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Beyond the News


University Business, Jan 2009

FOR 30 YEARS, THE NATIONAL Association of College and University Business Officers has conducted a survey of higher education endowments, and for the past decade the Commonfund Institute has issued its Benchmarks study of endowments. Because some areas of the two organizations’ questionnaires overlap, the partnership announcement made by the two organizations in November is a logical one. The first “NACUBO-Commonfund Study of Endowments” will cover endowment investment performance, asset allocation, and related finance and governance issues.

“Making things easier for our combined constituencies made a lot of sense,” explains Verne O. Sedlacek, president and CEO of Commonfund. Approximately 800 institutions have participated in each individual study, and 66 percent have done so in both.

“We are always pleased to see consolidation of efforts like this since it means we can be more efficient, which helps control costs,” says Karen Leach, vice president of finance and administration at Hamilton College (N.Y.), a participant in the NACUBO survey for many years. “The kinds of data that are collected by these studies allow us to compare and fine-tune our strategies. The ultimate goal is to increase resources to continually improve the education we provide.”

As for endowment study resources, the historical databases of the surveys will be centralized and warehoused for access and use by institutional leaders and scholars. The new study, which will provide thought leadership on endowment management, is meant to be the single source for institutions to benchmark themselves against their peers to achieve optimum results and support their missions.

With all the public scrutiny endowments have experienced in the past few years, the comprehensiveness of the study will also benefit colleges and universities on the transparency front. “The more people know about the purpose of endowments, the better off we are,” says John Walda, president and CEO of NACUBO. The study, he adds, “will provide a fuller picture” on endowment earnings and how endowment money is spent, as well as better analysis and commentary, which will result in greater transparency.

The first report, covering fiscal year 2009 and to be released in January 2010, will include institutions with endowments ranging from at least $1 million to more than $1 billion. ?Melissa Ezarik

IN EARLY DECEMBER, PRINCETON ANNOUNCED a settlement had been reached in the legal dispute over control of the Robertson Foundation, preventing the need for a trial and saving both parties millions of more dollars in legal fees.

The Robertson Foundation was endowed by Marie Robertson in 1961 to support the graduate program of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. Six years ago, Robertson family members sued the university for control of the endowment after they disputed the choice of an investment firm for the foundation. The key resolution in the dispute is that the foundation will be dissolved, with most of the assets transferred to an endowed fund solely controlled by the university.

Princeton will also use part of the funds to “reimburse the Banbury Fund, the charitable foundation that the Robertsons used to pay their legal bills,” said Shirley M. Tilghman, the university’s president, in a statement. “We continue to believe that this was an inappropriate use of the Banbury Fund’s assets, and we hope that as a result of the reimbursement the Banbury Fund will return to funding the charitable purposes for which it was established by Marie and Charles Robertson (’26) more than 60 years ago.”

Additional funds will go toward a new charitable foundation created by the Robertsons to encourage students at other institutions to prepare for careers in government service. This is compatible with the goals of the Woodrow Wilson School, Tilghman wrote.

One of the challenges faced by Princeton’s leaders during the course of the trial was ensuring that proper information about the case was available to the media. The university quickly realized that, since the family had an aggressive PR strategy, the usual “no comment” policy adopted by most colleges and universities was not appropriate. The media relations team created a website to clarify points and regularly reached out to news outlets to correct misconceptions.

Despite court papers filed to make the settlement official, the university’s battle to clarify the facts of the case continued. The day the settlement was announced, Cass Cliatt, director of media relations, sent another e-mail to reporters announcing that the family was understating the foundation’s value by $100 million. “So while we typically don’t as a policy calculate endowment performance incrementally for the purpose of release, we wanted to acknowledge that the endowment has not been immune to the economy since the last reporting period valued the Robertson endowment at more than $900 million,” she wrote. ?Ann McClure

A CANDIDATE LONG CONSIDERED for president of Mississippi State University has now been given the chance to take charge. An MSU alumnus, Mark Keenum began his new post this month, with the hope that he will bring long-term leadership following the resignation announcement of Robert H. “Doc” Foglesong in March 2008 after just two years on the job. Foglesong, a former four-star general, made some positive changes during his tenure but left on a rocky note that included a furor over the uprooting of daffodils on campus.

Keenum cites his ties with his alma mater and his professional experience in Washington, D.C., as the undersecretary of Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services in helping him transition.

Emphasizing MSU’s place as a leading institution for agricultural research, Keenum explains that his vision for the land-grant university is to earn recognition and respect not just nationally but also around the globe.

“We take that responsibility very seriously. It’s an important role for our university,” he says.

He also pledges to secure a Phi Beta Kappa chapter at his institution.

After earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees in agricultural economics, Keenum joined the faculty as a marketing specialist with the Mississippi Extension Service at MSU in 1984. Two years later, he became a research associate with the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experimental Station, also at the university.

In the late 1980s, Keenum joined the faculty of MSU’s Department of Agricultural Economics as an assistant professor and economist, with his research focusing on aquaculture, specialty crops, and forestry. From 1997 to 2006, he also served as an adjunct professor of agricultural economics and taught an annual course on agricultural legislative policy.

In early 1989, Keenum headed to Washington, where he worked for many years under Sen. Thad Cochran, first as a legislative assistant advising on agricultural affairs, and later as chief of staff. He became undersecretary in late 2006. ?Michele Herrmann

TO INAUGURATE OUR NEW MONTHLY APPEARANCE in this magazine (check out our full bimonthly column online), we will spend part of 2009 examining the burgeoning sustainability movement in North American higher education in order to identify several of the “green myths” that have attached themselves to one of the most powerful leadership priorities on American campuses in years.

How powerful is it? Just check the website of AASHE, the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. In November it concluded “the largest gathering focused on campus sustainability to date in North America,” with 1,750 attendees from 400 institutions and 48 states.

So what is green myth number 1? We asked someone inside the national conversation on green policy formulation, Norbert Dunkel, assistant vice president and director of housing at the University of Florida, who also serves as the 2008-2009 president of the Association of College and University Housing Officers-International. Without hesitation, Dunkel simply answered, “Sustainable performance contracts.” As he explained the situation, “Several of my colleagues quickly entered into performance contracts in order to renovate buildings without having to outlay the initial capital. ? These contracts are not realizing the return due to many variables, and my colleagues must now seek other ways to fund their renovations, including bond financing, higher rents, and added fees, saving operational funds to pay the large costs of their renovations.” So be careful when you hear promises about return on investment.

Keep reading this spring for green myths 2 and 3, and curb your appetite for performance contracts as winter winds rattle your windows.

?James Martin and James E. Samels, Future Shock columnists, are authors of Turnaround: Leading Stressed Colleges and Universities to Excellence (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009). Martin is a professor of English at Mount Ida College (Mass.) and Samels is president and CEO of The Education Alliance.

Ms. Mentor’s New and Ever More Impeccable Advice for Women and Men in Academia

By Emily Toth; University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008; 272 pp., $19.95

Ms. Mentor, the long-running career advice columnist (and alter ego of Emily Toth, who teaches at Louisiana State University), is back with a follow-up to her 1997 book, Ms. Mentor’s Impeccable Advice for Women in Academia. She dispenses her wisdom online and in The Chronicle of Higher Education, from which part of this collection is drawn. Readers seek her advice on everything from how to behave at faculty social events to how to confront a colleague who is suspected of conducting “extracurricular research” with a student. Toth expands on some of these earlier published columns by including reader responses to Ms. Mentor’s replies?which often disagree with her?and Ms. Mentor’s subsequent attempts to set them straight. Her replies, written in the third person, are thoughtful and practical but are also frequently laced with wry humor. In one reply that might well serve as a synopsis for the book, she writes, “Ms. Mentor concedes that most rules for academicians are unwritten. But she has taken it upon herself to fix that.” ?Tim Goral

PENN STATE SUPPORTERS CAN NOW DAB ON THEIR SCHOOL SCENT. A company has developed a fragrance?which it touts as having captured Penn’s essence in a 3.4-ounce bottle?that was inspired by the university’s blue and white colors and campus vegetation. The cologne, for men, has a woodsy scent, while the perfume, for women, includes notes of rose, white patchouli, and lilac.

Katie Masich, president and CEO of Masik Collegiate Fragrances, pitched her idea to administrators in Penn’s Office of Licensing Programs. Samples were given out at home games.

Maureen Riedel, director of trademark licensing at Penn State, described Masich’s product as an “exciting way to ... develop some team spirit and an affinity for our consumers. It’s a fun new way to express your school spirit.”

The $60 fragrance is being sold at Penn State venues, with a percentage of the wholesale cost going to support student scholarships and activities.

A fragrance for The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has also been released, also for $60 a bottle. The women’s perfume scent was inspired “by the romantic structure of ‘The Old Well’” on campus, and the men’s cologne “embodies alluring Carolina blue.” Masich says that fragrances for six other universities are in the works. Other institutions have expressed interest. ?M.H.

IN THE EFFORT TO MAKE INFORMATION ABOUT JUNIATA COLLEGE (PA.) OUTCOMES, COST, campus life, and other subjects as transparent as possible to students and families, President Thomas Kepple has started an initiative to post accountability information in one place on the college’s website (

He readily admits he got the idea from Slippery Rock University (Pa.), which has a prominent link to its accountability site on its home page. “We saw Slippery Rock’s and we thought it was a good idea, so we expanded it. We tried to put as much information in place to help people understand what we are doing.”

In addition to Juniata’s collegewide outcomes, each department shares statistics of its own, such as graduate school placements. A maple leaf denotes any item that supports the strategic plan.

Launched on October 20, the site had more than 1,300 unique page views as of early December, with visitors staying an average of 27 seconds. “The bounce rate is near zero on that page,” adds Gabe Welsch, assistant vice president of marketing.

Although much of the information is also available on college search websites, such as, Welsch points out that it is preferable to keep visitors on the college’s own website. ?A.M.

AMERICA IS STILL A STRONG DRAW AS A PLACE FOR INTERNATIONAL students to attend college. According to the 2008 Open Doors report from the Institute of International Education, the number of international students studying in the United States during the 2007-2008 school year increased 7 percent over the previous year, the biggest gain since September 11, 2001.

Asia is still the region that sends the most students, with the top five countries being India, China, South Korea, Japan, and Canada.

Canada? “Canada has been in the top five or six since the beginning of Open Doors [in 1949],” says Peggy Blumenthal, executive vice president and chief operating officer at the IIE. Canadian students are attracted by the same qualities as students from more far-flung locations?our large system and its diversity of choices.

Despite Canada’s continued support, most American higher education institutions are focusing recruitment efforts in Asia, which not only has a large population of students but many students who can pay their own way. “You don’t see a lot of recruiting in Africa because they can’t pay the fees,” Blumenthal points out. The Asian countries, on the other hand, have strong economies and a growing middle class.

She also explains that while the undergraduate systems in India, China, and South Korea are improving, there aren’t enough graduate programs to accept the students, so they are coming to America. The “world-class research” occurring here adds to the attraction, Blumenthal notes.

The students from Japan, however, “resemble American study abroad students.” They come for short programs to explore the culture and improve their language skills. Students from Japan decreased by 3.7 percent in 2008 compared to the 2007 report, partly because of a decline in the college age population and partly because of more opportunities at home.

Student visas are no longer scarce, as they were immediately after September 11, as evidenced by the 10 percent increase in first-time international students entering the country during the 2007-2008 school year. There was also a 10 percent increase last year. Blumenthal says the government has made an effort to publicize the fact that the wait time to obtain a visa is now predictable and manageable.

International students add diversity to a campus, but considering most pay out-of-state tuition and fees, these students can also be a financial boon in these tight economic times.

The full report can be ordered at for $59.95. ?A.M.

"INTRODUCTION TO ZYMOLOGY" MIGHT not sound exciting, but the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s new course quickly filled up. Zymology is the science of fermentation, and the lucky students in instructor Jon Roll’s spring course are about to learn how to brew beer.

Roll is quick to downplay any expectations that his course will change the culture of binge drinking on campus. “Any student that wants to binge drink is not going to be interested in the brewing process.” All students enrolled in the initial course are seniors who have taken the prerequisite courses in microbiology, biochemistry, and organic chemistry. So although the course may well catch the attention of partiers, it isn’t for slackers.

Students will use equipment engineered and provided by MillerCoors. “My understanding is that a lot of industry people are getting near retirement,” says Roll. “MillerCoors became interested initially in supporting this course because it wanted to increase its educated workforce.” Although many IHEs offer extensive programs in winemaking, most beer brewers have learned their craft on the job. Budding brewers on the West Coast can take undergraduate courses at the University of California, Davis, or pursue certificate and diploma programs in brewing at the UC Davis Extension.

The student assistant who helped Roll develop the course, a senior, has already received two job offers from breweries. ?Don Parker-Burgard

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