Workshops about the Future Conclude in Four Locations in 2017

​​CIC’s Securing America’s Future workshop series—eight highly interactive workshops to help member institutions prepare for the future more effectively—concluded this spring. Launched last fall and hosted by member campuses across the country, the final quartet of workshops took place at Morehouse College (GA) on January 26, St. Edward’s University (TX) on February 10, Webster University (MO) on March 14, and McDaniel College (MD) on April 18. The series engaged about 500 participants from more than 120 CIC member colleges and universities.

At each location, institutional teams met to discuss specific challenges and opportunities facing their institutions. They also began to develop concrete plans to extend the conversation about mission-driven change on their home campuses and to pursue specific innovation strategies that are particularly promising for their institutions. Presenters included leading education researchers, who reviewed the results of recent CIC-commissioned studies, and CIC member presidents with notable records of innovation on their campuses. The workshops were moderated by CIC Senior Fellow S. Georgia Nugent, who also presented data and resources designed to illustrate the value of independent colleges and universities.

One goal of the workshops, explained CIC President Richard Ekman, was to “help independent college leaders understand better the challenging trends facing higher education—and to recognize that trends are not destiny.”

A number of themes emerged from the workshops. The first echoed the findings presented in one of the research studies, Mission-Driven Innovation: An Empirical Study of Adaptation and Change among Independent Colleges: “Leaders of the nation’s independent colleges perceive significant challenges, but they are engaged in varied and aggressive change efforts on multiple fronts.” In workshop after workshop, participants revealed a wealth and diversity of innovations in revenue enhancement and resource allocation, student recruitment, expansion of athletics and other co-curricular activities, and the creative use of social media to attract and retain students, among other initiatives.

Two photos of presenters speaking from podiums
Workshop presenters included members of the Steering Committee for CIC’s Project on the Future of Independent Higher Education. From left to right: Cynthia Zane, president of Hilbert College (NY), focused on strategic collaborations during her presentation at St. Edward’s University (TX); Morehouse College (GA) President John S. Wilson and Brenau University (GA) President Ed Schrader shared innovations from their campuses at the More​house College workshop. (Right photo courtesy of Brenau University)

Among the examples of innovative initiatives, the University of Redlands (CA) actively recruits “mid-life students” who return to college to complete a degree or to change careers, and the university plans to partner with an assisted-living facility to offer courses and other programs that provide intergenerational interaction. At Bluffton University (OH), one trustee’s interest in risk management led to the development of the Risk Management Reference Center, a comprehensive resource for corporate risk management professionals, strategic planners, and business students. Adrian College (MI) buys an insurance policy that guarantees every graduate will find a job that pays at least $30,000 per year or Adrian will cover their student loans up to a certain amount. Mount Saint Mary’s University (CA) offers fully online degree programs in nursing and criminology to attract students in other states to the institution. California Lutheran University employs a videographer to tell the institution’s story vividly and measures the impact of digital messages on advancement and student recruitment. And Heidelberg University (OH) requires a co-curricular transcript that supports the liberal arts curriculum and demonstrates the clear connection between coursework, experiential learning, and such skills as problem solving and critical thinking.

A second theme to emerge from the workshops was the “alignment of institutions with regional economic development—providing a place where students can grow, learn, stay, and contribute to the local community and local businesses, and becoming an important part of the city, region, and state,” as voiced by Andrew Prall, vice president for academic affairs at the University of Saint Francis (IN). A number of participants discussed how their colleges have aligned institutional values with the needs of their community in creative ways. For example, Hartwick College (NY) has developed a Center for Craft Food and Beverage that involves faculty and students in the expanding regional craft beer industry by engaging in product-quality testing, water and soil testing, professional development workshops and courses, and research collaborations. On the other side of the country, Linfield College (OR) offers a number of programs in conjunction with the Oregon wine industry, including a historical archive and a yearlong program designed to help prepare liberal arts students for careers in the industry.

Two photos: 1. participants discussing topics at roundtables; 2. Georgia Nugent presenting from front of the room
(left) Teams of participants discussed challenges and opportunities to promote mission-driven change at their home institutions. (right) CIC Senior Fellow S. Georgia Nugent facilitated all of the Securing America’s Future workshops. (Photos courtesy of Webster University)

Nearly all participants rated the workshops as valuable or extremely valuable to their institutions. According to anonymous surveys conducted after each workshop, participants especially valued the specific examples of how other campuses are addressing common challenges, as well as the opportunity to “discuss larger issues [with their campus teams] instead of the daily little ‘fires’ that consume our energy and time on most days.” One participant concluded that it was an “opportunity to think through strategies for upholding mission while courageously stepping into new territory.”

CIC is following up with participants three months and six months after each workshop to learn more about the progress of campus discussions and activities to support change. CIC will then prepare a summary report to inform CIC members of the results and impact of the workshop series.

The workshops were generously supported by the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations, Endeavor Foundation, Lumina Foundation for Education, and the National Endowment for the Humanities.