Presidents Explore Resilient Leadership during CIC’s First Virtual Presidents Institute; Resources Available

Under the theme “Presidential Leadership: Courageous, Resilient, Inclusive,” CIC’s 51st annual Presidents Institute, the first to be held virtually, took place January 4–7, 2021. The program probed a wide range of topics, such as which leadership strategies are emerging as most effective in the current environment; how presidents can encourage more diverse and inclusive campuses; and how decision-making processes are adapting to make possible rapid and high-stakes decisions.

The program began and ended with reflections on the leadership of institutions in times of crisis and change—opening with a keynote dialogue between Danielle Allen of Harvard University and CIC President Richard Ekman on ethical considerations for presidential leadership in a fragile democracy. After three days of conversation, a plenary panel with presidents Roslyn Clark Artis of Benedict College (SC), J. Bradley Creed of Campbell University (NC), Joan M. Lescinski, CSJ of St. Ambrose University (IA), and Paul C. Pribbenow of Augsburg University (MN), addressed how courageous, resilient, and inclusive leadership will help institutions thrive in a post-coronavirus era. In a middle plenary session, Robert Zemsky of the University of Pennsylvania, co-author of The College Stress Test (2020), discussed “Presidential Leadership in a Time of Market Stress.”

In addition to a full array of concurrent sessions, the Institute offered several confidential sessions for presidents: the forum “Reckoning with Race on Campus”; sessions on “Why the Pandemic Is an Opportunity to Strengthen Shared Governance” and “Presidential Approaches to Promoting Diversity and Inclusion”; a presidents’ “Open Mic”; and a session added to the program just hours after rioters attacked the U.S. Capitol building on January 6: “What Do Yesterday’s Events Mean for Your Campus?”

The Institute’s virtual nature made it easier for the program to pivot in response to current events and enabled a large number of presidents to participate, comparable to recent in-person Institutes, despite the pandemic and travel restrictions. This year, 354 presidents and 60 spouses and partners registered for the Institute, reaching a grand total of 664 participants.

View the Independent’s special coverage of the 2021 Presidents Institute. In addition, video recordings, presentation slides, and documents from many of the sessions at CIC’s 2021 Presidents Institute are available on the Presidents Institute virtual platform. Registered Institute participants have access to these resources free of charge until December 15, 2021. CIC member presidents who did not register for the Institute itself may purchase access to the digital resources. If you need assistance with registering to receive these resources, please contact Sherita Ashmon, CIC conference manager, at

Screen capture of webinar