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Articles: Leadership

Innovation in higher education often involves change, but for many people, that is an unnerving prospect. Effective change management happens when you meet those people on their terms and focus on aligning the benefits that technology will provide with what they value as individuals.

Leon Botstein says of college admissions: “It’s not an objective process. It’s completely subjective.”

Bard College in New York made news last fall when President Leon Botstein announced that prospective students would no longer be required to submit their grades, SAT or ACT scores, teacher recommendations or the typical personal essay. Instead they will now be able to apply to Bard by writing four analytic papers—10,000 words total—chosen from a variety of weighty, thought-provoking topics.

In today’s competitive higher education market, colleges and universities must prove the value of the degrees they bestow to graduates each year. Traditional measures, such as graduation rates, grade point averages, and cohort default rates, have become only a few of the ways colleges and universities are evaluated. Students and their parents want to be assured that their investment in a college education will pay off in the form of a self-sustaining and financially-secure career path.

Jim Clements will become president of Clemson on Jan. 1, after five years leading West Virginia.

Jim Clements will begin his tenure as the 15th president of Clemson University (S.C.) on Jan. 1. He announced his departure back in November as president of West Virginia University after five years in office. Under his leadership, WVU set records in private fundraising, enrollment and research funding. He helped raise nearly $1 billion for capital improvements. Clements is replacing James Barker, who announced in April that he was stepping down after 14 years.

Shirley Reed is the founding president of South Texas College.

As the founding president of South Texas College, Shirley Reed has had her share of challenges in an area of high poverty with many families, recently immigrated from Mexico, who might only dream of sending a child to college.

Since 1993, Reed and STC have made tremendous inroads on changing that.“The students I see are all motivated, hungry for a better life. More than 70 percent of our students are the first in their families to attend college, meaning they don’t know exactly how to attend college at first, but they know it’s the path to a better future,” she says.

For the first time in history, a woman has been appointed to chair the Federal Reserve—among the most important economic policy-making positions in the world. In her new role as the Fed Chair, Janet Yellen now faces the dual challenges of mitigating post-2008 monetary policies, while stimulating economic growth and reducing unemployment—all that in the midst of a “jobless recovery.”

In my experience as president of a university where liberal arts and professional programs serve as complements, I have found that engaging students—both before they arrive on campus, and while they are completing their studies—is vital to creating the overall college experience that students are seeking. The more connected prospective and current students feel to the university early on, the more likely they are to feel a positive connection through graduation and beyond.

From the perspective of a retired university president, the expressions of concern from most of America’s higher education leaders about President Obama’s proposed “Plan to Make College More Affordable” are a lot like looking a gift horse in the mouth. My former colleagues are portraying the plan as another potential serious intrusion on the historic autonomy of America’s colleges and universities.

Challenged by high expectations and a sense of urgency to hit the ground running, newly appointed leaders are prime candidates for performance derailment even on day one. Compounded by insufficient or less structured on-boarding, leaders with the potential to succeed simply don’t. Worse yet, they don’t know what hit them.

William G. Bowen is the founding chairman of ITHAKA, a nonprofit organization focused on technology.

William G. Bowen is a name familiar to anyone who works in higher education today. Bowen was president of Princeton University from 1972 to 1988, and president emeritus of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, where he served for nearly 20 years.

College presidents are using Twitter to interact with students and faculty.

College presidents, don’t worry—yet—if you only have three Twitter followers.

You don’t need to be a social media superstar right now. In the near future, however, active use of Twitter and Facebook may be a full-blown requirement, according to a study of tweeting in higher ed administration by Dan Zaiontz, a grad student at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada.

Sidney A. Ribeauis leaving Howard University after five years in office.

On Oct. 1, Howard University (D.C.) President Sidney A. Ribeau announced his retirement from the historically black college after five years in office. He will leave the presidency at the end of December.

Ribeau signed a contract extension just this summer to serve until June 2015. Speculation is that debate over the health of the university and Ribeau’s management of it may be why he has stepped down suddenly. Alumnus Wayne A.I. Frederick, Howard’s former provost and chief academic officer, has been named interim president.

The grand jury indictment of former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky on charges of child sex abuse, in November of 2011, ignited the most prominent university scandal in recent memory. Former federal judge and FBI Director Louis Freeh conducted a full-scale investigation of the incident after allegations surfaced of a university-wide cover up. Freeh’s final report laid much of the blame at the feet of the board of trustees, finding that the board had “failed to exercise its oversight and reasonable inquiry responsibilities.”

Katherine Bergeron, currently the dean of Brown University, moves to Connecticut College on Jan. 1.

The Connecticut College Board of Trustees has selected Katherine Bergeron, currently the dean of Brown University, as the 11th president of the college. She will take office Jan. 1, succeeding Leo I. Higdon Jr., who will retire in December after seven years there.

Open any newspaper these days and you’ll see variations on the same critiques of higher education we’ve heard for years: spiraling costs, unequal access, ineffective teaching, and so on. And you’ll hear politicians demand greater accountability, while they threaten greater funding cuts. Yet little ever changes.