Recently I led members of the Peterson Rudgers Group team in the design and facilitation of a two-day university leadership retreat that included the chancellor, his provost, the vice chancellors and deans. This has become a significant area of practice for our firm, and one that Julie, Steve and I find deeply rewarding. There is both art and science in creating and facilitating a program that fosters deep team dialogue and strategic thinking. And it can have almost magical outcomes in both team building and performance.
At the conclusion of this highly successful retreat, the chancellor walked up to the podium to offer some closing remarks. He looked over at the PRG team and grinned as he began.
“You all know that I am highly skeptical of ‘consultants.’ But…these are no ordinary consultants!” Afterward, as he bid our team farewell, he said that it isn’t quite right to call us simply facilitators of such an event, either. He concluded that we are in a category “all our own.”
As Peterson Rudgers Group celebrates its five-year anniversary, we think the chancellor is just right. Our practice has evolved and deepened over these years. Our knowledge and experience in the higher ed sector have few peers. Several of our clients have been with us since Julie and I founded the company, and in these past five years we have worked with almost 60 institutions coast to coast. We work with senior leaders in four major areas: institutional strategy and positioning; communications assessment and planning; leadership development and support; and change management processes.
To answer the chancellor who jokingly struggled with what to call us, I’d say this: We are thought partners. We bring our experience and our strategy skills to bear on some of the most exciting and challenging issues higher education is dealing with today. We are forward-looking in our approach, helping to create a future road map — whether that is comprehensive strategic planning, spot-on communications strategy, expert leadership coaching, or side-by-side guidance on how to effectively implement institutional change.
This past year was an especially exciting one for PRG. We have grown tremendously, and we were thrilled to bring on three of the country’s most experienced higher ed leaders as senior advisors in April: Mary Sue Coleman, Royster Harper and Cynthia Wilbanks. These seasoned leaders expand our expertise in areas ranging from board governance and government relations to athletics, civic engagement, tech transfer/innovation, and student life. We are delighted to announce a new PRG senior associate this summer as well: Ariana González Stokas. Most recently Vice President of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Barnard College, Ariana brings insights and perspectives as both a scholar and an administrator as our clients build on their commitments to justice and equity — across their communities and in society.
Early in 2016, Julie and I hatched our plan for Peterson Rudgers Group at the farmhouse dining table in northern Michigan where I am writing this blog post. We could never have imagined what these five years would bring, including all the talent and wise perspective that our third partner Steve Kloehn now contributes. Well, and a pandemic…but that’s another story. The three of us are grateful to our incredible team of associates and advisors, and to the many, diverse clients who have entrusted us with their partnership and their confidence. We continue to learn and grow, and we are profoundly satisfied when that knowledge contributes to the success of our clients and of higher education writ large.