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Welcome back to the Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning podcast, episode #86 with Peter Cohen, who was appointed the eighth president of University of Phoenix in April, 2017[i], bringing more than 20 years of leadership in the education and learning science sectors. Watch the YouTube interview here. 

My name is Andrea Samadi,  I’m a former educator who created this podcast to bring the most current neuroscience research, along with high performing experts who have risen to the top of their field, with specific strategies or ideas that you can implement immediately, whether you are an educator, or is the corporate space, to take your results to the next level.

I am thrilled to have the opportunity to speak with Peter Cohen today.

As the 8th President of the University of Phoenix, Peter has been focused on further accelerating the University-wide transformation in service of its vision to be recognized as the most trusted provider of career-relevant higher education for working adults. After 20 years of leadership in the field of education, he brings a deep understanding of the potential for technology to improve the quality of education—an understanding he has developed through a career focused on innovation in service of students and improved learning outcomes.

Prior to his work at the University of Phoenix, many of us from the Educational Publishing world, would know Peter when he was the CEO of Pearson Education’s School Group, (where I first met him) or Group President of U.S. Education at McGraw-Hill, overseeing the company’s U.S. K-12 and higher education businesses where he helped the organization reimagine learning in the digital world. Peter was on the forefront of change in the education industry, driving the both company’s roll out of multiple technology tools, which is why I reached out to him, at a time when technology has never been so important in our lives.

Welcome Peter!

Thank you so much for being available with your time to share your knowledge and vision for the state of education, at a time where we really need a positive angle. Just to give our listeners some background, I first met you when you came on board as the CEO of Pearson Education’s School Group, when I was working for Pearson Digital Learning, (for the K-12 School Market) in the Chandler, Arizona offices. This was back in 2008, and I can still remember your introductory speech to our group, like it was yesterday. We were all packed into a tiny room, full of sales reps, and our managers, all with the hopes of making an impact on student learning in the classroom.  I remember as you stool at the front, that your passion for education and making a difference with student learning was evident back then.

Q1: Can you give us a snapshot of your background, and why you have always been so passionate about education, specifically with the power of technology, making education accessible and engaging for everyone?

Q2: Fast forward 12 years, from that day we first met at Pearson, I don’t think any of us in that room would have predicted the surge and importance of online learning, as we see it today. I say this with some disappointment with the group that you spoke to back then, Pearson’s Digital Division, that no longer exists.  From your point of view, what is the state of education as you see it today with the power of bringing online learning to the forefront in our K-12 schools as well as your vision for higher ed campuses?

Q3: I saw an article you shared on social media that highlighted a positive point of view of the power of connection that higher ed plays an important role with[ii]. I thoroughly enjoyed my University years, and then had the opportunity to work with Higher Ed campuses in the southwest here, with Pearson’s Longman division before I was with the Digital Team, and I know you have a birds-eye view of what’s happening in Higher Education across the country. I wonder what you are seeing with the first few weeks back to school on many campuses. Can you share what you think can help students to stay connected so they don’t feel so isolated these days?

Q4: Peter, the whole reason I launched this podcast a year ago, was to bring awareness to the fact that “Success in life, and in college and career specifically, relies on student’s cognitive, social, and emotional development.” I wanted to not only focus on the importance of these skills in our K-12 schools, but with the fact that students must continue this learning after high school, into college and then take these skills into their career. What skills do you think are important for students to learn immediately that they can take into the workplace, to guarantee future success?

Q5: I didn’t mention that I did work at University of Phoenix prior to Pearson, in the International Division, and my husband got his MBA from U of P so we are a U of P family. I remember that back then, the biggest hurdle students had to overcome with their decision to study online was whether an online degree held the same weight as an in-person degree. I saw how quickly students could transfer credits they had already earned from other institutions and put them towards their degree to save time and money. What initiatives has U of P been focused on, knowing that many students may consider traditional online learning to earn their degree?

Q6: Is there anything that is important, that you think we have missed?

Thank you so much for your time today, Peter. It’s been wonderful to see you again and connect in person. It really is a testament that none of us know who we are impacting in the room, when we are standing at the front, as a leader, paving the path. Thanks for all you do for your employees and for the future of eduction.

If anyone is considering an online degree at U o P[iii], is the best way to go to and search for their degree of interest for traditional campuses across the US and online courses available for students around the world? I did also see you have COVID-19 response initiatives that I’ve posted in the show notes, for students and staff at U of P, in addition to your Twitter, YouTube and Facebook pages.  Thanks so much Peter.


Peter Cohen’s Response to COVID-19 YouTube Uploaded March 27,2020

University of Phoenix’s COVID-19 Response Initiatives

University of Phoenix YouTube Channel

University of Phoenix Twitter

University of Phoenix Facebook

Awarding up to $1 million in scholarships

Social and Racial Inequities Webinar:

October 1-8th University of Phoenix is co-hosting a webinar series with the National Diversity Council called “Conversations in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion” to REGISTER.


[i] University of Phoenix hires new President (April 26, 2017)

[ii] Believing in our Students by Austin Sarat (Posted Sept. 3, 2020)