Senior Leadership Academy Convenes 2018–2019 Opening Seminar; 2019–2020 Nominations Are Due February 15

SLA brochure coverCIC invites presidents and vice presidents to nominate mid-level administrators and faculty leaders who aspire to senior leadership positions to the Senior Leadership Academy (SLA). Cosponsored by CIC and the American Academic Leadership Institute (AALI), the program prepares participants to assume responsibilities at the vice presidential or cabinet level. Nomination materials for the 2019–2020 program are due February 15, 2019.

“The SLA was of profound help to me as a developing leader in academia.... The program provided a perfect balance of practical guidance for the position I held and professional advice for the future. In addition, it instantly created an outstanding network of individuals who are facing similar challenges at their institutions,” remarked Darrin Good, vice president for academic affairs at Whittier College (CA), who was associate provost and dean of sciences and education at Gustavus Adolphus College (MN) during the 2014–2015 SLA.

The SLA includes two seminars: The first 2019–2020 seminar will be held in Baltimore, Maryland, November 1–3, 2019, in conjunction with CIC’s Institute for Chief Academic Officers, and the second will take place in Washington, DC, June 21–23, 2020. The program entails readings concerning presidential leadership; completion of a highly individualized professional experience plan developed by the participant with his or her mentor; guidance by both the participant’s mentor and Linda Bleicken, SLA program director and AALI president; executive career coaching; and structured conference calls among the participant, mentor, and program director. SLA has a strong track record: Nearly half of the participants from the first four cohorts have advanced in their careers since the first participants completed the program in 2011.

Approximately 40 mid-level administrators, drawn from all divisions of the institution, will be selected for the 2019–2020 SLA cohort. Eligible are individuals whose next promotion is most likely a cabinet position in academic affairs, advancement, administration, finance, or student affairs. For example, a participant’s current position may be assistant or associate provost, assistant or associate vice president, academic dean, academic division chair, or administrative director. The president or vice president to whom the candidate reports must nominate the candidate and commit to mentorship during the yearlong program.

The SLA is supported generously by AALI and Academic Search, Inc. More information and the nomination form are available on the program website. For questions about the nomination process, selection process, or program logistics, contact Barbara Hetrick, CIC senior advisor, at or (202) 466-7230.

2018–2019 SLA Commences

CIC and AALI offered the first seminar for the current cohort of the Senior Leadership Academy, held in conjunction with CIC’s Institute for Chief Academic Officers, during the first week of November 2018. This seminar offered participants a diverse experience. The participants themselves are a diverse group, with 49 percent women and 16 percent people of color. In addition, most of the group chose to stay to participate in CAOI, which this year included chief financial officers and chief enrollment officers as both participants and speakers. Among the SLA group this year are 45 participants who serve in mid-level administrative positions in academic affairs, advancement and alumni affairs, student affairs and success, enrollment management, compliance offices, marketing, veterans’ affairs, and finance.

This year’s seminar was diverse in format as well, offering many opportunities for interaction among participants and speakers. The seminar included intensive work on biographies, curriculum vitae, and professional experience plans; a question-and-answer session on current issues in higher education with CIC President Richard Ekman; panelists from the 2017–2018 SLA who reported on their self-designed project on diversity and inclusion; a networking dinner; a reception with past SLA and Executive Leadership Academy participants; panel discussions; and lessons learned about the search process from prior participants.

Linda Bleicken, AALI president and president emerita of Armstrong State University, developed the agenda for the seminar and facilitated the sessions. The group was treated to an opening session by Joseph Jones, president of Fresno Pacific University (CA), who strongly advised participants interested in finding new positions to look for job descriptions that describe what they want to do and avoid seeking positions with particular titles. “Most people want to be leaders, but they don’t always want to do leadership,” he said. In response to a question, Jones said that he looks for cabinet members who have courage and the ability to think institutionally, beyond their particular office or division. He also advised participants always to be educators who assume personal responsibility for students and to learn the work context and language of other cabinet members.

Following an intensive evening session working with Andrea Warren Hamos, vice president and senior consultant for Academic Search, Inc., on how to enter the search process following their SLA year, the group heard from members of last year’s cohort, whose experiences provided an enlightening contrast with one another. Karen Hunt, newly appointed vice president for enrollment management and marketing at Bethany College (WV), described herself as initially a “reluctant candidate and reluctant leader” who discovered through SLA that she had “a lot more to offer than” she had thought. After some quiet introspection, Hunt realized that she had lost the joy in her struggle “to hold onto the college, community, and security” of a position she had held for many years. She reported that intensive research into available positions yielded the one for which she is ideally suited. On the other hand, Michael Laney, new provost and vice president for academic affairs at Savannah State University, who was a dean at Our Lady of the Lake University (TX) during his SLA year, was active in several searches, with several search firms and with several types of institutions, before he, too, identified the position that was the best match for him.

Marcheta Evans presents while standing in front of seated participants
During the 2018–2019 Senior Leadership Academy opening seminar, Marcheta Evans, provost and vice president for academic affairs at Our Lady of the Lake University (TX), addressed “The Roles of the Provost and CFO: How They Work Together with the Cabinet.”

Fittingly for an Institute that featured both academic and financial affairs, Marcheta Evans, provost and vice president at Our Lady of the Lake University, and Sarah Kottich, executive vice president for operations and planning for the College of Saint Mary (NE), discussed the ways in which provosts and CFOs can work together most effectively. They agreed that it is essential for academic and finance officers to work closely together at a time when so many small liberal arts colleges are facing financial and enrollment difficulties. Each told a story about how she worked to build trust with the other officer so that both would be in the best position to make important decisions at critical times. They then turned to the participants, who shared an assortment of descriptions of the relationships among cabinet officers at their institutions—ranging from horror stories to smoothly functioning working relationships. The final take-away from the session was: be conscious that you and your colleagues are in interdependent positions and can benefit from sharing knowledge and perspectives.

Ekman addressed the many trends and challenges facing independent higher education and offered this perspective: “Trends are not destiny. They provide a backdrop to understanding the past and how to proceed toward the future. You can position your institution by embracing a trend, hanging back as a ‘leading follower,’ going along to see where the trend takes you, or actively resisting the trend”—any of which might be the appropriate approach to a given trend. After answering questions from participants concerning such trends as globalization, mergers and closures, changing demographics, the cost of higher education, and student debt, Ekman urged them to take advantage of CIC data to help them understand and explain the issues as well as what works well for different types of institutions.

Two stalwart friends of SLA and CIC also shared their expertise with the group. Kathleen A. Rinehart, president of Cardinal Stritch University (WI), shared her extensive legal experience with colleges and universities to offer an overview of the tools and best practices for hiring in academe. She cautioned that the “hiring and evaluation of faculty members are two of the most potentially problematic and fraught practices in higher education.” She addressed the current legal landscape as well as best practices for effective hiring, job posting and descriptions, interviews, reference and background checks, and communications during the hiring process. William C. Deeds, provost at Morningside College (IA), introduced the participants to strategic planning as “a process used to set institutional priorities, focus action and resources on common goals, and adjust institutional direction in response to a changing environment.” After describing the components of a plan—which include developing operating, financial, and business plans, a financial forecast, and a case statement—Deeds engaged participants in small group discussions to examine planning on their own campuses and their emotional and cognitive reactions to those plans and the processes that led to them.

Members of this SLA cohort will work with their campus mentors and with Bleicken throughout the academic year, engage with each other, and meet once more in person in June 2019.