Presidents Discuss ‘Education for America’s Future’ and More at Annual Institute

​​Exploring the theme, “Education for America’s Future,” CIC’s 2017 Presidents Institute focused on topics such as the president’s role in leading transformational change, innovative approaches to strategic planning, and the financial outlook for private colleges. But with a new U.S. presidential administration about to begin, many speakers also emphasized the importance of seeking and speaking the truth, protecting freedom of speech, increasing diversity, fostering inclusive communities, and promoting global awareness.

CIC’s 2017 Presidents Institute took place in Orlando, Florida, January 4–7. The Institute again marked the largest annual gathering of college and university presidents in the United States, drawing 346 presidents, 156 spouses and partners, and a total registration of 830 people. It welcomed leaders from several International Member institutions, including those from Canada, France, Greece, Lebanon, Morocco, Pakistan, and the United Arab Emirates. And for the third year, the Institute hosted a delegation of private university rectors and higher education leaders from Mexico.

Kevin M. Warren, chief commercial officer of Xerox Corporation, delivered the keynote address on the role independent colleges play in meeting America’s workforce needs and how presidents can position their institution to educate students for workplace success. Sherry Turkle, Abby Rockefeller Mauzé Professor of the Social Studies of Science and Technology and founder and director of the Initiative on Technology and Self at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, explained how reliance on technology as the principal mode of communication can undercut students’ ability to cultivate relationships, develop creativity, and innovate. She recommended actions colleges can take to “reclaim the conversation” in the academy. James B. Stewart, award-winning journalist and best-selling author, discussed the enduring value of an independent college education and the importance of seeking and speaking the truth.

In the closing plenary session, “Presidential Strategies for Transformational Leadership and Campus Turnarounds,” three presidents shared lessons learned from their own campus transformations. Panelists included Jeffrey R. Docking, president of Adrian College (MI); Walter M. Kimbrough, president of Dillard University (LA); and Elizabeth Kiss, president of Agnes Scott College (GA); and moderator Scott Jaschik, editor and cofounder of Inside Higher Ed.

“This year’s Presidents Institute was one of the best,” commented Shirley Mullen, president of Houghton College (NY). “The program—including ​the speakers and the topics—was relevant, practical, and hope-filled.”

In conjunction with the Presidents Institute, CIC also hosted the New Presidents Program that included sessions for spouses and partners of new presidents, the Presidents Governance Academy, and the Presidential Spouses and Partners Program.

During its annual awards banquet, CIC presented the 2017 Award for Philanthropy (Organization) to the Research Corporation for Science Advancement (RCSA), a foundation for the advancement of science that funds innovative scientific research and the development of academic scientists. CIC honored RCSA for its distinguished record of accomplishment in promoting and supporting basic research as a vital component of undergraduate education. Robert N. Shelton, president of RCSA, accepted the award on behalf of the foundation. CIC presented the 2017 Allen P. Splete Award for Outstanding Service to Arthur Levine—president of the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation and former president and professor of education at Teachers College, Columbia University—for his enormous contributions to strengthening teacher preparation, among other accomplishments. The Allen P. Splete Award, supported by Jenzabar, was represented by Robert Maginn, chairman and chief executive officer.

Videos of the plenary sessions and banquet addresses as well as presentations and handouts from many Institute sessions are available on the CIC website.

Participants seated at roundtables asking questions at a session During the 2017 New Presidents Program, held in conjunction with the Presidents Institute, participants engaged in lively question-and-answer sessions.

Presenters gestures to projection screen in front of participants seated at roundtables Lynne C. Joyce, presidential spouse of Brevard College (NC), and Robert Haring-Smith, presidential spouse of Washington & Jefferson College (PA), facilitated sessions for spouses and partners of new presidents.

Participants discuss topics over breakfast seated at roundtables Breakfast discussions provided informal opportunities for participants with similar interests to share information and ideas.

Participants seated in a banquet hall with a stage and podiums in the front of the room The 2017 Awards Banquet, held on January 6, celebrated the achievements of many higher education leaders.

Tom Hellie and Robert Shelton hold a framed award with Richard Ekman CIC Chair Thomas L. Hellie, president of Linfield College (OR), and CIC President Richard Ekman presented the 2017 Award for Philanthropy (Organization) to the Research Corporation for Science Advancement (RCSA). Robert N. Shelton (center), president of RCSA, accepted the award on behalf of the foundation.

Arthur Levine stand on stage holding his framed award with Tom Hellie, Allen Splete, Robert Maginn, and Richard Ekman CIC presented the 2017 Allen P. Splete Award for Outstanding Service to Arthur Levine, president of the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation. The award was supported by Jenzabar, represented by Robert Maginn, chairman and chief executive officer. From left to right are Levine, Splete, and ​Maginn.


Warren Emphasizes Key Role of Independent Colleges in Meeting Workforce Needs

Kevin Warren presents from the podium Kevin M. Warren, chief commercial officer of Xerox Corporation

What role do independent colleges play in meeting America’s workforce needs? How can studying the liberal arts better prepare students for an increasingly fast-paced, high-tech, entrepreneurial workplace? In the keynote address, “The Role of Independent Colleges in Meeting America’s Workforce Needs,” a leading corporate executive, Kevin M. Warren, explored these questions. Warren, chief commercial officer of Xerox Corporation and a vice president of the corporation since 2010, has developed a deep understanding of how to lead institutions during times of rapid change.

Warren emphasized that for a corporation to succeed, it needs to hire the most talented and passionate people—and that higher education is key to creating those people. He remarked, “Education is the gift that keeps on giving to corporate America, but we can be hard to shop for. The pace and rate of change is so dynamic that the technical skills and information your students are studying today could be outdated in less than ten years. And, if, according to futurists, 60 percent of the best jobs in the next ten years haven’t even been invented yet, how can you possibly prepare students to land and succeed in them? …As champions of a liberal arts education, you have a head start. What graduates have to offer the world has to be more than their chosen major or technical skill set. A well-rounded, liberal arts foundation is critical to navigating the change that characterizes today’s work environment—and the world surrounding it.”

He said that three parts of a “success triangle”—performance, behavior, and competency development—complement a liberal arts foundation and parallel degrees, experiential practice, and branding of life-long learning in the academy. The three factors “have become my criteria for filtering out the talented and passionate people I want filling my corporate seats.” Warren explained that performance, the minimum qualifier, is about performing and delivering well consistently. Behavior includes the ability to work as a team member, recover from setbacks, give credit (instead of just taking it), and champion a “we” instead of a “me” mentality. Competency development “is about the commitment to continuously raising your game,” he said, “and in today’s environment, being a lifelong learner is more than a buzz word, it’s a survival skill. It’s about more than constantly updating your skills and knowledge. It’s about developing your professional worth…your brand…by being a student of life, of work, and of current and world events.”

Careers are evolutionary and the college experience should model that, Warren said. “Many employers recognize that a liberal arts education sits at the very base of this model.” He cited research from the Association of American Colleges & Universities and the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems that indicates:

  • The majority of employers surveyed agree that having both field-specific and a broad range of skills and knowledge is most important to achieve long-term career success;
  • Eighty percent of employers surveyed agree that every college student should acquire broad knowledge in the liberal arts and sciences; and
  • Seventy-four percent would recommend a liberal arts education to a young person.

Warren recommended that high schools and colleges aim to help students master each part of the success triangle based on a solid liberal arts foundation. First, high schools should “reframe the value of a degree and remove barriers to entry by connecting the education and business worlds early on to create motivational, financial, and diverse opportunities within a real-world network.” This means that educators should emphasize the value of a higher education early in a child’s life—explaining that the unemployment rate for those with a college degree is much lower than those without a degree, that people with a bachelor’s degree earn $1 million more in their lifetime on average than those with a high school degree alone, and that college loans are typically manageable. It also means, Warren said, that schools should develop stronger connections with employers “to grab students at a young age and motivate them with access to real opportunities.” He cited the corporate work-study program provided through the Cristo Rey Network of Catholic schools as a successful example.

And when they are in college, Warren said, “students need completion support that reaches beyond academic and residential programs to foster and support the student’s whole self across the years they spend on your campus.” This support can involve mentoring, experiential opportunities, monitoring and alerts, and intervention. “In my view, [completion support] involves more than establishing an academic success center or a peer mentoring program—it’s a deliberate effort to educate and nurture students across all dimensions—intellectual, social, civic, physical, moral, and spiritual.”

Another way colleges can help students master the success triangle, Warren explained, is to “leverage the ‘safe space’ of the college environment to provide a set of nonacademic experiences that allow students to practice cultural sensitivity, global awareness, and interpersonal skills.” He said that although a mandatory semester abroad for students is one way to help them grow, “study abroad is not the only way to position students to be sensitive to different points of view. Thanks to the diversity of the college campus today, students have a golden opportunity to learn this behavior experientially—if you help direct it.”

And finally, Warren said, colleges can help students stand out to employers with a distinctive brand that says, “I’m ready, and I’m going to stay ready with a commitment to constant evolution of myself, my skills, and my perspective.” He emphasized that competency development “is the part of the triangle where today, your students have the advantage over my workforce. They are living the learning mindset—ready to soak up all the experience, knowledge, and skills you are offering. What I need to know is that they are prepared to stay in this mindset for a lifetime, and that comes down to building their brand as a lifelong learner.”

Warren said that colleges can help students communicate the critical attributes that aren’t part of their major, minor, or other activities by offering competency-based digital badges as proof that the recipient has demonstrated skills important to employers. “The idea of badging or some kind of interpersonal skill certification is well designed for promoting the benefits of a liberal arts education,” Warren concluded. “It’s a measureable, credible way of demonstrating that a student has the critical skills for workplace survival—innovation, critical thinking, teamwork, and sensitivity to cultural, demographic, economic, and societal differences. It also provides a tremendous opportunity for your institutions to start collecting data that measures student outputs that are relevant to survival and success in the workplace—to be used in support of recruitment and employability conversations.”

Turkle Emphasizes Importance of ‘Reclaiming Conversation in the Academy’

Sherry Turkle presents from the podium gesturing with her hands Sherry Turkle, Abby Rockefeller Mauzé Professor of the Social Studies of Science and Technology and founder and director of the Initiative on Technology and Self at the Massachusetts institute of Technology​

Renowned MIT professor, clinical psychologist, and author Sherry Turkle drew on her mind-opening research to discuss the importance of turning the tide from technology-driven transactional relationships to conversation-driven personal relationships. Given the increasing reliance by college students on technology as a favored means of interpersonal communication, she discussed the role that college presidents can play in organizing their institutions to educate students more effectively. Turkle is Abby Rockefeller Mauzé Professor of the Social Studies of Science and Technology and founder and director of the Initiative on Technology and Self at the Massachusetts institute of Technology. Her most recent book is Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talking in a Digital Age (2015).

In 2011, Turkle completed a 15-year study of social media. “I found that across generations, we operate with a new kind of psychology.” She explained, “I called it a feeling of ‘being alone together.’ So with that feeling, you can be physically alone, but connected to everyone through your devices.” In that state, she said, “We don’t think we should be lonely, yet we can feel terribly isolated.”

Turkle described the emerging state of the self as “I share, therefore I am.” This means that with social media, people literally don’t feel that they know who they are until they share a thought or feeling.

Traditional-age college students should develop a personal sense of identity when they go to college, Turkle stipulated. They need to begin to have confidence in their own ideas, but this social media milieu poses a challenge for them. She found that many students would rather text than talk. They want to keep social interactions on the screen—texting to co-workers, conducting family fights over Google Chat rather than around the dinner table, or engaging with boyfriends or girlfriends on Facebook instead of in person.

“I know what conversation can accomplish,” Turkle said. “It’s where intimacy grows, where empathy develops. In terms of collaboration, conversation fosters productivity, work engagement, and clarity in every kind of learning.”

“We are in a moment where we are open to change, because we are ambivalent about our behavior. People sense that something is amiss.” She explained that recent studies demonstrate those feelings.

A 2015 Pew study showed that 89 percent of Americans took out their phone during their last social interaction. “Nearly everyone recognized that the conversation deteriorated because they did that.” She cited other studies that showed that even when a smartphone was turned off and lying face down on a table during lunch, people felt less empathic toward each other, and they discussed more trivial topics that would be easy to interrupt or cut short.

Turkle said studies reviewing quantitative research on empathy showed a 40 percent decline in the last 30 years, with most of that decline coming in the last decade. “My research is qualitative, and I can see the daily practices that lead to that startling number,” she said. “For example, college students want to go to the dining hall together, but they also want to bring their phones with them to keep up with social media.”

She found a “rule of three.” “If you’re at dinner with six people, three have to have their heads up and be talking before you can put your head down to your phone—a kind of conversational round robin. No one is following the whole conversation.” This leads to more trivial talk and less empathic connections.

Another cost of growing up with “always on” connectivity is that many people don’t know what to do with time alone. “We say we can’t concentrate, that we are bored. Mostly it is anxiety that leads us back to our phones,” Turkle explained. “To reclaim solitude, we have to learn to experience boredom, to turn inward.”

“Phones make us promises as if they were gifts from a benevolent genie. But like in a fairy tale, gifts comes with costs,” Turkle said. Those promises and their downsides include:

  • People can always be heard but may not always listen.
  • People will never be alone, but they will lose and undervalue the capacity for solitude.
  • People can put their attention wherever they want, but when they multi-task it is a “learning disaster.”
  • People will never be bored, “but the capacity to sustain a feeling of quiet and solitude is how one maintains the ability to go within and replenish, for creativity, and for thinking.”
  • Phones promise to calm people’s fears of being overwhelmed in their jobs. But then people fear being overwhelmed by the continual demands in email or other digital media.

To change direction, Turkle said we need to embrace and insist on doing one thing at a time—“uni-task” instead of multi-task. “If our students haven’t learned to value it when they come to us, we need to teach them to value it. We also may have to re-teach ourselves how to do it first.”

She also discussed students who avoid coming to office hours with her and forming a relationship, but instead send her “a perfect” email. “My students are trying to turn a relationship into a transaction. That’s what we need to address head on” because mentorship is about relationships, she emphasized.

Live conversation takes place in real time, and people cannot plan, edit, and curate what they will say. Turkle sees students measuring themselves against perfection, being drawn to the edited life, getting relief from being behind the screen.

But she also pointed to data that are encouraging:

  • In only five days at a summer camp with no devices, empathy levels begin to rise. People are artificially suppressing empathy and it can be reactivated.
  • Very small changes pay big dividends. Scheduling a no-agenda, no-devices breakfast led to a much more productive management team.
  • Notes taken by hand are far better than notes taken with a computer. 

“We need to design for our priorities,” Turkle said. She recommended several things that college presidents can do to reposition students as well as faculty and staff members toward a conversational culture:

  1. Consistently and emphatically highlight why face-to-face meetings are important and walk the talk.
  2. Designate some spaces on campus as device-free zones where people can exist offline. Libraries should reserve places for conversation; classes and meetings should follow rules about texting.
  3. Talk about the importance of doing one thing at a time. Break the myth of multi-tasking as a virtue.
  4. Cultivate solitude. Make sure your students know you value their solitude.
  5. Be a model. Protect your creativity. Go slowly. “Give yourself permission to respond to email by saying ‘I’m thinking’—and watch that go viral!”

“We are the empathy app,” Turkle concluded. “For the digital ills of our world, conversation is the talking cure.”

Acclaimed Author Highlights Enduring Value of Liberal Arts Education and Quest for Truth

James Stewart presents from the podium gesturing with his hand James B. Stewart, columnist for the New York Times and staff writer for the New Yorker

In a plenary session on the enduring value of an independent college education, Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist James B. Stewart discussed the benefits of a liberal arts education, the role that independent colleges and universities play in preparing students to become effective citizens and societal leaders, and the importance of seeking truth. Stewart is a columnist for the New York Times, a staff writer for the New Yorker, and Bloomberg Professor of Business Journalism at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. He has written nine books, most recently Tangled Webs: How False Statements Are Undermining America (2011). Stewart received his bachelor’s degree from DePauw University (IN) and his JD from Harvard Law School.

Stewart exemplified the ways in which his liberal arts education has positively influenced his life. Growing up in the small town of Quincy, Illinois, in his youth he was always intrigued by liberal arts colleges—mainly because of their reputation for small classrooms and close student-faculty interaction. After he enrolled at DePauw University, the campus became his sanctuary and the experience transformed his life. It was there that he learned to read, write, analyze, and question. “I never knew how to read [with deep understanding] until I attended a liberal arts college, and you can’t write until you know how to read,” he remarked. The faculty held him to high standards, and his education became the foundation for his career. In the years after graduating, he finished law school and held diverse positions across multiple fields—beginning as a lawyer and then transitioning to a journalist and writer who has covered business and finance, politics, law, entertainment, and the medical establishment.

Stewart reflected on a time in 1969 when DePauw, like other colleges across America, was in full-blown turmoil about U.S. involvement in Vietnam. At one point, a student protest led to arson and severe injury of a student involved. As a reporter for the campus newspaper, Stewart covered the trial. “Seeing the student’s wounds drove home to me that these protests weren’t simply an adolescent fad. Students of my generation held with such deep conviction their opposition to U.S. activities in Vietnam that some of my fellow students lost their lives.” The student broke the law and was sentenced, Stewart said, “but at the same time…the courage of some people and their willingness to stand behind their convictions even when society and authority figures urged them to go in a different direction made a tremendous impression on me. This incident has, needless to say, been on my mind in recent weeks.”

Speaking within weeks of a historic U.S. presidential election, Stewart said the 2016 election was the first in which he personally knew both nominees of the major parties, having written books or articles about them. He added, “I am [must be] truly nonpartisan, because both candidates stopped speaking to me and stopped returning my calls.” Stewart originally thought his 2016 reporting on Trump using tax-code loopholes to decrease his tax liability massively would impact the election, but it did not. Stewart said that result doesn’t really bother him because his job is to inform, and “it is up to everyone else to figure out how to interpret” the information.

Critics said that the national media was in a bubble leading up to the election, and in some ways they were right, Stewart said. He used to think he could write a column about a controversial issue after speaking with someone who is conventionally liberal and someone who is conventionally conservative—that those two viewpoints would cover the bases. But now he realizes both people likely had similar college educations, so that even if they reached different conclusions, they shared a framework of discussion and a basic commitment to the facts that he took for granted. “Suddenly that whole world has been branded as an ‘elite,’ and there’s another world out there that dismisses both sides of the ideological equation in favor of…populism.” He said someone expressed concern about whether higher education failed in its ability to cultivate an electorate that cared about accuracy and truth in a campaign, but he doesn’t think that’s true. According to the Pew Research Center, college graduates backed Clinton by a 9-point margin (52 percent–43 percent), while those without a college degree backed Trump 52 percent–44 percent, marking the biggest gulf among college graduates and non-college graduates recorded since 1980.

Meanwhile, Stewart said, “It’s fair to say we are all facing a sea change—in the political landscape, in the media world, and on college campuses. I have always taken for granted that the singular mission of journalism is to seek the truth…. And the quest for truth is at the core of the mission of higher education as well as cultivating students who will seek the truth for the rest of their lives. Suddenly we’re in a world…where truth itself is being questioned as a valuable commodity and falsehoods are being promoted. I know from my liberal arts education that this is not the first time that a nation has faced challenges of this nature.”

Stewart said that history shows “when truth is abandoned, tragedy awaits.” But after absorbing the election results for a day he said, “I woke up with a new sense of purpose, excitement, and determination. And I hope each and every one of you will share that same sense of mission, because the truth itself is now under assault. That is the foundation of all that we do. If you ever need a wake-up call or reminder of that, we just had it.”

Stewart concluded, “In my view, never has your mission been more important than it is today. The students are going to be joining in this. Our students, if they haven’t already, are going to wake up to the fact that it is their future that is now on the line. If they haven’t discovered the importance of truth now, they never will. So, I hope you seize this challenge... The outcome is not as important as the fact that if all of us commit ourselves and renew our devotion to the truth, America and the world will eventually be a better place.”

Presidents Share Strategies for Transformational Leadership

Three presenters and a moderator seated in chairs on a stage “Presidential Strategies for Transformational Leadership and Campus Turnarounds” featured (from left to right) Inside Higher Ed editor and cofounder Scott Jaschik and three experienced presidents—Elizabeth Kiss of Agnes Scott College (GA), Walter M. Kimbrough of Dillard University (LA), and Jeffrey R. Docking of Adrian College (MI).

“These are dangerous times for small colleges that don’t have the good fortune to have large endowments,” stipulated moderator Scott Jaschik, editor and one of three founders of Inside Higher Ed, in introducing the Institute’s closing plenary session on transformational leadership.

Agnes Scott College (GA) President Elizabeth Kiss discussed SUMMIT, a leadership development curriculum that has significantly boosted enrollment at this women’s college. Following the innovative re-imagining of its curriculum and rollout, fall 2015 brought in the largest entering class in history as well as national recognition. The core element of SUMMIT is the opportunity for every student, guided by a personal board of advisors, to design an individualized course of study and co-curricular experiences that develop leadership abilities and understanding of complex global issues.

Kiss pointed to four things that enabled the college to enhance its core mission with global learning and leadership development:

  1. “We came to a shared recognition with our faculty and our board that we were not long-term sustainable.”
  2. “We recognized that tactical changes were necessary, but they would not be enough. We needed to fundamentally change the student experience.”
  3. Agnes Scott invested in market research to help develop eight “big ideas,” and they market-tested those ideas with their inquiry and applicant pools.
  4. “Once we got those survey results, we built a process by which we could move quickly and boldly. It was essential that our faculty lead it. In the end, 82 percent of our faculty members voted for the SUMMIT curriculum.”

Dillard University (LA) President Walter M. Kimbrough spoke about his eight years at Philander Smith College (AR). “After 2005, it almost died. We were on the edge of collapse,” he recalled. In the first week of his presidency, once he discovered the true nature of the enrollment and financial challenges, he decided to lay out all the facts and hold focus groups with faculty and staff members, students, and other constituents in search of turnaround opportunities that could be implemented quickly.

“We created the Renaissance Plan. It wasn’t just about the president, it was about the team,” Kimbrough emphasized. The strategic agenda listed the initiatives, objectives, and actions needed to facilitate the renaissance of the college. Philander Smith was able to improve the profile of incoming students, a high number of whom were on Pell grants. “We created a culture of learning.” In addition, when he arrived at the college, faculty pay was $12,000 lower than average. By the time he left, it was within $200 of the average.

Jeffrey R. Docking, president of Adrian College (MI), took office in 2005. Since then the institution has expanded from fewer than 900 students to nearly 1,700 students today; the annual budget has increased from $28.4 million to more than $70.3 million; and the endowment has doubled. The academic profile of incoming students also has risen as the college has seen a 400 percent increase in applications.

To get there, Docking said, “we began at the finish line, filled with data. We asked: ‘What will it take to make it work?’” The answer was that the college needed 1,400 students each year, 250 more than were enrolled at the time. After a two-day planning retreat with the faculty, they took the data and their plan to the trustees. “The plan was expensive—$30 million.” Docking promised to raise $15 million if the college could borrow the rest.

The strategy to attract new students focused on expanding athletic programs, including new teams in lacrosse, hockey, football, and baseball. But athletic programs need facilities. “The hardest part was saying to the faculty that for five years, nothing new will come to you. But if you hang in, you will get what you want.”

Docking recalled, “We grew to 1,700 students. And we averaged 4.1 percent faculty raises those years. We spent a lot of time getting into the head of an 18-year-old.” The college was rural and the weather was harsh in winter months. He concluded that the draw had to be “about the co-curricular experience.”

What didn’t Adrian change? The academic experience. “We didn’t drop one academic program. We kept the focus on first-generation students,” which make up 42 percent of the college’s enrollment.

In each transformation story the panelists shared, gaining a complete grasp of relevant data was critical. Such conclusive evidence persuaded longtime faculty members and trustees to accept the need for significant, urgent, transformative change. Serious and honest conversations with all constituents helped to move key people from denial and opposition to support and leadership. All these presidents laid out cold hard facts, sometimes bluntly, but always accompanied by a firm affirmation that the institution could succeed and thrive again. They held people accountable on their campuses, and they worked at least as hard as anyone else. Furthermore, in their closing comments, each president emphasized the importance of creating relationships and being attentive to the needs of faculty and staff members on their campus. In doing so, they were able to bring together the institution to embrace change willingly, forcefully, and ultimately successfully.

Presidents Seek Guidance in Session on Protecting Undocumented Students, Forum on Inclusion

Natasha Baker presents from the podium with others speakers seated at the head table Legal Issues Pertaining to Undocumented Students and Employees featured (from left to right) Edward Burger, president of Southwestern University (TX); Natasha J. Baker, partner at Hirshfeld Kramer LLP; Judith Maxwell Greig, president of Notre Dame de Namur University (CA); and Paul C. Pribbenow, president of Augsburg College (MN).

Session Explores Legal Issues Pertaining to Undocumented Students and Employees

During an engaging and timely concurrent session, more than 60 presidents and higher education leaders discussed the status of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and other immigration issues that can affect campuses. Since the 2016 U.S. presidential election, the protections for undocumented persons provided by DACA have been considered vulnerable, potentially affecting thousands of students, staff, and faculty members. A higher education attorney and two college presidents discussed options campus leaders might consider to protect members of their campus communities.

Panelist Natasha J. Bake​r, partner of Hirshfeld Kramer LLP, began by defining terms (PDF). Perhaps the most confusing term, noted Baker, is “sanctuary campus,” which has no legal definition. A holdover term from medieval Europe, when churches could be considered sanctuaries for those needing refuge, there is no legal status for any building or location in current U.S. law. There is, however, a concept of sensitive locations, where immigration enforcement actions are discouraged. A 2011 U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement memo stated that “access to campuses” may only take place when prior approval is obtained from an appropriate supervisory official or there are exigent circumstances necessitating immediate action without supervisor approval.

According to Baker—who noted at the start of the session that the presentation does not constitute legal advice, and presidents should consult with counsel to determine the best strategy for their particular institution—enforcement actions could include arrest or detention of individuals, interviews, and searches or raids. Actions could also target institutional records. Baker noted that the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) would require a subpoena for student records.

For campuses that declare themselves “sanctuary” locations, Baker said possible consequences could include loss of federal funding and harboring or obstruction of justice charges. But she said it is too soon to know whether these consequences would be pursued by the government.

Baker stated that concerned campuses could take a number of steps to support those with DACA status or those who are undocumented on campus:

  • Enforce policies that prohibit harassment or bullying on the basis of actual or perceived immigration status;
  • Evaluate the level of access provided to immigration authorities for deportations or raids, should this occur; and
  • Evaluate external access to student records where such records contain information about that student’s immigration status or other personal information​.

Panelist Judith Maxwell Greig, president of Notre Dame de Namur University (CA), explained that the university was the first private Hispanic-serving institution in northern California. About 60 percent of Notre Dame de Namur lower-division students are first generation, and about 50 percent receive Pell grants. Undocumented students receive state financial aid, but not federal.

Foremost, Greig said, her campus is trying to calm fears and focus on education. Although the campus has a strong history of activism, no student has asked the university to be a “sanctuary campus.” She and her leadership team have been in discussions with a variety of constituents. She said members of her board of trustees are concerned about their fiduciary responsibilities, and the Catholic Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur on the board also are concerned about the safety of the DACA students.

Greig said the lack of legal status in the U.S. for sanctuary is a central point to consider. Some Sisters and some campus faculty members would like to declare the university a sanctuary. Within the campus, they are trying to provide counseling and pastoral care as well as referrals to legal resources, without bringing attention to or endangering DACA students. Her university would be unable to operate without the federal support through Pell grants and other financial aid.

Paul C. Pribbenow, president of Augsburg College (MN), said the college has been slowly developing a culture of radical hospitality since 2007. Radical hospitality, he said, “recognizes that increasingly, undocumented students are raised right here in the United States. Augsburg—and every other higher education institution—must heed the call to educate students of ability.” After the DACA program began in 2012, Minnesota created the 2013 Minnesota Dream Act that made undocumented students eligible for state aid and in-state tuition. In the same year, the Institute for Mexicans Abroad provided scholarships for Augsburg students of Mexican heritage, a program that has continued in subsequent years.

Pribbenow said Augsburg is part of United We Dream, an organization working toward education equity in access; experiential learning through research, internships, and community engagement; and empowering undocumented and DACA students to self-advocate, persist, and graduate. Currently, Augsburg has 45–60 DACA students, and 50 percent of entering students are students of color.

Augsburg developed a decision-making process that Pribbenow believes has been extremely valuable. Called “Public Will,” (PDF) the process asks seven key questions to determine if the college should take a stand on an issue, and if so what its position should be. This process will guide deliberations about Augsburg’s response to immigration actions and related issues.

Discussion among several presidents followed with differing positions on the idea of a sanctuary campus and how best to support DACA and other undocumented students. Each speaker confirmed the wisdom of working with college or university counsel, as well as an attorney well versed in immigration law.

Marvin Krislov presents from the head table with four other speakers seated beside him The Presidential Forum on Diversity and Inclusion featured presidents (from left to right) Marvin Krislov of Oberlin College (OH), Lester C. Newman of Jarvis Christian College (TX), Thomas R. Rochon of Ithaca College (NY), Dennis H. Holtschneider, CM, of DePaul University (IL), and Nancy Oliver Gray, of Hollins University (VA).

Forum Addresses Role of Presidents in Shaping Diverse, Inclusive Campuses

Other Presidents Institute sessions addressed how to foster a welcoming, inclusive campus culture where students, faculty, and staff are free to express their views while remaining respectful of those who disagree. Notably, for the first time, the Institute hosted a Presidential Forum on Diversity and Inclusion. The candid discussion began with observations from college and university presidents who have encountered concerns about inequity, injustice, diversity, inclusion, or free expression on their campuses. The session was led by moderator Nancy Oliver Gray, president of Hollins University (VA), and featured panelists Dennis H. Holtschneider, CM, president of DePaul University (IL), Marvin Krislov, president of Oberlin College (OH), Lester C. Newman, president of Jarvis Christian College (TX), and Thomas R. Rochon, president of Ithaca College (NY).

Opening the session, Gray shared that Hollins University had administered a campus climate survey in November 2015. Overall, the survey data suggested that Hollins had a welcoming and respectful environment for students, faculty, and staff but that there were significant differences in perceptions and experiences depending on race, ethnicity, gender, and political perspective. For example, students of color rated the campus less welcoming and less respectful than the overall rating. “The good news,” she said, “was that an overwhelming majority of survey participants said ‘we can do better’ and ‘we want to do better.’”

The university’s leadership identified several actions they could take to foster a more inclusive and diverse community: offer professional development for faculty and staff members; provide leadership training for students; offer new educational programs and activities for students during orientation; review and change hiring procedures; hire a new diversity officer; engage in dialogues with community members; and appoint an on-campus heritage committee to study the institutional history of slavery with representatives joining other colleges and universities studying the same issues.

Rochon shared some lessons learned regarding campus unrest. Ithaca College has 6,500 students, usually described as “liberal and diverse,” he said. The college had rapidly changed from 11 percent minority to 22 percent minority in recent years. When Ithaca adopted a strategic plan in 2009, it contained some inclusion elements, “but we were more focused on diversity than on inclusion and did not give systematic thought to how greater diversity would create inclusion challenges.” At one point, a prominent alumnus came on campus to speak as part of a panel. The alum, a white male, was a co-panelist with an African American female and used “racially tone-deaf language,” Rochon said. This led to a backlash on campus, and the administration building was occupied for ten days. One lesson of that experience, he said, was the need to understand not only how students use social media for organizing but also how they use it to convey their perceptions and demands to the world. “Protests like these can divide the campus community…. It is so important to keep the dialogue at the high levels of mission, vision, free speech, and how we achieve our educational goals,” Rochon concluded.

Newman said that Jarvis Christian College, a historically black college, has quadrupled in size in recent years and its student diversity has changed from 95 percent African American to 78 percent African American. But we “did not focus sufficient attention to supporting the needs of non-African American students after admitting them,” he acknowledged. “You should not always assume that because we are an HBCU that we don’t bring certain biases and prejudices to the table—therefore, we revised our freshman-year program to include discussions and activities to promote diversity and inclusion and altered our chapel services to provide spiritual support for students from varying faiths and religions,” he explained.

Newman recited a racial conflict that first appeared to involve the Jarvis baseball team, which is about 95 percent white and Hispanic. Administrators initially hoped to address the situation quickly, but later realized members of the baseball team were not the only students involved—white, Hispanic, and black students took part. After an investigation, 30 students were removed from campus.

“It was imperative that we communicated the full story before rumors and social media posts distorted the true story. We briefed our board, our alumni, and our parents. We wanted them to know that the campus was safe.” In addition, Newman said, “We started to offer workshops and training to provide our students, faculty, and staff with a better understanding of the differences in culture and the need to be sensitive and accepting of a diverse student body. We currently have an Office of Cultural Diversity. Through the efforts of the office, we have witnessed greater engagement of our diverse student body. That’s part of who we are and the strength of the institution,” Newman concluded.

The other panelists shared stories and identified actions they have taken to foster a more inclusive and diverse community. The session ended with a wide-ranging open dialogue among Institute participants.

Panelists Share Solutions to Reduce College Costs for Students

Shirley Mullen presents from the podium with others speakers seated at the head table Lower-Cost Models for Independent Colleges featured (from left to right) Shirley A. Mullen, president of Houghton College (NY); Hamid A. Shirvani, president of Briar Cliff University (IA); Janet L. Holmgren, president emerita of Mills College (CA); Michael B. Alexander, president of Lasell College (MA); and Carol A. Leary, president of Bay Path University (MA).

​The rising cost of college for students and their families is one of the most significant challenges facing higher education in the United States. To help address this challenge, a group of 21 independent colleges and universities launched an informal coalition in 2014 to explore lower-cost alternatives to the traditional private college business model. According to Janet L. Holmgren, president emerita of Mills College (CA) and an advisor to the group, the goal is “to be cost-effective while maintaining quality.” The leaders of three colleges used their panel at the 2017 Presidents Institute to describe diverse approaches to this goal: a low-residency sophomore semester, a strategic mix of graduate and online programs to cross-subsidize traditional undergraduate programs, and a neighborhood-based degree program for students from new immigrant communities.

Panelist Michael B. Alexander, president of Lasell College and the organizer of the coalition, described the pressure of rising costs on both residential colleges and the students who attend them, particularly students from lower-income families. He also noted that rising sophomores from such families are especially likely to feel pinched by costs, which weakens their retention rates. Lasell’s “Sophomore Alternative Semester” is an effort to “meld the college’s traditional residential experience with the use of digital technologies.” A small cohort of students take five online courses in common, which maintains many of the benefits of living-learning communities on campus, while living at home and working 16–20 hours in a paid position related to their career interests. Because of the reduced draw on institutional resources, the college is able to lower tuition and fees to 35 percent of normal rates, with the effect that Pell-eligible students have virtually no out-of-pocket costs while other students save as much as $8,000–$12,000 in out-of-pocket costs. Alexander concluded with a preliminary evaluation of the small pilot phase of the project in 2016—a cohort of seven students, at least five of whom planned to return to campus in spring 2017—and reported that Lasell will continue the experiment and share the results with other CIC members.

Carol A. Leary, president of Bay Path University (MA), noted that her institution and Lasell face a similar mission-driven challenge: “How do we sustain the traditional coming-of-age model of independent higher education?” She described Bay Path’s long history of combining a steady commitment to women’s education with flexible delivery models—the college evolved from a business school in the 19th century to a junior college to a four-year residential college with a variety of adult and online professional programs. Over the last 20 years, the institution has adopted an explicit strategy of using “a range of programs at different price points to keep a traditional undergraduate program affordable,” even while the percentage of traditional undergraduates fell from 100 percent to just 21.5 percent of total enrollment.

Today, Bay Path offers about two dozen “boutique graduate programs” in high-demand professional fields such as physician’s assistant, as well as online and low-residency undergraduate degree programs for adult women students and a largely residential baccalaureate program for traditional-aged students. The graduate programs subsidize both sets of undergraduate students by generating 50 percent of net student revenue from just over 40 percent of the total students. This allowed Bay Path to reduce the undergraduate tuition discount rate to about 20 percent last year. Meanwhile, the accelerated degree program for adult students relies on hybrid and online courses plus in-person meetings on Saturdays to hold the total cost for a bachelor’s degree to $48,000, which is highly competitive in the Northeast.

Shirley A. Mullen, president of Houghton College (NY), described a different approach to “extending the benefits of a liberal arts education” at a sustainable cost: a cohort-based, non-residential program designed for members of new immigrant communities in the Buffalo, New York, area. For Houghton, the goals of the program are traditional—to provide access to a “high-quality, low-cost, faith-based” education—but the student population and off-campus setting are quite new. Houghton College Buffalo is based in a renovated historic church in downtown Buffalo, nearly 70 miles from the main campus. About 30 students enroll in each cohort, with a common curriculum leading to an associate of arts degree that will allow students easily to transfer to a baccalaureate program at Houghton or one of the local colleges. Students also receive language support, access to computers, city bus passes, and access to other social services for new Americans.

The Houghton program is designed to let students maintain their connections to home and family in the community yet also forge a connection to the college through faculty members who come to Buffalo and special events held on the Houghton campus. The program also works to prepare future workers for the region (through required internships), to cultivate new American citizens, and to improve an inner-city neighborhood. Most important, the program is designed to offer students an affordable debt-free college education. As Mullen pointed out, “if there is no margin, there can’t be any mission,” and for this program, student access to federal Pell grants and New York State’s Tuition Assistance Program provide the necessary margin for both the students and the institution. Houghton intends to expand the program to additional communities in 2017 and 2018.

The panel concluded with a general discussion of the challenges involved in launching new programs that depart from traditional college business models. “You have to be willing to take risks,” said Holmgren, and be able to build campus support. Mullen, for example, described the initial resistance from trustees and faculty members to the “radical idea” of a non-residential program for immigrants—which she overcame by giving the faculty a large role in developing the initiative. In the end, said Alexander, “you have to be guided by faith in the transformative power of the liberal arts.”

Speakers Highlight Cost, Efficiency Advantages of Collaboration

Richard Ludwick presents from the podium with others speakers seated at the head table (F​rom right to left) Richard L. Ludwick, president and CEO of the Independent Colleges of Indiana; Don L. Francis, president of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Pennsylvania; Daniel W. Johnson, president of Wisconsin Lutheran College (not pictured); a​nd Elizabeth Davis, president of Furman University (SC), explored Collaboration to Reduce Costs, Increase Efficiencies, and Sharpen Identity.

Like a drop of water that sets ripples in motion, a president’s initiative in promoting collaborative opportunities can have a powerful effect throughout an institution, reducing costs, increasing efficiency, and sharpening identity. In a like-named session on collaboration, Richard L. Ludwick, president and CEO ​​of the Independent Colleges of Indiana (ICI), reminded the college and university presidents present that working together has long been a strategy for survival and, ultimately, success in human endeavors. Along with co-presenters Daniel W. Johnson, president of Wisconsin Lutheran University, and Elizabeth Davis, president of Furman University (SC), Ludwick provided a persuasive introduction for the timeliness of collaboration for independent colleges and universities.

Ludwick currently leads one of CIC’s 29 State Councils, state-based associations that can create, fund, and organize collaboration among members to achieve economies of scale that elude individual institutions. Scale also can be attractive to funders, a point that session chair Don L. Francis, president of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Pennsylvania, echoed. As a group, the panelists noted that collaboration can accelerate fundraising, garner legislative support, provide technological enhancements, and expand organizational capacity—including staffing for regulatory needs—while preserving the unique mission of each institution.

Johnson, whose college is a member of the Wisconsin Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, worked with fellow “badger” presidents to find collaborative opportunities, thanks to a grant from the Teagle Foundation that funded an initial feasibility study. “We put everything on the table,” said Johnson, adding that the secret to Wisconsin’s success was establishing a set of hard and fast principles they apply to every collaborative venture (see below).

Specific examples the panelists shared included boot camps for tech fluency, STEM curricula funded through a state grant, curriculum development for inclusive pedagogy and diversity, the Indiana Career Hub, IT operations, crime management staff, and Title IX coordinators.

Davis said that the president’s support is necessary but insufficient for initiatives to succeed. Capable leadership at the state or regional level is essential. Davis pointed out that corporate partners also can broker projects that benefit multiple institutions. Duke Energy, for example, has helped colleges and universities switch to new energy sources.

Panelists and participants pointed to other consortia, such as the Associated Colleges of the South (GA), the Higher Education Systems & Services Consortium, the Coalition for College Cost Savings (SC), and the Association for Collaborative Leadership, as other possible resources in addition to state coalitions.

As presidents consider new options, Johnson summarized the potential for collaborative ventures: “The future is what we can do together.”

Principles for Collaboration in Wisconsin

Daniel Johnson, president of Wisconsin Lutheran University, shared five principles that member presidents of the Wisconsin Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (WAICU) established for collaborative work.

  • Professionalism: Member presidents decided that a central WAICU staff with highly specialized expertise should be assembled to plan, implement, and manage all of the collaborative ventures and that the collaborative service would not be located at a member college.
  • Equality: WAICU, in creating and administering programs and in managing vendor relationships, requires equal treatment of all members from the largest to the smallest, the urban and the rural, those with large and small endowments. Cherry picking is strictly forbidden.
  • Due diligence: WAICU never endorses products and services without conducting professional “due diligence” and entering into a formal legally binding contract. These procedures assure members, trustees, alumni/ae, and others that there are no biases or conflicts of interest and protects WAICU’s reputation. Vendors unwilling to submit to the due diligence are dropped.
  • Independence: The decision on whether to participate in a particular collaborative venture is made by individual college and university presidents. The other presidents on the board have no say and no vote on who does or does not participate.
  • Priorities: The presidents set the priorities for projects to be implemented based on the magnitude of the savings to be achieved, the degree of interest demonstrated among WAICU members, and the centrality of the function to the continued viability and independence of the college or university.

Johnson added that WAICU now administers more than 40 collaborative programs, with cumulative, documentable savings of nearly $116 million. In 2015, total savings reached about $21.6 million, and colleges averaged savings of $865,641—with the range among the 24 member colleges from $0 to $4.2 million.

Sessions Explain Trends in Giving and How to Convince Skeptical Donors to Invest in Colleges

Two Presidents Institute sessions explored effective strategies to boost fundraising and new trends in the philanthropic landscape.

The Art of Persuasion

That relationship building is the foundation of successful fundraising is common sense. And that a session focused on “convincing skeptical donors to invest in your institution” draws a capacity crowd is unsurprising. But two highly skilled veterans of engaging potential donors and securing support for extraordinary campus projects and efforts, Robert R. Lindgren, president of Randolph-Macon College (VA), and Jake B. Schrum, president of Emory & Henry College (VA), quickly moved past the platitudes and shared insights on their time-proven strategies.

Lindgren, who previously served as a development officer for Johns Hopkins University and the University of Florida, stipulated that “all motivations to give require a relationship with the institution.” Consequently, he encouraged intense focus on providing engagement opportunities prior to even considering a request. And when approaching an individual he recommended that presidents “in conversations listen for clues about what a person may be interested in supporting,” make mental notes, and later write them down so they can be referenced down the road by saying, “You once told me this story, I think that relates to a project we are trying to get off the ground.” Although most presidents are skilled debaters and defenders of their institution and educational model, the great fundraisers, Lindgren noted, understand that “the key is to engage in true conversations because eventually you need to have a plan that ties the major donor to a specific purpose.” When presenting the plan, “paint a picture of what the institution will look like. Be specific, give examples, including of past donor support.” And afterward, “have a strong stewardship record. Tell donors as often as you can what changed because of their support.”

Lindgren believes opportunities to garner support are not as dire as often portrayed. “Our sector already has the highest alumni donor engagement. We are more nimble. We can try new things more easily.” Although there is a place for data, foremost presidents should be storytellers in chief. They need to have a compelling answer to why an institution exists, what it does, what its best attributes are, and what it could do. But ultimately “people are motivated by their emotional response to stories. Collect them, know them, tell them.”

Schrum, who began his career at the Yale Alumni Fund and Emory University followed by presidencies at Texas Wesleyan University and Southwestern University (TX), expanded on and illustrated the story-telling point. “Don’t worry about U.S. News and World Report rankings, that’s not a good GPS for fundraising. Instead, know your institutional saga.” He too encouraged participants to ask members of the campus community to tell potential donors their story about why they are at the college and how they got there. “With potential donors, make those stories compelling and share the ones to which the donor can relate.” Any pitch needs to paint the picture of how the institution is serving the community and that piece of land, “and always include a big surprise and a big idea about what else could be possible.” Ultimately, Schrum noted, be authentic, be yourself, “and try to be a role model for what your institutions stands for.” He summarized his decades of experience as 12 thoughts on presidential fundraising (see below).

Jake B. Schrum on Presidential Fundraising

  1. In the results-oriented business of fundraising, remember that the overarching goal is to develop genuine friendships.
  2. Even though presidents are trained to talk, listening is a better fundraising skill.
  3. Philanthropy is not simply about giving money, it is about “stewarding potential.”
  4. If you’re concerned that you won’t be successful, your concern probably will be well founded.
  5. Blind optimism can sometimes see more than you might imagine.
  6. If you stand in line too long for a gift you may be standing still.
  7. “Imagine abundance” but sometimes in ways that are counter-intuitive.
  8. If your gut tells you that someone is not a giver, you’re probably right; but not always.
  9. Make sure that bold and transformational flourish in tandem—rather than die, separately.
  10. Never underestimate the power of any gift that is given from the heart. 
  11. Even though our world and our needs are pressing, take time to cultivate (adapted from Marge Piercy’s poem, “The Seven of Pentacles”).
  12. The harvest may come, but not always on our watch.

Amir Pasic presents from the podium Amir Pasic, Eugene R. Tempel Dean, Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, related recent trends in giving.

Trends in Giving

In another well-attended session, Amir Pasic, Eugene R. Temple Dean of the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, shared recent research on the philanthropic landscape. Based on research conducted by the Lilly Family School and others, Pasic revealed key findings on what philanthropy looks like today.

  • Million-dollar giving around the globe continues to increase, with $56 billion given by 2,197 million-dollar-plus donors across the United Kingdom, United States, and Middle East (Gulf Cooperation Council) in 2015.
  • The United States leads in the number of million-dollar-plus donors, with most of them over the age of 50.
  • Individuals donate the majority of gifts in the United States. In 2015, individuals were responsible for 77 percent of contributions, followed by foundations (16 percent), bequests (9 percent), and corporations (5 percent).
  • Higher education is the primary beneficiary of million-dollar-plus individual giving in the United States.

Pasic revealed additional data on the impact of global economic forces, which showed that overall giving fluctuates with the S&P 500, although individual giving has remained fairly constant at about 2 percent of disposable income since 1975.

Data suggest that charitable motivations may be broadly categorized. Based on the 2016 U.S. Trust Study of High Net Worth Philanthropy, Pasic reported the top reasons donors sometimes or always give as:

  1. Belief in the mission of the organization (97.2 percent);
  2. Belief that their gift can make a difference (94.3 percent);
  3. To support the same cause or organization year after year (92.3 percent);
  4. To gain personal satisfaction, enjoyment, or fulfillment (90.8 percent);
  5. To give back to the community (88 percent); and
  6. Because they were asked to give (87.7 percent).

Motivations that were reported as less compelling included: to receive a tax benefit (70.4 percent) and board membership and volunteer status (52.1 percent). Finally, although online giving contributes just 7.1 percent of all giving, it is an expanding piece of the pie that has the potential to make giving more inclusive.

Institute Explores Results of New National Survey of Presidential Spouses and Partners

Six speakers present while seated at the head table Panelists (from left to right) J. Lawrence Smith and Pamela Gunter-Smith, presidential spouse and president, respectively, of York College of Pennsylvania; Daniel DiBiasio and Chris Burns-DiBiasio, president and presidential spouse, respectively, of Ohio Northern University; Gwendolyn H. Freed, chief development officer at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs of the University of Minnesota; and Darwin D. Hendel, associate professor in the College of Education and Human Development at the University of Minnesota, discussed findings from a new survey on the lives of presidential spouses.

Presidential spouses and partners are generally satisfied in their roles on campus, but they face lack of clarity in the definition of the role and different expectations of involvement on campus based on gender, revealed a national survey. Two Presidents Institute sessions explored the recently released results of this survey of presidential spouses and partners.

Diane Skomars Magrath and Roger Harrold from the University of Minnesota surveyed the spouses of presidents of state and land-grant colleges and universities in 1983 with the goal of understanding their characteristics, how they managed their multiple roles, and what the future held for them. The National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges (now the American Association of State Colleges and Universities) published the survey results in 1984 in a volume titled The President’s Spouse: Volunteer or Volunteered.

In 2015, Darwin D. Hendel, Karen F. Kaler, and Gwendolyn H. Freed, also from the University of Minnesota, updated the survey and expanded it to include spouses and partners from both public and private institutions. Their goals were to highlight the nature and scope of the role of presidential partner, the respondents’ engagement with the role, information about official presidential residences and their impact on partners, how presidential partners manage personal and professional pursuits, and the challenges faced by most partners.

Freed and Hendel brought the results of the survey to CIC’s 2017 Presidents Institute, with a presentation at the Welcoming Luncheon for presidential spouses and partners and a follow-up joint concurrent session for presidents and spouses and partners. (For the full report, released in December 2016, visit The Lives of Presidential Partners in Higher Education Institutions.)

With responses from 461 spouses and partners of presidents, this was, according to the researchers, the “largest and most diverse known sample of presidential partners to date.” The survey was the first to have enough male respondents to draw statistical comparisons by gender. Although the researchers looked at comparisons between presidential partners at public or private institutions, at institutions of different sizes, and at institutions in different parts of the country, Hendel reported, “the only variable that turned out to have statistically significant results for several of the items was, in fact, gender.”

Satisfaction levels of both male and female spouses and partners who responded to the survey were high, with 84 percent reporting they found the role satisfying, very satisfying, or extremely satisfying. Yet according to the report, “role ambiguity remains a significant issue for many partners, regardless of their gender or characteristics of the institutions in which they are situated.” Just under 25 percent of respondents agreed or strongly agreed with the statement “the responsibilities I would have were clarified for me prior to my partner accepting the position.” Panelists for the joint concurrent session—Daniel DiBiasio and Chris Burns-DiBiasio, president and presidential spouse, respectively, of Ohio Northern University; and Pamela Gunter-Smith and J. Lawrence Smith, president and presidential spouse, respectively, of York College of Pennsylvania—agreed that their experiences were consistent with the findings. Both spouses commented that the ambiguity had allowed them to shape their role to their own strengths, interests, and desire for involvement. Both couples on the panel also agreed that the key to satisfaction in the role was clarity of expectations between the president and the presidential spouse, a sentiment echoed by other experienced spouses and presidents in the session and by 92 percent of survey respondents.

Both male and female survey respondents felt that institutional expectations for their role were different based on gender. Sixty-four percent of female respondents and 78 percent of male respondents agreed or strongly agreed that this was the case. “Very often respondents, both male and female, would say that females were often expected to take more traditional roles or more responsibilities: hosting, supporting the spouse, cutting back other pursuits to make this a more central part of their lives,” Freed said, “Whereas the perspective was that males were less often expected to take an active role in campus life.”

The difference in expectations also was illustrated in the change in employment status of the spouse or partner when the other member of the couple became a president. More than half of female presidential partners reported that their employment status changed; only 34 percent of male presidential partners reported a change in employment status.

The full report contains many valuable comments from respondents as well as useful information and data. The survey results generated much discussion at the luncheon and the joint concurrent session, as well as during other parts of the Presidents Institute.