Institutionalizing Transformative Learning: The Trees, then the Forest, then the Realization

  • Ed Cunliff University of Central Oklahoma
  • Jeff King University of Central Oklahoma


The Challenge

Finding a sense of authentic self as an institution, a true sense of mission, and the means to live that mission were the central focus of a strategic planning process addressed by the University of Central Oklahoma about fifteen years ago. As the institution grew within a metropolitan-serving mission, the goal to transform students from adolescents to adults and find new potential in their lives led to an exciting journey that is still vibrant and relevant today.

Potential Consequences

The theoretical base provided within transformative learning has helped students, staff, and faculty align efforts.


This case study provides replicable processes and specifics that may help others find a clearer path for fulfilling their mission. The study describes how the University of Central Oklahoma’s (UCO’s) transformative learning focus coalesced and became the point of distinction for a UCO education, helping to ensure that all activity supported our mission—helping students learn.


The compelling, lived sense of mission developed from the initial strategic planning process has helped to strengthen the learner-centered culture of the campus while providing a structure that facilitates implementation and assessment.

Author Biographies

Ed Cunliff, University of Central Oklahoma

Ed Cunliff is professor of Adult and Higher Education at the University of Central Oklahoma with a consulting practice in transformative learning and authentic leadership. Ed’s seeks to help learners achieve their goals, which he accomplishes through teaching/facilitating learning in the Adult and Higher Education program at the University of Central Oklahoma. Teaching and research interests include adult learners, applied research, transformative learning, managing adult education programs, and the organization and administration of higher education.

Jeff King, University of Central Oklahoma

Jeff King is Executive Director of the Center for Excellence in Transformative Teaching and Learning at the University of Central Oklahoma. He also leads the Student Transformative Learning Record (STLR) initiative, which is comprised of the processes, tools, and infrastructure UCO employs to operationalize Transformative Learning. As part of his STLR duties, Jeff works with other institutions who have adopted or adapted STLR to their own campuses, missions, and cultures.


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