New Report of Innovations at CIC Colleges Provides Practical Resource for Campus Leaders

​A new CIC report, Innovation and the Independent College: Examples from the Sector, highlights hundreds of mission-driven innovations at CIC member institutions and serves as a practical resource for academic leaders to implement change on campuses.

Independent colleges and universities have engaged in a wide variety of creative strategies that are transforming higher education. The report explores eight areas of opportunity for innovation, devoting one section to each of these opportunities:

  • Athletics;
  • Career Connections;
  • Community Engagement;
  • Consortial Arrangements;
  • Cost Containment;
  • Curricular Reform;
  • New Academic Programs; and
  • New Student Populations.

For example, to enhance student recruitment and retention, some colleges have re-examined their commitment to athletics. Adrian College (MI) increased enrollment significantly by creating a business model built on leveraging athletics and other co-curricular activities, and Brenau University (GA) increased the number of enrolled students by adding several new junior varsity teams.

Three students in lab coats measuree a sample with a professor
Drew University’s (NJ) RISE program offers undergraduates a distinctive opportunity to conduct research under the supervision of retired research scientists. (Photo credit: Drew University)

To prepare graduates for successful entry into the labor market, Concordia University Texas created an Incubator for Innovation and Impact, developed partnerships with local businesses, placed students in internships throughout the community, invited businesses to rent university space, provided professional development programs for students, and brought career services together with the academic program.

CIC institutions have formed regional consortia, academic partnerships, and ongoing relationships with local industries and universities abroad to enrich the academic experience for students, enhance purchasing power, lower construction and maintenance costs, and stretch personnel budgets. In response to the expanding craft brewing industry in upstate New York, Hartwick College (NY) created a Center for Craft Food and Beverage that provides testing, research, and technical assistance to farmers who want to cultivate beer-related crops, such as malting barley and grains, and to other small businesses, such as craft maltsters, who process the relevant farm products. Similarly, Linfield College (OR) has an evolving partnership with the local viniculture industry that includes establishing a wine industry archive, an annual international celebration of pinot noir, and summer programs that engage students in the wine industry.

CIC colleges and universities also have found creative ways to contain costs. The University of Charleston (WV) joined with seven other colleges to share hardware, software, and technical personnel, saving $1 million initially and hundreds of thousands of dollars each year since. Hilbert College (NY) formed a health benefits trust with other colleges and universities that became the largest purchaser of health care in the region. Moravian College (PA) and Augustana College (IL), among others, have eliminated dining hall trays to reduce water, energy, and food waste. And St. Lawrence University (NY) persuaded athletic coaches to use the same purchasing source for all uniforms.

Faculty members on many CIC campuses are creating distinctive curricula. At Dominican University of California, for example, they first created an integrated advising model that includes self-directed work on a signature project, building relationships with community members, and development of a digital portfolio. The faculty then re-aligned the curriculum to match the new emphases. Bethany College (WV) developed a distinctive general education program that emphasizes mission-consistent discovery, reflection, and vocation; servant leadership; global citizenship; and sustainable living. Goucher College (MD) replaced distribution requirements with an integrative interdisciplinary program built around inquiry-based learning.

CIC institutions also have introduced many new areas of study in response to students’ interests and labor force needs. Among them are programs in media and film, data analytics, leadership, cybersecurity, nursing, and criminal justice.

Still other colleges and universities are reaching out in new ways to previously underserved student populations, whether to boost enrollments, develop new sources of revenue, honor a commitment to social justice, or respond to regional population changes. Many CIC members have developed transfer-friendly policies and procedures to recruit community college transfer students. Others offer “yellow ribbon” scholarships to attract veterans. Webster (MO), Drew (NJ), and St. Edward’s (TX) universities, among others, have developed partnerships with international universities to provide study abroad opportunities to both American and international students. CIC institutions also offer special programs designed to attract students of diverse faiths, students whose families are in the lowest socio-economic levels, inner city African American students, older students, and high school students.

Two photos: 1. Three students examine a video camera lens; 2. Aerial view of Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute with two large satelite dishes
(left) An Augustana College (IL) student traveled from coast to coast over the summer as an intern with the Fresh Films crew. (Photo credit: Augustana College) (right) Brevard College (NC) partners with the Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute (PARI) to provide hands-on educational and research opportunities for students in STEM disciplines. (Photo credit: PARI)

The report references innovative practices and programs shared by colleges and universities during CIC’s eight Securing America’s Future workshops, which were funded by the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations, Endeavor Foundation, Carnegie Corporation of New York, Lumina Foundation for Education, National Endowment for the Humanities, and TIAA Institute. Hosted by CIC member presidents on campuses across the nation in 2016–2017, about 500 campus leaders from 121 CIC member institutions participated in the workshops. The workshops aimed to help member institutions prepare for the future more effectively and become more actively engaged in promoting the value of the liberal arts and of independent colleges and universities. Detailed evaluations conducted after each workshop as well as at three- and six-month intervals following the workshops revealed that nearly every institution that participated in a workshop had taken some subsequent action to develop new strategic initiatives.

“All eight workshops were stimulating as campus leaders shared what had succeeded, what had been unsuccessful, and the reasons why. By the end of each day, every person in the room was able to take home new ideas worth investigating further and a network of new colleagues with whom future candid exchange would be possible. Reading this report is likely to stimulate fresh thinking about many dimensions of the college,” said CIC President Richard Ekman. “The report provides clear evidence that independent colleges and universities are leaders in innovation.”

CIC mailed print copies of the report to member presidents and chief academic officers in March; the report also is available as a PDF and on the CIC website. The digital formats are designed to enable campus leaders to share separate modules of the report with trustees, committees, task forces, or other groups that might be aided in their efforts to lead change on campuses.

CIC institutions that would like to share innovations not already listed in the report are welcome to submit information online. These examples may be added to the website version of the report later.