From play to pilot: Our goal is to reimagine higher education.

Sandbox is both the university’s internal consultancy and incubator of new and alternative business models of higher education–to anticipate what’s coming next in the ever-changing academic terrain, as opposed to being merely reactive. We hope to serve as a hub of innovation in the New England area. We will bring together partners in government, business, and industry to find solutions to the country’s most pressing problems in higher education. The lab is set up not only as a state-of-the-art design space but also a resource to move from play to pilot.

Let’s rethink higher education together.

Our Mission

We believe that experimentation, failure, daring, ideation and iteration—what we call play—are foundational to solving the problems confronting higher education. We are here to support all faculty and staff who wish to collaborate on solutions that will help make higher education more affordable and more accessible to more people.
We provide a stunning physical space for collaboration. At the same time, we serve as an internal consultancy for the university by conducting research, sharing resources, and providing analysis in support of SNHU’s strategic initiatives. We help refine, test, and incubate new educational models and partnerships.The lab is set up not only as a state-of-the-art physical space but also a resource to move from play to pilot. Sandbox will serve as a place to ideate, research, develop, analyze, and test our best ideas.
From play to pilot: we help facilitate discussions across the multiple SNHU units as well as with external stakeholders in order to help our users ideate and experiment towards creative solutions. We always start with the question: “What is the problem we are trying to solve?”—making sure always to question our assumptions and challenge the status quo.

Frequently Asked Questions

Follow us at @sandboxSNHU


Core team


Dr. Michelle R. Weise is the Executive Director of Sandbox Collaborative, the research and development lab of strategy and innovation at Southern New Hampshire University. Michelle’s work in fostering innovation is an extension of her prior work as the Senior Research Fellow in higher education at the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation.

Her book, Hire Education: Mastery, Modularization, and the Workforce Revolution, co-authored with Clayton Christensen, describes the disruptive potential of online competency-based education aligned to workforce needs. Michelle’s commentaries and research have been featured in The Economist, The Wall Street Journal, Harvard Business Review, Bloomberg Businessweek, The Boston Globe, Inside HigherEd, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and PBS Newshour. Michelle is also on the Commission on the Future of Higher Education for the American Academy of Arts and Science. She has also served as the Vice President of Academic Affairs for Fidelis Education and taught at Skidmore College and Stanford University. Michelle is a former Fulbright Scholar and graduate of Harvard and Stanford.


Patrick Moran is the Deputy Director of Research at Sandbox. He oversees the research that supports strategic initiatives at SNHU and also manages the internal consultancy for the university.

In his most recent position as Director of Research and Business Development at the Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE), Patrick was responsible for managing company-wide research projects and new business development. He has extensive experience working in international education and across multiple academic, governmental, and industry stakeholder groups.

Patrick has a Master’s degree in Russian and East European Studies from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and a Bachelor’s degree in History from Providence College. He is a former Foreign Language and Areas Studies (FLAS) fellow and has lived and studied in France and the Czech Republic.


Stephen Lessmann is the Office Technology Manager at Sandbox. He assists with the use of all technology in the lab as well as in the Office of the President at SNHU. A jack of all trades, Stephen also serves as Michelle Weise’s administrative assistant.

Prior to joining the Sandbox team, Stephen started at SNHU as a Customer Liaison at the Help Desk before transitioning to Media Services, where he has become well-versed in all aspects of IT and audio visual services. Stephen is currently working on a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Information Systems at SNHU.


Alexandra Feinson is a Research Fellow at the Sandbox Collaborative and is currently completing a Master’s of Higher Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She is a former Assistant Director of Admissions at the University of Pennsylvania, where she managed office strategy for partnerships with counselors as Director of Counselor Initiatives, and oversaw application evaluation and yield activities for Transfer Admissions.

She is also a former Director with Minds Matter Philadelphia, a community-based organization supporting high-achieving, low-income high school students to foster college pathways and readiness. Alexandra currently works in the admissions office at the Harvard Business School and obtained a BA in Psychology from the University in Pennsylvania.


Ryan Helling is a Research Fellow at the Sandbox Collaborative and is currently enrolled at the Harvard Graduate School of Education pursuing a Master’s of Education Degree with a Higher Education concentration. In 2015 he was as an Institutional Research intern for the Office of Academic Affairs at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Currently, he also sits on the HGSE Career Services Office Student Advisory Board, the Higher Education Student Association Steering Committee, the Class Gift Committee,and conducts international interviews for Initialview. Prior to his graduate studies, Ryan worked on the staff of U.S. Senator Tom Harkin in constituent services. He holds a BS in Finance and a BA in Sociology and Public Administration from Iowa State University.


Ashley Meyer is a Research Fellow at the Sandbox Collaborative and is currently pursuing a Master’s of Education Degree at the Harvard Graduate School of Education focused on Higher Education. She has previous experience as Assistant Director of Undergraduate Admission at Georgia Tech, where she led the international admission effort for four years.

She also currently works with Initialview, an education startup, which seeks to enhance international student applications with interviews that display English proficiency. She holds a BS in International Business and Marketing from the University of South Carolina.

Visit the Sandbox


Sandbox ColLABorative – Grand Opening on April 28, 2016

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Contact us


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Join Us

If you’re the kind of person who seeks out challenges and goes to work every day prepared to bring your A-game, you’re the kind of candidate we’re looking for at Sandbox ColLABorative, the R&D arm of strategy and innovation at Southern New Hampshire University. We have a unique culture of innovation that values collaboration, and we believe every employee has a voice in driving student success. We offer a highly competitive benefits package and have been ranked a Best College to Work For eight years in a row by The Chronicle of Higher Education. Follow us at @sandboxSNHU

Job Opportunity:

Deputy Director of Research

Are you a graduate student?

Become a Sandbox Research Fellow.

Sandbox is looking for creative researchers dedicated to making higher education more affordable and accessible to more people. We have a unique culture of innovation that values collaboration, and we’re looking for Research Fellows to help us with the following:

  • Research any topic and provide well-written summaries and evidence-based analyses of findings.
  • You must have excellent writing and the ability to synthesize data from a wide variety of resources.
  • Through your research, you’ll have the opportunity to contribute to the lab’s website and related communication, including analyzing web trends, maintaining site content. Light JavaScript programming capability would be an added bonus!
  • You’ll help support the communication of our work through various media, newsletter content, and social media. You’ll identify compelling student and community stories, as well as author blog posts.

Research Fellows will receive $1500 per semester for approximately 10 hours of work per week. We’re looking for people who are naturally inclined to say “Yes, and?” and problem-solve to help arrive at the solution. You have a start-up mentality, happy to pitch in wherever you’re needed without worrying about your title or what does or does not fit in with your job description. No job is too big or too small for you, and you love being part of a team and pitching in to accomplish an evolving agenda. Does this sound like you? Please contact us.