If there’s one word to describe Elena, it’s passion – in life, in work, and particularly in education. That passion has driven her to find new ways to more accurately measure and demonstrate individual potential in education, including the “invisible majority” who don’t fall into either of the two extremes – elite and at-risk.

Elena envisions each college as an ecosystem in which individuals grow and respond in unique ways. Further, she defines “growing” at this stage of life as happening across many dimensions beyond grade point average.

Elena’s vision is a blend of Moneyball-thinking and decades of work in complex systems facing crisis or huge growth opportunities in both the USA and abroad. This is the result of her research on the greater access movement, which revealed a shocking truth: in a trend that began in the 1990s, 50-80% of incoming college students do not graduate.

Further research revealed that the definition of “success” in education, especially higher education, lacks consensus and often boils down to “not failing.” At this point, the solution emerged: to positively add to the education space, the highest level of thriving would need to be defined, proven, replicated and then dissected and pushed out to students of all ages in relatable, relevant ways where they need and how they need to consume it.

And that was the birth of vibeffect.

From 2013 to 2015 Elena raised the funding and assembled a team of scientists to create a model based on the problem and solution envisioned. In May 2015 the resulting model was published in the scientific journal Decision Analytics. After publication, Elena’s team was literally pulled into higher education systems by operators who realized the model could be applied uniquely in their systems and improve or stabilize their systems.

Team vibe realized that tens of thousands of students could start benefiting immediately by reaching them through university partners rather than seeking to find early adopter families one at a time.

And, Elena realized that despite enormous barriers to innovation, under the right conditions and using Agile Management methods, higher education is ready to partner on innovative solutions.

Elena is most proud of two accomplishments:

  1. The fact that original advisors, subject experts, vendors, and operating team members invested, stayed the course and are as passionate today as in 2013.
  1. The data tells a different story than common held beliefs or labels that lower expectations of certain student’s potential.

Contributing hard science evidence that people rise to the highest level of their own true potential, given the right information and reinforcements, is a joy.

As seen on "In America"


Outside the Ring: Elena Cox
Read the Interview

SXSWedu Discussion Panel

Elena at a glance:

Elena has served on numerous boards and alliances, one of her favorites is the Public Justice Center in Baltimore. She has her MBA from University of Maryland and ESADE in Barcelona, Spain and her undergraduate degree in English from Dickinson College. She was born in Madrid and has lived and worked in Spain, India, El Salvador, and Egypt. Elena is a fierce believer in the rich intersection of hard sciences and liberal arts, and apologizes to all mathematicians for whom she failed to realize their deep philosophical underpinnings.

Now, meet the rest of our team.