case-based learning in the classroom”

What projects are exciting you right now?
“I’m excited about the summer GEEK Squad Academy that started this summer. PIE facilitated and wrote the grant that allowed 200 CPS students to go through GEEK squad training at Taft High School. This training can result in certification and potential job opportunities. I’m looking forward to being able to offer it again next summer.

“We just received a larger grant for our Tableau/Data Visualization program in Ohio high schools. This is a really big deal. Completion of the program can lead to career tech points which can accelerate high school graduation.

“Our Consulting Clubs are doing really well in Cincinnati Public Schools. Partners in the business community present case studies for kids to solve in these clubs. Cincinnati public is the first Ohio school district to launch this type of club. It is really cool.”

What are your future plans?
“We’ll continue to develop two to three new case studies each year to keep it fresh. Many case studies are currently available for use on the PIE website. We’ll be launching a portal to access CaseLab, our patented method of writing case studies, which will be accessible to interested individuals. For example, it could be used by students to design a Capstone project.

“I’m looking forward to resubmitting grants for two case studies which I expect to be very popular among students. One involves sports analytics using math and statistics skills in collaboration with the West End YMCA, FC Cincinnati and other partners.

“I dream about doing a case study on the continuing success of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Museum in Cleveland and how they revived their attendance after the typical drop off. I dream about training teachers in case-based learning methods. I’ve also considered going to law school. It’s a background that is good to have when operating a nonprofit organization.”

How you can learn more about PIE.
To learn more about the organization, view testimonials from industry partners, educators and students, sample case-based problems or to get involved, please see visit or contact Mary at 513-378-8370.

Total number of…
Students impacted
30,000+ *
Schools involved
Summer programs
Case studies written
Industry partners
Employees (FT, PT & contract)
$ in grants/awards
3.5 million
$ in in-kind gifts
12.2 million
Program/individual awards & recognition
Note * indicates new & re-occurring in-classroom & after school programs, student conferences & summer programs (not included - digital classrooms)

Matt Madison and Lucy Schlueter, a member of the first class going through the program) talking about Madisonos Gelato case

Pat Bruns (State Board of Education Rep - District 4), Mary and Ms. Stephanie Bisher (CPS Lead Educator, Director Madisonos Gelato curriculum program at Kilgour

Kilgour Classroom in action with gelato project

Kilgour Classroom in action with gelato project

The State of Ohio Straight A Fund has supported PIE in its endeavor to launch creative new ideas to improve education

PIE provided over $750K of computers to CPS in Straight A Innovation Grant given to PIE CaseLAB program

Drobots Students and Educators (Located at Hyde Park School, Summer 2018)

George Valcarcel (Student, OSU; Kai Vogeler (both Ohio State students) - University Innovation Fellows Program and Members of the University Innovation Club - who taught students at Walnut Hills High School an entire session on Design Thinking.

PIE CaseLAB® CPS Educators and PIE Business Partners Honored with Lt. Governor Jon Husted (Center, Mary to his right)

Mary, awarded an Honorary Doctorate, gave the Heidelberg University Commencement Address.

Mary, who was teaching at Harvard Business School,  with Professor Jim Dowd - Senior Fellow, Executive Education at Harvard Business School; Professor Bill Schiano. Professor of Computer Information Systems at Bentley University

No comments:

Post a Comment