Our response to COVID19

The QA Commons is mindful of the dramatic and transformational impact COVID-19 is having on all institutions of higher education. As an organization, we are adapting our services to support preparing graduates for the workplace that is now changing more precipitously than ever.


Our Mission

Our mission is to prepare all learners for the changing world of work. We aspire to narrow the gap between higher education and employment.

Our Core Values

Equity. Transparency. Adaptability. Sustained capacity-building.


Data consistently show differentiated results for first-generation and underrepresented groups in terms of completion, placement, salaries, and job longevity. The criteria and processes of The QA Commons are designed to help programs close these gaps and enable all students to contribute to society and their personal and professional development through meaningful and productive work and careers.

Equity-mindedness” is central to the QA Common’s work. The term “refers to the perspective or mode of thinking exhibited by practitioners who call attention to patterns of inequity in student outcomes. These practitioners are willing to take personal and institutional responsibility for the success of their students and critically reassess their own practices. It also requires that practitioners are race-conscious and aware of the social and historical context of exclusionary practices in American Higher Education.”

In participating in QA Commons programs, faculty and administrators are asked to prepare and examine disaggregated program completion, internship participation, and post-graduation employment student success data.

Taking stock of the contradictions between the ideals of democratic education and social, institutional, and individual practices, as well as policies, expectations, and unspoken rules that contribute to persistent inequalities in outcomes among different groups is critical to moving the needle on achievement gaps.


Transparency drives accountability. It is through effective use of student-level data that programs and strategies to improve student learning and degree completion can be developed and implemented.

Public Information is one of the five categories in the QA Commons’ Employability Framework. It provides prospective students, parents, employers, and other stakeholders relevant information on such outcomes as completion rates, career pathways, potential salary ranges, and placement success. Learners are entitled to such information to make informed choices.


Adjusting to different conditions, circumstances, and environments is vital to individuals and organizations alike. In the labor force, adaptability increases one’s chance of success. Unexpected (and sometimes unpleasant) situations arise in work and in life. Adaptability expands capacity to handle change and ensures a person (or an organization) stays afloat when adversities crop up.

Adaptability is one of the Essential Employability Qualities. Additionally, the QA Commons recognizes that adaptability is critical to our own organization as well as to postsecondary institutions and programs.

Sustained Capacity-Building

The work of The QA Commons is designed to encourage program self-assessment, external review for certification, and continuous improvement. It provides a comprehensive and integrated framework for assessing and improving capacity in each area of review. Programs and institutions are supported to develop capacity and performance at each stage prior to and following certification.

The Need

“The world of work is undergoing dramatic changes before our eyes... It requires employers and employees to come to terms with a new environment, in which flexibility and adaptability have priority over job security and long-term (if not lifelong) employment, structured environments, and standardized roles and responsibilities.”
- The Economist

Nearly 3 in 4 employers say they have a hard time finding graduates with the soft skills their companies need.
Society for Human Resource Management

50% of managers feel recent grads are prepared for a full-time job, while 87% of grads feel they are ready for the big time.
-Payscale 2016

Getting a well-paying job often depends on skills that too many underserved student groups don’t get while attending college… Higher-income kids are getting that from their parents and their peer groups.” -
Aimée Eubanks Davis, founder and CEO of Braven

Our Origin Story

The QA Commons was founded in 2016 with a grant from Lumina Foundation and support from the National Center for Education Management Systems (NCHEMS), providing a new approach to higher education quality assurance.  Focusing on the employability of students, the QA Commons provides an innovative certification process that aims to ensure today’s graduates enter the workforce prepared for the responsibilities they will be expected to face. 

After undertaking considerable research and conducting a national pilot project, the QA Commons has identified eight skills that comprise a hire-worthy graduate profile

The QA Commons believes all disciplines need to prepare students for employability – not just those that are specifically workforce-related or pre-professional.


Convened national leaders (funded by a USA Funds—now Strada—grant). Unanimously decide that new models focusing on career readiness are vital.


Research begins on bridging the gap between Higher Ed and the workplace. Awarded a Lumina Foundation grant.


Co-design EEQs & the EEQ Cert process with 27 programs from 14 institutions serving over 35,000 students.


Successfully conclude Pilot Program. Awarded Lumina Foundation continuation grant. Launch Kentucky EEQ Certification Initiative.


Launched a Faculty Employability Fellows program, enabling faculty to learn first-hand about local workforce needs, employer concerns, and the views of the role higher education needs to play.

Need access? Please email info@theqacommons.org

The QA Commons Staff

The QA Commons Staff, our NCHEMS partners, and our robust Advisory Board and Stakeholder Advisory Board members comprise our entire team.

Ralph Wolff
President & Founder


“For the rapidly changing jobs of today and tomorrow, “soft skills” are no longer just something to pick up “somewhere.” Technology, offshoring, and roboticization are but a few of the challenges graduates will face, and skills such as collaboration, adaptability, and continuous learning have become essential for ongoing employability. We need to integrate essential employability qualities with academic content and theory to prepare graduates for meaningful careers. That’s why we created The Quality Assurance Commons.”

— Ralph Wolff

Michelle Deasy
Director of Operations & Planning; NCHEMS Liaison
Bill Plater
Senior Scholar
Gary Burkholder
Senior Advisor, Research & Evaluation
Brad Clark
Director, Kentucky Engagement
Jillian Kinzie
Senior Advisor, Assessment
Bob Allison
Senior Advisor, Finance
Laleh Kazemi
Executive Assistant


Independent Reviewers

The QA Commons works with a cadre of experienced, professional educators to review Employability Self-Assessments and EEQ CERT portfolios. Click HERE to view our Independent Reviewers and their bios.


Kentucky Employer Advisory Council

Through the work with the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education, an employer advisory group has convened to continue to help EEQ Certified programs and QA Commons program participants connect to local workforce needs.

Robert Boone

President/CEO, South Central Workforce Development Board

Dennis Doggett

Founder and President, New Initiatives, LLC

Lisa James

Division Director, Robert Half

Amanda Jumper

Senior Human Resources Business Partner, CHI St. Joseph Hospital

Brigitte Blom Ramsey

Executive Director, Pritchard Committee

Jeff Whitehead

Executive Director, Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program

In 2018-19, a Kentucky Stakeholder Advisory Committee was convened to help link employer needs with the (then emerging) certification process.

As new programs move through the EEQ Certification process, additional employer advisory councils will convene.

Thank You!

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