Higher Education for the Nation’s Future

By Ted Mitchell

June 20, 2018

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ACE President Ted Mitchell introduces the Council’s new Strategic Framework, which will underpin the organization for the next three years and help chart a successful course for the future of higher education.

I had a lot of jobs in higher education before I took the helm of ACE last September. I proudly served as president of Occidental College, a federal policy maker at the Department of Education, a senior administrator at the University of California, Los Angeles, a faculty member at Dartmouth College, and a member of the Stanford University Board of Trustees.

I sometimes joke that my lengthy resume simply shows that I can’t hold a job. But in all seriousness, there’s a common thread to my career, a focus on helping more students gain access to a high-quality postsecondary education and complete their degrees. Similarly, a commitment to help our member institutions and the entire higher education community best serve our students is embedded in ACE’s DNA.

I was honored to arrive at ACE in time to lead the Council into its second century. But it’s no secret that these are challenging times for American higher education.

Colleges and universities are not immune to the fallout from the decline in public trust in nearly all institutions, as well as what often seems like an all-out assault on evidence and facts—in short, the truth. Understanding higher education as a public good and believing that a college degree is a good value for individuals also is beginning to vanish. College leaders are all too familiar with narratives that portray higher education as elitist, too expensive, and ideological.

ACE, whose membership includes institutions from every corner of American higher education and whose responsibilities include convening and mobilizing the entire higher education community, must take a lead role in addressing these and other pressing issues. To undertake that work most effectively, it was important to re-examine our priorities as an organization and craft a new strategic framework, one that sets out our vision, mission, core values, and key strategic commitments that will guide our work over the next three years.

As I mentioned, I was proud to arrive at ACE in time to help celebrate our centennial year. But as I noted in an address to the ACE Board of Directors and others from across the higher education community during a dinner to kick off our 100th Annual Meeting, the centennial is an occasion to look back and mark past accomplishments—and then focus on where we want to head next.

As I said then:

Now, more than ever, we need high quality higher education to be a right available to all. This is in the interest of all Americans, and it is in the national interest.

This is where I believe ACE can and must play a vital role in convening and mobilizing the entire higher education community to work together to help promote the value of higher education to stakeholders in and outside the political sphere.

ACE is, above all, a diverse membership organization whose members span the higher education landscape. Our greatest strengths are the ability to speak with a common voice and our membership’s commitment to the noblest ideals of higher education. At ACE, we have the privilege of representing the most mission driven organizations in America, institutions with a passion to serve and to build the future through teaching, research, and service. That was true in our first century and will be true in our second.

Now more than ever, higher education is shaping our world for the better. We have an opportunity to do more and we cannot let that opportunity fade. So tonight, as we embark on our second century together, let us renew our commitment to what higher education is, can, and should be…and in so doing we will meet our highest aspirations for ourselves, our students, our institutions, and our nation. The country deserves nothing less.

You can read the entirety of those remarks by clicking here.

Today, I am proud to introduce the new ACE Strategic Framework, which will enable us, in partnership with our member institutions, colleague associations, and others across the higher education community, to chart a successful course into the future.

At its heart is our vision of a vibrant democratic society that relies on postsecondary education to expand knowledge, equity, and social progress. Our mission is to be a membership organization that mobilizes the higher education community to shape effective public policy and foster innovative, high-quality practice.

And we will focus on the following strategic commitments as we strengthen advocacy and leadership and more effectively engage our diverse membership in the areas of policy and practice:

  • Affirm and Strengthen Public Trust in Higher Education
  • Champion Equity, Access, and Completion
  • Enrich the Capacity of Institutions & Leaders to Innovate and Adapt

To view the complete Strategic Framework document, which elaborates on these three key commitments and also describes our core organizational values, click here.

I am pleased that we already have launched critical work in the area of our commitment to enrich the capacity of institutions and leaders, with the announcement in April of our plans to transform ACE’s suite of leadership development programs.

This is an example of how, as a result of the strategic planning process, we will be looking at new and more innovative ways to approach our work and working to enhance member service and engagement. As with the transformation of the leadership programs, we will meet members where they are through a focus on regional outreach. I am eager to share more exciting news in the months to come as we collectively meet the challenges that lie ahead.

If you have any questions or comments about this blog post, please contact us.

About the Author

Ted Mitchell

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