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Corporate Conversations: Microsoft's Hether Danforth on Supporting Student Success

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Microsoft's General Manager for U.S. Education, Hether Danforth, talks about their approach to student success.

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Hether Danforth
General Manager for U.S. Education
Microsoft

Hether Danforth: My name is Hether Danforth, general manager for US Education at Microsoft. And our mission here is all about empowering every person and every organization on the planet to do more. In education, fostering student success is so critical to achieving that goal. Over the past few years, we've seen the challenges that students have faced, but we've also seen a tremendous amount of resilience, adaptability, and drive out of them. We've been partnering with higher ed institutions across the globe to really tap into that potential and promote student growth across campus, in the classroom, and far beyond. Higher ed leaders, educators, and administrators have been working hard to ensure an equitable education for their learners. And we all know that when students feel like they're part of the community, when they feel safe, supported, and heard, they thrive. I saw it with my own son when he went off to college this fall. And that's why we're so passionate about the tools and resources that we're providing in an equitable and accessible way at Microsoft. It's also about making sure the students have what they need in time to support their real-time needs. For example, Microsoft Teams and Office 365 is available in over 50 languages, and this is to support non-native speakers, deaf learners, and those with cognitive differences. Our philosophy around providing equitable and inclusive, as well as accessible tools is embedded throughout all of our solutions and technologies. And this is to make sure that all students have access regardless of their ability, their language, their income, their location, or their identity. Bolstering student success, it doesn't end in graduation, though. Over the next five years, 150 million new jobs in the tech sector, jobs like software development, machine learning, cybersecurity are going to become available. And according to the World Economic Forum, 50% of employees worldwide are going to need to be reskilled by the year 2025, just unbelievable. So we have to make sure that students have these skills to succeed in the digital economy. Career Coach, which is a Microsoft Teams for Education application, powered by LinkedIn, has personalized guidance to help higher ed students really navigate their career journey. Now, along with that, we need to make sure that we have programming that can support and extend a student's learning journey. So things like digital certifications and skilling are key to that success and key that they can navigate this changing world. Microsoft for Learn has digital content, it has documentation, and it even has some hands-on support for some of the certifications that students can take. Now, one of the things that I get to do, which is pretty much the best part of my job, is see when these investments really change people's lives. At the University of Michigan, Lauren was a student. She'd gotten 11 different Microsoft certifications. One of her professors learned about this and invited her to actually help her redesign one of her courses. This led to Lauren getting a job as a TA, and it eventually led to getting numerous other internships and jobs throughout her college career. After college, Lauren was able to get a job with a top tier consulting firm. Now, these are the kinds of stories that remind me of why I do what I do and why we all do what we do. And we want to make sure that we can provide these students the right kind of support because they want to succeed. And I can't wait to see the kinds of things that they're able to do over the next few years.