Connected Pathways

How might we create visible, flexible, alternative academic and training pathways within the DC hospitality industry?

There is much excitement in workforce development—and increasingly, higher education circles—about visualizing flexible pathways to help students make better career decisions, and with less churn. Lack of information and ways for students to test pathways can result in lost time, disconnected credentials, and financial hardship for needier populations.

The Connected Pathways initiative seeks to surface and visualize these much-needed flexible, affordable tracks to the middle class.

The Education Design Lab is engaging this work within the District of Columbia, an area of high need, and working directly with local students, educators, employers and hiring experts in hospitality.

To date, the work took us deep into the heart of a broader set of challenges: the “skills gap,” a revolution in learning pathways, the challenge of employer pipelines, and the ongoing discussion around on-the-job training and apprenticeships


During the early phases of the connected pathways challenge, conversations and pressure tests with key stakeholders helped the Lab identify the design criteria for pathways into the middle class through hospitality in DC.

Visible reflects the need for pathways to be clearly set as talent development and growth opportunities and pipelines, acknowledging that there is a connection between the employee’s engagement and a learner employee’s retention over time.  Flexible describes the ability for a model to be applied across a wide range of learners seeking middle-class pathways into hospitality, while also (potentially) serving as a bridge between industries.

Core Components

In building the set of model concepts, there were several questions the guided our exploration with students, hospitality hiring and talent experts, and educators: What combination of technical, professional, academic, and personal experiences prepares a student to excel in an entry-level position and progress? What do the employers need, and what opportunities are available to students?

For those with limited economic opportunities, educational training as a signal for investment in long-term growth not only increases retention for employers, but also offer pathways into the middle-class. For students who were unable to complete their degrees, these pathways, alongside the support from their employer and in concert with training providers, create opportunity for advancement.

As a result of our exploration, we looked towards faster tracks to associate and bachelor degrees. We considered what steps along the pathways might require academic credentials, and where an employee or student receive college credit for on the job training. Additionally, our work considered how employees prepare and signal for a role transition or promotion while contributing to degree requirements.

Recent News

HBCUs Excel at Supporting Black Students. Here’s Why Strengthening Their Career Outcomes Matters.

Historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) were founded with the principal mission to educate African-Americans, providing pathways to opportunities for a population that was systematically excluded from active participation in higher education. At the Lab, we believe that if we can both enable traditionally under-resourced institutions to rethink their programming and co-design with them new models to enhance career outcomes, we can scale these initiatives to positively impact all learners across the higher education ecosystem. In other words, designing for resource-constrained institutions and underserved learners—in human-centered design, we might say “extreme users”—will address the needs of the many.

Adults Students Co-Design A Hospitality Bootcamp

In Washington DC, the fastest growing industry is hospitality and adult charter students who are still working on their GEDs are taking advantage of a great opportunity to blend their GED training with workforce training and possible college credit. The Education Design Lab is working with the city, Academy of Hope Charter school and three hotels (Hilton, Hyatt and Marriott) to create an “Entry Level Plus bootcamp.”

Launching New Pathways in DC

We are pleased to announce funding from DC’s Office of the State Superintendent (OSSE) to take one of our prototypes into pilot with Academy of Hope, an adult charter school in Washington, DC. Our partners include Hilton, Hyatt and Marriott hotels, SUNY-Empire State College and Edgewood/Brookland Family Support Collaborative.

ReImagining the Resume with Members of 47 HBCUs

Twitter LinkedIn The Lab engaged 400 students and 60 college coordinators representing career services, retention offices, and alumni affairs as...

The Lab leads Innovation Design Sprint for UNCF Career Pathways Initiative

Twitter LinkedIn The Lab leads Innovation Design Sprint for UNCF Career Pathways InitiativeHow do you turn the ship– historically black colleges and...
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The Vision 

The Lab intends to facilitate and advise a working group of connected stakeholders to continue to bring established model concepts towards a pilot. This is especially encouraging noting that at our January convening of 40 expert stakeholders from the community, reactions to four model concepts co-created alongside a dynamic and diverse set of hospitality, education, and community stakeholders were overwhelmingly positive.  Further, they reflect not only excitement around the potential impact of implementing connected pathways models in DC, but also beyond. 90% of participants rated every model as “possibly viable” or “very viable” for a local pilot, and 72% of participants suggested that model concepts were viable for other industries or cities as well.

The learner revolution continues to manifest in a more personalized and  expansive expanded set of pathways for a learner to navigate, underscored by the results of our connected pathways work to date. At the prompting from the A recent Brooking’s Institute piece asking asks, “Has the time come for personalized higher education?,” We believe the answer is yes, and anticipate learning more as we launch models to answer the question:

How might we create visible, flexible, alternative academic and training pathways within the DC hospitality industry?


  • New Futures
  • Marriott
  • Hyatt
  • Academy of Hope
  • American Council on Education
  • Empire State College- SUNY


  • Kimsey Foundation
  • Marriott Foundation
Read about our other challenges
Michelle Batt


Design Challenge Lead

Michelle is a Design Challenge Lead for the Lab’s Badging Challenge. Michelle is also the President of Lead by Experience, offering strategic and tactical consulting to help leadership teams across: business, health care and education improve their customer experience.

Through her coaching, Michelle loves to “gently” break up typical functional silos to stimulate collaboration and steer change management across organizations. She integrates new, cost effective, ways to capture and understand customers’ expectations, wants and needs.

Prior to establishing her own business, Michelle held executive positions in telecommunications at MCI and NII Holdings where she held the position of Senior Director of Customer Experience. Michelle earned a Masters of Arts degree in Education: Curriculum & Instruction from Loyola College in Maryland and completed an Executive Certification in Global Leadership from Georgetown University – the McDonough School of Business.


Michael Meotti photo-2

Michael Meotti

Higher Ed Fellow

Mike brings extensive experience in higher education policy, innovation and management to Education Design Lab’s work.   Mike has a broad perspective on the challenges facing colleges and universities based on his past leadership positions in state government, nonprofit organizations and higher education systems. He has led transformation initiatives in all of these sectors.

Mike served as Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Higher Education and Executive Vice President and chief operating officer of the Connecticut Board of Regents for Higher Education. 

Mike was a member of the Executive Committee and Vice Chair of the Federal Relations Committee of the State Higher Education Executive Officers (SHEEO).  He led the Connecticut delegation in the National Governors Association Best Practices Academy “Complete to Compete” and in Complete College America.  Michael was also active in the state policy track of Achieving the Dream and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Coalition for the Common Core Standards.  He earned his J.D. and B.S. degrees from Georgetown University.

Prior to his work in higher education, Mike led several nonprofit organizations that provided services addressing the needs of many “first generation” and returning adult students.