2016 Presidents Institute Explored Vitality of Independent Colleges

Two photos: Roger W. Ferguson, Jr., of TIAA, speakign from podium; Frank Bruni of the New York Times speaking from podium
(left) Roger W. Ferguson, Jr., of TIAA, and (right) Frank Bruni of the New York Times

With the largest participation in the Institute’s history and a stimulating and substantive program, CIC’s 2016 Presidents Institute took place in Miami Beach, Florida, January 4–7. Focusing on the theme, “Securing America’s Future: The Vitality of Independent Colleges,” sessions highlighted the strengths and contributions of independent colleges and reinforced the key messages of CIC’s campaign for the liberal arts.
The Institute drew a record number of presidents (382) and a total registration of 856 people, and it also was one of the largest gatherings of spouses and partners (190) ever. The Institute welcomed leaders from several international member institutions, including participants from France, Iraq, Lithuania, Morocco, Switzerland, and the United Arab Emirates. And for the second year, the Institute hosted a delegation of private university rectors and higher education leaders from Mexico.
Roger W. Ferguson, Jr., president and CEO of TIAA, delivered the keynote address on the president’s role in leading transformational change in independent colleges and universities. In a plenary session moderated by Holiday Hart McKiernan, chief of staff and general counsel of the Lumina Foundation, a panel of innovative CIC presidents—Esther L. Barazzone of Chatham University (PA), Paul J. LeBlanc of Southern New Hampshire University, Elizabeth J. Stroble of Webster University (MO), and John S. Wilson, Jr. of Morehouse College (GA)—considered how independent higher education is responding to disruptive changes in society and the academy without compromising the core characteristics of independent colleges that have assured the delivery of a high-quality education for decades.
In a well-received session, “What Matters in College: The Vital Role of Independent Colleges,” Frank Bruni, New York Times op-ed columnist and author of Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be: An Antidote to the College Admissions Mania (2015), discussed why independent colleges and universities deserve serious consideration by prospective students and their families. In the closing plenary session, “Campus Civility and First Amendment Freedoms: Presidential Leadership in a Pluralistic Society,” panelists addressed the role of presidents in shaping their campus cultures, balancing the competing claims of political correctness and freedom of speech, and helping society learn from and respect the increasing diversity on campus and in the world. Panelists included Eboo Patel, founder and president of Interfaith Youth Core and author of Sacred Ground: Pluralism, Prejudice, and the Promise of America (2013); Ken Starr, president and chancellor of Baylor University (TX) and former solicitor general of the United States; Eileen B. Wilson-Oyelaran, president of Kalamazoo College (MI); and as moderator, Sanford J. Ungar, distinguished scholar in residence at Georgetown University, who has been president of Goucher College (MD), director of Voice of America, and host of NPR’s All Things Considered.

Four panelists seated on stage
Panelists Sanford J. Ungar of Goucher College (MD), Eileen B. Wilson-Oyelaran of Kalamazoo College (MI), Ken Starr of Baylor University (TX), and Eboo Patel of Interfaith Youth Core

In conjunction with the Presidents Institute, CIC also hosted the New Presidents Program that included spouses and partners; the Presidents Governance Academy; and the Presidential Spouses and Partners Program.
During the annual awards banquet, CIC presented the 2016 Award for Philanthropy (Individuals) to O. Jay and Patricia Tomson, a couple who has given generously to three colleges—Wartburg College (IA), Luther College (IA), and St. Olaf College (MN). CIC presented the 2016 Award for Philanthropy (Organization) to the Corella and Bertram F. Bonner Foundation, which has created the largest privately funded, service-based college scholarship program in the nation. Accepting the award on behalf of the foundation was Robert Hackett, president of the Bonner Foundation, accompanied by Kenneth Kunzman, chair of the Bonner Foundation’s board of trustees. CIC presented the 2016 Allen P. Splete Award for Outstanding Service, supported by Jenzabar, to W. Robert Connor. Connor is a classics scholar and former president of the Teagle Foundation and the National Humanities Center; he has developed and championed numerous initiatives to take student learning to a higher level.

Chris Kimball, Richard Ekman, and Robert Maginn present W. Robert Connor with the Allen P. Splete Award
California Lutheran University President Chris Kimball and CIC President Richard Ekman (far left and right) presented the 2016 Allen P. Splete Award for Outstanding Service to W. Robert Connor (center left). The award was sponsored by Jenzabar, represented by Robert Maginn, president and CEO (center right).


For full coverage of the 2016 Presidents Institute, including the articles below, visit www.cic.edu/2016PI-Independent. Videos of the plenary sessions as well as resources from many Institute sessions and the awards banquet are available at www.cic.edu/2016PresidentsInstituteResources.
  • Leading Organizational Transformation in a Changing Economy
    Roger W. Ferguson, Jr., urged presidents of smaller independent colleges and universities to communicate continually about change, leverage the unique strengths of their institutions, and favor incremental over discontinuous change.
  • Forging the Future: Emerging Approaches for Independent Higher Education
    CIC presidents Esther L. Barazzone, Paul J. LeBlanc, Elizabeth J. Stroble, and John S. Wilson, Jr., discussed how they have led transformation at their institutions.
  • Making a Robust Case for “The Vital Role of Independent Colleges”
    Frank Bruni shared his research on how many kinds of colleges—including smaller liberal arts colleges—can serve as ideal springboards to a lifetime of success and fulfillment.
  • Campus Civility and First Amendment Freedoms—Leading in a Pluralistic Society
    Sanford J. Ungar, Eileen B. Wilson-Oyelaran, Ken Starr, and Eboo Patel explored the role independent colleges play in developing citizens who embrace the exchange of ideas in an atmosphere of civility and keep democracy robust.
  • Examining Institutional Transformation, New Models, and Research on Pressing Questions
    Several Institute sessions addressed the work of CIC’s Project on the Future of Independent Higher Education and featured presentations by members of the project’s Steering Committee on institutional transformation, new business models, and research.
  • Making College Affordable for Students
    Two Institute sessions—a panel discussion and a workshop—explored the pressures presidents face and strategies they pursue to ensure that a private college education becomes more affordable.
  • Maintaining Financial Vitality in Challenging Times
    Lenders and financial advisors, an executive from Moody’s, and four college presidents offered strategies to improve an institution’s credit rating, plan future investments, and include faculty and staff members more effectively in the financial decision-making process.
  • Presidential Spouses and Partners Explore How to Fundraise, Balance Professional and Family Needs
    The 2016 Presidential Spouses and Partners Program—the oldest and largest program of its kind in the country—examined diverse topics and shared information and advice.

Education for America's Future