The Center for 21st Century Universities (C21U) is Georgia Tech's living laboratory for fundamental change in higher education. Disruptive innovations in higher education are still evolving, and Georgia Tech is committed to leading the initiatives that will define the next generation of educational practices and technologies. C21U works in tandem with campus administrators and faculty to identify, develop, and test new educational platforms and techniques. Currently, more than 50 faculty members from a wide range of academic units across campus are affiliated members of the C21U faculty.

Richard A. DeMillo, Executive Director

Photo, Richard A. DeMilloRichard A. DeMillo is the Charlotte B. and Roger C. Warren Chair of Computer Science and Professor of Management at Georgia Tech. He founded and directs the Center for 21st Century Universities, a unique institution. The Center is Georgia Tech’s living laboratory for fundamental change in higher education. He is responsible for educational innovation at Georgia Tech and is a national leader and spokesman in the online revolution in higher education. Under his leadership, Georgia Tech has developed a pipeline of 50 Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) that together enroll a million learners. Georgia Tech’s innovation projects include new research in blended learning and a groundbreaking MOOC-based Master’s degree in computer science that offers a Georgia Tech degree for under $7,000. He was named Lumina Foundation Fellow in recognition of his work in higher education.

Previously he was the John P. Imlay Dean of Computing at Georgia Tech where he led the design and implementation of the Threads program which has helped transform undergraduate engineering education in the US and around the world. His influential 2011 book “Abelard to Apple: The Fate of American Colleges and Universities,” which helped spark the national discussion of the future of higher education, was inspired by this experience.

He was Hewlett-Packard’s first Chief Technology Officer, where he had worldwide responsibility for technology. He led HP through technology revolutions in super computing, printing, open source software, information security, and nanotechnology. Prior to joining HP, he was in charge of Research at Bellcore, where he oversaw the development of many internet and web-based innovations. He has also directed the Computer and Computation Research Division of the National Science Foundation. During his twenty-year academic career, he has held academic positions at Purdue University, The University of Wisconsin and the University of Padua (Italy).

The author of over 100 articles, books, and patents, Rich’s research has spanned computer science and includes fundamental innovation in computer security, software engineering and mathematics. He is a Fellow of both the Association for the Advancement of Science and the Association for Computing Machinery. His book, “Abelard to Apple: The Fate of American Colleges and Universities,” was published by MIT Press in 2011. A sequel entitled “Revolution in Higher Education: How a Small Band of Innovators will make College Accessible and Affordable” was published by MIT Press in 2015.

Steve Harmon, Director of Education Innovation

Steve Harmon headshotDr. Stephen Harmon serves as associate dean of research at Georgia Tech Professional Education (GTPE), director of educational innovation at the Center for 21st Century Universities (C21U), and as a professor at the Georgia Tech College of Design. At GTPE and C21U, he leads the invention, prototyping, and validation efforts associated with educational innovation and with managing facilities available to all Georgia Tech researchers and faculty members.

His previous position was professor and chair of the Learning Technologies Division in the College of Education and Human Development at Georgia State University.

After majoring in English literature at Furman University, Dr. Harmon moved to Upper Egypt to teach fourth-grade English for two years. While traveling through the Middle East and Africa, he realized the tremendous need, and scarce resources, for education and training in developing countries. He returned to the U.S. and earned a masters and doctorate in instructional technology, with a cognate in global policy studies, from the University of Georgia.

Dr. Harmon’s research centers on educational uses of emerging technologies and has, for the last few years, focused on eLearning, particularly with respect to synchronous, online learning environments. He is a past president of the Association of Educational Communications and Technology, an international professional association of thousands of educators and others whose activities are directed toward improving instruction through technology. 

Dr. Harmon also conducts research on educational technology in developing countries. He has worked in several Middle Eastern and African countries, including as a consultant for USAID’s Education for Development and Democracy Initiative in Botswana.

Dr. Harmon has over 120 professional publications and presentations and was the 2011 recipient of Georgia State University’s Innovative Instruction Award. He was the spring 2016 commencement speaker at Georgia Southern University. 

Pam Buffington, Director of External and Faculty Engagement

Pam Buffington headshotPam Buffington is C21U's Director of External and Faculty Engagement. In addition to her role with C21U, she is also the Associate Director for Academic Technology with the Office of Information Technology. She has extensive experience at Georgia Tech and has worked in a variety of roles and responsibilities since 1995 enabling innovative uses of information technologies in both research and academic/instructional capacities.

To date, she has managed the technology component for development of more than 20 unique MOOCs, including 3 sponsored through a Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation grant, as well as blended and flipped classroom pilots, and several related University System of Georgia initiatives dealing with innovation in the delivery of post-secondary instruction.


Matt Lisle, Director of Digital Learning Technologies

Matt Lisle's headshotMatt Lisle is the Director of Digital Learning Technologies at the Center for 21st Century Universities. He brings a combination of professional and academic experience in the fields of instructional design, web design and development, and content strategy to his work. His main professional focus is the creation and development of technology-enhanced learning experiences. Prior to coming to Georgia Tech, Matt served as Digital Course Design Coordinator at the University of Texas at Austin and as Creative Director at Enspire Learning. He holds a master’s degree in Instructional Technology from the University of Georgia.