Compelling Leadership Voices of 2017

In our work with higher education leaders, we help college presidents and other leaders identify compelling topics and make their voices heard through op-eds, speeches and written communications. Doing so benefits their institution, contributes to the sector, and can influence both policy and public opinion in powerful ways. And given the coarsened nature of our public dialogue, these carefully considered perspectives become even more important.

As we noted in our recent essay about trends for Inside Higher Ed, the past year saw a number of leaders speaking up strongly on relevant issues. We reviewed the past year’s worth of presidential communications, and we offer below those contributions we thought were among the most interesting and impactful.

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Saddle Up: 7 Trends Coming in 2018

In what is becoming an annual exercise, Lisa and I reviewed the past year of trends collected in The Scan to forecast what might be coming in 2018. Our resulting essay appears in Inside Higher Ed today. While the developments affecting higher education are sobering, we also offer practical advice for action steps college and university leaders can take to get ahead of the curve. We welcome your thoughts and additions to our list.

Commemorating a Complicated Moment in History

A temporary piece by Ogrydziak Prillinger Architects called Nuclear Thresholds commemorates the 75th anniversary of the first controlled, self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction. Photo by Richard Barnes

This fall the University of Chicago, together with Argonne National Laboratory, celebrated the 75th anniversary of the first self-sustained nuclear reaction. UChicago has a reputation for producing world-changing ideas, and it was fitting to honor the contributions of the scientists whose major scientific discovery shaped human history in profound ways. Yet, at a time of renewed international nuclear tensions, this could not be purely a moment of celebration—it also required serious reflection.

The range of events, stories, media coverage, and multi-media content that UChicago created is a wonderful case study in how to take a single idea, explore it from multiple directions, and have it reach a huge audience with messaging that reinforces the university’s intellectual brand.

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Photography: Stories, Community, Memory

 

Holocaust survivor Bertha Frank at her home Thursday, March 9, 2017. (Mark Mulville/Buffalo News)

Julie and I often counsel college and university clients about the powerful storytelling impact of photography, hoping to encourage a greater use of imagery in institutional communications portfolios. We know it can be a challenge in environments with constrained resources. Yet riveting photographs—those that capture an authentic tone and very “real” experience—can create an evocative narrative in an instant, and even build a shared sense of community.

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Schools Need to Teach Social Media Skills, and Fast

I’ve been fascinated and increasingly troubled by the steady stream of faculty, students and staff in colleges and universities who have blown up their careers in social media. It’s possible these episodes will not create lasting harm in all cases, but for many of these individuals the experience is potentially life-changing. I also suspect that the majority of these episodes are stemming from naïveté about how overwhelming the response can be when you wander into the path of an online mob.

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