Presidents to Explore ‘Leading Strategic Change’ at 2019 Institute

​Amid unprecedented challenges, how can presidents of independent colleges and universities lead strategic change effectively? During 2019 Presidents Institute sessions and workshops, presidents will explore how to provide deft, informed, and skillful direction for their institutions in an evolving environment.

CIC’s 2019 Presidents Institute will be held at the Westin Kierland hotel in Scottsdale, Arizona, January 4–7. The largest annual meeting of college and university presidents in the country, the Institute provides a forum for candid discussion of critical issues, opportunities to learn from experts, and time to network with colleagues who lead similar institutions.

Arizona’s Antelope Canyon
Like northern Arizona’s Antelope Canyon, independent colleges and universities have adapted over decades, even centuries, to environmental forces that reveal their high quality and durability.

Four plenary sessions will anchor the program. Keynote speaker Howard Gardner will discuss “Higher Education Today and Tomorrow: Lessons from New Research.” Gardner, professor of cognition and education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, is best known for his theory of multiple intelligences and his work with both Harvard Project Zero and the Good Project. He is now conducting a large-scale national study about the future of higher education and the arts and sciences and will present initial findings from his research publicly for the first time. Presidents will learn more about the different members of campus communities  and the alignment—or misalignments—between their views about the goals and the value of traditional higher education.

Jonathan Haidt, author of The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting up a Generation for Failure (2018) and The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion (2012), will address “Equipping a New Generation for Inclusion, Civility, and Understanding.” Haidt is a social psychologist, professor of ethical leadership at New York University Stern School of Business, and founder of the Heterodox Academy, a politically diverse group of faculty members who have come together to improve the quality of research and education in universities by increasing viewpoint diversity, mutual understanding, and constructive disagreement.

Presidents Institute plenary speaker Esther Brimmer, executive director and CEO of NAFSA: Association of International Educators, will address “Strategic Leadership  for Internationalization.” A veteran in international affairs and education, Brimmer served in the U.S. Department of State three times, most recently as assistant secretary of state for international organization affairs. She also served as professor at the George Washington University Elliott School of International Affairs and as deputy director and director of research at the Center for Transatlantic Relations at the Johns Hopkins University Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies. She is a member of the Department of Defense National Security Education Board.

During the closing plenary session on “Presidential Leadership for Strategic Change,” a panel of CIC presidents will discuss how they have guided their institutions to recognize and embrace the challenges and opportunities each has faced. The session will feature presidents Roger N. Casey of McDaniel College (MD), Helen G. Drinan of Simmons University (MA), and Billy C. Hawkins of Talladega College (AL), and will be moderated by Steven C. Bahls, president of Augustana College (IL).

The Institute’s optional afternoon workshops will provide hands-on opportunities for in-depth examination of topics:

  • During the January 5 workshop, “How to Adapt a College to New Conditions,” presidents will engage in interactive discussions to consider creative financial models that promise new efficiencies and engaging opportunities while staying true to institutional mission and identity. Barbara Farley, president of Illinois College, W. Joseph King, president of Lyon College (AR), and Brian C. Mitchell, principal of Academic Innovators and past president of Bucknell University (PA), will lead the session.
  • Also on January 5, the workshop, “Equipping Campuses, Classrooms, and Learners for Constructive Engagement of Diverse Viewpoints,” will build on some of the ideas presented in Jonathan Haidt’s plenary session earlier that day. Debra Mashek, executive director of the Heterodox Academy, along with two college presidents, Ronald A. Crutcher of University of Richmond (VA), and Daniele C. Struppa of Chapman University, will explore strategies to increase viewpoint diversity and open inquiry across different campus contexts. This session will include participant exercises and case studies.
  • The January 6 workshop, “Preparing for the Unexpected: Developing a Crisis Management and Communication Plan,” will provide presidents with the tools they need to respond to campus crises. Two presidents, David R. Anderson of St. Olaf College (MN) and Jody Horner of Midland University (NE), will share the lessons learned on their own campuses while Jennifer Hellman, COO and principal at Goff Public, will offer best practices in the field.
  • A post-Institute workshop on January 7 will offer ideas on “Making It Your Own: Nontraditional and Adaptive Approaches to Fundraising Campaigns.” Experienced fundraisers with entrepreneurial approaches will discuss how each institution and each leader can carve out a distinctive path to fundraising success. Workshop leaders will include Nancy Oliver Gray, senior consultant with Gonser Gerber LLP and president emerita of Hollins University (VA), Don Hasseltine, senior consultant with Aspen Leadership Group, Michele D. Perkins, president of New England College (NH), and Larry Stimpert, president of Hampden-Sydney College (VA).

headshots of all plenary speakers
Presidents Institute Plenary Speakers: Howard Gardner of the Harvard Graduate School of Education; Jonathan Haidt of the New York University Stern School of Business; Esther Brimmer of NAFSA: Association of International Educators; Roger N. Casey of McDaniel College (MD); Helen G. Drinan of Simmons University (MA); Billy C. Hawkins of Talladega College (AL); and moderator Steven C. Bahls of Augustana College (IL)

The 2019 Presidents Institute also will feature concurrent sessions on a range of practical approaches to presidential leadership, including the following:

  • Considerations for Higher Education Business Models;
  • Presidential Leadership and Innovative Strategies for Fiscal Stability and Growth;
  • Developing a Strategic Response to Enrollment Shifts;
  • Investing in Digital Technologies to Support Academic Success;
  • The Pivotal (and Perplexing) President-Board Relationship; and 
  • Fundraising by Presidential Couples.

As in previous years, the Presidents Institute will include three additional programs:

  • CIC’s annual New Presidents Program, held immediately prior to the Presidents Institute, provides the “need to know” tools and counsel that will help presidents in their first or second year stay on a smooth course.
  • CIC’s Presidents Governance Academy, also held immediately prior to the Presidents Institute, is an intensive and highly participatory two-day program for experienced CIC member presidents who wish to strengthen and sustain a high-performing board of trustees.
  • And developed by an advisory group of presidential spouses and partners, the Program for Presidential Spouses and Partners runs concurrently with the program for presidents and provides opportunities to share information and advice.

Additional information about and registration for the Presidents Institute and related programs are available online. The Institute registration and hotel reservation deadline is December 3, 2018.



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