Empowering presidents for effective board leadership in a time of strategic change

2023 Presidents Governance Academy 1/3/2023 1/3/2023 1/3/20231/4/20231/4/20231/4/2023 Hilton San Francisco Union Square San Francisco, California

Why Participate?

CIC’s annual Presidents Governance Academy is a two-day program for college presidents who wish to strengthen and sustain a high-performing board of trustees in a time of change. The program provides the opportunity to learn about both time-tested and new approaches to ensure supportive relations with the board and its leaders and to improve board composition, organization, and effectiveness. The program is intended for experienced presidents and will be especially helpful to those who are at least a few years into their presidencies.

CIC is grateful to the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations for its support of this program.

Thomas Hellie and Michele Perkins were outstanding facilitators. I appreciated hearing about their experiences, and they guided the program with humor and grace. The agenda was well planned and covered a good deal of ground in an efficient manner.”
—Audrey Bilger, President, Reed College

I found the readings extremely helpful. They put the workshop in context.”
—Lester C. Newman, President, Jarvis Christian College

Program Principles

Recent circumstances have created unusual pressures on both presidents and trustees as they seek to balance short-term needs with long-term strategic priorities in the face of intense external challenges. These strains have sometimes resulted in adverse consequences for institutions—and for presidential tenures. The roots of those problems are often traceable to board culture, norms, and structure—that is, misalignment with the best governance principles, policies, and practices.

The Presidents Governance Academy is unique in its exclusive focus on the perspective of the independent college president. While it respects the distinction between the president’s and the board’s authority, the Academy starts with the premise that the president must have the tools and the mandate to advance efforts, alongside board leaders, to develop an effective governing board.

The Academy’s approach is based on these principles:
  • An effective governing board is necessary for both the institution and the president to be successful, especially in times of strategic change. The performance of each is dependent on the effectiveness of the other two.

  • Presidential leadership is essential to strengthening board effectiveness. Presidents who desire a truly high-performing governing board understand that they must take the lead in the education of trustees and on board development initiatives.

  • The performance of individual trustees and of boards of trustees as a whole is enhanced if formal policies, desired practices, and performance standards are articulated and institutionalized in bylaws and other key governance documents.

  • How the board is led and organized to accomplish its work is at least as important as the credentials and experience of individual trustees if the board is to be “more than the sum of its parts.”

  • A mutual understanding of shared governance among the board, the faculty, and the president is necessary for effective leadership.

  • Best practices in the governance of nonprofit institutions, although better understood today, remain more art than science. Experience has shown that presidents must be knowledgeable, skillful, and assertive to guide the effective performance of their boards.

I appreciated the preparation for the meeting with a survey and thirty-minute phone call with one of the leaders. The call provided a one-on-one experience that allowed for more specific discussion around issues related to board leadership and management. The discussion around “Board Practices and Culture” was particularly beneficial. Seldom is a president in a room with other presidents who can speak candidly about the ways that some boards operate and how to manage through them.”
—Mark Roberts, President, Reinhardt University

Academy Leadership



  • Thomas L. Hellie
    Thomas L. Hellie
    Council of Independent Colleges
  • Michele Perkins
    Michele Perkins
    New England College

The Academy Experience

​The Academy is intensive and highly participatory. To allow for candid exchange, participation is limited to 20 presidents. To jump-start their thinking, participants receive a set of advance readings and checklists related to institutional governance. Over two days, participants learn from Academy leaders about best practices in board governance, consider case studies of governance challenges, discuss examples of board by-laws, and discuss practical solutions for governance problems. Finally, participants have the opportunity to consult privately by phone with the Academy’s leaders throughout the year.

The Academy was one of the finest professional development occasions, perhaps the finest, in which I have participated.”
—Kurt Dykstra, President and Chief Executive Officer, Independent Colleges of Indiana,
and former President, Trinity Christian College

Discussion Topics

  • The board’s role in leading institutional change
  • Board committee structures
  • The board’s agenda for diversity, equity, and inclusion
  • Committee on trusteeship and executive committee roles and responsibilities
  • Board membership and recruitment
  • Term limits for trustees and officers
  • Performance reviews of both the president and the governing board
  • Strategies for trustee education and board development
  • Desirable and undesirable bylaws provisions
  • Alignment of faculty governance with board governance
  • Trustee philanthropy
  • Effective board meetings and board retreats

Questions? Please contact Stephen Gibson, CIC director of programs, at (202) 466-7230 or by email at sgibson@cic.edu.

Strong and effective governance is essential to advancing key priorities such as diversity, equity, and inclusion; sustainable business modeling; and civility, democracy, and free expression. Faced with the pressing need to make consequential decisions, all CIC member presidents need essential tools to strengthen and sustain a high-performing board of trustees. Governance Academy leaders and experienced presidents Michele Perkins and Tom Hellie make sure that participants are grounded in established best practices even as they learn about emerging approaches to governance in a rapidly-changing environment.”
—Marjorie Hass, President, Council of Independent Colleges

Hotel and Registration

The Presidents Governance Academy will take place January 3–4, 2023, immediately preceding CIC’s Presidents Institute, and is limited to 20 participants. Only CIC member presidents are eligible for the Academy. Spouses and partners of participating presidents are invited to join in an Academy dinner on Tuesday, January 3, 2023; guest dinner tickets can be purchased after registration is complete.

Thanks to the support of the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations, the registration fee is only $575, which includes the program, all meals and refreshments, resource materials, and telephone consultations with the Academy’s leaders throughout the year. Participants are responsible for the costs of lodging and transportation. Lodging is at the Hilton San Francisco Union Square Hotel in San Francisco, California, the site of the 2023 Presidents Institute. Participants will receive a discount code for the special CIC rate of $179 per night, single or double occupancy, after they register for the Presidents Institute and Academy.

View additional information, including online registration and hotel reservation procedures.

The registration deadline is December 1, 2022, but participants are encouraged to register early to secure a space.

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