Winter Seminar Engages 2017–2018 Presidential Vocation and Institutional Mission Participants

“This was one of the most distinctive and important professional development opportunities of my career,” remarked Christopher Gage, special assistant to the president and director of strategic planning at Hanover College (IN). Gage is one of 20 senior administrators who participated in the 2017–2018 Presidential Vocation and Institutional Mission program for prospective presidents. During the program’s second seminar, held February 26–27 in Peachtree City, Georgia, these senior leaders and their spouses or partners worked to clarify their own sense of personal vocation, or “calling,” and to weigh it in the context of the missions of institutions they might lead in the future.

In both large- and small-group settings over the two-day seminar, participants used background readings as the starting point for discussions. For example, participants read an excerpt from Robert N. Bellah’s Habits of the Heart: Individualism and Commitment in American Life as a way to discuss the alignment of vocation and mission for the institution and for the individual. Participants also reflected on the poetry of Louise Erdrich, Robert Hayden, Langston Hughes, and others as vehicles for considering their own next steps.

Experienced college and university presidents and presidential spouses served as program facilitators. They not only guide the seminar discussions but serve as year-long mentors to program participants between seminars. Facilitators included Joel and Trudy Cunningham, vice chancellor emeritus and former presidential spouse, respectively, of Sewanee: The University of the South (TN); Donna Carroll, president of Dominican University (IL); Rosemary Ohles, presidential spouse of Nebraska Wesleyan University; and Tim and Mary Ellen Summerlin, retired president and presidential spouse, respectively, of Schreiner University (TX). Frederik Ohles, president of Nebraska Wesleyan University and CIC senior advisor, has led the program since 2016.

Robert M. Franklin, president emeritus, Morehouse College (GA), and James T. and Berta R. Laney Professor of Moral Leadership at Emory University, served as guest scholar-in-residence. The highlight of his participation was a dinner speech on the “Key Joys and Significant Limitations of the College Presidency.” Franklin recalled the moment he decided he would attend Morehouse College; it was when he, then a young boy in Chicago, watched on television the eulogy for Martin Luther King, Jr. being led by the Morehouse president on that campus. That president, Benjamin Elijiah Mays, thought college should be a liberal arts academy producing good citizens and moral leaders. Franklin reminded participants of the importance of their work on college and university campuses by rooting this personal anecdote in the words of Alexis de Tocqueville, “The greatness of America lies not in being more enlightened than any other nation, but rather in her ability to repair her faults.”

Robert Franklin presents from a podium to participants eated at tables
Robert M. Franklin, president emeritus, Morehouse College (GA), and James T. and Berta R. Laney Professor of Moral Leadership at Emory University, discussed the “Key Joys and Significant Limitations of the College Presidency.”

The CIC program is founded on the principle that presidential leadership is strengthened by a congruence of institutional mission and presidential vocation. Program participants will continue to work with their mentors over the next few months to bring further clarity to their own personal vocation and consider future professional opportunities.

“The Presidential Vocation and Institutional Mission program has had a profound impact on my consideration of and journey toward the presidency. Thank you for the opportunity,” remarked Shai L. Butler, vice president for student success and engagement at the College of Saint Rose (NY).

A generous grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. has funded the program since its inception and will continue to do so for four more program years. CIC recently selected 20 participants, many with spouses or partners, for the ninth offering of the Presidential Vocation and Institutional Mission program for prospective presidents in 2018–2019. The summer seminar will take place at the Woodstock Inn on July 8–11, 2018, in Woodstock, Vermont. The winter seminar will be held February 25–26, 2019, at the Emory Conference Center in Atlanta, Georgia. To date, 161 senior administrators of CIC member institutions have completed the year-long program, and 52—an impressive 33 percent of participants—have since been appointed to presidencies. View more information.



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