Sharing Student Stories: Storytelling’s Place in a Changing Academic World with Pete Wheelan

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We know storytelling’s place in the business world, but have you considered the role it plays in academic institutions across the nation? In our first episode of What’s Your Story?, Season 2, Sally speaks with Pete Wheelan of InsideTrack about how he uses storytelling alongside professional coaching, technology, and data analytics to increase the enrollment, completion, and career readiness of students.

More About Pete Wheelan

Pete Wheelan is dedicated to leading mission-driven, high-growth companies unlocking human potential and currently serves as CEO of InsideTrack, the nation’s leading student success coaching organization.

Under Pete’s leadership, InsideTrack has now served 2 million + students and 4000+ academic programs for clients including Harvard, the Cal State System and Ivy Tech. He led the purchase of InsideTrack by Strada Education Network, a $1.4 billion public charity focused on improving high education outcomes, and InsideTrack’s acquisition of Logrado, the foundation for InsideTrack’s uCoach technology and analytics platform. Pete also serves as Executive Chairman at Roadtrip Nation, a fellow Strada Education Network affiliate.

Before InsideTrack, Pete served as COO/CRO of Blurb, a leader in self-published books, and as SVP of strategic marketing and business development for Lonely Planet. He also founded online portal Adventureseek and was a strategy consultant with BCG.

Pete received a B.A. from Dartmouth College and an M.B.A. and J.D. from Northwestern University.


Show Highlights

  • What is the power of stories in academic settings?
  • Inside Track is a company that started in 2001 that was trying to solve the issue that college is hard and most institutions don’t provide support that is not academic or financial aid related
  • What are the big issues that stop students from completing their academic programs?
  • For communication, the best way is to meet students where they are, utilizing email and texting and not just a phone call.
  • What are students seeking with InsideTrack’s service?
  • Most higher education institutes have gone from a growth mindset to a fixed mindset
  • Why is the sense of belonging a big struggle for new students?
  • What are the causes of a student actually dropping out?
  • How do you approach universities to integrate this program?
  • How does the storyline with the school take shape?
  • Inside Track coached 300-400,000 students in 2019
    • Inside Track has access to student satisfaction and work to help remove obstacles and challenges for students
    • Student success has become increasingly important in the institution
  • What are some things InsideTrack provides for students?
  • With students, InsideTrack provides reputation and relationships that develop over time – it’s not a one and done.
  • How do you keep the human at the core of your program but use technology to enable them?
  • To sell this program the best case is having partners and clients tell their story via a case study,
    • Teaching sales to lead with stories in their conversations
    • Bring coaches and coach managers into early conversations with potential partners
    • Use first generation students as coaches to represent and share their story- makes it real and relatable
    • Stories that are repeated by other institutions using their stories and coming back as a referral
  • InsideTrack is a predominantly virtual workforce.
  • Advice on inspiring employees?
    • Communication
    • Authenticity
    • Repetition
    • Clarity and consistency
  • When you are approachable it provides credibility for the other communications to an employee.


Like what you hear? Hear more episodes like this on the What’s Your Story podcast page!