Mission, Message, Market—and Money

Participant holds microphone while speaking to other seated participants  

​The 2015 Institute for Chief Academic and Chief Advancement Officers focused on strengthening collaboration between these two senior officers to address shared campus challenges. The Institute theme, “Mission, Message, Market―and Money: the Academic Affairs/Advancement Partnership,” captured the importance of an integrated leadership approach to offering effective and affordable learning opportunities for increasingly diverse student populations. Cosponsored by CIC and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, the 43rd annual Institute took place November 7–10, 2015, in Baltimore, Maryland.

The institute is the largest annual conference of chief academic officers of any of the higher education associations. This year, the event attracted a total of 590 participants, including 258 chief academic, 105 chief advancement, and 58 other officers. Participants traveled from as far as Canada, Greece, Mexico, and Pakistan and every corner of the United States including Hawaii.

A large number of recently appointed campus leaders participated in the Institute. “The Institute workshops and sessions were invaluable to a new CAO. The topics were on target and identified strategies to be successful the first year in this role. From each presentation, I was able to take back to campus at least one practical strategy to put in place,” remarked Beth M. Schwartz, vice president for academic affairs and provost at Heidelberg University (OH). “After the conference concluded, I left with even greater confidence to address the daily issues that arise as well as the ability to develop with my colleagues long-term plans to strengthen the academic program.”

The agenda featured leading authorities on key aspects of the work of chief academic and chief advancement officers. In his keynote address, John Churchill, secretary of the Phi Beta Kappa Society (DC), addressed the enduring value of the liberal arts to the country. Plenary speaker Earl Lewis, president of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation—the major funder of liberal arts education in the United States―discussed the relationship between philanthropy and the liberal arts and his foundation’s emerging support priorities. Sandy Baum, professor emerita of economics at Skidmore College and senior fellow at George Washington University, highlighted recent developments in how students pay for college, including tuition discounting, merit and need-based aid allocation, and student debt trends. Tim Gunn, former faculty member, chair, and dean of Parsons The New School for Design; and author, fashion consultant, and television celebrity, discussed approaches to mentoring and the importance of providing honest feedback with empathy.

Sessions throughout the conference examined from the curriculum and advancement perspective topics such as fundraising for academic programs, telling institutional stories, engaging alumni, setting fundraising priorities, and procuring and managing grants. Officers also had the opportunity to participate in several workshops: Advancement 101; Seminar for Very Experienced CAOs; What I Have Learned from 40 Years of Fundraising; Academic and Strategic Planning; and Dispute Resolution. In addition, the Institute offered an all-day Workshop for New Chief Academic Officers and a Workshop for CAOs in Their Third or Fourth Year of Service. Special programming for spouses and partners of CAOs and CAdOs rounded out the Institute program.

Announced during an awards presentation on the opening evening, Elizabeth H. Tobin, provost and dean of the college at Illinois College, received the 2015 CIC Chief Academic Officer Award in recognition of her support of colleagues at independent colleges and universities. John Churchill received the 2015 Academic Leadership Award for his work at the Phi Beta Kappa Society and as an advocate for liberal arts education.

Podcasts of the plenary sessions as well as slideshow presentations and handouts from many Institute sessions are available on the CIC website.

Photos from the Institute

Participants discuss topics over breakfast seated at roundtables
Institute participants discussed a wide-range of topics during breakfast roundtables.

Participant stands at microphone to ask a plenary speaker a question
Participants actively engaged in question-and-answer discussions during the Institute’s plenary and concurrent sessions.

Wendy Kobler engages seated participants some of whom raise their hands
Wendy Kobler, interim vice president for advancement at Wittenberg University (OH), discussed "A Comprehensive Approach to Student Recruitment and Retention and Alumni Engagement."

Elizabeth H. Tobin holds framed award standing in front of stage with entourage
Elizabeth H. Tobin (center), provost and dean of the college at Illinois College, received the 2015 CIC Chief Academic Officer Award in recognition of her significant support of colleagues at independent colleges and universities.

Elizabeth Paul and Dominic A. Aquila stand holding placques
CAO Task Force members Elizabeth Paul of Stetson University (FL) and Dominic A. Aquila of the University of St. Thomas (TX) received Awards for Service.

John Churchill holds framed award with Richard Ekman
CIC President Richard Ekman (left) presented John Churchill, secretary of the Phi Beta Kappa Society (DC), with the 2015 Academic Leadership Award.


The Liberal Arts and Transformative Experience

John Churchill standing at podium  

​In his thought-provoking keynote address, “The Liberal Arts: Purpose, Value, Meaning, and Civic Responsibility,” John Churchill, secretary of the Phi Beta Kappa Society (DC), discussed the importance and contributions of the liberal arts to the country. He said that higher education needs to equip citizens with both the desire and the capacity to reflect critically and imaginatively about ends and means, about choosing them, and maintaining integrity along the path. He emphasized that the liberal arts are the key to achieving that aim and suggested that college and university leaders avoid downplaying the importance of the liberal arts when making institutional changes.

“Questions about where we [in higher education] are going, and about how we propose to get there, transcend issues about efficiency and effectiveness.... It may be that our fundamental direction in American higher education is at risk of being co-opted in a dangerous way. The efficiencies we are urged to adopt—necessary though some may be—may be pointless or worse if they take us down the wrong road,” Churchill said.

He explained that higher education is at a crossroads. “No one now has a clear idea of the eventual answers to questions about faculty hiring and responsibility, curricular structures, degrees versus badges, and so on. Quite likely the answers will be found through an evolutionary process of trial and error, carried out through institutional experimentation in hundreds of places and in that ‘no-place’ that is the digital world. It has to be emphasized that these effects vary dramatically from institution to institution, dependent principally upon institutional wealth. So here we are in the midst of a set of changes that are, in the very nature of things, unpredictable, whose outcome is unknowable.”

The choices made by colleges and universities (both the means and the ends) must be examined carefully, Churchill said. “It is in the nature of genuine reflection not only to fuel striving toward one’s goal, but also to stimulate the self-critical, deliberative questions. ‘Have I got this right?’ ‘Am I headed in the right direction?’ ‘How does what I am doing relate to the differing visions others bring to our common tasks?’ The genius loci of liberal arts colleges—the sense of our places—puts such questions as these squarely, and inexpungeably, at the center of our self-understanding.”

Only by asking these questions and fully understanding how decisions made will impact the enterprise can college and university leaders know whether they are on the right path. Churchill offered quotes about means and ends from five sources: King Harald V of Norway (“Not all forward motion is progress.”); Francis Bacon (“When a man runs the wrong way, the more active and swift he is, the further he will go astray.”); Rene Descartes (“The greatest minds are capable of the greatest vices as well as of the greatest virtues, and those who proceed very slowly may, provided they always follow the straight road, really advance much faster than those who, though they run, forsake it.”); the rabbinical tradition (“If you don’t know where you're going, any road will do.”), and Yogi Berra (“If you don’t know where you’re going, you’re likely to end up someplace else.”). Churchill then cautioned against changing the business model of higher education merely to answer critics.

For example, he said that many state institutions, in order to cope with declining support, “have been obliged to adopt not merely a more business-like model, but a more industrial model.” And he learned that “a college in Florida may be hiring faculty based, in part, on how cheaply they will work.”

He continued, “The worry is this: Unless we have, at any given moment in this process, infallibly conceived our ends, and perfectly implemented our means, we are apt to be wreaking serious unintended damage somewhere, somehow.” Thus, Churchill said, higher education must “retain a self-critical capacity to reconsider and reevaluate its major ends.”

“At liberal arts colleges, emphasis on education that empowers students to engage in this critical activity goes all the way back. It is their genius loci.” A liberal arts education is and always has been focused on comparison, development, and building, Churchill said. “These are activities that cast education as more than the transfer of information. Students who compare, develop, and build are doing something. And the ‘somethings’ they are working on are themselves. Success comes when they have learned to think, secured . . . culture and wisdom, and assimilated. The student doesn’t just soak things up. He or she actively takes things up, and is transformed in the doing of it.”

“The college that adopts such a genius loci adopts the idea that the practical and the ideal can be united in a vision of what it is to be a whole human being.... It’s a vision of wholeness—a deeper, longer-term practicality—one we would do well to seek and advocate in our own age. What is really practical? That’s the question we still contest with our own contemporaries. There is something distinctive and enduring about the genius loci of the liberal arts college, the sense of those places, a spirit of transformative intent that aims not at making people something they were not before...but at transforming—or better, enabling self-transformation of—people into themselves.” Churchill concluded, “The immediately practical is all too prone to become the quickly outdated. Real practicality lies not in mastering the techniques of the moment, but in acquiring the intellectual flexibility and agility to adapt, to continue learning, to be ready for an unpredictable future.”

Investing in the Liberal Arts

Earl Lewis speaking from podium  

​From his vantage point as president of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation—the largest funder of liberal arts education in the United States—Earl Lewis is able to observe the relationship between philanthropy and the liberal arts and the changing priorities of donors. In the plenary session, “Philanthropy and the Liberal Arts,” Lewis discussed his insights into higher education and philanthropic investment; the need to focus on learning assessment and student completion; the need to create and harness tools for research and learning; and the importance of partnerships—between colleges and foundations and colleges and community groups.
Opening the discussion, Sue Cunningham, president of the Council for Advancement and Support of Education and chair of the session, noted that Mellon is the 25th-largest grant maker in the United States and the fourth-largest funder of education. The foundation has $6.2 billion in assets and distributes $250–$300 million in grants each year. About half of the foundation’s grant making goes toward education.
Lewis began by emphasizing that the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation prides itself on supporting the humanities, the arts, and higher education. It also focuses on philanthropic investment, which he described as “An investment in which we work with the institutions we support on a set of projects and programs that we hope in the end will not only benefit the institutions but also the individuals and stakeholders in those institutions and in broader society.” To make a social impact, many funded projects run longer than ten years.
Lewis recognized a dual narrative that has emerged in recent years regarding American higher education—“one that has the old tropes of Beauty and the Beast.” On one hand, it is a portrait of a beautiful system, and on the other hand it is a flawed “beast.” “From where I sit, once an insider and now a supporter of American higher education, I know which version of the narrative I prefer—American higher education is a beauty,” remarked Lewis.
But he said that foundations ask what higher education will be like going forward, what the possibilities are, and how they should invest. “The way I frame it is, if I had three cents to invest in American higher education—how would I invest them?.... We’re not just trying to distribute the pennies—we’re trying to make an investment. Once seeded, an investment should sprout, grow, and develop in ways perhaps not even anticipated.” This means it is important to build close partnerships between philanthropy and the higher education sector—between philanthropy and the liberal arts—Lewis said.

Assessing Learning

All colleges and universities should prepare for the significant demographic changes that will take place in America in the coming decades, Lewis said. The challenge is not only to attract diverse students, but also to create pathways for their success and graduation. The demographic shifts, Lewis said, “will have profound implications for the students we teach, the ways in which we teach, and the ways in which we sustain this project we call American democracy…. You play a profound role in your college and university settings by introducing Americans to one another. That will only intensify in the years ahead…and that places not only a burden but also direct responsibility your way.”
Lewis continued, “We in the philanthropic community understand that responsibility. As a result, the Mellon Foundation believes we need to redouble our focus on teaching and learning. It’s not enough to say that colleges and universities teach well. We need to know how they teach well.” Lewis said too few graduate programs in the United States have introduced recent research on cognitive learning into their curriculum, and not many institutions deploy sophisticated learning assessment tools.
“The Mellon Foundation is willing to spend one of the three pennies on working with the higher education community to think in new ways about how students learn and how to mobilize tools and resources to ensure that we are doing more than assessment for selection. We’ve entered a period where assessment for selection needs to be replaced by assessment for learning,” Lewis declared.

Creating and Harnessing Tools for Research and Learning

Lewis said that if the first penny will be spent on teaching and developing new tools and ways of harnessing findings in the learning sciences, the second penny will be invested in research support. He said that a different type of research needs to be introduced—one in which “the academy turns the lens of analysis upon itself” to compile compelling answers to fundamental questions: What is the value of a liberal arts education? To what extent has there been a genuine decline in the role of the liberal arts? What have been the drivers of change in the position of the liberal arts in a broader society and in the higher education ecosystem? The goal, according to Lewis, is to demonstrate “to the closest insider and the most distant skeptic the overall importance and value of liberal arts education.”
He acknowledged that these are difficult questions to answer in part because they concern values—for example how we measure not only economic but civic, social, developmental, and psychological value. “But our inability to answer those questions means that we find ourselves in an endless loop of accusation and denial about what is indeed happening on our campuses and what is the product.”

Establishing Community Partnerships

The third penny, Lewis said, should be invested in community partnerships. He explained, “There’s hardly a college or university in the United States that is not a critical part of its locality. In some instances the college is a leading employer, and in almost all instances the college is anchored there. But what does that mean to think of your college as an anchor institution? Is it only defined by the fact that you are in that particular place, or is it defined by the ways in which you engage in and with the community?” Lewis emphasized that colleges and universities need to think of themselves as “of the city, not just in the city.”
Moreover, instead of just promoting student volunteerism, colleges and universities need to offer a structured curriculum in and around social engagement, Lewis said. He described one model where, in the first year, students work with various organizations in their community; in the second year, they take a set of structured classes where they connect their community service with theories of community engagement; in the third year, students begin conducting research with faculty members and the community agencies; and in the fourth year, they write a senior thesis that builds on their accumulated knowledge and practical perspectives. In such a model, each institution would have to outline to community partners where and how they all fit together, Lewis emphasized. He believes community partnerships should involve long-term commitments in which the college recognizes the community agency as a true partner, students work alongside the partner, and the partner plays an integral role in directing the project.

Shaping the Future

“The future is unknown, and sometimes that’s the scariest part. But if the past is a predictor of the future, there will be a handful of philanthropic entities, individuals, organizations, and institutions that believe in what you have done, what you can do, and what you are destined to do,” Lewis said. “At the Mellon Foundation, we believe that the future can be shaped. It can be shaped by being attentive to change and innovation and being attentive to the core research questions that beg for answers and require all of us to be poised, patient, and prepared to answer them.”
Lewis concluded his talk by reemphasizing how important colleges and universities are to every community in the county and that they are “among the most enduring institutions that have been created by humankind.” He said, “Sure some fail …but the real story is that the vast majority of colleges have not failed, and they will continue to add value and send forth graduates. We at the Mellon Foundation want to be in partnership with higher education because what you do is critical for the future we all share.”

Trends in Tuition Pricing, Grant Aid, and Student Debt

Sandy Baum speaking from podium  

​“If you listen to the conversation [in the media and general public], you would think that we are facing a new and escalating problem with college pricing,” observed Sandy Baum, senior fellow at the Urban Institute, research professor at the George Washington University Graduate School of Education and Human Development, and co-author of the College Board’s annual publications Trends in Student Aid and Trends in College Pricing. In her plenary address, she explained how, in fact, average college tuition has increased less in the past decade than it did in the previous two. In addition to sharing data that refute widely held inaccurate notions about tuition pricing, grant aid, and student debt, Baum encouraged institutions to review carefully and possibly rethink their practices in tuition discounting and financial aid in order to best serve their students and to maintain fiscal health.

She recommended that the chief academic and chief advancement officers in attendance ask specific questions about their institution’s tuition and grant aid practices: How well does our tuition and room and board sticker price serve our institution’s recruitment strategy and mission? Does our grant aid approach result in a healthy net-revenue? Why are we providing more aid to at least some of our students than they actually need? Does our tuition pricing and aid approach reflect a clear strategy? Are we doing enough to prevent our graduates from running the risk of defaulting on their loans after graduation?

Baum shared data from her recent research on trends in tuition pricing, grant aid, and student debt across time and sectors. She noted that, from 1985–1986 to 1995–1996, published tuition and fees for full-time undergraduates in the United States increased on average 3.5 percent; during the next decade they rose by 3.0 percent; and from 2005–2006 to 2015–2016, they increased just 2.4 percent. Yet, Baum stipulated, the 2.4 percent increase “is not going to get you lots of praise” because the price of college increases faster than almost anything else. At the same time, she acknowledged that the numbers are “terrifically important” for correcting common misperceptions.

Baum noted how national attention generally focuses on increases in average tuition and fees across all types of institutions even though differences among sectors and types of institutions are significant. Among private institutions, the average published tuition prices for the 2015–2016 academic year were $40,519 at doctoral universities, $28,466 at master’s-level institutions, and $30,521 at baccalaureate colleges and universities. During the recession, net prices—what students pay after grant aid—actually declined. Baum explained this was because federal grant aid dramatically increased during the 2007–2009 recession. Pell Grants doubled in about two years, maximum grant levels rose significantly, and the financial aid formula became more generous. The implementation of the American Opportunity Tax Credit and the Post-9/11 GI Bill also increased federal funding of student aid.

Since the economy has picked up, federal spending on student aid has not continued to increase as it did during the recession, Baum said. Institutional aid has become the fastest rising component of grant aid that students receive. Sixty-seven percent of all grant aid awarded to students in the private nonprofit sector in 2011–2012 was institutional, 13 percent came from employers and private donors, 11 percent was federal (non-military), and 3 percent came from military funding. The proportions of each type of aid are reversed in the for-profit sector, and grant aid at public four-year colleges falls somewhere between (see figure).

Sources of Grant Aid for Full-Time Undergraduates by Sector 2011-2012  

Baum said that the most pressing question in her work on Trends in Student Aid for the College Board is, “Who is getting the money?” She emphasized that institutions “face different opportunities and constraints” when distributing grant aid, and that a one-size-fits-all strategy would be inadvisable. Price discrimination—charging different students different prices based on different needs and perceived interest—makes sense economically, she said, even if the public does not always understand the economic principles behind it. Many students and parents continue to like to feel that they are “getting a deal,” Baum explained. She cautioned that lowering prices rather than offering discounts is not always the best option, citing “the JCPenney problem”; when the retailer discontinued its extensive sales and instead set lower initial prices, customers deserted the stores and revenue dropped precipitously. At the same time, institutions should carefully consider how they label the aid they award to students because different terminology provokes very different reactions. “If you announce you’re lowering tuition by $2,000, everyone will praise you,” Baum said. “But if you announce you’re awarding everyone $2,000 merit scholarships, people will question you and ask, ‘Why are you giving money to students who don’t need it?’”

Whereas those outside the smaller private college sector commonly believe institutions offer merit aid to raise their academic profile, smaller private colleges see merit aid as a fiscal measure that incentivizes tuition-paying students to enroll. Baum said the strategy can be effective so long as net tuition revenue does not decrease; declining revenue is a “red flag” that signals an institution needs to rethink its aid packages. Discounting tuition for nearly all students also can put net tuition revenue at risk, she warned.

Upon comparing the pricing and discounting practices of a “random, unscientific” sample of 20 smaller private colleges, Baum concluded that “there is nothing general to say about what CIC institutions are doing as a sector” regarding tuition pricing and discounting. Sticker prices and net prices are quite close at some institutions, whereas they are markedly different at others. Net tuition price bore little relation to the number of Pell Grant recipients at an institution, suggesting that net tuition does not indicate how accessible an institution is to low-income students. The wide variation in practices warrants further and rigorous study, she said.

Baum addressed common misconceptions about student debt in addition to misunderstandings about tuition and aid. Student debt is not “crushing a generation,” contrary to what many newspapers report, she said. Of graduates age 23 and younger, just 11 percent have student loans totaling more than $40,000. “What’s really important,” Baum noted, “is that student debt affects different kinds of students differently.” She urged colleges and universities to pay close attention to older students (who are legally allowed to borrow more than younger dependent students), students who take longer to graduate, and African American students, who tend to take on more debt. Students who do not finish their degrees also are much more likely to default on their student loans; whereas only 9 percent of bachelor’s degree recipients defaulted, 24 percent of those who did not graduate defaulted.

Finally, Baum counseled college and university leaders to educate their students about different types of repayment programs. “No one should be defaulting on federal loans,” she said, because the government offers income-based plans that assure students do not have to pay more than they can afford. She further advised institutions not to implement short-term solutions that create long-term problems, for example, admitting students who are incapable of graduating. Low graduation rates, high default rates, and other negative outcomes will impact public perception of an institution and ultimately make it less attractive to prospective students and financially unsustainable, Baum concluded.

Mentoring, Motivating, and ‘Making It Work’

Georgia Nugent and Tim Gunn seated on chairs on stage  

​Eager to hear Tim Gunn provide mentoring advice, chief academic and chief advancement officers packed the Institute’s closing plenary session. A fashion consultant, television personality, author, and actor, Gunn discussed his mentoring methods, the importance of advocating for students, the value of a liberal arts education, and the need to stand up for one’s beliefs.

Gunn was a faculty member at Parsons The New School for Design from 1982 to 2007, serving as an associate dean from 1989 to 2000 and chair of the fashion design program from 2000 to 2007. He has been credited for retooling and invigorating the department’s curriculum. Gunn became well known as a mentor on the reality TV program, Project Runway, which was followed by Under the Gunn, Tim Gunn’s Guide to Style, and the new teen spinoff series, Project Runway Junior. He joined Liz Claiborne as its chief creative officer in 2007. His most recent book is Tim Gunn: The Natty Professor: A Master Class on Mentoring, Motivating, and Making It Work! (with Ada Calhoun, 2015).

S. Georgia Nugent, interim president of the College of Wooster (OH) and chair of the Institute session, opened the discussion by asking Gunn to share some of the issues he faced and changes he made while at Parsons. He explained that when he stepped in as associate dean of the fashion design department, the department was experiencing a leadership crisis, academic turmoil, and poor morale. The department had changed little since 1952 and did not employ digital technology or offer fashion history courses. Moreover, he said, its core designer critic program, though strong until the late 1980s, was no longer relevant or adequate for the students and he “was determined to reposition it.” Gunn was soon appointed chair, but his impact was limited the first year because the curriculum and budget were already set. He could, however, “probe, query, watch, and form committees about possible changes.” Gunn presented his new curricular ideas—which included replacing the “jewel in their crown” designer critic program with a more challenging program in which each student would design and execute a collection that represented his or her point of view as a designer. (This approach became the contestants’ goal on Project Runway.) The proposal created huge turmoil—especially among the designer critics whose roles would soon change. Students were both happy and terrified at the proposal’s prospects. He told the students that they had been underchallenged and thus were underprepared for the new program, but he believed in them and their creativity. The dean eventually supported the program and defended the change to the designer critics. “I made a lot of enemies, but there was a buzz out there. The students who were going through the new pedagogy were flying and making a splash in the industry at a young age,” Gunn said. “I believe in doing what’s right even when it’s politically dangerous.”

When asked by an Institute participant how he handled faculty reactions and pushback after making big changes at Parsons, Gunn remarked, “I spent a long time on it and had a lot of one-on-ones, including taking people to lunch. Quite frankly, the more senior the faculty members were, the more resistant they were in many ways. That’s understandable, but it also was more of a reason to spend time with them. I wanted them to come on board... But it was really hard, and I had to make tough decisions—including tough decisions to let people go that I struggled with and became emotional over.”

Another participant asked Gunn what techniques, such as charrettes and critique sessions, he recommends for getting faculty members to work out curricular problems and changes. Gunn replied, “The idea of engaging in rapid problem solving and execution makes one’s mind agile and leads to all sorts of possibilities. The critique process, sharing points of view and opinions, is beneficial to everyone who participates because it helps participants come to terms with their own points of view. In the visual and performing arts, we also challenge students with materials, compositions, scores, instruments, or tools that are unfamiliar to them and make the students use them to see the outcomes and potential. There can be great resistance at first, but I’ve borne witness to an epiphany many times.”

In his work at Parsons, Gunn developed a philosophy of teaching and mentoring that he also has used effectively on his reality TV shows. Based on honesty, empathy, curiosity, encouragement, and optimism, his philosophy carries lessons for all who mentor developing professionals—whether they are students, faculty and staff members, or peers. Nugent noted that Gunn’s latest book is peppered with statements about people’s favorite teachers—accounts of good teachers and mentors—and how they share similar characteristics such as having high standards and faith in students and providing the tools to enable them to reach their goals. “These characteristics are part of your philosophy, but they’re also in tune with research by the National Survey of Student Engagement and Gallup on what makes the best, most enduring educational experience. Many young people ask for your advice, and I know you’re a great champion for the liberal arts. What do you tell young people, and how do you talk about the value of the liberal arts?” she asked.

Gunn responded, “I subscribe to a broad context of knowledge and love when people have an insatiable curiosity about everything.” Gunn said that young people often tell him they want to be fashion designers and so are taking sketching and sewing classes. “I say ‘that’s fine, but you have a great responsibility when you are a designer. You’re a barometric gauge of your society and culture.’” Gunn explains to students that fashion happens in a context that is societal, cultural, historical, political, and economic, so designers need to know what books and articles people are reading, what music they are listening to, and what websites and social media platforms they are using. “You have a responsibility when you are a barometric gauge to be a sponge that absorbs and synthesizes all of this material,” he says. “For me, the study of the liberal arts gives us a soul and a conscience. And it helps us evaluate all of the material around us. I can’t imagine navigating the planet without having that background. We wouldn’t be responsible citizens of the world.”

Highlighting the relevance of the liberal arts—including mathematics—to fashion design, Gunn described his work on a 2014 Scholastic webseries, “Math@Work: Connecting Math to 21st-Century Careers,” which tied young students’ classroom learning to their career aspirations. For the series, he and fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg explained the importance of mathematics to fashion designers, as students were challenged to solve problems, for example, using ratio to scale measurements from a drawing to a life-sized sewing pattern; converting inches to yards and multiplying fractions by whole numbers; and identifying percent markups of a whole and calculating a final sale price.

When asked to share more about what he learned at Parsons and on Project Runway about effective mentoring, Gunn explained that his philosophy, described in The Natty Professor, uses the acronym TEACH, where T stands for truth-telling and E is for empathy. “When you’re telling the truth, think about how you would receive it if you were spoken to with those words and that tone,” he explained. A is for asking (“I have a Socratic approach to everything and pummel people with questions.”); C is for cheerleading (“I believe in looking at the positive side of things.”); and H is for “hoping for the best.” Gunn elaborated, “I never step into a situation and start reviewing it; I have to receive the context and ask all the particulars. Ideally, I like turning it back to the mentee so that that the individual sees what I see and can dissect it in the same way. For example, on Project Runway—and especially in the new Project Runway Junior that features 13- to 17-year olds—I wanted the participants to say ‘I need to fix the hem.’ So, we’ll look at the garment together and I’ll ask, ‘What do you think about what is happening here with the hem?’” Gunn’s goal then would be to have the mentee realize on his or her own that there is an issue and how to fix it—or “own it” by making the hem so asymmetrical that no one questions whether it was a deliberate decision. Gunn added, “I found early on in teaching that if your students perceive you as being mean-spirited, disengaged, or flippant, they will discredit you.”

Nugent concluded by asking Gunn, “Throughout your career, some of the choices you’ve made have been marked by courage. How do you decide whether to take a risk? In the academy your north star was students’ welfare, but generally how do you decide whether you’re going to stick your neck out?” Gunn replied, “Well, I don’t act impulsively…and if it’s a particularly risky decision I will definitely sleep on it. I’m also lucky to have excellent mentors and advisors around me…. To my mind when I’ve done something that falls into that category I will know it was worth it, and at least I’ll be able to sleep at night. I’ve always thought one of the few things we possess and have control over is our integrity. And once that’s gone, I don’t know how much we have left.”

Building Successful Chief Academic Officer-Chief Advancement Officer Teams

Speakers seated at head table speaking to seated participants with flipchart leaning against wall
An Institute session on building CAO-CAdO teams featured (from left to right) chair Lynn Morton of Queens University of Charlotte (NC) and presenters James T. (Tim) Barry of Elmira College (NY), Matthew P. vandenBerg of Alma College (MI), and Michael Selmon of Alma.

​The 2015 Institute for Chief Academic Officers included chief advancement officers for the first time since 2011, providing an unusual opportunity for these two key leaders to focus on the intersection of their responsibilities. Several of this year’s sessions were devoted to exploring how chief academic and chief advancement officers can work together as a team to support one another’s work and strengthen the institution.

The CAO and the CAdO: Building a Team to Leverage the President’s Time

Chief academic and chief advancement officers need to learn as much as they can about each other’s job responsibilities to help make the most of the president’s time both on and off campus, said James T. (Tim) Barry, former president of Mount Marty College (SD), who is spending a year as Elmira College’s (NY) vice president for institutional advancement. He conceded that “advancement is living in a foreign land when it comes to working with academic affairs.” He suggested that the senior officers first should be intentional about building a relationship. Then they should try not to be turf-sensitive. It might help, he said, if academic officers were to tour the advancement offices and if advancement officers were to meet with academic departments, perhaps along with the senior academic officer. He recommended that the two hold common staff meetings so that staff members would “not just see each other at Christmas parties.” Together, they should teach the president what they do in their divisions, listen carefully to one another, and make proposals clearly and succinctly in senior staff meetings.
Michael Selmon, provost and vice president for academic affairs at Alma College (MI), encouraged both senior officers to save their president’s time by smoothing out differences in advance of senior staff meetings. The advantage that advancement officers have, he said, is that they “speak a language much closer to that of the president and potential donors in the community and corporations” than academic officers do and, “unlike us, they are actually trained for their jobs.” He reminded academic officers that advancement officers know what the donors want to support and that it is not the CAO’s job to fight for what the faculty wants regardless of donor interests. Rather, academic officers should share with presidents and advancement officers the faculty’s hopes and dreams so that they will be in a better position to nurture those dreams.
Matthew P. vandenBerg, Selmon’s advancement counterpart at Alma, confessed that advancement vice presidents “tend not to share information on alumni because we are afraid that academic officers will ask a million-dollar donor for a hundred-dollar donation.” He encouraged advancement officers to see faculty members as valuable resources who have prior relationships with alumni that could be put to good use on donor visits. He urged team members to meet together regularly, “appear in public to get along,” nurture a robust climate for collaboration, and leverage each other’s talents and expertise.

It’s All about the Team

Jane M. Wood, vice president for academic affairs and dean of the college at Westminster College (PA), asked participants in this session to consider several questions:

  • Why do senior teams matter now more than ever?
  • Why are so many senior teams not very team-like?
  • What are the consequences of an ineffective senior team?
  • Why are titles more important than talent—or attitude—when it comes to the senior team?
  • How do you know you are on a great senior team?

She, along with moderator Adrienne Bloss, vice president for academic affairs at Shenandoah University (VA), and Robert A. Sevier, senior vice president for strategy at Stamats, discussed with participants how they would answer these leading questions. Among the answers to the final question, presenters agreed that senior officers know they are on a great team when…

  • They emerge from the senior staff meeting excited and enthused;
  • Decisions are made in a timely fashion;
  • They can see and share how their area is aligned with the strategic goals of the institution; and
  • They think they might have missed something important when they have missed a meeting.

Conversely, officers know they are on a troubled team when…

  • They can’t remember the last time they made and executed a major decision;
  • They have a sense of relief when meetings are canceled;
  • Every time an issue is raised anyone associated with the issue immediately feels defensive; and
  • They take an antacid before senior staff meetings.

According to Sevier, functional senior team members are highly collaborative, hold one another accountable, celebrate each other’s success, decide and then commit as a team, and do not shy away from conflict. Adding a dose of reality to his presentation, he admitted that a decision to work together is not always natural and flies in the face of many leaders’ inclinations for individuality, control, and territory. Effective team members require that each “needs to unlearn years of organizational bad habits” and “realize that their first responsibility is to the senior team and not to the departments or divisions they lead.”

David Beidleman speaks from podium with three other speakers seated at head table
An Institute session on engaging with the board of trustees featured (from left to right) David Beidleman and Susan Traverso of Elizabethtown College (PA) and Steven J. Griffith and Bob Lane of Simpson College (IA).

The CAO and the CAdO: Working Together to Build Meaningful Engagement with the Board of Trustees

Two pairs of chief academic and chief advancement officers considered relationships with their boards of trustees. Susan Traverso, provost and senior vice president at Elizabethtown College (PA), emphasized that the board’s primary responsibilities are fiduciary; therefore, both senior officers have a duty to support the board with those fiduciary obligations. The advancement officer is much more likely to invite the active engagement of board members in their work, however, particularly regarding fundraising and community relations. Academic officers tend to appreciate boards that have a general understanding of academic programs and policies but do not favor their engagement with the details of academic life, especially the curriculum. Her colleague, David Beidleman, vice president for institutional advancement, supported this distinction and added that he tries to build a culture of philanthropy among his board. He looks for board members who have the “time, talent, and treasure” to contribute to the institution and then tries to link board members with specific academic departments or programs so that they develop a strong connection with some aspect of the college. Notably, he organizes board meetings around themes, such as “celebrating the arts,” “signature learning experiences,” and “open house demonstrations” to increase trustee excitement about various aspects of the college.
Steven J. Griffith, senior vice president and academic dean at Simpson College (IA), advises senior officers to get to know board members and to manage relationships between board members and both faculty members and students. He sees his role as the primary educator of the board on academic matters but also believes that each board should have one or two members with academic experience. He agreed with Traverso that he wants the support and expertise offered by board members but not their daily involvement in academic affairs. His colleague, Bob Lane, vice president for college advancement, emphasized the importance of a thorough orientation to “get them off on the right foot.”

Collaborating across Divisions to Reach Fundraising Goals

​The Institute offered participants many opportunities to learn about successful fundraising strategies and to discuss collaborative development work. An overarching theme emerged from many of the sessions—chief academic and chief advancement officers must work together in order to succeed, whether the college is creating a strategic plan, working on a million-dollar gift, or attracting smaller donations from alumni.

Four speakers seated at head table
A session on engaging the faculty in fundraising featured (from left to right) chair Donna B. Aronson of Saint Mary's University of Minnesota, Chad Berry and Bernadine Douglas of Berea College (KY), and Michael Brown of North Carolina Wesleyan College.

Engaging the Faculty in Fundraising

In a session on engaging faculty members in fundraising efforts, Chad Berry, academic vice president and dean of the faculty at Berea College (KY), Michael B. Brown, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at North Carolina Wesleyan College, and Bernadine Douglas, vice president for alumni and college relations at Berea, discussed the benefits and challenges of faculty member involvement in development work.
Douglas advised the participants, “The more you can break down the mystique of fundraising, the more faculty members will get involved.” The speakers suggested that simple things, such as providing faculty members with a thank-you note template and monthly gift reports, can help keep them involved in the fundraising process. They also explained that briefing, scripting, and coaching were an essential part of preparing faculty members to meet with potential donors.
Berry emphasized, “Faculty members are an underutilized resource [in fundraising]…and it is critical for chief academic and advancement officers to work together.” Brown added that the development office “must establish the notion that fundraising is a shared responsibility because faculty can provide meaningful expertise” during donor visits and other advancement activities.

Bettyann O'Neill speaks from a podium
Bettyann O’Neill (pictured) of Berry College (GA) and Ronald A. Cohen and Linda McMillin of Susquehanna University (PA) discussed how to encourage philanthropic habits among students and alumni.

Encouraging Philanthropic Habits among Students and Young Alumni

In another session devoted to fundraising, chief advancement officers from campuses that have successfully stimulated philanthropic behavior among students and young alumni shared their strategies.
Bettyann O’Neill, vice president for advancement at Berry College (GA), advised participants: “Awareness, gratitude, and giving will lead to philanthropy for a lifetime…. If you can engage students while they are at the institution, they are much more likely to be long-term givers.” O’Neill emphasized the importance of moving students away from transactional giving (for instance, “give $5 and receive a t-shirt”), to intentional giving in order to create a habit of giving. For example, Berry has a large student work-study population, and the college created a program that encourages students to set up monthly payroll deductions to support the college.
Ronald A. Cohen, vice president for university relations at Susquehanna University (PA), noted, “People have the capacity to give in other areas if you ask them the right way.” He recommended that institutions approach alumni relations in the same deliberate manner as all donor cultivation. “Campus partnerships are absolutely essential,” emphasized Linda McMillin, provost and dean of the faculty at Susquehanna. Faculty members often have the strongest connection with their students, and they stay connected when those students become alumni. Faculty members also know what alumni are passionate about, which is essential knowledge for a fundraiser. McMillin added that partners should focus on leveraging and using the relationships that students and alumni have with faculty members to discover their capacity for giving and volunteering.

R. Richard Ray stands in front of podium holding microphone
R. Richard Ray (pictured) of Hope College (MI), Linda S. Durant of Widener University (PA), and Jeff Puckett of Hope College explored how to develop a campaign plan and set fundraising priorities.

Campaign Planning and Priorities

Faculty members also should be involved in capital campaigns, from the development of a strategic plan to the end of the campaign. This was the advice from Linda S. Durant, senior vice president for advancement at Widener University (PA); Jeff Puckett, vice president for development and alumni engagement at Hope College (MI); and R. Richard Ray, provost at Hope during a session on campaign planning and priorities. Ray said, “We want to emphasize the critical nature of the team environment for chief academic and chief advancement officers.” He suggested that senior campus leaders “make the campaign and strategic plan goals broad enough so that faculty and staff members can find a place.”

Durant said that faculty involvement is needed to create a culture of philanthropy throughout an institution. She recommended that advancement officers “focus on finding two to three faculty members who ‘get it’ and use them as 'champions.’”

Jerold Panas stands in front of flipchart addressing seated participants
Jerold Panas, executive partner and CEO of Jerold Panas, Linzy & Partners, shared fundraising wisdom in an informative and entertaining session.

Lessons from 40 Years of Fundraising

Jerold Panas, executive partner and CEO of Jerold Panas, Linzy & Partners, began his session on “What I Have Learned from 40 Years of Fundraising” with a clarification: “It hasn’t been 40 years. It has been 50 years, but the first ten years I didn’t learn anything because I knew everything.” In keeping with the theme of collaboration, Panas explained that the chief academic officer’s role is to be involved in development work. He added that people at colleges and universities “don’t have a problem with the culture of giving; they have a problem with the culture of asking.” Asking for support, he said, can be difficult and involves active listening. Listening is especially important for formulating the right follow-up questions to determine where a donor’s passion lies.

Panas also offered a series of humorous anecdotes about “making the ask” and his rules of fundraising. For example, the “Five Levels of Givers” include those who give without being asked; those who will give, but must be asked; those who must be persuaded, but will give; those who may be persuaded, but may or may not give; and those who never give. He said that 85 percent of a fundraiser’s time likely will be spent on the first three types of people.

Building a Strong Foundation for Fundraising Success in Today’s Environment

At a time when economic fluctuations and changes in charitable giving habits have challenged traditional fundraising strategies, collaboration across divisions is critical, said Mark J. Braun, provost and dean of the college at Gustavus Adolphus College (MN); Kristen Dugdale, relationship manager at Kaspick & Company; Marci Sortor, provost and dean of the college at St. Olaf College (MN); and Cassie S. Warman, vice president for university advancement at Pacific University (OR).

Dugdale provided a snapshot of the current environment for giving and offered some encouraging words, saying that the fundraising climate is improving as the national economy strengthens. She also noted that baby boomers are different from their World War II parents in that they are not as trusting of charitable organizations. “They give to issues, not to institutions,” she said, “because they aren’t sure you will use the money in ways they would want.” They also are more likely to hold onto their assets because they are concerned about supporting their children, parents, their own long-term health care, and retirement plans.
Braun described Gustavus’s recent campaign during which nearly 20,000 individuals contributed over $170 million in commitments. He also listed many ways that CAOs can help advance campaigns:

  • Share the vision of what the resources will create—and don’t let funding drive the vision;
  • Recruit faculty members and students to meet with donors and families;
  • Host cottage meetings arranged by advancement;
  • Encourage faculty members to show appreciation to advancement;
  • Supervise the staff member responsible for faculty grants;
  • Identify needs within the general education program; and
  • Help donors see how the college can connect a donor’s passion with the college’s work.

Warman described Pacific University’s “Lead On: The Campaign for Tomorrow,” including its primary messaging and secondary themes. The institution is, like many others, experiencing the challenges of changing demographics, a need to raise unrestricted funds to support institutional and departmental priorities, a need to raise endowment funds, pressure from board members and others to support pet projects, and requests to satisfy donor-driven priorities. Warman and Sortor agreed that the chief academic officer is vital to a campaign’s success and can help by leading a strong and clear strategic plan, articulating clear academic priorities, mobilizing deans and faculty members to support fundraising efforts, and partnering on calls to donors. Sortor emphasized that “CAOs can help with vision, details, listening, matchmaking, negotiating, and patience.”

Bridging Student and Community Needs through Community Development Partnerships

J. Andrew Prall stands in front of podium holding microphone with Matthew Smith standing behind podium and two other speakers seated at head table
Presenters (from left to right) Matthew Smith and J. Andrew Prall of the University of Saint Francis (IN) , Laura Niesen de Abruña of Sacred Heart University (CT), and chair Christopher L. Holoman of Hilbert College (NY) shared their experiences partnering with community organizations.

​Many independent colleges and universities partner with community organizations, local governments, and local and national corporations to increase co-curricular opportunities for students and faculty members as well as to improve neighborhoods and support regional economic development. Such partnerships are not always easy to establish or smooth to sustain, however. Officers from two campuses—J. Andrew Prall, vice president for academic affairs, and Matthew Smith, vice president for institutional advancement, at University of Saint Francis (IN), and Laura Niesen de Abruña, provost at Sacred Heart University (CT)—shared practical experiences in an interactive concurrent session on how to make community development partnerships work.

Prall and Smith described the University of Saint Francis’s current USF Downtown Campus project, which has allowed their institution to “bridge the gap between student and community needs.” The new campus was created after acquiring the former Fort Wayne Chamber of Commerce and Shrine buildings; it currently houses the Robert Goldstine Performing Arts Center and in fall 2016 will house the Keith Busse School of Business and Entrepreneurial Leadership. This project has enabled the university to expand its academic programs, including the cross-disciplinary Multimedia Entrepreneurship Training in the Arts program and the risk management and insurance major. The project also has helped the university join local planning conversations, confront space challenges on the university’s main campus, broaden contacts in the local community, and explore new funding options, including tax credits.

Niesen de Abruña reiterated the importance of strengthening and capitalizing “town and gown” relations and the unique position that Sacred Heart has in the Fairfield area. She described the various community partnerships that Sacred Heart has established, including service-learning programs with schools and organizations in neighboring Bridgeport; a living-learning community that seeks to help students understand issues of social justice and inequality also in Bridgeport; partnerships with regional hospitals to give clinical experience to students in its College of Nursing and College of Health Professions; and partnerships with national corporations to provide training and certificate programs for corporate leaders and internship opportunities for students.

The presenters highlighted several key takeaway ideas. Niesen de Abruña encouraged institutions not to be afraid to “take on a certain amount of risk” when establishing partnerships. Prall and Smith emphasized that institutions should keep student priorities front and center, capitalize commonalities in institutional and regional strategic initiatives, invest time in building trust relationships with community partners, and be willing to meet those partners halfway.