There is no dearth of challenges facing college and university presidents these days, from pressures on the higher education business model to questions about how to best leverage fast-changing learning technology.
But at an ACE Annual Meeting session Monday morning examining the “21st Century College Presidency,” the focus was on how presidents can marshal their institutions’ resources to help all types of students succeed.
An important job of the modern-day college president is to overcome the natural inertia that can plague institutions, “be in the present and be aware of the future” and figure out how to have a powerful impact on the lives of his or her students, said Sanford C. (Sandy) Shugart, president of Valencia College (FL) and one of the session’s panelists.
Shugart said there are three overarching strategies needed to make that impact:
1. Acting coherently across campus lines to create a culture where staff and faculty want to work together toward a common goal;
2. Becoming much more evidence-based, using data to determine what students are really experiencing; and
3. Moving in the direction of a “sustained culture that is concerned about outcomes.”
The panel, which also included Carol Quillen, president of Davidson College (NC) and Josh Wyner, vice president and executive director of the Aspen Institute’s College Excellence Program, was moderated by Jean A. Dowdall, a partner at the executive search firm Witt/Kieffer and a former ACE Fellow.
Quillen said that technology can help improve student outcomes and that there is an opportunity today to offer high quality education to more people than ever before.
The challenge, she said, is “how to remain accessible to all students” while still offering the same level of excellent educational quality.
The panel also looked at issues explored by the Aspen Institute’s study, “Crisis and Opportunity: Aligning the Community College Presidency with Student Success.”