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Higher Education, Consumer Technology Veterans Join New Venture Building a GPS for the Labor Market

Founding CEO of Blackboard and Former Amazon General Manager Join Seattle-Based Machine Learning Startup Astrumu as Senior Advisors

AstrumU, a Seattle-based startup that is pioneering the use of machine learning to forecast the value of educational experiences in the labor market, announced the appointment of Lou Pugliese, the founding CEO of Blackboard, and former Amazon and Twitch engineering executive Ethan Evans as senior advisors. Pugliese and Evans bring decades of experience accelerating the development of emerging technologies to solve complex challenges in higher education, e-commerce, and consumer experience.

“In today’s increasingly uncertain labor market, colleges and universities are facing a heightened sense of urgency to not only help students graduate, but to guide them toward pathways that lead to meaningful work and economic value. It’s a historic challenge that the field has grappled with for years,” Pugliese said. “AI and other emerging technologies present a unique opportunity to demystify hiring, fit and the progression from college to career. Astrum U plays a critical and timely role in bridging the broken pipeline between the supply and demand of workforce ready talent. I’m delighted to be a part of AstrumU’s important work and contribute to its mission.”

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As an advisor to AstrumU’s CEO, Pugliese will work closely with Wray, supporting the creation of strategic partnerships with colleges and universities as the company expands to work with a growing number of institutions. A veteran higher education entrepreneur, investor and advisor to institutional leaders, he joins the company after more than twenty years working at the intersection of technology and learning as the founding CEO of Blackboard, a senior innovation fellow at Arizona State University, and as an executive vice president at University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC).  Prior to joining UMGC, Pugliese was CEO of UMUC Ventures, an education technology innovation investment arm of UMGC and the University System of Maryland.

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Evans is an accomplished technology executive with over 60 issued patents who oversaw the launch and development of several key initiatives at Amazon as a general manager, including Prime Video, Twitch and Prime Gaming, that utilized the company’s technology and data in new ways to create new and more engaging interactive experiences for Amazon customers. At AstrumU, he will draw on his experience leading large-scale data integrations and developing consumer-facing technology as the company builds a new application that will allow colleges and other third-party organizations to utilize the AstrumU platform.

“While the value of a college degree remains at an all-time high, and a very real premium in the job market, colleges and universities still face the daunting task of translating the full value of educational experiences into language—and skills—that employers can understand,” said Adam Wray, founder and CEO of AstrumU. “This work is about enabling colleges and universities to quantify the return on investment for their students. The addition of Lou and Ethan as advisors will advance our mission—helping colleges to foster tighter linkages with the demands of the labor market and empowering learners through better information on how college choices equate to economic opportunity.”

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