Notre Dame receives $40 million federal award to improve global education outcomes

The Keough School’s Pulte Institute for Global Development—together with the Institute for Educational Initiatives (IEI) and its Global Center for the Development of the Whole Child—has won a $40 million cooperative agreement to lead a five-year program to advance United States Agency for International Development (USAID) learning priorities in the global education sector. This USAID E3/Education Office award is one of the largest federal grants Notre Dame has ever received.

The Higher Education for Leadership, Innovation and Exchange—Supporting Holistic and Actionable Research in Education program, funded by USAID, will strengthen research capacity and knowledge translation to fill critical gaps in the education sector.

“The Pulte Institute and IEI act as an important mechanism in carrying out Notre Dame’s distinctive mission to serve those in need, and this award will be monumental in helping propel the University forward in that role,” said Robert J. Bernhard, vice president for research and professor of aerospace and mechanical engineering.

While progress has been made in recent years to conduct research that strengthens education systems in developing countries, more targeted research is required to create systemic and sustainable change. This program, called HELIX SHARE, will bring local scholars and higher education institutions together to address these challenges and opportunities in a number of low- and middle-income countries, with a view to developing a replicable model to guide decision-makers.

“This program embraces Notre Dame’s vision of development as accompaniment, where a deep appreciation of local capacity and ownership is viewed as the cornerstone of effective development practice,” said Ray Offenheiser, the William J. Pulte Director of the Pulte Institute and professor of the practice within the Keough School of Global Affairs. “By gathering, translating and using research more effectively, we hope to meaningfully impact global education policy and practice.”

The Notre Dame team will mentor an impressive coalition of partners in higher education across Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and Asia to implement the program. The first year will convene critical country-level and regional stakeholders to identify pathways to address learning agenda questions around education in crises and conflict, foundational learning skills, youth and workforce development and higher education. Additionally, the program will offer a series of capacity-strengthening actions—including trainings, workshops, mentorship and close accompaniment—to ensure that individuals and institutions engaged in research generation, translation and utilization ecology are equipped to work together to advance education interests.

“Everything about the award is exciting, not least the success in building a remarkable global coalition of experts in overcoming the significant obstacles to delivering quality education to underprivileged populations,” said Scott Appleby, the Marilyn Keough Dean of the Keough School. “The bottom line, however, is the opportunity a generation of children, youth and young adults in low- and middle-income countries will now have to gain knowledge and develop skills enabling them to contribute to the private-sector workforce, civil society and government. This program is what we mean by development that is responsive to the demands of human dignity.”

The Pulte Institute, which is part of the Keough School of Global Affairs, will lead management, oversight and administration of the program. The program team will be led by Tom Purekal, director of the Pulte Institute’s Innovation and Practice division, alongside four full-time team members: Jerry Wright, program director; Megan Gavin, technical director; Estela Rivero, monitoring evaluation learning and knowledge management director; and Nancy Ryberg, research specialist. The program will also invoke the contributions of many other individuals across the Pulte Institute, the Keough School, IEI and the Global Center for the Development of the Whole Child.

“This award represents a major milestone for the University of Notre Dame in its continued growth as a leader in international educational development research and practice,” said Neil Boothby, founding director of the Global Center for the Development of the Whole Child within IEI. “It brings a substantial influx of resources at a propitious time to bolster our mission to improve the education of all youth, particularly the disadvantaged.” 

HELIX SHARE is expected to launch in September 2020. For more information, contact Tom Purekal at

Originally published at on August 24, 2020.


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