November 14, 2023
Since you’re a college president, you’re likely old enough to recall staring at a wall of blue and yellow boxes on Friday night at your local Blockbuster Video, which launched in 1985. By 2004, Blockbuster had over 9,000 stores and roughly 85,000 employees. Today, only one store is still standing (in Bend, Oregon, in case you’re curious). Yet the entertainment industry is alive and well, as is the American appetite for movies.
October 16, 2023
Public colleges and universities continue to face great fiscal and structural challenges. The past 25 or more years have seen a precipitous decline in state appropriations and monumental challenges in enrollment and retention as college-going rates dip, inflationary pressures drive up costs, performance funding models in many states provide limited new resources, and college-going students decline in a generational demographic shift. In short, institutional budgets are very tight, and financial pressures continue to grow as tuition increases are severely limited due to the importance of access and affordability.
Chapter 2: A New Approach to Climate Action Planning: Reimagining Campus Sustainability in a Post-COVID Environment
September 25, 2023
COVID-19 has, in many ways, changed how those of us in higher education operate. It also has altered our relationship to the world around us, in ways both subtle and profound. It has made us more sensitive to the fragility of the natural world in which we live and to the importance of a clean, safe, and healthy environment in sustaining our lifestyles and advancing our goals.
September 04, 2023
The term “digital native” is growing in use and becoming a commonly used term to describe traditional-aged college students (18-24-years-old). Digital natives are considered to be persons born or brought up during the age of digital technology and are far more familiar with computers, apps, the internet, and electronic technology. Many of these individuals are also “gamers” who became familiar with technology by playing video games. Thirty-six percent of adolescents play video games. On average, gamers play for an hour on weekdays and an hour and a half on weekends. Compared with non-gamers, adolescent gamers spend 30% less time reading and 34% less time doing homework. According a 2022 survey, 36% of gamers come from the 18-to-34 age demographic, and 6 % are 65 years and older. But while the traditional college-aged student may be digitally savvy, I worry that their level of sophistication may be constrained by socioeconomic factors, such as the school they attend or their family’s circumstances.
February 23, 2023
The irony is that I was late submitting to the editor this chapter on leading a well campus because I was facing several challenges to remaining well myself. Over the two months that I had to complete this chapter, I was faced with the unexpected death of my mother, COVID among my family members (but not me, unless I was asymptomatic and the numerous tests with negative results were all wrong), the stress of trying to impossibly balance the university’s operating budget, and, most recently, the decision to move my father who suffers from Alzheimer’s from Indiana, where he has lived his entire life, to Cleveland to be near me. But of course, my situation is not at all unique. As I look around my campus, I see many of us who are caring for elderly parents, often with dementia involved. The effects of COVID, both physical and emotional/mental, are everywhere to be seen. And the enormous pressures of enrollment and finances that higher education institutions are facing can be felt by both faculty and staff daily. So, taking the time to intentionally focus our campuses on being institutions where the well-being of faculty, staff, and students is at the heart of the institution is much needed these days.
February 23, 2023
Students, faculty, and staff at our institutions bring with them a variety of experiences; some experiences add to their potential for success, others create potential barriers. It is incumbent upon all higher education leaders to do everything in their power to understand, and when possible, provide solutions that help students overcome those barriers, enhancing the potential for increased educational attainment. While many of the barriers to student retention and graduation are well documented, easily studied, and have implementable solutions, there are others that are subtler and require broad systemic solutions. One such set of barriers, created long before students arrive to our campus, are Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). In the mid-to-late 1990s, Kaiser Permanente and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) conducted a study that demonstrated the likely impact of ACEs through adulthood. East Tennessee State University (ETSU) has taken a community-based, trauma-informed care (TIC) approach to addressing the impact of ACEs not just within our student population, but within the broader community as well.
February 23, 2023
Throughout the pandemic, all of us frequently invoked a single word to describe our experiences: “unprecedented.” How frequently? In 2020, The New York Times “Dealbook” called it one of the words of the year1, and this year, a quick Google search I did in writing this piece turned up 117 million hits and counting that paired “unprecedented” with COVID.
February 02, 2023
A healthy campus is one link in the chain that connects communities and helps build a healthier world. Nova Southeastern University’s (NSU’s) vision for a healthy campus is one that recognizes how we are all connected and seeks to improve those connections by focusing on eight areas of impact. These eight areas represent an all-encompassing approach that supports the health of a community in every aspect.
January 06, 2023
December 07, 2022
Chapter 4: Higher Educational Relevancy: Aligning Programs, Economic Development, and Outreach to Community Needs and Aspirations
November 14, 2022
April 12, 2022
Like many college presidents, commencement is my favorite day on campus. This May, after more than a year of primarily virtual events, the opportunity to present diplomas to students in person reinvigorated my passion for supporting their success. As a first-generation college graduate coming from meager means, my life has been transformed by the power of education. Therefore, when each graduate walks across the stage to receive their diploma, whether on their way to a new career, graduate school, or planned service opportunity, I view their educational experience as a successful outcome.
March 23, 2022
How is higher education emerging from the pandemic better, stronger, and more equitable? What have we learned during this historic moment? As we emerge from the global pandemic and the intersecting public health crises that it helped to expose, our nation needs its community colleges to shape the near and distant future of our country.
February 23, 2022
The COVID-19 pandemic presented difficult new questions for so many sectors of our society.
February 06, 2022
I suffer from panic attacks. They typically happen in the middle of the night and are triggered by a lost sense of control. This past year has been a challenge for worriers like me. The COVID-19 pandemic, social unrest in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, and an extraordinary political season that culminated in the January 6, 2021 attack on Capitol Hill caused even the most confident, experienced, and successful among us to wonder if they could effectively lead through the chaos. Everything felt out of control.
January 10, 2022
As higher education emerges from the pandemic, there is much discussion about what must be done to successfully move forward. Given the challenging and continuously changing landscape in which we find ourselves, hypotheses abound about what should be done. But they are just that—hypotheses—and we can all point to hypotheses that end up not being supported by the evidence. So, how does a higher education leadership team sort through the myriad of unsolicited email “opportunities” from consultants, professional organizations, and advocacy groups; daily advice, trends, and “best practices” articles in higher education publications; and perspectives from faculty, staff, students, alumni, legislators, community members, and a plethora of other constituency groups to determine the most effective path forward for their particular institution?
October 20, 2021
It’s no secret that the landscape of higher education is changing rapidly. Every day, tuition-dependent private institutions are grappling with issues related to affordability, enrollment, competition, shrinking state and federal funding, student success and retention, and the looming drop in the number of high school graduates. As if this wasn’t enough, a global pandemic swept in, exacerbating existing challenges and creating unforeseen new ones.
Chapter 10: Making Connections: How Strategic Education Reform Can Ignite Innovation and Build a Better Community
April 12, 2021
March 29, 2021
March 01, 2021
February 01, 2021
The 2019-2020 academic year will figure prominently in the histories of our universities and colleges. Early in the morning of October 28, 2019, I awoke in the President’s home located near our University to the heavy presence of smoke in the air. Looking from my yard toward our campus atop the Santa Monica Mountains in Los Angeles, the unthinkable was suddenly very real.
January 11, 2021
Hindsight is said to be 20/20, and with hindsight 2020 may be remembered as a transformational year in which real innovation took hold across the American higher education landscape. While colleges and universities are often criticized for a reluctance to change, the COVID-19 pandemic shocked the system and necessitated wholesale modifications in teaching and learning, as well as institutional policies and even business practices. As the scope of the crisis became apparent, at James Madison University (JMU) we sought to embrace the opportunity to think creatively about what we do and how we do it.
December 07, 2020
There have been few moments as filled with transition and innovation as the spring of 2020. With limited warning, all of American higher education pivoted to respond to the global pandemic brought forth by COVID-19. In the face of a global public health and economic crisis, we found that what we value most in higher education was suddenly pathologized: no longer were we allowed to be in proximity to one another as we learned and lived together.
November 16, 2020
In 2020, those of us who have the privilege of working in higher education as college and university presidents have found ourselves at the helm of complex organizations coping with three significant crises. The first crisis is the public health emergency represented by COVID-19, a once-in-a-generation global outbreak of a highly contagious and novel disease. The second is the economic emergency triggered by the pandemic, requiring teams around the world to reinvent the way they do business. The third, prompted by the tragic loss of another Black life at the hands of law enforcement, is the unrest associated with renewed calls for social justice as we reexamine issues of racism and abuse of power.
October 28, 2020
Innovation—the ability to anticipate and respond to changes taking place on our campus and throughout this 21st-century world—sets leading colleges and universities apart from the thousands of other institutions in the higher education marketplace. Innovation on our campuses can take many forms. Often it means adapting an existing strategy to emerging demands.
September 24, 2020
Like any new president, when I arrived on the campus of Wofford College in July 2013, there was a sense of anticipation and an expectation of change. The 11th president in the college’s 160-year history, this was my first presidency, and I knew that there was an opportunity to be seized.
September 08, 2020
In 1994, the U.S. Department of Defense closed Fort Ord as part of its Base Realignment and Closure process, the largest U.S. military base to be closed at the time. Built in 1917, Fort Ord housed 50,000 service members at its height and was the staging ground for the Korean and Vietnam wars. Fort Ord’s closure meant that a third of the economic base of the region was eliminated in one stroke.
April 16, 2020
Pittsburgh is having a moment.
High-end hotels and condos are springing up all over town. The tech, energy, and advanced manufacturing sectors are booming. We have a superb restaurant scene, great sports teams, and you can’t open up the travel sections of The New York Times or The Washington Post without coming across articles gushing over Pittsburgh as “the next Austin” or “the next Portland.”
March 25, 2020
The future is collaborative. For small, private, four-year colleges, it is also, as countless articles and reports have warned, replete with risk. But despite the most challenging combination of demographic and cultural headwinds in generations, schools that choose to carefully cultivate vibrant, synergistic partnerships can not only survive but flourish.
March 04, 2020
The United States has the best system of higher education in the world. It is the most comprehensive, multi-faceted, accessible, and well-funded system that any society has created, and despite its flaws and failures, it has stood the test of time for well over 125 years.
February 05, 2020
Having been engaged in K-12 and higher education leadership for over 40 years, I have personally experienced the significant changes in the higher education landscape in the past two decades in particular.
January 15, 2020
Alarms sound about the future of American colleges and universities as innovations proliferate to address the dynamics of how we educate, whom we educate, for what purpose, and with what value. Near universal agreement can be reached that business as usual will not serve anyone well; yet, no single solution can address the challenges we face. One size never fits all.
Chapter 5: Mergers and Acquisitions in Higher Education: Is There an Opportunity to Build Competitive Advantage, Collective Strength, and Mission Focus?
December 11, 2019
Higher education is in an unprecedented place in its history; competition has never been more intense for an increasingly smaller traditional student population, and many institutions now offer online programs and cater to adult and part-time students, not to mention the existence of corporate universities, continued for-profit participation in the industry, government regulations, and the often negative misperception too many have from the media concerning the value of a degree given the rising costs.
November 20, 2019
During my recent first year on a new campus, I found myself in search of the true character of the institution I had joined. What were the special strengths of this university? What opportunities existed for advancement? Were there areas where we could direct additional focus?
October 30, 2019
When I became president of a private liberal arts college after nine years at the helm of a public research university, many surmised that I was practicing for retirement by starting to downsize.
October 01, 2019
A little more than a decade ago, as the university I serve prepared for a visit from its regional accrediting agency, a senior faculty member characterized the institution in the following terms: “We are a mediocre university, with a mediocre faculty and mediocre facilities, serving a mediocre community.” At the conclusion of the accreditation site visit, the Higher Learning Commission described the faculty relationship with the then president as “highly tenuous” and the University as being “without focus.”
Chapter 1: Educating the Environmental Stewards of Tomorrow: Presidential Leadership and Climate Change
September 04, 2019
As a society, we face numerous challenges that universities seek to address as part of higher education’s central mission to educate students and serve the community. Among them, and one that I care about deeply, is the threat to our future and the clear danger we all face due to climate change. As educators—and leaders of universities essentially equivalent to “small cities” with a direct impact on the environment—I believe we are compelled to address these threats and do everything in our power to counter global warming.
April 11, 2019
A few years ago, California Lutheran University did what many of you do on a regular basis: we held a table-top emergency drill.
March 28, 2019
Every fall, thousands of students start their academic journeys at universities across the nation, taking tentative steps towards degrees.
February 14, 2019
Higher education in the United States is under intense scrutiny. Recent polls reveal an unusually large drop in the public’s confidence in the value of a college degree.
January 29, 2019
Today’s graduates will face a hyper-connected, rapidly changing economy and looming global challenges. Over the course of their lives, college graduates will hold nearly 20 jobs in five different industries, including industries that do not yet exist.
January 10, 2019
The town-gown divide is not a new issue for college presidents. The relationships between colleges and the communities they inhabit have always been complex.
December 06, 2018
Given all of the challenges university presidents face today, focusing on sustainability might seem like a luxury few have time for.
October 31, 2018
“College kids” is a phrase beloved by lawmakers working on higher education policy and reporters covering campus life.
October 03, 2018
Risk is characterized by uncertainty – that an event may or may not happen – and undesirable outcomes or loss.
September 06, 2017
I'm an aviation nut, and one of the best gifts I've ever received was an hour of flying time in a 1932 Tiger Moth biplane over the south of England.
Chapter 2: Disrupting the Kitchen-Table Decision: One College’s Innovation to Change the Risk Calculus
October 04, 2017
"Disruption" does not fall lightly on the ears or minds of college leaders. If someone walks into your office to talk about disruption, it's likely that you might start reconsidering the quiet virtues of a scholarly life of research and teaching. There are so many tides of change washing over higher education these days; it hardly seems wise to go out seeking disruption.
October 31, 2017
Disruption is not a new concept for American higher education. In the 20th century, the Great Depression and dramatic enrollment falloffs during World Wars and a historic surge in enrollments following WWII due to the GI Bill brought dramatic changes to many campuses.
Chapter 4: Agility in Higher Education: Key to Synchronizing Student-Centered Advocacy and Public Policy Engagement
December 05, 2017
Recent events in our nation have caused the convergence of a tremendous amount of political changes, regulatory activity for higher education, and the pendulum of public attention swinging back to colleges and universities on a variety of important issues.
Chapter 5: Staying True to Mission and History: University of Detroit Mercy's Role in the Revitalization of a Historic City and Its Communities
January 10, 2018
Nearly 20 years into the 21st century, university presidents are developing potential solutions to ensure their institutions' sustainability and viability for future decades.
January 31, 2018
Founded in 1842, Mary Baldwin University (MBU) celebrated its 175th anniversary in academic year 2016-17. It was a year of celebration and reflection upon our deep foundation. It was also a year of metamorphosis, culminating eight years of significant changes following the 2008 global economic recession.
February 13, 2018
Hillsborough Community College (HCC), a two-year public institution with five campuses in Hillsborough County, Tampa, is one of 28 community colleges in Florida.
April 04, 2018
Much of higher education is grappling with the tension between a fragile business model and a quality educational model. These two concerns have been on a collision course as student demographics have shifted, the traditional-age student population has declined, the cost of college has outstripped inflation, and as students see college primarily, if not exclusively, as a path to employment. Our knowledge of what is most effective in college teaching and learning has increased, even as our ability to supply that level of intense education is financially and philosophically challenged.
April 25, 2018
To state the obvious: the future is uncertain. To make it less so, we make valiant efforts to chart the course for our institutions through strategic planning. In broad consultation with campus communities, we envision bright futures and set bold aspirations for ourselves. We take into account our strengths and build upon them, while also making efforts to improve those areas that need attention. We take stock of our peers’ programs and pricing to see where we fit in our regional ecosystem to ensure our offerings remain relevant and attractive to prospective students and supporters.
October 04, 2016
Teaching, building community and integrating learning are all design challenges. We know that faculty want students to learn, that students want to connect with each other, and that they desire to internalize their learning. Our role as leaders is to help guide the design of systems that will increase desired behaviors. An inclusive process will help create facilities that are welcomed by your community and designed to match the needs of your individual campus, but clear priorities for outcomes and the paths that lead there are essential.
November 10, 2016
According to dictionary.com, "resiliency" is an object's ability to return an original form after being bent, compressed, or stretched. In human terms, it is the ability to adapt and recover from illness or adversity. The word derives from the Latin resilire, to bounce or spring back. Resiliency assumes negative change—bad things will happen. The key question is: will we bounce back?
December 08, 2016
August of 2015 marked the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. I was president of Philander Smith College in Little Rock, AR, during that time. Along with the rest of the nation, I watched the developments in shock.
Chapter 4: The StepUP Program at Augsburg: Overcoming the Stigma of Addiction on a University Campus
January 05, 2017
It began nearly 20 years ago with one student, a student who went to one of his professors with a remarkable story. As he recounts it, the student told the faculty member that he was in recovery from addiction and that college was a really tough place for someone in recovery to negotiate. The faculty member responded with humility and compassion: "I don't know anything about recovery, but if I can help you succeed in college, we will go on this path together."
March 18, 2017
Imagine you are a business owner. You own a general store in a small town, and for many years you have depended upon a local manufacturing company to subsidize your business. But now they are downsizing, and their standing order has been reduced from 60% of your revenue to 20% and falling. They are laying off employees who, in turn, are moving away for new jobs. And, of course, internet providers are significantly undercutting your business as you are unable to compete with their pricing structure. What can you do?
Chapter 8: The Commons Concept: Building Dynamic Living and Learning Environments through Integrated Design
April 03, 2017
The University of British Columbia's Vancouver (UBC Vancouver) campus has the highest percentage of beds per full-time student in Canada. UBC Vancouver's inventory of on-campus, university-run housing spaces has grown by more than 4,350 beds in the last 10 years. Our Student Housing department currently manages 11,038 beds that both undergraduate and graduate, domestic and international students call home. As we have expanded our bed spaces over the last decade, our international student enrolment has more than doubled to our current enrolment of 13,174. For the first time this year, international students (51%) outnumber domestic students (49%) living in residence.
Chapter 10: Pathways to Success: Easing the Transition to Four-Year Universities with Comprehensive Guidance and Institutional Support
May 08, 2017
About 80 percent of students entering two-year institutions say they aim to ultimately complete a four-year degree. But only 14 percent of those students attain their goal within six years, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.