Home Features Leadership High: A School Must Purposefully Develop Culture
High: A School Must Purposefully Develop Culture

High: A School Must Purposefully Develop Culture


Interview with Andrew High, COO and General Counsel, West Coast Ultrasound Institute

Leadership. Webster’s New World Dictionary defines it as the ability to lead, command, direct or guide. Peter Drucker, management consultant and author, once said: “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.”

So what are the right things and how do you lead effectively? That’s what “Career Education Review” hopes to uncover, and much more, in its series on leaders within the career education sector. Featured throughout the year, the articles will include executives’ ideas about what is happening in the sector, discover why they are successful, provide ideas to help other school leaders, and much more.

Do you have a story you would like to share? Contact Jenny Faubert at jfaubert@careereducationreview.net

Tell us briefly about your background in career education?

Like many people in our sector, I didn’t have my eye on private post-secondary from the jump, however, I saw an opportunity and haven’t looked back! I started as general counsel for West Coast Ultrasound Institute about four and a half years ago and also became the Chief Operating Officer just over three years ago.

I find this sector exciting primarily because I believe in the profound difference we can make in our student’s lives and the opportunity for development that still exists.

While I work in education, I also invest in myself via education, I have a BS and JD from Arizona State University and an MBA from UCLA.

You joined the CER Advisory Board this year. Why did you decide to get involved?

As a longtime subscriber of CER, I understand its tremendous value to sector leaders. The Daily News emails provide concise updates on the trends in higher education and regulatory developments. The monthly publications are a great source of deeper information on best practices and overall keys to student success. CER has greatly helped me as an education executive, and I’m happy to be able to give back in any way I can.

Tell us a little about West Coast Ultrasound Institute.

We’ll celebrate our 20th anniversary next year! We were founded in 1998 in Los Angeles by Myra Chason (a registered nurse and sonographer) and Dr. Neville Smith (a diagnostic medical radiologist) based on a premise that they could improve the existing model of ultrasound education. We have two campuses in California (Los Angeles and Ontario) and one in Phoenix, Arizona. WCUI offers programs including Diagnostic Medical Sonography, Cardiovascular Sonography, Pediatric Cardiac Ultrasound & Congenital Heart Disease, Vocational Nursing, and Magnetic Resonance Imaging. We have about 300 students at each campus.

What makes West Coast Ultrasound Institute stand out from other schools?

WCUI was founded and, to a large extent, is operated by clinicians that understand the medical fields we operate within. We have affiliations with all the major hospital networks in our geographies and have strong connections with prominent practitioners in our fields. By design, our program offerings are limited – we only offer programs in the fields of Ultrasound, MRI, and Nursing. Additionally, we’re not focused on inorganic growth. We evaluate our placement cohorts and use that to generate enrollment targets on a quarterly basis. Once we reach those targets, we move the program to waitlist status and explain to students that they likely won’t start until the following quarter. This means giving up some revenue (and scheduling efficiency) on the frontend but gaining quality on the backend, which is one of our core values.

What is your most successful program(s) and why?

We believe in all of our programs and are wholeheartedly committed to providing a strong ROI for our dedicated students over anything else. Our most unique program is our Pediatric Cardiac Ultrasound & Congenital Heart Disease certificate program that trains sonographers to specialize in cardiac ultrasound performed on children and teens. We’re also one of only a few schools in the country to offer a Bachelors degree in Diagnostic Medical Sonography and Cardiovascular Sonography.

What changes/ideas did you implement since becoming COO that has helped make West Coast Ultrasound Institute successful?

A lot! Some successful, some not! A couple of examples:

  • We changed our externship to be competency based rather than time-based to provide our students with the ability to sit for a new registry exam upon graduation (a big deal in our fields). Prior to heading to the externship, students must complete appropriate protocols, so we’re confident they have the skill to succeed at the externship. Throughout the externship, our externship affiliates understand that we’re aiming to check off certain competencies for our students and help our students focus on and develop those skills in particular.
  • We developed reporting to better diagnose what we defined as success within each department and whether that was happening on a real-time basis (this is complicated and varies on pertinent analytics for each department, we’re still working out the kinks).
  • We created an online, cloud-based evaluation process eliminating paper from student ultrasound evaluations (students complete ultrasound studies, and our instructors review those studies online, from anywhere, rather than a digital print-out, we’re now providing quicker and more accurate student feedback).
  • We’ve developed ways to try and close the feedback loop from our students and our faculty so that we can make educational and administrative adjustments quicker. An example: I hold town halls where our whole team discusses long-term strategy, and we use an app that allows our students to text our campus managers directly.
  • Our Pro Bono Community Wellness Program is an initiative where WCUI sends staff members, students, and mobile ultrasound machines to health fairs and not-for-profit wellness events and perform free ultrasound exams – this has been a huge success and has had a major impact on our communities (with a market value of over $2 million in services provided for free).

I can talk about any one of these things for hours if anyone reading this is interested in spending an afternoon with me!

What makes you a successful leader?

I don’t know the answer and think it can be a little different for everyone. For WCUI, it’s about finding and cultivating talent and empowering our employees to believe in themselves and in the impact of their work. Leading is something I spend a huge amount of time thinking about and acknowledge that I’m a perpetual work in progress!

How would you describe your management style and why do you think it works?

Collaborative. I believe that culture is one of the most important things a school must purposefully develop and WCUI is focused on motivating and empowering our employees as much as we possibly can. As a leader, supporting a good idea is as powerful as coming up with one.

What was your biggest challenge when you first became COO? How did you overcome it?

Understanding the nuances of our programs, our faculty, our students, and the sector as a whole. I came to WCUI with no medical knowledge and no sector knowledge. The first time I ever had an ultrasound study was on my heart in front of 15 students in one of WCUI’s labs (fortunately, my heart is okay!). I’m still learning and try to ask as many questions as I can and engage at the frontline with our students and employees as much as possible. I volunteered to be a team leader with our accreditor, ACCSC, and CER is an awesome resource!

What are your current challenges as COO? How do you plan to overcome them?

We have the same challenges as other schools in the sector. The regulatory environment is tough (and the July 1 implementation of Borrower Defense to Repayment looms). Like many schools, we work with a number of regulatory agencies and registry and certification agencies (over 10 together!). We’re constantly juggling to stay in compliance and also make progress with new initiatives. Our plan to overcome these challenges is to focus on student outcomes and employee accountability/development. We’re here for our students alone and we’re working to ensure that everything in our business model, including our corporate and HR structure, reflects that.

The career education sector is facing many challenges, how does West Coast Ultrasound Institute stay successful?

Same as the above. In addition, we’re trying to flip the rhetoric in our communities by focusing on providing value to the communities we’re in. We participate in a number of health fairs where we provide free health screenings. We’re also a certified Veteran Supportive Campus and Employer – meaning we hire veterans as a part of our employee base. We participate in local government Workforce programs. One of our employees, Susan Ciardullo, even serves on the Arizona Board of Education under Governor Doug Ducey. Moving forward, we’re committed to doing an even better job of furthering the communities we’re in.

What do you see as the future of career education?

I believe the sector can add tremendous value and needs to focus on developing and improving ways to educate students with the least possible cost to those students.

The sector additionally needs to be quick and flexible in teaching skills that readily translate to needed positions and moving away from programs that don’t.

I believe an internal analytical framework, which could be different at each school, needs to be developed to truly understand when to make theses changes.

If you could give one tip to other leaders in the career education sector what would it be?

Focus on creating a corporate infrastructure that incentivizes student success and student outcomes over anything else.

Is there anything you would like to add that I didn’t ask?

Thank you for asking and thank you to CER for this opportunity to share some of the things we’re working on at WCUI! I’m committed to learning and growing with the sector. If you have feedback or thoughts, please let me know! My email address is andrew.high@wcui.edu, and WCUI’s website (with an updated look coming soon!) is wcui.edu.

Andrew High

ANDREW HIGH works as COO and General Counsel for West Coast Ultrasound Institute (WCUI). Andrew focuses on business analytics, risk management, marketing strategy, financial analysis, compliance, and the development of the WCUI team. He holds a BS and JD from Arizona State University, an MBA from UCLA, and is licensed to practice law in California and Arizona. Andrew also works for the UCLA Price Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation as a strategic consultant, volunteers as a team leader with the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC) and is a member of the Career Education Review (CER) Advisory Board. Andrew believes in the transformative value of education and is committed to helping the sector develop and improve.

Contact Information: Andrew High // COO and General Counsel // West Coast Ultrasound Institute // 310-289-5123 // andrew.high@wcui.edu // Social Media (Andrew): https://www.linkedin.com/in/andrew-high-69b7602b // Social Media: (WCUI): https://www.linkedin.com/edu/school?id=33717https://www.facebook.com/WestCoastUltrasoundInstitute // www.wcui.edu



Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *