2017 Presidents Institute to Emphasize Independent Colleges Are Right Path to Education for America’s Future

​Despite mounting evidence of the utility of an independent college education, presidents must continually cite the superior outcomes to prospective students and their parents, public officials, donors, and trustees. How can presidents demonstrate that a liberal arts education plays a key role in workforce development and America’s economic future? What choices should independent colleges and universities make to assure their vibrant futures—to keep them affordable, of high quality, and in demand? How can presidents lead their institutions with confidence that they are faithful to their distinctive missions, relentless in meeting high-quality educational standards, and accessible to the rich diversity of American society?

CIC’s 2017 Presidents Institute—the largest annual meeting of college and university presidents in the country—will explore these and other issues of presidential leadership, drawing on the lessons learned by experienced presidents and the perspectives of other distinguished speakers addressing the theme, “Education for America’s Future.” The Institute, to be held in Orlando, Florida, January 4–7, 2017, provides a forum for candid discussion of critical issues, opportunities to learn from experts, and occasions to network with presidential colleagues who lead similar institutions.

Plenary Sessions

Kevin Warren headshotKeynote speaker Kevin M. Warren, president of Xerox Corporation’s Commercial Business Group, will discuss the role of independent colleges in meeting America’s workforce needs. Warren was named one of the top 100 most influential black executives in corporate America by Savoy Magazine and one of the 75 most powerful executives in America by Black Enterprise. He received his BS in finance from Georgetown University and is an alumnus of Harvard Business School’s Advanced Management Program. Warren serves as a trustee of Georgetown University where he also chairs the audit committee.

Sherry Turkle headshotAcclaimed author and MIT scholar, Sherry Turkle, will address the importance of conversation in teaching and learning despite students’ reliance on technology, drawing on insights from her most recent book, Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talking in a Digital Age (2015). Turkle is Abby Rockefeller Mauzé Professor of the Social Studies of Science and Technology and founder and director of the MIT Initiative on Technology and Self at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She is an expert on culture and therapy, mobile technology, social networking, and sociable robotics.

James Stewart headshotNoted columnist James B. Stewart will consider the enduring value of an independent college education for America’s future. Stewart is a New York Times columnist, staff writer for the New Yorker, and author of nine books, included multiple national bestsellers. He has received numerous awards for outstanding journalism and writing in recent years, including the Gerald Loeb Award for commentary in 2016, and won a Pulitzer Prize in 1988 for articles on the 1987 stock market crash. He received his bachelor’s degree in French and political science from DePauw University (IN), where he is a trustee, and his JD from Harvard Law School.

During the closing plenary session, panelists will discuss presidential strategies for transformational leadership and campus turnarounds, tackling questions such as “What strategies can presidents employ to transform their institutions in the midst of the uncertain future facing independent higher education today,” and “how do presidents decide which challenges to tackle and which opportunities to pursue?” Three experienced college presidents will lead a spirited discussion based on lessons learned from their own campus transformations, moderated by one of the nation’s leading higher education journalists.
Jeffrey Docking headshotJeffrey R. Docking has been president of Adrian College (MI) since 2005. Since that time he has transformed Adrian from a struggling institution of fewer than 900 students to nearly 1,700 students, the college’s budget has increased from $28.4 million to over $70.3 million, and the endowment has doubled to over $53 million. He is the author of Crisis in Higher Education: A Plan to Save Small Liberal Arts Colleges in America (2015). Docking serves on the steering committee for CIC’s Project on the Future of Independent Higher Education.

Walter Kimbrough headshotWalter M. Kimbrough became president of Dillard University (LA) in 2012, having previously served for eight years as president of Philander Smith College (AR). When he took over the helm of Dillard, the university was in the midst of a recovery from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, which resulted in over $400 million in damages to the campus and an enrollment decline of 60 percent. To help determine the future direction of the university, Kimbrough conducted 200 interviews with campus personnel in his first year as president. He serves on the steering committee for CIC’s Project on the Future of Independent Higher Education.

Elizabeth Kiss headshotElizabeth Kiss began her tenure as president of Agnes Scott College (GA) in 2006. Following stagnant enrollment and a steep reduction in faculty and staff members in the aftermath of the 2008 recession, she led the college on a transformational plan that brought together the faculty and trustees to refocus the traditional liberal arts women’s college on leadership and global awareness. Fall 2015 brought the college the largest entering class in its history. Earlier, Kiss was the Nannerl O. Keohane Director of the Kenan Institute for Ethics and an associate professor at Duke University.

Scott Jaschik headshotPanel moderator Scott Jaschik is editor and one of three founders of Inside Higher Ed. He co-leads the editorial operations of the online publication, overseeing news content, opinion pieces, career advice, blogs, and other features. He writes on higher education issues and his articles have appeared in publications such as the New York Times, Boston Globe, and Washington Post. He was editor of the Chronicle of Higher Education from 1999 to 2003. Jaschik received his bachelor’s degree from Cornell University.

Presidential Forum on Diversity and Inclusion

The Institute will offer a special Presidential Forum on Diversity and Inclusion to address the role of college and university presidents in shaping a diverse and inclusive campus. In a society increasingly polarized by race, political affiliation, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, and other markers of identity, academic communities are asked to be centers of inquiry about genuine differences, spaces where students are safe from attack, and venues for free expression. Concerns about inequity and injustice often arrive at the president’s office, sometimes in the form of demands or demonstrations. Leading the discussion will be several CIC presidents with experience on these issues: Nancy Oliver Gray of Hollins University (VA); Dennis H. Holtschneider, CM of DePaul University (IL); Marvin Krislov of Oberlin College (OH); Lester C. Newman of Jarvis Christian College (TX); and Thomas R. Rochon of Ithaca College (NY).

Afternoon Workshops

In addition, optional workshops will provide hands-on opportunities for more in-depth consideration of key topics:
  • The workshop, “Thriving Institutions: New Lessons from Research and Practice,” will consider the elements that contribute to institutional success. The workshop will draw upon research that involved more than 700 college and university leaders as well as case studies of presidents who exercised bold leadership in areas such as strategic planning, partnerships, teaching, and student success. Participants will compare measures of thriving on their own campus and will learn from others about strategies to improve outcomes.
  • The workshop, “Make It Personal: Building Emotional Connections and Brand Engagement,” will use college and university case studies as well as lessons from corporate branding efforts to cover the nuances behind effective brand architecture and implementation. The session will provide valuable insights for presidents whose institutions are at both nascent and advanced stages of their own branding efforts.

Concurrent Sessions

The Institute also will feature concurrent sessions on a range of practical approaches to presidential leadership, including:
  • From Learning to Life: The Long-Term Impact of Liberal Arts Education;
  • The Financial and Strategic Outlook for Private Colleges;
  • How Presidents Can Lead a Digital Culture for Student Success; and
  • What Presidents Need to Know about Title IX: Ensuring Compliance and Avoiding Pitfalls.
As in previous years, the Presidents Institute will include the CIC New Presidents Program, the Presidents Governance Academy (see below), and the Program for Presidential Spouses and Partners.
All program sessions will take place at the Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek Hotel. The registration deadline is December 5, 2016. Additional information about the 2017 Presidents Institute is available online.

Presidents Governance Academy


January 3–4, 2017 • Orlando, Florida
Immediately preceding the 2017 Presidents Institute
CIC’s Presidents Governance Academy is a two-day program for experienced college presidents who wish to strengthen and sustain a high-performing board of trustees. The Academy provides the opportunity to learn time-tested and new approaches to ensure supportive relations with the board and its leaders and to improve board composition, organization, and effectiveness.

The Academy is led by Richard T. (Tom) Ingram, CIC senior advisor for president-board relations and former president of the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges, and Richard J. Cook, president emeritus of Allegheny College (PA). Thanks to support from the Henry Luce Foundation, the registration fee is only $400.

Learn more about the 2017 Presidents Governance Academy.