Category Archives: Leadership

Guideposts for New Presidents in the Time of Pandemic

We work with a great many new and first-time college presidents. Even in good times, taking the helm of a complex, decentralized and highly political organization presents career-defining challenges for new leaders. But in the time of pandemic, these challenges multiply and accelerate, forcing an incoming president to battle unimaginable crises and weigh in on urgent decisions — before the freshly appointed can even set a foot on their campuses.

A recent headline in the Chronicle of Higher Education summed it up aptly: “Welcome to the College Presidency. Oh, the House is on Fire.”

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A New Partner at PRG

We are delighted to announce that Steve Kloehn, a senior leader in higher education and communications, has joined co-founders Julie Peterson and Lisa Rudgers as a partner in the Peterson Rudgers Group.

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Buckle Up for the Next Phase of Post-COVID Planning

The following essay by PRG partners Steve Kloehn, Julie Peterson and Lisa Rudgers appeared in Inside Higher Ed on April 21, 2020.

For colleges and universities across the country, the past few weeks represented an historic, breathtaking achievement. Faced with the choice to act or be acted upon, higher education institutions took the initiative and led the nation.

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In a matter of days, they transformed curricula that would normally take years or decades to reshape. In the face of deep uncertainty, wobbly governmental guidance, and no precedent whatsoever, they moved thousands and thousands of students out of harm’s way. They made bold choices, and they did so with intelligence, grace, and an unfathomable amount of hard work.

And now, even as we counsel our clients to find time for a breather, we know that can be only the briefest of respites. Because if colleges and universities are to recover from this pandemic, leaders must begin now to plan what those institutions will do and be when the crisis ebbs. Continue reading

Modeling Excellent Governance

 

One of our longtime clients, Furman University, recently learned that it has been recognized by the Association of Governing Boards (AGB) for outstanding governance. I had the opportunity to work on the governance refresh that led to this award, in partnership with noted governance expert Richard Chait.

Governance, while perhaps not the most high-profile topic for a college or university to tackle, has the potential to make a huge difference—in the ability of the institution to pursue strategic opportunities, in the engagement and philanthropic support of trustees, and in the success and satisfaction of the president or chancellor. And perhaps to state the obvious: Because the president reports to the board, it can be intimidating to address governance issues and figure out where to even begin.

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Making the Most of Leadership Transition

I’ve overseen three university presidential transitions, and now in our consulting roles Julie and I have advised several in-house teams as they plan for a new president or chancellor.

It’s an important time in the life of an institution, and strategic communications planning is critical – both to ensure a smooth transition and to create a solid foundation for a new leader’s future direction. The most effective communications efforts happen with careful pre-planning and coordination among several college units. When this works well, everyone comes together to craft strategies that celebrate the legacy of where the institution has been, and excitement about the next chapter.

After facilitating quite a few in-house planning sessions with colleagues and clients, I offer some guideposts for making the most of leadership transition:

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