New Presidents Program

About the Program

Practical Advice + Strategic Inspiration = Early Success

Since 1989, more than 1,000 new presidents have participated in CIC’s New Presidents Program (NPP). The oldest of such programs, the NPP complements other orientations for new presidents. It focuses exclusively on issues relevant to independent college and university leaders, and on practical advice that can be readily implemented. A program for spouses and partners of new presidents runs concurrently with some joint sessions and pursues matching objectives.

The NPP is designed to provide the “need to know” tools and the counsel that will keep a young presidency on a smooth course. It recognizes that new college and university presidents typically have substantial background in only some of the key facets of presidential responsibility. The 24/7 nature of the position, however, offers little opportunity to expand preexisting expertise in a leisurely manner. Meanwhile, the first months in the position are both energizing and overwhelming; early opportunities for significant achievement exist, but early missteps also can threaten to derail long-term success.

The annually refreshed agenda commonly includes sessions on innovative and strategic leadership, enrollment and marketing, financial fundamentals and strategies, board relations, institutional advancement, perspectives on critical leadership issues, and “You got the job, now what?” and “I wish I had known” reflections. The presenters are experienced CIC presidents, many of whom are alumni of the program. Ample opportunities for informal conversations are built into the program, so that participants can get to know each other personally, and the more seasoned presidents who serve as faculty, to build a network of peers.

Participants often point to these NPP features as particularly helpful:
  • Presenters are current or recently retired CIC presidents who understand the specific needs of their new colleagues.
  • Participants are supported by seasoned colleagues who participate in the program and often continue to serve as informal advisors throughout the Presidents Institute and beyond.
  • The NPP is a rewarding investment of time and money. The program is intensive and makes efficient use of time. The NPP is heavily subsidized by CIC and represents excellent financial value.
  • The friendships created among the participants often form the basis for a professional network of colleagues with whom new presidents and their spouses or partners can confer about sensitive campus issues over many years.
Mary Pat Seurkamp, CIC senior advisor, who for 15 years served as president of Notre Dame of Maryland University, directs CIC’s New Presidents Program.

As higher education faces the consequences of a global pandemic and widespread demands for social justice, just as with CIC’s Presidents Institute, this year the NPP will be offered in a virtual, sequential, and pedagogically fitting format for the times we all work and live in.

On Wednesday, December 9 (2:00–5:00 p.m. EST), Sunday, January 3 (11:00 a.m.–3:00 p.m. EST), and Thursday, January 7 (10:30 a.m.–1:30 p.m. EST), experienced independent college and university presidents, many former NPP participants themselves, will lead interactive virtual sessions on critical presidential leadership topics, fully focused on helping new presidents of independent colleges and universities succeed during their first or second year of service. The program will also provide opportunities for more informal conversations and interaction among new presidents in order to facilitate the development of a community of campus leaders who share similar concerns to confidentially consult with in the months and years ahead.

2022 Agenda

Sessions for New Presidents


Mary Pat Seurkamp, Senior Advisor and Director, CIC New Presidents Program, and President Emerita, Notre Dame of Maryland University


Mary-Beth A. Cooper, President, Springfield College


Paul Hennigan, President Emeritus, Point Park University
Martin Roth, President, University of Charleston


Chris E. Domes, President, Neumann University


Julee Gard, Vice President for Administration and Finance, University of St. Francis (IL)
Arvid C. Johnson, President, University of St. Francis (IL)


Colette Pierce Burnette, President, Huston-Tillotson University
Mary-Beth A. Cooper, President, Springfield College (MA)
Arvid C. Johnson, President, University of St. Francis (IL)


Hilary L. Link, President, Allegheny College
Carmen J. Walters, President, Tougaloo College


Jeff Abernathy, President, Alma College
Elizabeth J. Stroble, Chancellor, Webster University
Moderator: Mary Pat Seurkamp


Carmen Twillie Ambar, President, Oberlin College
Paul C. Pribbenow, President, Augsburg University
Moderator: Mary Pat Seurkamp


Mary Pat Seurkamp

Joint Sessions for New Presidents and Spouses and Partners



Arvid C. Johnson, President, University of St. Francis (IL) and Chair, CIC New Presidents Program Advisory Committee

REMARKS: Creating an Engaged and Inclusive Environment for All

Mary Dana Hinton, President, Hollins University

Reception and Dinner

Hosts: Colette Pierce Burnette, President, Huston-Tillotson University, and J. Lawrence Smith, Presidential Spouse, York College of Pennsylvania
Remarks: Marjorie Hass, President, CIC


Logan C. Hampton, President, Lane College

Sessions for Spouses and Partners of New Presidents


Katherine M. Whatley, Senior Advisor for Academic Programs, CIC
Session Facilitators: Lynne C. Joyce, Presidential Spouse, Brevard College, and J. Lawrence Smith, Presidential Spouse, York College of Pennsylvania


  • Making Connections
  • Transitioning with Resilience
  • Hot Topics: Compliance in Higher Education
  • Building Relationships: Keys to Becoming a Stronger Partner
  • Making the Role Work for You
  • Reflecting on the Program for Spouses and Partners of New Presidents

Spouses and Partners of New Presidents Program

CIC offers a program for spouses and partners of new presidents that runs concurrent, and is at times joint, with the NPP. The program is led by Lynne C. Joyce, presidential spouse, Brevard College, and J. Lawrence Smith, presidential spouse, York College of Pennsylvania, and is organized by Kathy Whatley, CIC senior advisor for academic programs.

The agenda (see the 2022 topics above) acknowledges and reflects that presidential spouses and partners serve in a variety of capacities within and outside their institution. Some will continue employment in professions away from campus and others will focus more on service to the campus community. The program provides ample room for participants to network with others who are new to the role and the facilitators and to consider, intentionally, how to define the role to fit themselves, their individual campus situations, and in light of local and national developments.

Registration Information

The New Presidents Program and Spouses and Partners of New Presidents Program will take place January 3–4, 2022, just prior to the January 4–7 CIC Presidents Institute, at the JW Marriott in Marco Island, Florida. For additional information about the program, hotel, and travel arrangements please visit the Institute website.

The registration fees for the New Presidents Program are $415 for presidents and $315 for spouses and partners. The fees include all meals and session materials.

Registration opened in mid-August 2021. Participants are urged to register online. Participants first need to register for the Presidents Institute and include the New Presidents Program or Spouses and Partners of New Presidents Program as a session. Upon completion of registration, an email providing instructions for making lodging arrangements at the JW Marriott Marco Island hotel as well as an email serving as an invoice or receipt of payment will sent to the individual completing the registration. A separate meeting confirmation will be sent to the Institute participant. The registration deadline is December 3, 2021. Sherita Ashmon, CIC conference manager ( or 202-466-7230), will gladly assist with registration or logistical questions.

Briefing: New President and Board Relations during Challenging Times

The presenters provided experienced-based perspectives on the vital president-board chair relationship in a discussion format. They focused on the altered roles of governing boards in the current environment, appropriate board oversight of the critical enrollment and marketing dynamics, and opportunities to build strategic alliances and affiliations.
Jeff Abernathy, President, Alma College (MI)
Marjorie Hass, President, Rhodes College (TN)
Douglas M. Orr, President Emeritus, Warren Wilson College (NC)

Briefing: Financial Fundamentals and Strategies for the New President

The presenters explored the relationships between budgeting and the business plan as well as capital expenditures and the strategic plan, and provided an introduction to financial statements. They also discussed how a new president can utilize and leverage the chief financial officer as a strategic partner to ensure not only the short-term operational effectiveness of the institution but also its strategic objectives and long-term success.
Julee A. Gard, Vice President for Administration and Finance, University of St. Francis (IL)
Arvid C. Johnson, President, University of St. Francis (IL)


The New Presidents Program provided me with the forum to engage and learn from peers who have experienced the triumphs and obstacles inherent in the presidency. Those insights have informed my strategic approach to address the multilayered opportunities and challenges I’ve encountered in my first three years at Morehouse College. I’d recommend NPP to any new president looking to gain knowledge and build relationships with exceptional higher education leaders across the nation.”
—David A. Thomas, President, Morehouse College (GA)

The New Presidents Program was a boost to my confidence as I was starting out. It wasn’t just the strategies I learned and the resources I discovered. It was also the relationships I developed and the reminders of the strengths I brought to the job and on which I could build. Those takeaways became even more important during the past 18 months, and I am grateful for the ongoing support CIC continues to provide.”
—Hilary L. Link, President, Allegheny College (PA)

A new presidency makes many demands—intellectual, professional, personal, social, and even physical. CIC’s NPP engages the whole person: As I started out, I found it inspiring, assuring, and helpful beyond measure. The spouses/partners program was also a fantastic opportunity.”
—Jorge G. Gonzalez, President, Kalamazoo College (MI)

CIC’s Program for Presidential Spouses and Partners was a game-changer. The information gleaned during the workshops, the intimate discussions regarding ever-changing responsibilities, and the friendships formed with program participants from across the country have proven to be invaluable. The program gave me a new perspective on the evolving expectations of a presidential spouse along with quintessential tips on everything from establishing a role on campus by supporting students, faculty, and staff to advice on financial health and personal wellness.”
—Katina Semien Smothers, Esq, Presidential Spouse, Philander Smith College (AR)