Securing America’s Future Workshops Continue across the United States; Media Meetings Help Correct False Myths


This fall, CIC launched a series of eight free workshops around the country designed to help member institutions prepare for the future more effectively and promote the value of independent colleges and universities. The half-day workshops bring together teams of presidents, senior administrators, and faculty leaders to explore key trends in higher education and society, examine the urgent pressures facing individual colleges and universities, and discuss potential solutions to problems shared by many independent institutions. The first four workshops took place at Hartwick College (NY) on September 14, Adrian College (MI) on September 29, Augustana College (IL) on October 25, and California Lutheran University on December 12. More than 250 team members from 66 member institutions have participated in the workshops thus far.

Each workshop has followed a similar agenda: a welcome and introduction by the host president and CIC President Richard Ekman; a guided discussion about external trends, institutional challenges, and opportunities facing independent colleges and universities, moderated by CIC Senior Fellow S. Georgia Nugent; a presentation on recent research studies commissioned by CIC, moderated by one of the education experts who conducted the research; a plenary session on mission-driven innovation led by the presidents of two institutions that have been especially active in change efforts; and breakout discussions among the team members from each institution. During the breakout sessions, institutional teams complete a guided exercise to identify specific challenges and opportunities facing their institution and begin to develop a plan to extend the workshop conversation on their home campus and take concrete steps toward mission-driven change.

Five presenters stand together
Presenters at the Adrian College (MI) workshop in September 2016 included Kevin Ross, president of Lynn University; Richard Ekman, president of CIC; Jeffrey Docking, president of Adrian College; S. Georgia Nugent, CIC senior fellow and president emerita of Kenyon College (OH); and Christopher Morphew, executive associate dean for research and innovation at the University of Iowa’s college of education.

“The workshops are an opportunity for participating institutions to situate themselves in the larger context of external forces that may be shaping the future of American society and higher education,” Ekman explained to participants in the Augustana College workshop. “But nothing is set in stone; two colleges, superficially the same in many ways, will respond very differently to the external context.” For many participants, however, the most valuable aspect of the workshops has been “the affirmation that we are all dealing with similar issues.”

Most participants have stated that the workshops were valuable or extremely valuable to their institutions. Indeed, some institutional teams drove more than six hours and stayed overnight to participate in a workshop—and thought that the time and expense were well worth it. According to Rhona Free, president of the University of Saint Joseph (CT), “The workshop was very valuable to us—not only did we enjoy our time at the host college but we continued our conversation on the three-hour ride home and have been sharing ideas since we got back to campus.”

Participants have used anonymous post-workshop surveys to highlight other valuable aspects of the programs. They especially appreciate the opportunity to “interact with colleagues across campuses...and have the time to actually converse.” Others have commented that “examples of innovations at different colleges [shared during the workshop] were extremely useful” and commended the “wealth of information provided as resources for [promoting] private liberal arts institutions.” “The most valuable aspect of the workshop,” concluded one participant, “was the candid sharing of challenges and ideas for turning them into opportunities with an action plan.” Finally, several college and university presidents have reported that the workshop materials formed the basis for a subsequent cabinet meeting, faculty discussion, or planning session at a trustees’ meeting.

Five participants discuss a topic in at a roundtable
The workshops provide an opportunity for institutional teams to discuss desirable and achievable futures for their colleges and universities. According to one CAO who participated in the Hartwick College (NY) workshop, “speaking with my colleagues after speaking with other administrators in the room” was especially valuable.

CIC invites member institutions to register a team of three to five participants for one of the remaining workshops. An ideal team might include the president, at least one other senior administrator, and at least one faculty member who can take a leadership role in campus discussions and institutional change efforts. There is no cost to register, but institutions are responsible for travel costs and any overnight lodging, and space is limited. For more information or to register, visit the program site. The workshops are supported by the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations, Endeavor Foundation, Lumina Foundation for Education, and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Remaining Workshop Dates and Locations

January 26, 2017
Morehouse College
Atlanta, GA

February 10, 2017
St. Edward’s University
Austin, TX
March 14, 2017
Webster University
St. Louis, MO

April 18, 2017
McDaniel College
Westminster, MD

Media Meetings

Richard Ekman and Georgia Nugent have been meeting with editorial boards and journalists at media outlets in cities close to the workshop locations to discuss issues and trends identified in the workshops as well as messages and data from the liberal arts campaign. For example, following the workshop at Hartwick College, Ekman, Nugent, and Carolyn Stefanco, president of the College of Saint Rose (NY), met with the editorial board of the Albany Times-Union. Ekman and Nugent also conducted a taped interview with WVIK Radio (the NPR affiliate station on the Augustana College campus) and met with two higher education reporters from the Chicago Tribune following the workshop at Augustana. In the most recent meeting, Lance Orozco, news director of NPR-affiliate KCLU, interviewed Nugent, California Lutheran University President Chris Kimball, and Linfield College (OR) President Thomas Hellie, and Nugent met with the higher education reporter for the Ventura County Star.

Engagement with Counselors

CIC continues to engage high school guidance counselors to increase awareness of CIC member colleges and universities and the superior education they offer. Nugent spoke at the Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA) conference in November, just prior to CIC’s Institute for Chief Academic Officers, and she wrote an article titled “Debunking the Myths about Liberal Arts Education” for the November IECA newsletter. Two CIC staff members participated in the IECA conference with Nugent and distributed campaign materials. Nugent’s address also was videotaped, and clips were posted on the campaign’s social media channels. In addition, following the conference, CIC mailed the 2016 membership directory together with a campaign resource flyer and other campaign materials to all IECA members.

Social Media

In September, CIC launched an Instagram account (@SmartColleges) that shares infographics, videos, and campus photos to encourage prospective students to consider attending a liberal arts college. New content about the value of the liberal arts referencing CIC research findings, articles, and data about independent colleges and the liberal arts is continually posted on the Twitter (@SmartColleges), Facebook (, and YouTube ( social media channels.