Ben Corpus is a higher education executive with more than 24 years of proven enrollment management, strategic planning, diversity, and student affairs experience in several unique colleges and universities.
Dr. Corpus is currently Vice Provost for Enrollment Management at Florida Polytechnic University, a selective, public university in the state university system of Florida. He has served as Vice Provost for Enrollment Management at the University of Texas at Austin, Vice President for Enrollment Management & Student Affairs at Baruch College, Vice President for Enrollment and Student Affairs at Hostos Community College, and Chief of Staff to the President at Plattsburgh State University, in addition to administrative positions at NYU and the University at Albany.
Corpus has developed teams, strategies, academic programs, and organizational structures that have significantly increased applications, headcount, institutional quality admissions metrics, diversity, retention rates, student satisfaction indicators, and graduation rates.
He served as an enrollment management consultant for Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), UC San Diego, Essex County College, UC Davis, Philadelphia University/Jefferson University, NJCU, and the College of Trinidad and Tobago to name a few. Dr. Ben Corpus was a clinical associate professor at the University of Texas and a tenured associate professor at Baruch. He served as chair of his department’s faculty appointment and promotions committee and co-chair with the Provost on the college’s Task Force on Academic Integrity and was awarded the 2009 Faculty Service Award by the Baruch College Alumni Association. He was a Leadership Fellow at the Hispanic Association for Colleges and Universities (HACU) in 2005 and an AASCU MLI Leadership Fellow in 2009.
Ben Corpus received his bachelor’s degree in Philosophy and Psychology and minored in English Literature at Oswego State University, an M.S. from the University at Albany in education, and his Ph.D. from New York University in Higher Education Policy. He has also completed the Certificate Program on Negotiation for Senior Executives at Harvard Law, and the IEM at Harvard University.
Where did the idea for Higheredblockchain come from?
The evolution of a blockchain started about a decade after David Chaum hatched the concept in his dissertation from UC Berkeley. In the late 1990s and into the 2000s, it really picked up steam, given it is the underlying technology for all cryptocurrencies. I had read an article in about 2015 that used blockchain as a secure, immutable, and trusted technology that could dramatically advance supply chain logistics. Not the most interesting stuff; however, I loved how these entrepreneurs jumped out of lane to apply new technology in a completely different way to resolve their biggest challenges. With their variation in approach to revolutionize another industry outside of cryptocurrencies, I quickly began to think about how a similar process and mindset could help colleges and universities. Thus, higheredblockchain.com was born.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I think it happens through substantive collaboration with people who are both within your space and outside of it. The primary folks who are embedded within your industry are where you must start. Given their experience, expertise, and often their candor, hearing honest feedback from those who can give it to you straight is a must. Of course, you must seek their insights and time with humility and graciousness, given their generosity in taking the time to seriously think through an idea. I think at the same time, you must get outside of yourself and your industry to make sure it makes sense to very smart, savvy experts from other fields. This sharpens your ability to communicate your vision and bottom line. It challenges you to describe how it will add value and why it will make a difference without industry jargon and opens opportunities for cross-pollination.
What’s one trend that excites you?
Aside from blockchain in education, I see growth in income sharing agreements to help college students pay for college, faculty marketplace environments where students instantly get quality instruction, wellness shots, portable bidets, and vegan protein powder on the move.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Aside from rising very early every morning (you get so much more accomplished and your mind is well rested to fire on all cylinders), I try to read about innovation within industries outside of higher education. Colleges definitely don’t have a monopoly on resisting change and gripping onto tradition, status quo rituals, and bureaucratic governance.
What advice would you give your younger self?
I would probably suggest to my younger self to spend more quality time with many of the people I met professionally and socially. I really came across some incredible people whose lives, in their totality, were even more incredible. This includes my mother, who was my champion and has now passed, but also my kids and the love of my life. The good news is I’m giving myself that advice now and following such great advice.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Blockchain technology, smart contracts, and open-source code can reduce costs and staff at universities, provide faster service to students, improve learning, empower adjuncts, allow students to truly own their own credentials, and drop the cost of higher education to students, families, and the government by more than 75%.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Seek out new experiences. I was lucky enough to have a mentor who taught me the value of varied experiences early on in my career. So long as you remain open-minded, adaptable, and have a willingness to learn, you will gain perspective, tools, organizational prudence, and much more.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Curiosity. I have a voracious appetite for learning as much as possible and enjoy researching innovations in and outside of my core industry. Without this, I may never have connected the dots between blockchain and higher education. In education, we face the potential for dramatic advancement if we adopt them into the infrastructure of education and credentialing. For example, they can be used to register titles, certificates, diplomas, and transcripts, given that it is an immutable database. This means that recording grades and personal information on a blockchain can guarantee that grades and titles cannot be inappropriately changed or forged. There are no options, in this method, for document forgery, photoshopped transcripts, or doctored emails. In a blockchain, these documents are no longer simply stored on a centralized database in schools (which are increasingly vulnerable to hackers who freeze all data until they are paid). Blockchains record each movement and modification in the database (which is shared among several trusted entities), so any illicit changes are impossible and/or immediately noticed.
Furthermore, blockchain has the potential to give students the autonomy of owning their academic credentials without being tethered to the university’s registrar’s office. Do we really own our own diplomas or transcripts? If we did, I could send an official copy directly to an employer without going back to the university to validate the degree and send it by mail or digitally.
Given the increase in the number of students getting associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s certificates, and Ph.D.’s, being able to instantly generate their academic history empowers students, saves time, reduces waste, and, yes, forces universities to re-think staffing positions much like banks had to re-think bank tellers or AT&T had to layoff hundreds of thousands of telephone operators when technology allowed a family to call another family on the other side of the coast.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I hired a person almost entirely on the word of a former boss’s boss. Although an immense amount of latitude was provided to turn the ship, no progress was made, and a collegial transition was needed. Everyone must make their own judgments on a thorough review of a demonstrated record, over time, and the results, goals achieved, and merits of a career portfolio – including absolute evidence of work ethic and innovation, not the hearsay of well-intentioned (or otherwise) mentors or bystanders. This works the same way for those who don’t recommend an applicant without facts to support suppositions. We all have a part to play to inoculate against character poison pellets, which are often born from unknowing or micro “-isms.”
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Develop a House of Highlights for all high school calculus class segments, as well as for college and high school sports – driven by responsive AI.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
Power beats Pro, the wireless earbuds by Dr. Dre. Great sound quality and the microphone is excellent on the endless pandemic-driven conference/zoom calls. They allow me to speak with intention but without strain. I hear everyone better, and they are super comfortable. Great for pumping up music on the spin bike also.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
There are a few. I love Salesforce’s Einstein. But to keep it simple: Calendly. The painful back and forth of trying to land a meeting time is eliminated, and the need for me or an admin to scour time blocks to coordinate a time for meetings is gone.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Flow, by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Our devices and wearables incessantly distract us from deep focus to creatively design complex solutions or ideas. Being able to completely focus without distractions or distracting ourselves energizes creative states that find breakthroughs but also make us feel like happier beings. Flow takes us through a grounded purpose for flow, successful examples, and techniques that I think creatives will find crucial at one point or another.
What is your favorite quote?
James Baldwin and Jackie Robinson share my top favorites that go hand in hand, in my opinion. “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced” (James Baldwin) and “A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives” (Jackie Robinson). We are all important in how we can impact lives and find the courage to break away from complacency to actively help each other and ourselves.
- Blockchain technology, smart contracts, and open-source code can reduce costs and staff at universities, provide faster service to students, improve learning, empower adjuncts, allow students to truly own their own credentials, and drop the cost of higher education to students, families, and the government by more than 75%.
- Rise early every morning (you get so much more accomplished and your mind is well rested to fire on all cylinders).
- Spend more quality time with many of the people you meet professionally and socially.
- Seek out new experiences. So long as you remain open-minded, adaptable, and have a willingness to learn, you will gain perspective, tools, organizational prudence, and much more.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.