Institute Encourages Academic, Financial, and Enrollment Collaboration

Seated participants asking questions to presenters standing beside projection screen
Held in St. Louis, Missouri, November 3–6, CIC’s 2018 Institute for Chief Academic Officers, with Chief Financial and Chief Enrollment Management Officers, attracted a total of 589 participants.

College and university leaders face significant challenges and opportunities in enrollment, finances, and accountability. The need for increased collaboration to address these issues is clear. With a focus on “Academics, Allocations, and Analytics: Collaborating for a Sustainable Future,” CIC’s 2018 Institute for Chief Academic Officers, with Chief Financial and Chief Enrollment Management Officers, provided a framework for action on pressing issues and for candid sharing of both successes and challenges. The Institute took place in St. Louis, Missouri, November 3–6, and was held in cooperation with the National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO) and the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO).

The 2018 Institute was once again the largest annual conference of chief academic officers held by any higher education association in the United States. This year, the event attracted 384 chief academic, chief financial, and chief enrollment officers, and a grand total of 589 people. Participants traveled from as far as Greece and from all across the continental United States, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico.

“In these difficult times for private and public higher education, it is so helpful to participate in a gathering of colleagues from across the country who come together to share responses to and solutions for the challenges we are facing. After the CIC CAO Institute each year, I return home prouder than ever of private higher education and even more confident in our future,” remarked Institute participant Chad Berry, academic vice president and dean of the faculty at Berea College (KY).

The program featured leading authorities on key aspects of the work of all three senior campus officers. Keynote speaker Roger W. Ferguson, Jr., president and chief executive officer of TIAA, discussed the impact of current economic trends and developments on independent, nonprofit colleges and universities. Plenary speaker Marcia Chatelain, Provost’s Distinguished Associate Professor of History and African American Studies at Georgetown University, explored the power and value of including diverse voices in all aspects of campus life. Nathan D. Grawe, Ada M. Harrison Distinguished Teaching Professor of the Social Sciences at Carleton College, shared the findings of his recent book, Demographics and the Demand for Higher Education, and their student recruitment and retention implications for small to mid-sized independent institutions. And Meg Jay, associate professor of education at the University of Virginia and author of Supernormal: The Untold Story of Adversity and Resilience, explored the inner life of resilient youth and suggested ways for colleges to support students who have experienced one or more types of childhood adversity.

The Institute agenda was designed to engage campus leaders with ideas and tools they can use to advance the distinctive missions of their institutions. Sessions provided advice and concrete solutions on such topics as making the most of limited resources, recruiting the “right-sized” class, providing and marketing high-impact experiences for all students, supporting diversity and inclusion on campus, and securing an institution’s financial viability. The Institute also highlighted new and effective approaches to such topics as student mentoring and retention; student mental health issues; and vocational guidance. Several concurrent sessions offered practical advice on the effective use of data in program development and evaluation and other areas of campus administration and teaching.

“The 2018 CIC Institute was the best yet—relevant, timely, and rich in resources to help navigate the challenges on our campuses,” remarked long-time participant Karen Kaivola, provost and chief academic officer of Augsburg University (MN). Economic headwinds, demographic projections, and the increasing diversity of our students demand innovative practices, new ways of thinking, and more effective partnerships among and between CAOs, CFOs, and CEMOs. This year’s Institute delivered on its promise of candid conversation. It created opportunities to deepen essential partnerships both on individual campuses and across institutions. I’m grateful to CIC and fellow conference participants for creating an experience directly relevant to my highest priorities as the CAO at Augsburg University.”

During the Institute, CIC presented its two top academic and leadership awards for 2018. John D. Kolander, provost of Wisconsin Lutheran College, received the Chief Academic Officer Award, which honors a CAO who has served in an exemplary way to enhance the role and work of the private college CAO. Kolander was recognized for his significant support of colleagues at other independent colleges and universities; he has participated as a presenter at nearly every CIC Institute for Chief Academic Officers since 2004 and has served as a mentor to many of his newer colleagues as they began their tenure as CAOs. The Johns Hopkins University Press (JHUP) received the Academic Leadership Award, which recognizes outstanding contributions to American higher education. Gregory Britton, editorial director of JHUP, accepted the award on behalf of the press. In addition to publishing a large number of scholarly books and 85 journals, JHUP has been a pioneer in developing widely accessible electronic resources, such as Project MUSE, and it is the publisher of many high-quality books on higher education.

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

John D. Kolander standing at a podium beside projection screen
John D. Kolander, provost of Wisconsin Lutheran College, received the 2018 CIC Chief Academic Officer Award.

Gregory Britton standing beside Richard Ekman holding a framed award
The Johns Hopkins University Press (JHUP) received the 2018 Academic Leadership Award, which recognizes outstanding contributions to American higher education. Presented by CIC President Richard Ekman (left), JHUP Editorial Director Gregory Britton (right) accepted the award on behalf of the press.

Two taskforce members stand with Kathy whatley holding awards
CIC presented awards for service to the CAO Institute Task Force to Marcheta Evans (left), provost and vice president for academic affairs, Our Lady of the Lake University (TX), and Leanne M. Neilson (right), provost and vice president for academic affairs, California Lutheran University. Katherine M. Whatley (center), CIC senior vice president and principal planner of the Institute for Chief Academic Officers, congratulated the awardees.

Participants talk while seated at a roundtable
Participants in the Workshop for New Chief Academic Officers engaged in roundtable discussions, analyzed case studies, and worked with experienced CAO mentors.

Participants seated at roundtable speak with presenter standing at podium
During the Workshop for CAOs in Their Third or Fourth Year of Service, Marc Roy, provost of Albion College (MI), guided the session, “Reflecting on the Moment.”

Participants share ideas while seated at a breakfast roundtable
Breakfast discussions provided informal opportunities for participants with similar interests to share information and ideas.


TIAA Chief Roger Ferguson Addresses Impact of Economic Trends on Higher Education

Roger W. Ferguson, Jr. standing at a podium gesturing with hands
Roger W. Ferguson, Jr.

The opening keynote of the Institute was delivered by Roger W. Ferguson, Jr., president and chief executive officer of TIAA. His address, “The Impact of Current Economic Trends and Developments on Independent, Nonprofit Colleges and Universities,” offered a series of wide-ranging insights about social and economic trends, the innovative history of the financial services sector, and the future of independent higher education. His remarks were informed by years of experience as an economist, corporate leader of TIAA, and co-chair of the Commission on the Future of Undergraduate Education convened by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (AAAS) in 2017.

Ferguson began with what he called the “challenge of change.” Although change is a constant—something “we all share together, as a nation and as institutions”—the pace of change has accelerated in the 21st century. Ferguson highlighted three changes in particular. First, technological change, exemplified by the spread of the smartphone since its introduction just a dozen years ago. Second, demographic change, including a declining birthrate and a rapidly aging American population—in other words, the future students that chief enrollment officers will have to recruit and the current faculty and staff members that chief academic officers and chief financial officers will have to prepare for retirement. And third, a massive economic shift that has produced a 15-fold gap in income between the top 10 percent and the bottom 90 percent of Americans.

This final shift, Ferguson argued, “is feeding a new element of diversity on campus: wealth inequality.” Meanwhile, many students now enter college with new generational attitudes toward personal finance—marked, for example, by a preference for peer-to-peer mobile payment platforms such as Venmo rather than traditional banks—and leave campus with significant amounts of student debt. Unfortunately, financial education is not keeping up with these changes, so Ferguson urged colleges and universities to pay more attention to developing their students’ financial literacy.

Having sketched out a set of national challenges, Ferguson turned to some of the specific challenges facing higher education. “The future of higher education is very bright,” he assured the audience, and “the future of our country is closely tied to the future of higher education.” He then congratulated the assembled college leaders on the fact that college access has “largely been resolved, thanks to [institutions] like yours,” with nearly 90 percent of high school graduates gaining at least some postsecondary education.

Yet the challenge of offering high-quality education at scale—through learning technology or other innovative approaches—and at a reasonable cost remains to be solved, while college completion presents a more persistent challenge than access alone. College completion has financial implications for colleges, the country, and students alike, he noted, “but the debt challenge is especially problematic for students who don’t complete their education, who default at [a rate of] around 25 percent on their loans.”

Ferguson concluded his formal remarks by reminding Institute participants that “investing in completion rates has a major impact on American economic sustainability, but it takes time.” In addition to the economic value that college graduates contribute to American society as a whole, he encouraged independent colleges and universities to promote the “softer benefits of higher completion rates,” including longer and healthier lifespans, happier lives, and personal financial success.        

Ferguson’s formal remarks at the podium were followed by an informal, seated conversation with Katie Conboy, the chief academic officer of Simmons University (MA). Conboy began by asking Ferguson to draw some lessons about change from his tenure at TIAA, during which the company has expanded its focus from retirement to lifelong financial well-being. He responded that the same leadership lessons apply to independent colleges and universities: “Be realistic about change” and “focus on incremental change, because you are building on success.” He added, “Change must be consistent with mission—who you are and what you stand for.” The conversation about TIAA then moved to a discussion about the “retirement crisis,” which Ferguson redefined as a “retirement challenge” that colleges could help address by teaching their students (and encouraging their employees and others) to put more money into savings and expect to work a little longer before they retire.

The rest of the conversation focused on the three types of change that Ferguson described earlier: financial, technological, and especially demographic. Demographic shifts, he argued, bring with them an imperative “to look like our customers.” For both employees and students, this means a commitment to “both diversity and inclusion: being invited to the party and being invited to dance.” Among the tools that TIAA has used to address diversity and inclusion—and which might be adopted by colleges as well—are training programs that help managers identify unconscious bias and resource groups that bring together employees with shared identities and their allies. In the context of higher education, Ferguson added, “the less visible elements of diversity,” such as economic inequality and first-generation status, are sometimes the most difficult to address. In fact, “economics often lead to greater cultural differences than race.”  

In his final comments, Ferguson returned to the challenge of technology and preparing students for future careers. “The forecasts of an apocalypse from technology have usually been wrong,” but a realistic estimate is that 70 percent of all jobs will be reshaped by technology to some extent. As a result, we need to pay attention to the things that machines do better than humans (such as recognizing patterns) and the things that humans do better than machines (such as empathy and critical thinking). Perhaps, he concluded, “we need less training in STEM, because machines will do those things well, and [more training in] critical skills of the sort that liberal arts colleges provide.”

Marcia Chatelain Emphasizes Importance of Listening to Diverse Voices

Marcia Chatelain standing at a podium
Marcia Chatelain

In her plenary speech, “The Power of Diverse Voices,” Marcia Chatelain, Provost’s Distinguished Associate Professor of History and African American Studies at Georgetown University, discussed the value of including diverse voices in all aspects of campus life, exploring intentional strategies to increase diversity and ensure that diverse voices are heard in classrooms, work environments, and all across campus. She compared student responses to the tumultuous events that shaped the civil rights movement in 1968 to student unrest today, highlighted 50 years of higher education approaches to diversity and inclusion and providing insights into what should remain and what should change. The author of South Side Girls: Growing Up in the Great Migration (2015), Chatelain is a public voice on the history of African American children, race in America, and social movements. In 2014, she organized fellow scholars in a social media response to the crisis in Ferguson, Missouri, the #FergusonSyllabus. She also hosts Office Hours: A Podcast, in which she talks with millennials about what is most important to them.

Chatelain opened by reflecting on the ways that higher education has helped her form herself—“attending college at the University of Missouri changed my life and rewrote my family story.” She said that her journey through higher education as a student and then as a teacher and scholar has helped make her who she is. “This is the process you are allowing for others. And I’m grateful for the opportunity for us to reflect on where we’ve been and where we want to go.”

To set a framework for thinking about diverse voices on campus, Chatelain discussed critical moments in U.S. history that affected students in 1968—such as anti-Vietnam War protests, the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy, the Poor People’s Campaign, and the Memphis sanitation workers strike—and in recent years—such as the shootings of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, Freddie Gray in Baltimore, Maryland, and parishioners in Charleston, South Carolina, as well as White nationalist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the March for Our Lives in Washington, DC. “Today I want to talk about the power of diverse voices in terms of what the past can teach us about how we animate higher education futures.”

Chatelain focused on specific student groups as well as campus employees and whether college leaders are truly listening to them to learn what they need to succeed. She asked such questions as: Where do we hear the voices of student veterans? What are we doing for our first-generation and low-income students? How are we rethinking the climate around gender on our campuses? And how are student-athlete voices heard?

Thinking back to war protests on campuses in 1968 that showed divisions in campus populations, Chatelain remarked, “One of the things we learned from that period was that campuses had to find mechanisms to support student veterans and their needs.” She asked that today, “When we are tasked with forming working groups or committees to discuss diversity, how many times do we think about the student veteran population?” She added, “Our student veteran population is an untapped resource to think about diversity, to think about a population of students who, before entering college, had to confront bias. A population that tends to trend older and may be affected by age dynamics in the classroom. A population that has traveled all over the world and confronted sentiments and critiques about America…. What if that voice was a leader in dealing with tensions found on campus? What are some of the new, related ways we can think about diversity?”

She turned to campus efforts to recruit first-generation and low-income students and remarked that while campuses may be developing services for the population, “we really need a conversation about the ways higher education is not and was not designed for poor and low-income students. We should have an honest conversation about what is needed to succeed….” Chatelain elaborated, “For those of us who work at institutions that cost a lot of money, for those who work at institutions where many generations of wealthy families have sent their kids, it’s very easy to believe that the past is the present. But [if I’m teaching] in a classroom where 90 percent of students can spend $45 on an unannounced school field trip and 10 percent cannot, I have created an educational dilemma for the 10 percent.”

“And it’s this place where all hands should be on deck,” she emphasized. “As chief academic officers, enrollment managers, and finance folks, you converge on this issue about whether your institution can even imagine a person from a low-income background surviving for the four years that they need to graduate. What resources are available for financial aid, and what are the ways you’re setting expectations for faculty members to understand the economic diversity of students that enroll? How are you visioning an institution that is going to communities…to identify the first-generation and low-income talent who may want to give your institution a look? These are all of the forces that need to come together if we are going to be able to confidently say our institutions are places that are working for the common good.”

Regarding campuses listening to the needs of transgender students, Chatelain commented, “We may say that we have campus protocols about sexual assault and have done work on gender justice, but [we also need to] rethink the climate around gender on campus. How do we understand the specific needs of transgender students?” She stated, “If you do not feel prepared to have a conversation with a group of students who are demanding gender justice and the safety of students who are nongender conforming, don’t schedule the meeting until you are ready.” She said that campus leaders should research best practices, listen, and reflect before entering into conversations, and that it can be powerful to respond to students or a coalition of concerned community members by saying, “I don’t have enough information and insight to respond to your concerns. I take them seriously, and I will immediately turn to my colleagues [for guidance]. We will make this a priority and come back together in two days.” This approach, she said, “is how to preserve our capacity to act in good faith,” and students can build upon the approach when they are confronted with challenges.  

Referring to the 1968 Summer Olympics, when two African American athletes raised their fists in a symbol of black power during the U.S. national anthem and were consequently expelled from the games, and to recent high-profile events involving campus athletics, Chatelain discussed the voices of athletes. “I want us to think in a different way about our student-athletes…. Whether athletics happens at big Division I institutions or smaller colleges, there’s a way in which student-athlete voices have been put to the margins, perhaps because student-athletes are often considered the problem of coaches.” She noted that student-athletics has become a mechanism for racial and ethnic diversity and that people’s bias against communities of color can become a bias against athletes. “How are student-athlete voices heard—are they only heard in times of tragedy and scandal?... Are their experiences only noted when their team wins or loses?”

Chatelain concluded, “When we think about diversity and think only in terms of background, we fail to recognize that students are having diversity of experience on campus. Whether they are students with previous experience in the military, older students, commuter students on residential campus, or students balancing academic and athletic responsibilities, they too need a seat at the table to surface their concerns…. When we think about diversity, I want us to also remember the voices of those with very different experiences than are happening on campus. We need to remember that the pursuit of knowledge is also the pursuit of truth and of honesty.”

Grawe Assesses Demographic Trends, Offers Student Enrollment Strategies

Nathan D. Grawe standing at a podium beside projection screen
Nathan D. Grawe

Higher education faces “a looming demographic storm,” according to Nathan D. Grawe’s analysis in his 2018 book, Demographics and the Demand for Higher Education. Although the book is often portrayed as “doom and gloom” for colleges and universities, Grawe said during his plenary address that he doesn’t see it that way. “Yes, we face challenges, but I’m optimistic.” After highlighting how recent demographic shifts are likely to affect demand for higher education, Grawe outlined a number of strategies that, if implemented now, could help college administrators navigate enrollment challenges and maximize student enrollment in the future.

Grawe, the Ada M. Harrison Distinguished Teaching Professor of the Social Sciences at Carleton College, developed the Higher Education Demand Index, which relies on data from the 2002 Education Longitudinal Study, to estimate the probability of college-going using basic demographic variables.

Among the demographic enrollment concerns he cited:

  • The U.S. birthrate has plummeted since the Great Recession, resulting in a significant decline in the number of new high school graduates beginning in 2026. When the front edge of this “birth dearth” reaches college campuses, the number of college-aged students will drop almost 15 percent in just five years.
  • Decades-long patterns in replacement fertility, migration, and immigration persistently have nudged population growth toward the Hispanic Southwest. As a result, the Northeast and Midwest―traditional higher education strongholds―will lose about 5 percent of their college-aged populations between now and the mid-2020s.
  • The probability of college attendance differs significantly in the North versus the South. In the Northeast, three-fourths of children will go to college while about two-thirds of children in the West South Central region will do so. Parental education level is a large predictor of college attendance.
  • Despite the economic recovery, the child replacement rate is falling in most states (with the exception of Indiana, Utah, and South Dakota), most markedly in the entire northeastern quadrant of the country.

This birth dearth means that there will be fewer students at all levels of higher education, but it will vary across the country. “Colleges east of the Mississippi River will have it tough; those in the Mountain West are probably good,” said Grawe.

Much of the declining birth rate mirrors declines in the sense of security, Grawe said. “The financial crisis convinced lots of young people not to have kids.” With recent decreases in life expectancy, the opioid epidemic, the political environment, and other factors, “there has been an erosion of confidence in the future. This is a problem for us. In 18 years, we can project that we won’t have as many kids to teach…. We’re in a new normal, and we need to get our minds around the fact that the birth dearth is not going away.”    

These demographic declines will not affect all colleges and universities equally, however. Grawe (citing data from the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education) provided separate forecasts for smaller private colleges, regional universities, two-year colleges, and elite institutions. He explained, “Demand for elite schools is expected to grow by more than 15 percent in future years,” while “regional universities will have a tough time of it and small private and national public institutions will fare slightly better.” One explanation for the higher demand for elite colleges, he said, is higher levels of education for parents. With more highly educated parents, the likelihood is greater that their children will attend college, and that they will attend more selective institutions. While these are general trends, institutions will be affected differently, and thus will need to develop customized response strategies.

College and university leaders need to face this new reality and make changes to enrollment strategies, but they must do so strategically. “Don’t chase headcounts—headcounts are an incredibly incomplete way to look at future enrollment.” Grawe cited as an extreme example the vast differences in the probability of four-year college attendance between students with parents with college degrees versus those without. “The probability of four-year college attendance by a Hispanic student with one parent who has no higher education degree is only 9 percent. An Asian student with two parents with degrees has a 96 percent chance of attending college.” As a result, he said, “clearly, headcounts are of questionable value for any institution.

Focusing too much on trend data also is an incomplete way of looking at enrollment. “Because institutions will change behaviors in response to large swings in potential students, forecasts are all but sure to miss the mark,” Grawe remarked. Extrapolating only from trends misses the fact that changes to institutional recruitment strategies also affect future pools.

The good news, Grawe said, is that increased college attendance by Hispanic and African American students will continue to help stem enrollment declines. In addition, “parental education has been growing, so fewer students will enter college as first-generation and more students will have parents with experience in higher education.” That said, he cautioned that “the definition of first-generation students is shifting and students who present not as first-generation, in fact, will have more needs than, for example, first-generation students from the 1960s.”

“We’ve made progress in access for Hispanic students. But for African American students, despite 150 years of some progress, we’ve got work to do” to increase African American enrollment rates. To do so, “we must rethink issues of cost and diversity. This is not a trade-off—it is not about money versus a diverse student body. A possible alternative narrative is that, with increasingly diverse prospective student pools, a failure to reach and retain diverse students will lead to enrollment contraction.”

Other challenges colleges will face include reductions in public funding for higher education, continued pressure on tenure, and likely closures and consolidation. On the latter point, Grawe noted that dire closures are unlikely. “Because of low birth rates, Moody’s predicts that 15 percent of colleges will close,” but Grawe expects that consolidation within an institution such as eliminating programs or departments is more likely.

How should CIC colleges respond to these challenges? The typical response to demographic challenges, Grawe shared, is to “expand recruitment by targeting growth areas, and that can work for some colleges, but not all. Trying to outcompete the competition is not the strategy.” Rather, recruiters need to focus on increasing access and diversity, and college administrators should focus on leadership opportunities, such as providing greater attention to retention, concentrating more intently on their primary mission, and increasing efforts on international student recruitment, he said.

Grawe urged administrators to “articulate the value of higher education in general and the U.S. model of liberal education in particular.” People’s attitudes toward liberal higher education have eroded, he said. “Too many people think that English and philosophy are not useful, yet philosophy majors outperform every business major.” One solution could involve “developing new programs that illustrate the relevance of liberal arts offerings, for example, adding a program that combines computer science with the humanities. This is creative, and students are good at jumping across divisional barriers.”

Grawe also emphasized the need to “invest in the tenure system” because “faculty members who don’t have long-term commitments teach differently.”  

Further, campuses need to “resist race-to-the-bottom pricing/aid policies” because “as discount rates go up, we end up with lower net revenue. The product we sell is expensive, and the less we put in, the less we get out. Teaching is key.”  

Lastly, Grawe encouraged administrators to “advocate for the value of education as an export sector” by, for example, attracting international students. “If we walk away from this market now, in ten years we won’t be able to get them back. China and India are investing intensely in higher education now. So we need to recast the debate about international students, despite factors beyond our control, such as…international policies.”

College Becomes a Safe Place to Transform Childhood Adversity

Meg Jay standing at a podium beside projection screen
Meg Jay

True or false: The top ten childhood adversities likely affect 75 percent of the students on your campus.

Unfortunately, this statement is true, explained Meg Jay, closing plenary speaker and associate professor of education at the University of Virginia. In her most recent book, Supernormal: The Untold Story of Adversity and Resilience (2017), Jay tackles misperceptions that today’s “20-somethings” face few challenges.

Jay named the most common childhood adversities that many young people face:

  • Loss of parent or sibling through death or divorce;
  • Substance or alcohol abuse in the home;
  • Prolonged bullying;
  • Mental illness in a parent or a sibling;
  • Physical, emotional, or sexual abuse;
  • Growing up with poverty or neglect;
  • Having a parent in jail; or
  • Growing up with domestic violence.

Furthermore, 80 percent of students who grow up with one adversity have experienced another one, and 50 percent of those students will grow up with three or more of these circumstances. For example, a student whose parent abuses alcohol is more likely to grow up with domestic violence and to experience poverty and neglect.

Contrast that with the 25 percent of students that represent what Jay calls the “dominant minority” on which widespread expectations and campus services and culture are based. Just like how first-year, residential, recent high school graduates represent the stereotype of the college student, the similarly small number of students who have had near-perfect families, healthy siblings and parents, relative affluence, and stability somehow seem to be considered typical and the majority.

Yet they are not, Jay assured the audience. Those who make it to college are more often the “family heroes, the strong ones who survive it with a smile, and make A’s.” They often feel very different, completely alone with their experiences, when measured against the dominant minority.

Jay called education “an intervention.” “One of the most important things we can teach students is that none of them are as alone as they think they are,” she said. “The untold story is that they are in the majority.” And, Jay added, that should greatly impact our expectations and structuring of their education.

Using Superman and other comic book heroes as metaphors, she said that life keeps calling these “superheroes” into action. “They have better-than-normal, better-than-average outcomes after growing up with adversity. It takes a lot of strength and courage,” she explained, and that message is essential to convey to students who compare themselves to non-traumatized peers. Jay encourages such students to focus less on the adversity and more on the resilience.

“You’re actually in really good company,” she tells students, noting well-known “supernormals” such as former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, former President Barack Obama, actor and director Alan Cumming, actress and philanthropist Oprah Winfrey, neurologist Oliver Sacks, and actress-activist Viola Davis among others.” But most supernormals are everyday people who have lived most of their early lives in “fight or flight.”

Those students who fought through it and made it to college refused to allow adversity to define them and defeat them. “But flight is part of our responses” as well, she said. “We don’t hear enough about the importance of flight. Young adults can succeed by distancing themselves from childhood problems they can’t fix—losing themselves in a book, at a neighbor’s house, in an after-school program, or with relatives. As adults, they may join the military or move across the country. “But the number one ‘flight’ is college,” Jay said. “And they are often counting down the days until they get to a safer, better place. Your school is that place.”

For these students, the challenge goes beyond “resilience or grit.” “They are living in fight or flight,” Jay explained. “Not only is childhood adversity and trauma so common, but it has a long-term impact.” These adversities are not one-time events, but lived with day in and day out. An alcoholic parent or a parent in jail are continuous experiences for five, ten, or 20 years, and can often follow the student to college through phone calls and emails that draw them back into crises.

When the brain lives with danger and uncertainty for prolonged periods of time, it releases stress hormones, she noted. “Normally those hormones are useful and can propel students to get to college, focus on their work, and plan their future.” But research has demonstrated that chronic exposure to stress hormones poisons the body, leading to diseases and health risks of all kinds. Jay said that half of mental health problems in adulthood and two-thirds of suicide attempts link to childhood adversity.

“Supernormal” students are not immune to this stress from childhood adversity. Jay noted that some misconceptions about these students are that they don’t struggle and that they don’t need other people. Students reflect those misconceptions and think, “If I was resilient, I wouldn’t be in difficulty. If I was resilient, I wouldn’t need a therapist.” For this reason, Jay is changing the subtitle of her next edition to “The Secret World of the Family Hero.”

Jay quoted well-known graphic novelist Alan Moore who said, “The art of being a hero is knowing when you can stop. You can take off the cape, let other people help you, and have something in your life that superheroes can’t have, and that’s love. Love—in the broadest sense—heals.” Jay also cited Bruce Perry, an American psychiatrist and founder of the Child Trauma Academy, who has found that the best way to heal trauma victims is to improve the quality and amount of love in the person’s life. They need positive experiences with new people.

For these “superhero” students, positive experiences with people who are safe and predictable, good rather than bad, calm the amygdala, the region of the brain that responds to threat. Fewer instances of depression and anxiety, lower blood pressure, better sleep, improved immune functions, better longevity, and improved cognitive function are all the good results of loving experiences. “These experiences downshift the stress that has come before, and they let people truly heal from adversity,” Jay said.

“Adversities are not destinies,” she concluded. “This is what I love about college campuses. I’ve seen more people reboot from bad to good in their lives on college campuses than anywhere else.” Jay recalled what a wise supervisor once said: “What I love about working with college students is that it’s like working with planes right after takeoff. A small change in course makes all the difference in where you end up.”

Senior Officers Explore Enrollment, Retention Solutions in Workshops, Session

Two workshops and a concurrent session examined the importance of a comprehensive campus-wide plan for student enrollment and retention management to assure institutional health and student success. The workshops, one at the basic level and one advanced, highlighted strategic enrollment planning. The concurrent session illustrated steps two colleges have taken to increase students’ interactions with each other, with campus services, and with facilities.

Strategic Enrollment Planning Workshop Focuses on Collaboration

A three-hour advanced-level workshop for chief academic, financial, and enrollment management officers focused on how to conduct collaborative strategic enrollment planning. This approach, the workshop facilitators explained, differs from traditional planning where campus leaders set goals and then develop steps to achieve those goals. Instead, it uses a return on investment strategy to align organizations with environments in order to promote stability, sustainability, growth, and excellence. The workshop was led by a team of experts from Whitworth University (WA)—Larry Probus, vice president for finance and administration, and Caroline J. Simon, provost and executive vice president—and Ruffalo Noel Levitz—Lew Sanborne, vice president for strategic enrollment planning, and Michael Williams, president of the Austen Group, a division of Ruffalo Noel Levitz.

Presenter speaks while standing holding microphone with other panelists seated at head table
The “Strategic Enrollment Planning: A Dynamic Collaboration” workshop was led by teams from Whitworth University (WA) and Ruffalo Noel Levitz. Pictured are Caroline J. Simon, provost and executive vice president of Whitworth; workshop chair Elissa Heil, vice president for academic affairs and dean of the faculty at Wilson College (PA); Michael Williams, president of the Austen Group, a division of Ruffalo Noel Levitz; Larry Probus, vice president for finance and administration at Whitworth; and Lew Sanborne, vice president for strategic enrollment planning at Ruffalo Noel Levitz.

Sanborne characterized strategic enrollment planning as a “businesslike approach” that focuses on the entire student lifecycle, noting that all involved need to know their net revenue per student and key performance indicators for their campuses as well as understand that not all programs can expand or be prioritized. He amplified this by characterizing institutions as “like healthy coral reefs—we grow by accretion, but we’re not good at saying when something isn’t working anymore.” He also emphasized, “If you don’t have dollars for investment, don’t start the strategic enrollment plan or you’ll demoralize everyone” since part of executing successful strategic enrollment planning requires to invest in service of the strategy. In addition, Sanborne pointed out that successful strategic enrollment planning necessitates that the CEMO, CFO, and CAO all must be committed to the plan and work collaboratively.

The Whitworth University team members then presented a detailed case study of their strategic enrollment plan to boost undergraduate and graduate student recruitment, match the institution’s strengths and capacities with market demand, prioritize strategies consistent with the institution’s mission and strategic plan, and finally, strengthen Whitworth’s enrollment and financial position. Specifically, the leadership team winnowed down an initial list of over three dozen strategic enrollment planning ideas through extensive research and community stakeholder education and engagement. They ultimately chose to implement a strategic enrollment plan that includes two to three new undergraduate programs, five to six new or expanded graduate programs, five market recruitment strategies, a new retention strategy, and a new athletic program.

In addition to the case study presentation, participants engaged in multiple small group discussions about strategic enrollment planning and how to integrate academic programs, enrollment, and financial needs.

CAOs and CFOs Learn the Fundamentals of Strategic Enrollment Management

During the “Strategic Enrollment Management (SEM) 101” workshop, two experts guided more than 60 chief academic and chief financial officers through the basics of the approach, explaining the core concepts and methods used as well as exploring a case study. The workshop was led by Jay Goff, vice president for enrollment and retention management at Saint Louis University, and Tom Green, associate executive director of consulting and strategic enrollment management at AACRAO.

Two presenters speak while standing beside podium
The “Strategic Enrollment Management (SEM) 101” workshop was led by Jay Goff (right), vice president for enrollment and retention management at Saint Louis University, and Tom Green (left), associate executive director of consulting and strategic enrollment management at AACRAO.

The panelists discussed the three main sources of enrollment pressures on independent colleges and universities—the desired size of the student body, the desired quality of the students enrolled, and the needed net tuition revenue—and how SEM can address those pressures. SEM combines consideration of demographic trends relevant to the college or university (which can be local, regional, or national), campus policies that affect enrollment and retention, and the financial state of the institution, including how the institution packages financial aid for students and the net tuition revenue it needs.

After reviewing the current and future demographic trends for college-aged students in the United States, as presented earlier by plenary speaker Nathan Grawe, Goff and Green discussed other types of potential student populations, including international, law, MBA, and adult (either first-time or completer) students. Unfortunately, the number of potential students in each of these groups also is declining, as is the number of students majoring in traditional humanities areas. In addition, higher education policy is presenting challenges to the enrollments at independent colleges and universities, through free college tuition movements for public institutions, the recent shift in support for for-profit institutions, and accountability legislation involving gainful employment and scorecard requirements. Simultaneously, financial pressures on colleges have worsened due to the widening gap between average family incomes and the cost of college, among other issues.

The good news comes in the deployment of SEM: Strategic enrollment management is a concept and process geared toward the fulfillment of institutional mission and students’ educational goals. SEM considers a student’s whole career, from prospect (as early as elementary school) through graduation, to a satisfied, engaged alumnus and active donor. The process helps institutions look at “the total arc of a student’s experience and remove barriers that cause students to stop out or drop out,” according to Green. SEM is built into the strategic plan of the college or university and involves administrators, faculty and staff members, and students in data analysis and the revision of problematic policies. For example, administrators at one college found that students withdrew for a semester or more due to unpaid bills totaling less than $500. The institution was able to establish an emergency loan/grant program to tide students over so that they could remain enrolled for the semester. This led to an increase in both retention and graduation rates.

Goff presented a case study of how SEM was implemented at Saint Louis University. The university planning committee began with five core enrollment management principles:

  • To succeed, enrollment efforts need high-quality academic programs;
  • Recruitment and retention is an on-going, multi-year process with strong access to research and data;
  • The majority of enrollments come from regional student markets;
  • The most successful recruitment programs clearly differentiate the student experience from competitor’s programs;
  • The most successful retention programs clearly address students’ needs and regularly engage students in academic and non-academic programs.

Goff added that Saint Louis University established a communication and marketing pipeline that begins with students in elementary school and follows them through successful college completion. The SEM team also charted all student “touch points” with administrative offices and academic and non-academic programs, analyzed the effectiveness of those “touches,” and used the data to improve the student experience.

The campus-wide implementation led to significant increases in retention (6 percent) and graduation (10 percent) rates over ten years along with increases in the number of enrolled underrepresented minority students. How did they do it? “Silver buckshot,” said Goff, “Many smaller initiatives, all pointed at the same goals.”

The workshop concluded with a lively question-and-answer session, which covered topics such as the structure of the SEM team, how to reach out to elementary and middle schools, and how to streamline financial aid procedures.

Campus Master Plans Support Strategies for Enrollment, Retention, and Student Engagement

Of the many assets that colleges and universities can leverage to enhance student recruitment and retention, some of the most important are the buildings and spaces where learning and engagement occur. Administrators from two colleges—Sewanee: The University of the South (TN) and Goucher College (MD)—highlighted their institutions’ approaches to redesigning campus spaces during a session on “Master Planning for the Campus.” The panel included Nancy Berner, provost, and Doug Williams, vice president for finance and treasurer, at Sewanee, and Lynne P. Lochte, vice president for finance and administration, and Scott Sibley, interim provost, at Goucher.

Two presenters speak while standing beside podium
Administrators from Sewanee: The University of the South (TN) and Goucher College (MD) exemplified their institutions’ approaches to redesigning campus spaces during the session “Master Planning for the Campus.” Pictured are Sewanee’s Nancy Berner, provost, and Doug Williams, vice president for finance and treasurer.

The Sewanee campus is graced with historic stone buildings that reflect the character, nature, and culture of the institution. “The campus is our most important long-term asset,” said Berner. Yet university leaders also recognized that some buildings and common areas needed a refresh to ensure that prospective students could “see themselves” at Sewanee. Sewanee had developed a campus master plan in 2001 and updated it in 2005. This earlier work and the university’s strategic plan of 2012 served as a framework for new discussions in 2015. By integrating the goals of the strategic plan, the 2015 campus master plan could readily draw on projections for recruitment and existing retention data to help planners consider the university’s needs for student housing, faculty offices, laboratories, teaching spaces, common areas, and student services.

A broad group of stakeholders was involved early on to define the purpose and vision for new spaces. Sewanee formed a capital working group to establish the list of goals for the look and feel of the campus: It should be attractive, inspiring, and inviting to students, faculty members, and staff; it also should reflect the institutional culture and support the activities and programs of today and of the future. One key project that reflected a shift in process was to develop a learning commons instead of a new library. The capital working group also committed to an inclusive process and held a competition to select an architect. “The project was a departure from earlier approaches,” Berner said. “It included restoration plus new technology and more comfortable furniture, for starters, to affirm the importance of a place for students to learn, study, and interact socially.”

Other spaces that were included in the Sewanee master plan’s $26 million worth of projects were a new wellness commons, a social commons and alternative event space, and a new and expanded career and leadership development center. The projects were a mix of renovation and new construction, and funding came from both gifts and carefully managed debt.

At Goucher College, administrators embarked on a campus master plan to create a shift from texting to talking, according to Lochte. Facilitating face-to-face communication drove several decisions in the development of Goucher’s master plan, which started by putting feet on the ground to establish the sightlines of students who walk across campus. “We identified the significance of campus spaces as if you were a student walking across campus and looking up from your phone,” said Lochte. The plan incorporated new research and observations of student behavior as well as a recent plan for athletics. Everything addressed the larger goal of creating more engagement on campus and led to the creation of a first-year village residential community.

Some changes were straightforward and pragmatic. “Rocking chairs and lawn chairs were the big things that students talked about,” said Lochte. Other changes were more comprehensive. They moved all activities to the first floor and located laundry rooms across the hall from activity spaces. They also created a central dining facility, to which students initially objected. “We didn’t anticipate that sophomores, juniors, and seniors would first hate the idea of sitting and talking to each other,” Lochte added. The dining space included large table seating and large window walls that faced the new athletic fields, another nod to engaging students in the life of the campus. Goucher also chose to move a building that was in good condition, saving about two-thirds of the cost of new construction.

A second major project at Goucher was a new science research wing. The project started with the curriculum, according to Lochte, and focused on pedagogy. A new curriculum had been introduced, but faculty expectations for teaching spaces were still being worked out. Faculty members had significant input on the master plan, the design of new spaces, and the impact the plan would have on pedagogy. They sought spaces that could function as a traditional classroom and could incorporate lab activities. And they favored smaller classrooms, rather than large lecture halls. To make informed decisions, Goucher administrators also analyzed three years of course data that involved a team of 13 faculty members. The data pointed toward program priorities for the college.

“STEM is the number one inquiry area of students that inquire about Goucher,” said Lochte. “The campus community felt that the science building was holding us back. Knowing how important STEM programs are to recruiting, we were able to justify the cost of the building.”

In addition to new construction, Goucher looked at ways to integrate the curriculum across campus better. Study abroad is mandatory for every Goucher student. Yet the study abroad office was in an administrative building. Goucher’s new master plan incorporates study abroad into academic spaces.

According to Lochte, communicating with faculty members and students is key to making successful changes to campus space. “But keep in mind,” said Lochte, “that the students you start with are not the students who will be there when you open the new space.” Student needs and concerns should be monitored each year, with the goal of increasing their human interactions.

Sessions Focus on Ways to Support Institutional Change

As colleges and universities face a wide variety of new challenges, chief academic, chief financial, and chief enrollment officers must often collaborate, make difficult decisions, and implement transformational change. By focusing on the opportunities and skills students need to succeed in college and beyond, institutions can motivate faculty and staff members to plan for new programs with funds collected by retiring programs that are no longer effective. A few Institute sessions explored strategies for implementing campus-wide change.

Building an Institutional Capacity for Change

In the Institute session “Building an Institutional Capacity for Change: Lessons from the Field,” three CAOs shared their experiences with strategic change at their institutions and the processes they followed, with a strong emphasis on process. Openness, transparency, and engagement of stakeholders may not assure success, but the chance of success without these elements is slim, presenters agreed.

Presenter speaks standing from podium beside projection screen to seated participants
In the session “Building an Institutional Capacity for Change: Lessons from the Field,” three CAOs—Joseph M. Roidt (pictured) of Dakota Wesleyan University (SD), William C. Deeds of Morningside College (IA), and Anne A. Skleder of Wilkes University (PA)—shared processes used to implement change.

William C. Deeds, provost of Morningside College (IA), said the college needed to cut $2.7 million from the budget, or about 7 percent. The academic side of the college was able to cut $1 million from its budget, resulting in only three laid off faculty members of the 12 positions cut campus wide. The process involved an academic task force comprised entirely of faculty members. They agreed upon four criteria by which to rank programs: demand (35 percent), quality (30 percent), use of resources (20 percent), and compatibility with the college’s mission (15 percent). Each department evaluated their programs and submitted reports to the task force, which scored and ranked them from 1 to 135. Surprisingly, the faculty and the administration gave the president power to cut any programs in the bottom half without further deliberation. Although cutting programs was painful, the campus came through the process with a shared understanding and solidarity to move forward, Deeds noted.

Joseph M. Roidt, provost of Dakota Wesleyan University (SD), said their president gave them “permission to fail,” with the belief that small institutions should “embrace the ability to be an incubator for change.”

“Newness to an institution is an incredible advantage,” Roidt told participants. He explained that he was the only member of the leadership team that was new to the college, so he “got to look at the academic and co-curricular programs with new eyes.”

Because the existing curriculum committee had developed the current curriculum, Roidt created another working group to recommend changes—an essential lesson, he noted. That working group, like all those he appoints, included representation from all parts of the campus, creating buy-in for its recommendations.

Roidt advised several approaches for institutions that need to make curricular changes:

  • Give people deadlines. Faculty will rise to the challenge and spur one another to meet it;
  • Frame and simplify the problem so that faculty members have a common grasp of the situation, yet avoid getting mired in details;
  • Pilot, pilot, pilot. Pilot projects lower the stakes for faculty members because they can tweak projects as they go along, dodging the demand for perfection; and
  • Embrace creative ferment and cross-pollination.

Roidt pointed out that by the second year, Dakota Wesleyan seized the opportunity to explore how Apple digital tools could transform and revitalize teaching and learning, instead of staying embroiled in a multiyear curriculum redevelopment project.

For Anne A. Skleder, senior vice president and provost at Wilkes University (PA), moving to a culture that valued and rewarded scholarship required strategic change. Wilkes needed to create incentives for and recognize excellent scholarship and research on a campus where it had been uneven. There was little faculty activity to procure external funding.

An internal survey reported that faculty members had little feeling that their peers respected them. “In truth,” Skleder said, “Their peers had little awareness of what they were doing.”

The first year Skleder undertook a yearlong listening tour. The conversations ranged from basic input to extensive dialogue about faculty members’ fears. The obstacles she heard about firsthand differed from the versions filtered to her through the deans. As for procuring research and scholarship support externally, few faculty members knew how. They had not sought help from the grants office lest they look foolish. “No one wants to say, ‘I don’t know,’” she recalled, especially faculty members.

Next, Skleder launched a research and scholarship committee chaired by the associate provost and stepped away from the committee after ensuring it had a clear charge, regular reporting, and representatives from all schools and colleges. She emphasized how much research and scholarship awards, university-wide research and scholarship events that featured faculty, and intentional language mattered. She stopped talking about “release” time and called it “re-assigned” time, to emphasize the dedication of faculty members’ time to a different purpose. Wilkes faculty members have increased external funding of scholarship and research, and they have made changes to the policies for internal funding to support multiple-year projects.

All three CAOs encouraged participants to involve faculty members in strategic change, despite the time and difficulty such a process may present.

Supporting Transformational Change through Economic Models

The opening slide of the standing-room-only session, “Supporting Transformational Change through NACUBO’s Economic Models Project,” quoted Larry Ladd of Grant Thornton LLP: “A college’s greatest enemies are complacency and nostalgia.” This quote, the session’s companion slides on increasing college costs and tuition discounting, and data on shifting demographics set the stage for a panel of CAOs and CFOs to discuss how the NACUBO Economic Models Project (EMP) helped address their institutions’ particular financial and enrollment challenges.

Two presenters speak while standing beside podium in front of a projection screen
During “Supporting Transformational Change through NACUBO’s Economic Models Project (EMP),” Augsburg University’s (MN) Beth Reissenweber, CFO and vice president for finance and administration, and Karen Kaivola, provost and CAO, co-presented on how Augsburg applied the EMP.

The EMP was commissioned by the NACUBO Board of Directors in 2014 to help institutions examine their existing business models and envision new ones. It is based on a framework of economic sustainability that encompasses an institution’s mission, structure, resources, and strengths. But as panelist Randy Roberson, director of strategic initiatives at NACUBO, put it, “This isn’t about your mission statement; it’s what you really do.”

This led to case study presentations of how two institutions applied the EMP framework to their campuses. Augsburg University’s (MN) Karen Kaivola, provost and CAO, and Beth Reissenweber, CFO and vice president for finance and administration, co-presented on how Augsburg broadly applied the EMP to the university’s 2013 strategic plan and specifically used the EMP as a framework to plan the building of its new Hagfors Center for Science, Business, and Religion. Kaivola explained that integrating three disciplines of science, business, and religion into the center was a catalyst for what eventually became a $50 million fundraising campaign. Also, as Reissenweber commented to sympathetic audience laughter, “We eliminated 200 parking spaces, which underscores the need for planning.”

In discussing the broader aspects of the project, “[The EMP] gave us a heuristic framework to use and ask hard questions,” Kaivola observed. Reissenweber concurred that “The whole group [the presidential leadership team involved in building the Hagfors Center] leaned in to talk about sustainability, which is what the tool is for.”

Nicole Trufant, senior vice president for finance and administration at the University of New England (ME), followed with a case study of how the university applied the EMP to their institution. She candidly explained that in 2006, the institution had significant financial, personnel, and enrollment issues; however, the incoming president, Danielle N. Ripich, made clear at her 2007 inauguration that she intended to do her best to change them and that collaboration across academic and administrative units was necessary in order to improve the university’s situation.

After significant financial and academic changes spearheaded by Ripich, the institution now serves over 12,000 students as opposed to 4,000 in 2006 and has flagship programs in the health and life sciences. Spendable cash and investments rebounded from -$20 million in 2006 to $167 million now. The university’s new president, James Herbert, assumed office in fall 2017 and inherited not only a healthy balance sheet, but a financial strategic plan created by outgoing president Ripich, the chief budget officer, and the board of trustees. Although the process was painful, as Trufant acknowledged, “It does all come together.”

The case study presentations were followed by a lively audience discussion of how, when, and where to use the EMP on campuses and the challenges involved, including communication issues and siloed institutions. Roberson encouraged institutional representatives to contact NACUBO for more information or to provide suggestions on improving the project. Finally, as an illustration of the kind of interdisciplinary teamwork that the EMP fostered at Augsburg and might potentially foster at other institutions, one of the presenters in a later session on Finance 101 for CAOs and CEMOs commented, “In the NACUBO presentation, I didn’t know who was the CAO and who was the CFO. It was that seamless.”

Sociologists Explore the Changing Role of the Chief Academic Officer

Presenter speaks from podium beside projection screen
Jeff Gingerich, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at University of Scranton (PA), and Michael Markowitz, vice president for academic affairs at Holy Family University (PA), discussed “The Changing Role of the Chief Academic Officer.”

More than 150 participants gathered to consider the role of the chief academic officer in 21st-century independent higher education in the session “The Changing Role of the Chief Academic Officer: Perceptions, Challenges, and Paths Forward.” Two sociologists, Jeff Gingerich, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at University of Scranton (PA), and Michael Markowitz, vice president for academic affairs at Holy Family University (PA), discussed how current CAOs perceive the changes in their role, the challenges they envision for the future, and strategies to prepare CAOs for the broadening portfolio of the position.

Gingerich and Markowitz first provided a snapshot of results from a small fall 2017 survey of CAOs serving in CIC colleges and universities. Of survey respondents, 25 percent reported that they had less than one year of experience as a CAO, another 25 percent were in year two to four, and 50 percent had over four years in the role. More than half of respondents were in their first CAO position and indicated that they had no formal training through programs such as CIC’s Senior Leadership Academy or the Harvard Institutes for Higher Education beforehand.

The survey results confirmed that current CAOs are expected to carry out a broad array of responsibilities that extend beyond academic programs and student academic success. The CAO’s expanded portfolio requires new skill sets such as budget oversight, enrollment management, and fundraising that previously were the sole responsibility of other cabinet officers.

Fortunately, the survey suggests that current CAOs relish their expanded role: 90 percent of the respondents reported being satisfied or very satisfied with their jobs. Women CAOs, those at institutions with larger (1,000+) student enrollments, and those with discipline-specific school or college structures expressed the highest level of job satisfaction. When asked about the factors that detracted from job satisfaction, CAOs participating in the session offered candid responses ranging from “fighting with the CFO” and “reductions in programs or personnel” to “addressing compliance issues” and “not being able to do the things (such as teaching and program development) that I was good at.” Several participants noted that their satisfaction with the CAO role was enhanced when they developed a support system. Among those considered most beneficial were collegial relationships with other chief officers at their own institutions, a network of consortium peers, and the CIC-CAO Listserv.

The discussion turned to the professional development needs of CAOs now and in the future. Several participants highlighted the need for CAOs to develop their business acumen as well as entrepreneurship, particularly given the changing higher education landscape. Equally important to CAOs is professional development related to diversity, equity, and inclusion and to change management and collective problem solving. Participants emphasized that the future of independent higher education demands that CIC institutions continue to break down the silos on their campuses. Thus, more professional development opportunities—including CIC’s Institute for CAOs—that encourage collaboration among chief officers and help catalyze cabinet-level partnerships are vital. An interim CAO called attention to the notable increase in interim positions and suggested the need for professional support geared specifically for those who occupy the role on a temporary basis. Finally, participants expressed interest in programming focused on succession planning and effective strategies for developing the next generation of leaders on CIC campuses.

Provosts Detail Two Successful Faculty Development Models

Two presenters speak while standing in front of seated participants
Provosts Janel Curry of Gordon College (MA), and Linda Samek of George Fox University (OR), described two new personalized faculty development programs that include one-on-one peer mentoring.

Colleges and universities, just like businesses, need to be intentional, strategic, and smart about investing in their capital assets. Often it is physical plant improvements, such as new science centers or libraries, that are celebrated and make headlines. But for campuses, the most important asset in which to invest to assure long-term success of both students and the institution is the faculty. Provosts Janel Curry of Gordon College (MA), and Linda Samek of George Fox University (OR), fully agreed on the premise. Their integrated and interactive discussion of effective faculty development models exemplified, however, that such programs cannot simply be implemented off a best practice shelf. Instead, they need to reflect an institution’s culture and mission and be woven into the relationship fabric between administrator, faculty members, and students. As Curry emphasized, “Whatever you offer and do [for faculty], make sure the rationale is broadly understood.”

The perhaps more traditional Gordon model centers on the first eight years of a faculty member’s career. During that period, faculty members focus on distinct topics along an intentional pathway to strengthen pedagogical skills, build a research program, and develop an institution-wide perspective and leadership ability. Starting with a two-week effective pedagogy workshop offered by Gordon’s Center for Teaching Excellence in year one, the program emphasizes faith and learning integration—essential hallmarks of the college—in year two. Scholarship is the next emphasis, with support for grant writing provided in year three and a sabbatical semester prior to the sixth-year tenure review. Strengthening institutional leadership becomes a focus post-tenure, combined with further development in all four pillars of expected faculty excellence (teaching, faith integration, scholarship, and institutional service).

Although the ultimate goals of strengthening faculty competencies are similar, the George Fox model focuses, after an initial boot camp-style orientation and assessment of strengths and weaknesses, on special-interests training in smaller groups led by knowledgeable colleagues and combined with extensive mentoring. “If encouraged,” Samek reflected on past experience, “many faculty members are willing to provide learning opportunities for others on broader skills they possess.” Topics that groups of faculty members have previously explored include mentoring for and integration of faculty of color, advancing women in leadership, digital fluency, and search advocacy. At Gordon, occasional learning opportunities have examined finances in higher education, the nuts and bolts of assessment, pedagogical learning, and intercultural understanding.

While the faculty development models are distinct, Curry and Samek have discovered surprisingly strong commonalities in experiences with strategies they have tried and how they have come to view faculty dispositions toward professional growth. “Faculty do like to learn new things,” both affirmed, and “they can grow from developing a cohort that supports one another.” It is important for programs to consider that “not everyone needs to learn the same things at the same pace.” Both emphasized that success ultimately depends on recognizing that not all faculty members are “confident learners” and that an institutional culture needs to exist where “failing in public has to be OK.” “It’s often not about achieving something on the spot,” Curry stipulated, “but it’s about seeding engagement on topics or issues for the long haul.”

The panelists identified a few faculty development strategies that either did not work or did not work well: large group lectures, online courses or webinars, emailed articles and essays, one-time presentations by expensive outside experts, or, essentially, “one-size fits all programming.” Consequently, they advised session participants to start retooling their faculty development programs by spending time answering essential questions: “What are your faculty development needs?” as well as “What resources can you leverage?” and “What existing faculty expertise can you use?” From there, they advised, college leaders can build programs that rest on the premise that “faculty need to own their own growth,” and set priorities and expectations “that are both clear and achievable.”

During the lively discussion, they offered tidbits to take home: “Lunch vouchers are a pretty effective way to encourage participation.” Seasoned administrators, including executive assistants, can be great resources to familiarize newcomers with campus information storage and processing systems. It is helpful if campus scheduling provides at least occasionally during a semester a time when all faculty members and administrators are able to collaborate. Both departments and the provost’s office need to have some funding available to support promising, faculty-driven initiatives. And “publicly recognize and celebrate faculty achievements whenever you can” to encourage others to follow in similar paths.