‘Healthy Institutions, Strong Leaders’ Is Focus of 2020 Presidents Institute

How can independent college presidents guide their institutions to adapt and thrive amid the opportunities and challenges that higher education faces today? During 2020 Presidents Institute sessions and workshops, presidents will explore strategies they can deploy with confidence to produce strong and healthy institutions.

Providing a forum for candid discussion of mutual areas of interest, opportunities to learn from experts, and time to network with colleagues, the 2020 Institute will take place January 4–7 at the JW Marriott Marco Island hotel in Marco Island, Florida. CIC’s premier and long-standing event is the largest annual meeting of college and university presidents in the country.

headshots of three plenary speakers
2020 Presidents Institute plenary speakers Nathan D. Grawe of Carleton College; Elizabeth Alexander of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; and Jonathan McBride of BlackRock.

Four plenary sessions will anchor the program, beginning with keynote speaker Nathan D. Grawe’s session “Demographics, Demand, and Destiny: Implications for the Health of Independent Institutions.” Grawe, Ada M. Harrison Distinguished Teaching Professor of the Social Sciences at Carleton College, projected significant shortages of students in the near future in his 2018 book, Demographics and the Demand for Higher Education. He will discuss how CIC colleges and universities are likely to be affected by the approaching demographic shifts and propose strategies they can implement to ensure optimal enrollment in the future.

Elizabeth Alexander, president of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation—the nation’s largest foundation funder of the arts and humanities in higher education—will address “Strengthening Higher Education through a Renewed Commitment to the Arts and Humanities.” In her talk, Alexander will make the case for the value of a liberal arts education and suggest ways that presidents can advocate effectively for its importance in an increasingly career-minded environment. Alexander is a poet, memoirist, and educator. She was twice a Pulitzer Prize finalist, is a recipient of the Jackson Poetry Prize, and, in 2009, she composed and delivered a poem for the inauguration of President Barack Obama.

Plenary speaker Jonathan McBride, managing director and global head of inclusion and diversity at BlackRock, will address “The Future of Work: Preparing Graduates for Diverse, Purpose-Driven Workplaces.” McBride served as the director of the Office of Presidential Personnel in the White House and chief strategy officer at Universum, and he co-founded Jungle Media Group. Drawing on his own liberal arts education and on his diverse work experiences, he will help presidents consider how to prepare their students for a variety of careers.

During the closing plenary session on “Presidential Leadership for Healthy Institutions,” presidents of CIC colleges and universities will discuss how they have guided their institutions along sustainable paths amid unprecedented challenges, candidly sharing what has worked and what has not. The session will feature panelists James M. Dennis of McKendree University (IL), Mary Dana Hinton of the College of Saint Benedict (MN), and Lawrence M. Schall of Oglethorpe University (GA), and will be moderated by Marjorie Hass of Rhodes College (TN).

headshots of four panel speakers
2020 Presidents Institute plenary panelists James M. Dennis of McKendree University (IL); Mary Dana Hinton of the College of Saint Benedict (MN); and Lawrence M. Schall of Oglethorpe University (GA); and moderator Marjorie Hass of Rhodes College (TN).

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

  • During the January 5 workshop, “Understanding Compliance Risk: How to Protect Your Institution and Your Job,” two higher education attorneys and a seasoned college president will lead a discussion on best practices for managing institutional compliance risk. Thomas J. Botzman, president of Misericordia University (PA), will co-lead the discussion with Steptoe & Johnson PLLC’s Susan Llewellyn Deniker, attorney and labor and employment practice group chair, and Jim Newberry, attorney and higher education practice team chair.

  • Also on January 5, the workshop, “Change, Risk, and Relevance: New Lessons from Thriving Institutions,” will feature case studies from three presidents who are leading their institutions through transformational change—Mary Schmidt Campbell of Spelman College (GA), Travis Feezell of Hastings College (NE), and Kim S. Phipps of Messiah College (PA). Joretta S. Nelson and Emma Jones of Credo will offer insights into the critical elements that contributed to these success stories.

  • The January 6 workshop, “Owning Your Future: Transforming Your Institution by Playing to Strengths,” will help presidents consider new approaches to innovation at their institution through the exploration of case studies, analytic tools, and group work. Workshop leaders will include presidents Martha A. Burger of Oklahoma City University, Helen G. Drinan of Simmons University (MA), and Dennis M. Hanno of Wheaton College (MA), along with Peter Stokes, managing director of higher education at Huron.

  • “Tuition Pricing Considerations: Is a Reset Right for Your Institution?” will be led by Laura Casamento, president of Utica College (NY), Sharon Latchaw Hirsh, president of Rosemont College (PA), and Lucie Lapovsky, former president of Mercy College (NY) and principal of Lapovsky Consulting. This January 6 workshop will consider various approaches to setting tuition price, including dramatic resets. It also will explore data analysis from more than 30 colleges that have lowered tuition, as well as best practices for implementing a price reset successfully.

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

  • Using Data to Integrate Enrollment, Student Success, and Alumni Engagement;
  • Approaches to Civic Engagement and Collaboration with the Local Community;
  • Benchmarks for Institutional Health;
  • Documenting and Promoting the Labor Market Outcomes of the Liberal Arts;
  • Focusing the Board on Strategic Priorities; and
  • Strategies for Mergers, Acquisitions, and Teach-Outs.

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

  • CIC’s New Presidents Program, held January 3–4, 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.

  • The Presidents Governance Academy, also held January 3–4, 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 the Program for Presidential Spouses and Partners, developed by an advisory group of 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 2, 2019.