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. 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 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.

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).

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 presented by Robert Maginn, chairman and chief executive officer.

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, explained how colleges can “reclaim the conversation” in the academy.

Institute Coverage

In addition to the four plenary sessions, the Independent’s Special Report on the 2017 President Institute, released in February, summarized several concurrent sessions (see below). Read the full coverage of the Institute. Videos of the plenary sessions and banquet addresses as well as presentations and hand​outs from many Institute sessions are available online.

  • Presidents Seek Guidance in Forum on Inclusion, Session on Protecting Undocumented Students
    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. A Presidential Forum on Diversity and Inclusion included observations from college and university presidents who have encountered concerns about inequity, injustice, diversity, inclusion, or free expression on their campuses. A session on legal issues examined the status of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and other immigration issues that can affect campuses.
  • Panelists Share Solutions to Reduce College Costs for Students
    The leaders of three colleges described diverse ways to reduce the cost of college for students and their families: 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.
  • Speakers Highlight Cost, Efficiency Advantages ​of Collaboration
    Panelists shared ways in which initiatives in promoting collaborative opportunities—such as through state-based associations—can have a powerful effect throughout an institution, reducing costs, increasing efficiency, and sharpening identity.
  • 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. In one session, two highly skilled veterans of engaging potential donors and securing support for extraordinary campus projects shared insights on their time-proven strategies. Another session explored recent research on the giving landscape and what philanthropy looks like today.
  • Institute Explores Results of New National Survey of Presidential Spouses and Partners
    Two sessions explored the results of a national survey of presidential spouses and partners that showed that these campus leaders are generally satisfied in their roles on campus, but they often lack clarity in the definition of the role and face differences in the expectations of their involvement based on gender.

Mark your calendars! 2018 Presidents Institute, January 4-7, Marco Island, Florida