ELA and SLA Closing Seminars Celebrate Transitions, Discuss Key Issues

Both the 2016–2017 Executive Leadership Academy (ELA) and Senior Leadership Academy (SLA) closed out a successful year in June with a final seminar and a celebration of transitions in Washington, DC (for the participant lists, see below). The yearlong programs prepare campus leaders for advancement to the next level of college and university administration. The ELA is co-sponsored by CIC, the American Academic Leadership Institute (AALI), and the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU); and the SLA is co-sponsored by CIC and AALI.

This year’s closing seminars included farewells to Tom Kepple, retiring president of AALI and former president of Juniata College (PA), and welcome greetings to Linda Bleicken, incoming AALI president and former president of Armstrong State University. Kepple had directed the leadership development programs as president of AALI since 2013. Bleicken began directing the programs in July.

ELA participants also congratulated their colleagues Brett Bradfield and Lynn M. Morton for their advancement to presidencies during their ELA year. Bradfield became president of the University of Sioux Falls (SD), where he formerly served as provost and vice president for academic affairs; Morton was selected president of Warren Wilson College (NC) after serving as provost and vice president for academic affairs at Queens University of Charlotte (NC). Stephen H. Kolison, Jr., who started the year as associate vice president for academic programs and education innovation for the University of Wisconsin system, advanced to the position of executive vice president and provost of the University of Indianapolis (IN).

In this year’s SLA cohort, Kathryn LaFontana advanced from assistant vice president for academic affairs at the College of New Rochelle (NY) to vice president for academic affairs at Ursuline College (OH).

ELA participants stand on staircase for photo
Participants in the 2016–2017 Executive Leadership Academy gathered for their final seminar, June 19–21 at the Cosmos Club in Washington, DC.

Presidential Leadership, Strategic Planning, and the First 100 Days

Speakers at the closing seminar for the ELA, which prepares vice presidents for presidencies and chancellorships, discussed a wide range of topics that included the presidential search process, crisis communications, effective transitions, and ways to think and work institutionally.

“Being president of a university is like being director of a cemetery: Everyone is under you, but no one listens to you,” quipped Wallace Loh, president of the University of Maryland College Park. He went on to say that presidents and their institutions are focused on the future—of communities, of students, and of knowledge—and remarked, “We are in the immortality business.” While the president must articulate a vision, others must carry it out. “It’s not what you do, it’s what you enable others to do that matters. The satisfactions are derivative.” Loh quoted hockey star Wayne Gretsky, who always “skated to where the puck was going to be.” Presidents must anticipate where the university will need to go and then prepare for that future, while they keep in mind that change in higher education is “usually incremental and evolutionary, not revolutionary.” To achieve results, presidents must connect with people emotionally because “politics is not transactional, it’s relational.”

MaryAnn Baenninger, president of Drew University (NJ), invited participants to consider approaches to strategic planning, including various planning timeframes and horizons. She addressed the relationship between strategic and annual planning and emphasized the importance of situational approaches. Through a case study, Baenninger demonstrated how to use strategic planning to grapple with multiple problems that colleges and universities may face. Participants discussed common-sense approaches they could apply as new leaders, situational factors that can affect the time frame for planning, and how to know when triage is best.

“Be humble, not too much ‘I,’” advised Scott Miller, president of Virginia Wesleyan University and chair of the board of directors of Academic Search, Inc. This was among his suggestions for the first 100 days of a college or university presidency. In the first 100 days of a presidency, he also recommended that new presidents do the following:

  • Ask for an institutional review to be conducted prior to taking charge;
  • Sit down with the board chair—and with the predecessor if the departure is amicable—to plan the transition;
  • Limit visibility until arrival and plan to attend symbolic events with the predecessor to signal a smooth transition;
  • Plan carefully for your family’s transition and rest between leaving your current job and starting as president;
  • Thoughtfully plan a state of the college address; and
  • Identify opinion leaders among the faculty and staff members, arranging 30-minute phone calls with each.

“You and the institution have nowhere to go but up,” Miller said. He told participants that presidential leadership is “more orchestration than autocracy” and advised them to “expect the unexpected.”

The 2017–2018 ELA cohort will meet for its opening seminar in July. For more information about the program, visit the ELA program page.

SLA participant stands to ask question with other participants seated at roundtables
Participants discussed a diverse range of topics during the 2016–2017 Senior Leadership Academy closing seminar, held in Washington, DC, June 22–24.

The President’s Cabinet, Communications Strategy, and Organizational Structure

The SLA helps prepare mid-level administrators at CIC member institutions for cabinet-level positions. The closing seminar included presentations and discussions on key aspects of the senior administrator’s work, including legal issues in higher education, strategic planning for transformational change, athletics and the cabinet, and the benefits of work style alignment to enhance individual and team performance.

In her cabinet officers, Linda Bleicken looks for attributes such as integrity, transparency, thoughtfulness, confidence, intelligence, grit, empathy, and a sense of humor. Above all, she said, cabinet officers must take an “institutional view” of issues. Quoting Beverly Tatum, president emerita of Spelman College (GA) who spoke at the ELA closing seminar, Bleicken urged “laying down the ‘I’ and getting to ‘we.’” SLA participants contributed their own terms for characteristics to avoid: insincerity, cockiness, sycophancy, and the tendency to micro-manage. “Don’t hire the person who proofreads the catalog,” said one seminar member. Bleicken provided participants with a president’s-eye view of cabinet searches and management.

Amanda Adolph Fore, principal consultant at Next Peak Strategy, LLC, led a lively discussion of communication strategies in stressful situations. She emphasized that “the goals of institutional communications are to convey a message, become valued for that message, and achieve a desired result.” When it comes to communication strategies in a crisis, “the key is the preparation that took place before the crisis,” she said. She provided a template for communications planning that is tied to the strategic plan and a map for evaluating strategies based on their impact and the effort required to implement them. Participants discussed examples of strategies from the least desirable, involving high effort and low impact, to the most desirable, with low effort producing high impact. The presentation gave participants a clear process for development of a sound communications strategy.

A group of SLA participants led a discussion about institutional structures. Todd McDorman, senior associate dean of the college and professor of rhetoric at Wabash College (IN), explained how the group’s interest shifted from comparing governance structures to examining different configurations within academic affairs. “The greatest value I have found in this year with SLA is in being with others who do similar work to mine but in different contexts,” he said. Daniel Walther, director of the German Institute and chair of the history department at Wartburg College (IA), discussed ways to promote yourself and enhance your skill set within a relatively flat institutional structure. Joel Shrock, dean of the School of Humanities and Behavioral Science at Anderson University (IN), found by going through an interview process for a position as chief academic officer at another institution that similar colleges can be structured very differently. “The exposure to a completely different way of organizing the academic division made me realize that we need to assess our structure.” The participants discussed their experiences regarding the formation of organizational structures, whether they work, and how to facilitate change if necessary.

The 2017–2018 SLA cohort will meet for the first time in November. For more information about the program, visit the SLA program page.

2016–2017 Executive Leadership Academy CIC Participants

Alaska Pacific University (AK)
Tracy Stewart

Bay Path University (MA)
Melissa Morriss-Olson
Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs

California Lutheran University
Leanne Neilson
Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs

College of the Ozarks (MO)
Sue Head
Vice President for Cultural Affairs and Dean of Character Education

Dakota Wesleyan University (SD)
Theresa Kriese
Executive Vice President and Chief Finance Officer

Fisher College (MA)
Melinda Cook
Chief of Staff and Vice President for Strategy andm Planning

Gustavus Adolphus College (MN)
Mark Braun
Provost and Dean of the College Emeritus

Lincoln College (IL)
A. Gigi Fansler
Vice President for Academic Affairs

Lynn University (FL)
Gareth Fowles
Vice President for Enrollment Management

Meredith College (NC)
Matthew Poslusny
Senior Vice President and Provost

Millsaps College (MS)
Keith Dunn
Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the College

New England Board of Higher Education (MA)
Michael Thomas
President and CEO
Our Lady of the Lake University (TX)
Marcheta Evans
Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs

Principia College (IL)
Joe Ritter

Randolph College (VA)
Wesley Fugate
Vice President and Chief of Staff, Secretary of the Board of Trustees

Randolph-Macon College (VA)
Grant Azdell
Vice President for Student Affairs

Regis College (MA)
Kara Kolomitz
Vice President for Enrollment and Student Affairs

Transylvania University (KY)
Holly Sheilley
Vice President for Student Life and Enrollment

University of Indianapolis (IN)
Stephen H. Kolison, Jr.
Executive Vice President and Provost

University of Jamestown (ND)
Polly Peterson
Executive Vice President

University of Sioux Falls (SD)
Brett Bradfield
Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs

Warren Wilson College (NC)
Lynn Morton

West Virginia Wesleyan College
Boyd Creasman
Vice President for Academic Affairs

2016–2017 Senior Leadership Academy Participants

Anderson University (IN)
Joel Shrock
Associate Provost and Dean, School of Humanities and Behavioral Science

Cabrini University (PA)
Mary H. Van Brunt
Dean, School of Business, Arts, and Media

Centenary College of Louisiana
Karen Soul
Vice Provost

Chowan University (NC)
Cynthia Nicholson
Dean, School of Arts and Sciences

Baldwin Wallace University (OH)
Lisa Henderson
Assistant Provost

California Lutheran University
Kristine Calara
Associate Vice President for University Advancement

Cedar Crest College (PA)
Robert Wilson
Associate Provost

Converse College (SC)
Boone Hopkins
Dean, School of the Arts

Culver-Stockton College (MO)
Lauren Schellenberger
Chair of the Division of Applied Liberal Arts and Sciences

Fresno Pacific University (CA)
Ronald Herms
Dean, School of Humanities, Religion, and Social Sciences

Georgian Court University (NJ)
Janice Warner
Dean, School of Business and Digital Media

Gettysburg College (PA)
Kristin Stuempfle
Associate Provost for Academic Assessment and Dean of Natural Sciences, Mathematics, and Computer Science

Grinnell College (IA)
Karla Erickson
Associate Dean and Professor of Sociology

Hamline University (MN)
Carrie Albers
Associate Vice President for Development

Hampshire College (MA)
Clay Ballantine
Chief Advancement Officer

Linfield College (OR)
Gerardo Ochoa
Assistant Dean for Diversity and Community Partnerships
Marymount Manhattan College (NY)
Kathleen LeBesco
Interim Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the College

Misericordia University (PA)
Joseph Grilli
Director of Corporate and Institutional Recruitment–Partnerships/Alliances

Morehouse College (GA)
Jann Adams
Associate Provost for Faculty Affairs and Professor of Psychology

Mount Mary University (WI)
Kathleen Poorman Dougherty
Dean of Humanities, Social Sciences, and Education

Neumann University (PA)
Alfred Mueller
Dean, Division of Arts and Sciences

Queens University of Charlotte (NC)
John Downey
Dean of Students

St. Ambrose University (IA)
Regina Matheson
Dean, Graduate Education

Susquehanna University (PA)
Dave Ramsaran
Professor of Sociology and Director of the Honors Program

Spelman College (GA)
Leyte Winfield
Associate Professor and Chair of Chemistry and Biochemistry; Interim Associate Provost for Research

University of Providence (MT)
Greg Madson
Academic Dean

Ursuline College (OH)
Kathryn LaFontana
Vice President for Academic Affairs

Wabash College (IN)
Todd McDorman
Senior Associate Dean of the College and Professor of Rhetoric

Wartburg College (IA)
Daniel Walther
Chair of the Department of History and Director of the German Institute

Wofford College (SC)
Michael Sosulski