Featured Speakers

The 2016 Presidents Institute features a strong lineup of speakers addressing this year's theme, “Securing America’s Future: The Vitality of Independent Colleges.”

Keynote Address  •  Monday, January 4, 5:00–6:15 p.m.
Leading Organizational Transformation in a Changing Economy
(Cosponsored by Stevens Strategy, LLC and Aramark)

The head of one of the world’s largest financial services companies and a noted economist will address the president’s role in leading transformational change in nonprofit colleges and universities. Much has been written about the economic challenges confronting all of higher education—and pressures that are particularly acute in the nonprofit college sector. Many point to the “disruptions” in other industries—telecommunications, publishing, and health care—as examples of the radical change that higher education now faces. Roger W. Ferguson, Jr., has led TIAA-CREF through a period of rapid change in the financial services industry. What lessons can be shared with college presidents who are leading major changes at their institutions? How does a president galvanize support for significant change from the senior leadership team, trustees, faculty and staff members, and other key constituents? Ferguson will discuss these and other issues of transformational leadership.

Roger W. Ferguson, Jr., is president and chief executive officer of TIAA-CREF, the leading provider of retirement services in the academic, research, medical, and cultural fields and a Fortune 100 financial services organization. He is the former vice chairman of the Board of Governors of the U.S. Federal Reserve System. As the only governor in Washington, DC, on 9/11, he led the Fed’s initial response to the terrorist attacks, taking actions that kept the U.S. financial system functioning while reassuring the global financial community that the U.S. economy would not be paralyzed. Prior to joining TIAA-CREF in 2008, Ferguson was head of financial services for Swiss Re and chairman of Swiss Re America Holding Corporation. He served on President Obama’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness as well as its predecessor, the Economic Recovery Advisory Board. Ferguson is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a member of the Academy’s Commission on the Humanities and Social Sciences. He is a board member of the Business-Higher Education Forum and a member of the Economic Club of New York, the Council on Foreign Relations, and the Group of Thirty. Ferguson earned a BA, JD, and PhD in economics, all from Harvard University.

Chair: Lynn Pasquerella, President, Mount Holyoke College

Plenary Session  •  Tuesday, January 5, 8:30–9:45 a.m.
Forging the Future: Emerging Approaches for Independent Higher Education
(Sponsored by Royall & Company)

A panel of accomplished CIC presidents will explore how independent higher education can respond to disruptive changes in society and the academy without compromising the core characteristics of independent colleges that have assured the delivery of a high-quality education for decades. Some experts argue that market forces will so “disrupt” higher education that the business and delivery models of the traditional, residential, liberal arts college will be fundamentally altered. Others contend that the residential community of traditional-aged college students, small classes taught by full-time, tenure-track professors, and robust co-curricular activities and support are the essential, distinctive characteristics that result in superior student success and therefore must be preserved. The panelists will share insights based on their own efforts to balance these competing claims.

Esther L. Barazzone has served as president of Chatham University for 23 years. During her tenure, Chatham has expanded from a small women’s college to a fully coeducational university with quadrupled enrollment, an endowment that has more than doubled, and a ten-fold increase in the physical space of the campus. Barazzone previously served as vice president for academic affairs at Philadelphia University, as associate provost and director of foundation and corporate relations at Swarthmore College, and as a faculty member at Hamilton College and Kirkland College. She has served as chair of the board of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Pennsylvania and the Pittsburgh Council of Higher Education and as a member of the CIC Board of Directors. A former Fulbright Scholar to Spain, Barazzone has served on the board of the Council for International Exchange of Scholars, the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, and the World Affairs Council. She has received honorary degrees from Doshisha Women’s College in Kyoto, Japan, and Seoul Women’s University in South Korea. She received the Susan B. Anthony Leadership Award and the Gandhi, King, Ikeda Award for outstanding leadership in peace and humanitarianism. Barazzone earned a BA in philosophy and history from New College of Florida and a PhD in European intellectual history from Columbia University.

Paul J. LeBlanc has been president of Southern New Hampshire University since 2003. Under his leadership, the institution has more than quadrupled in size and is the second-largest nonprofit provider of online higher education in the country. In 2012, Southern New Hampshire was the only university on Fast Company magazine’s “World’s Fifty Most Innovative Companies” list. This year, LeBlanc has served as senior policy advisor to U.S. Department of Education Under Secretary Ted Mitchell, working on competency-based education, new accreditation pathways, and innovation. Previously, LeBlanc was president of Marlboro College. He received the New England Higher Education Excellence Award in 2012 and the 2015 New Hampshire Entrepreneur of the Year Award. Born in Canada, LeBlanc was the first person in his extended family to attend college. He is a member of the Steering Committee for CIC’s Project on the Future of Independent Higher Education and a former member of the CIC Board of Directors. He earned a BA in English from Framingham State University, an MA in English from Boston College, and a PhD in rhetoric, composition, and technology from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Elizabeth J. Stroble became president of Webster University in Missouri in 2009. Since then, Webster has more than doubled its endowment; invested in leadership development for faculty members, staff, and students; significantly increased private support for student scholarships; and made major investments in buildings and technology. Prior to joining Webster, she served as senior vice president, provost, and chief operating officer and dean of the school of education at the University of Akron. She also held academic and administrative appointments in the School of Education at the University of Louisville and at the Center for Excellence in Education at Northern Arizona University. Stroble currently serves on the board of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities and is a member of the Steering Committee for CIC’s Project on the Future of Independent Higher Education. She earned an AB in history and English from Augustana College (IL), two MA degrees, one in history and one in American and English literature, from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, and a PhD in curriculum studies from the University of Virginia.

John S. Wilson, Jr. became president of Morehouse College, his alma mater, in 2013. Previously, Wilson served as the executive director of the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities, a position to which he was appointed by President Barack Obama in 2009, and as executive dean and associate professor of higher education at George Washington University. In his role as the nation’s executive director of the White House Initiative on HBCUs, Wilson was charged with strengthening the capacity of HBCUs to participate in federal programs, fostering private-sector initiatives and public-private partnerships, improving the availability and dissemination of information on HBCUs to inform public policy, sharing best practices within the HBCU community, and exploring ways to improve the relationship between HBCUs and the federal government. He has served on the boards of the Andover Newton Theological School and Spelman College, on the Kresge Foundation’s Black College Advisory Board, and as a consultant for the United Negro College Fund’s Institute for Capacity Building. He is a member of the Steering Committee for CIC’s Project on the Future of Independent Higher Education. After earning his BA from Morehouse College, he earned two master’s degrees, one in theological studies and one in education, and a PhD in education from Harvard University.


Holiday Hart McKiernan is chief of staff and general counsel for the Lumina Foundation, where she oversees strategic operations, legal affairs, and board governance. Part of her work has included exploring the Bologna Process and the implications that reform might have for American higher education. McKiernan began her career practicing law with a focus on nonprofit and tax-exempt organizations. Prior to joining Lumina in 2003, she was executive director and counsel for Alpha Chi Omega, advising universities on approaches to deal with high-risk student behavior. She serves on the board of directors of Christian Theological Seminary, Association of American Colleges and Universities, and Higher Education Resource Services, Inc.; she also serves on the Antioch University Board of Governors and the International Advisory Board for the Stetson University College of Law Center for Excellence in Higher Education Law and Policy. McKiernan has spoken at the CIC Institute for Chief Academic Officers and the CIC Foundation Conversation. She earned a BA from DePauw University and JD from Indiana University.

Chair: Mary B. Marcy, President, Dominican University of California

Plenary Session  •  Wednesday, January 6, 8:30–9:45 a.m.
What Matters in College: The Vital Role of Independent Colleges
(Sponsored by Ruffalo Noel Levitz)

A best-selling author and acclaimed columnist will discuss why independent colleges and universities deserve important consideration by prospective students and their parents. In Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be: An Antidote to the College Admissions Mania (2015), Frank Bruni provides a new perspective on the college admissions process, which often triggers needless anxiety for students and parents focused exclusively on getting into highly selective institutions. Bruni shows that the Ivy League has no monopoly on corner offices, governors’ mansions, or the most prestigious academic and scientific grants. Through his research and the stories of highly successful people who did not attend the most selective and affluent colleges and universities, he demonstrates that many kinds of colleges can serve as ideal springboards to a lifetime of success and fulfillment. The book features a sampling of CIC colleges as great places for students to learn and grow. His insights are sure to encourage—and at times challenge—the presidents of independent colleges and universities.

Frank Bruni is an op-ed columnist for the New York Times, a position he has held since 2011. In his columns, which appear every Sunday and Wednesday, he reflects on diverse topics including American politics, higher education, and gay rights. Since joining the paper in 1995, he has served as White House correspondent, chief restaurant critic, staff writer for the New York Times Magazine, and the Rome bureau chief. Bruni is the author of three New York Times best sellers, including the recent Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be. His previous best sellers were the 2009 memoir Born Round, about the joys and torments of his eating life, and a 2002 chronicle of George W. Bush’s first presidential campaign, Ambling into History. Bruni earned a BA in English from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and an MS in journalism from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism.

Chair: S. Georgia Nugent, Interim President, The College of Wooster

Closing Plenary Session  •  Thursday, January 7, 10:00–11:30 a.m.
Campus Civility and First Amendment Freedoms: Presidential Leadership in a Pluralistic Society
(Sponsored by Metz Culinary Management)

A distinguished panel will address the role of presidents in shaping campus culture, balancing the competing claims of political correctness and freedom of speech, and influencing society to learn from and respect increased diversity on campus and in the nation. In a society polarized by race, political affiliation, gender, class, nationality, and other “isms,” how can academic communities be both centers of inquiry about genuine differences and venues for free expression? How can flashpoints of intolerance or hate be turned into learning opportunities to transcend mistrust and build understanding? Can the inflammatory use of social media and anonymous online bullying be controlled? When does the president need to take a public stance on any of these controversies? What role do independent colleges play in developing citizens who will keep democracy robust and who embrace the free exchange of ideas in an atmosphere of civility and respect?

Eboo Patel is the founder and president of Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC), a Chicago-based organization building the interfaith movement on college campuses. He is the author of Sacred Ground: Pluralism, Prejudice, and the Promise of America (2013); Acts of Faith: The Story of an American Muslim, the Struggle for the Soul of a Generation (2011), which won the Louisville Grawemeyer Award in Religion; and the forthcoming Interfaith Leadership: A Primer. Patel served on President Obama’s inaugural Advisory Council of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, the Religious Advisory Committee of the Council on Foreign Relations, and the Department of Homeland Security’s Faith-based Advisory Council. He was named by U.S. News & World Report as one of America’s Best Leaders of 2009, honored by Islamica Magazine as one of ten young Muslim visionaries shaping Islam in America, and chosen by the Harvard Kennedy School Review as one of five future policy leaders to watch. Both Patel and IFYC were honored with the Roosevelt Institute’s Freedom of Worship Medal in 2009, and Patel recently was awarded the Guru Nanak Interfaith Prize, an award given to an individual who enhances awareness of the crucial role of religious dialogue in the pursuit of peace. He has spoken previously at CIC’s Presidents Institute and NetVUE Conference and co-leads CIC’s Teaching Interfaith Understanding seminars for faculty members. Patel earned a BA in sociology from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a PhD in the sociology of religion from Oxford University, where he studied on a Rhodes Scholarship.

Ken Starr is president and chancellor of Baylor University, where he also serves as Louise L. Morrison Chair of Constitutional Law of Baylor Law School. Starr has argued 36 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, including 25 cases during his service as solicitor general of the United States from 1989 to 1993. He also served as United States circuit judge for the District of Columbia Circuit from 1983 to 1989, as law clerk to Chief Justice Warren E. Burger from 1975 to 1977, and as law clerk to Fifth Circuit Judge David W. Dyer from 1973 to 1974. Starr was appointed to serve as independent counsel for five investigations, including Whitewater, from 1994 to 1999. Prior to coming to Baylor, Starr served for six years as the Duane and Kelly Roberts Dean and Professor of Law at Pepperdine University, where he taught current constitutional issues and civil procedure. He also has been of counsel to the law firm of Kirkland & Ellis LLP, where he was a partner from 1993 to 2004, specializing in appellate work, antitrust, federal courts, federal jurisdiction, and constitutional law. Starr is the author of more than 25 publications, most notably First Among Equals: The Supreme Court in American Life (2002). He serves on the board of directors of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities and is immediate past president of the Southern University Conference. He earned a BA from George Washington University, an MA from Brown University, and a JD from Duke University School of Law.

Eileen B. Wilson-Oyelaran has served as president of Kalamazoo College since 2005. Her first academic position was at the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) in Nigeria, where she served as a faculty member in the education and psychology departments, department chair, and vice-dean of the faculty of social sciences. Wilson-Oyelaran served as visiting scholar in education at North Carolina Wesleyan College, associate professor and chair of the department of education at Winston-Salem State University, and vice president and dean of the college at Salem College. Her primary areas of scholarly interest are early child development and multicultural education. Wilson-Oyelaran has worked with faculty in higher education and K–12 to improve educational outcomes for women and students from underrepresented groups and, while in Nigeria, she served as a consultant to UNICEF on early childhood development. She is the past chair of the council of presidents of the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges and of the board of directors of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities. She has served on the CIC Board of Directors. A member of the Pomona College board of trustees, she also serves on the boards of the Kalamazoo Community Foundation, the Bronson Healthcare Group, Southwest Michigan First, and the W.E. Upjohn Institute. Wilson-Oyelaran earned a BA in sociology from Pomona College and an MA and PhD in education from the Claremont Graduate University.


Sanford J. Ungar served as president of Goucher College from 2001 to 2014. He is currently a distinguished scholar in residence at Georgetown University, a fellow of the Lumina Foundation, and a visiting lecturer in the government department at Harvard University. Ungar serves as the senior advisor for CIC’s new Navigating a New Culture workshop for presidents and other senior campus leaders new to independent higher education. At both Harvard and Georgetown, he teaches a seminar on free speech. Prior to assuming the presidency of Goucher, Ungar was director of the Voice of America, the U.S. government’s principal international broadcasting agency. From 1986 until 1999, he served as dean of the School of Communication at American University. Earlier, Ungar was the host of several National Public Radio programs, including the award-winning All Things Considered. He also was Washington editor of the Atlantic, managing editor of Foreign Policy magazine, and staff writer for the Washington Post. He is the author of many books, including Fresh Blood: The New American Immigrants (1998), which was the result of more than four years of research among immigrant groups around the United States, and FBI: An Uncensored Look Behind the Walls (1976), which is still regarded as a valuable source on that agency and its history. Ungar serves on the boards of the Institute for Christian and Jewish Studies, Collegiate Directions, Inc., and IAU College in Aix-en-Provence, France. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and a Congressionally-appointed member of the U.S. Public Interest Declassification Board. Ungar earned an AB in government from Harvard College and a master’s degree in international history from the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Chair: Kenneth P. Ruscio, President, Washington and Lee University