About the Theme

Major challenges confront presidents of independent colleges and universities: to reduce costs, develop new sources of revenue, increase financial aid, adopt new online delivery methods, and focus on students’ job preparation in addition to general education in the liberal arts. The most recent challenges—how to position a college amid a wave of MOOCs and unprecedented government regulation—require creative solutions without the guidance of precedent.

Presidential leadership must rely on the wisdom of many people, multiple perspectives, and the president’s own good judgment to choose between opportunities for innovation and time-honored elements of a liberal arts education. When is it prudent to forge ahead, to be deliberately “disruptive”? When should presidents emphasize tradition and proven practice?

Presidents must articulate and sustain the institution’s vision, adapting it to changing conditions, all the while honoring the shared governance ideal of American higher education that includes trustees and faculty members. More than merely mediating among often conflicting considerations, presidents are called upon to chart innovative solutions while affirming continuity. How can independent college and university presidents exercise wise leadership of their institutions amid these divergent views?

CIC’s 2014 Presidents Institute—the largest annual meeting of college and university presidents in the country—will explore these and other issues of presidential leadership, drawing on the lessons learned by experienced presidents and on the broad perspectives of other distinguished speakers. The Institute provides a forum for candid discussion of controversial issues, opportunities to learn from experts, and time to network with colleagues who lead similar institutions.