The essay below, by Mary Sue Coleman and Lisa Rudgers, originally appeared April 20, 2021, in Inside Higher Ed.
Being a college president is tough under the best of circumstances. While the pandemic has exponentially expanded the day-to-day work and uncertainty, the job has in truth always been extremely challenging. Pressures from stakeholders across the institution, economic and political stressors, and the precariousness of the sector’s financial model can threaten to undermine even the most determined leader’s ability to sustain forward momentum.
This is especially true for those taking on higher education’s CEO role for the first time. New presidents must learn how to navigate the institution’s governance and culture, all while balancing the seemingly endless demands from internal and external constituents.
Increasingly, wise boards of trustees and campus leaders are recognizing that executive coaching and mentoring can be an important component in successful presidential leadership over the long haul. Although executive coaching is common in the corporate sector, higher education has been slower to understand the benefits that external coaching and expertise can bring to bear — and the reasons why an experienced, outside perspective is so valuable. Here’s what we’ve learned. Continue reading →
Julie, Steve and I are thrilled to announce that three higher education superstars are joining the Peterson Rudgers Group team as Senior Advisors: Mary Sue Coleman, E. Royster Harper and Cynthia Wilbanks. The trio will offer our clients (and us) an unparalleled breadth of experience and depth of wisdom drawn from their decades of experience at the highest levels of university leadership.
As we watch colleges, universities, and schools struggle with decision-making around the fall, one fact looms large: there is an unprecedented level of uncertainty that, for many, is paralyzing.
Some of this is completely outside everyone’s control: Will the infection rate surge again? Will there be public health directives that affect campuses? Will there be travel restrictions? Can international students even get a visa?
But another significant portion is because all of our well-constructed planning models are off. What does it mean if a student participates in a virtual campus visit? Do enrollment deposits mean fall matriculants? And what’s going on with fundraising, anyway? All of our formulas for estimating yield, financial aid needs, or annual giving are completely blown out of the water in the midst of the pandemic.
One thing that can help with the second category of uncertainty is to gather fresh data. Many schools are doing just that: surveying students about their online experience, parents about their views on cost and value, faculty and staff about their experiences pivoting online and the support they need to deliver instruction and services in the fall. While these data can’t completely lift the mist, they might help you get out of the “dense fog” you’ve been driving through, to quote a recent Chronicle article.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Both in our scanning and in our conversations with clients, we often see themes emerging across the country. One common theme during the pandemic has been: How can we ask our donors for financial support when there is so much hardship out there? Should we change what we are asking for? Should we delay that campaign we’ve been planning?
While we don’t claim to be experts in fundraising, we track those who are. We asked our colleague and research associate Toni Shears to review the literature and share some of the most useful advice that experts across the country are offering. We hope you’ll find Toni’s compilation helpful.
Most professional fundraisers have worked through tough times and economic downturns, but it’s safe to say that none have seen a crisis quite like this. While organizations struggle to offset new costs and lost revenue, fundraisers are under pressure to sustain giving in what looks to be the worst economic downturn of our times.
The shut-downs, lost revenue and added costs of COVID-19 have created financial hardships for colleges and universities of all sizes and in every sector. Many institutions have announced cut-backs, while others are planning to do so in the weeks and months ahead. We began to scan for campus announcements and news coverage to see what action steps are being taken and how college leaders are talking about their financial planning. As we assembled these resources, we thought they might be of value to colleagues around the country who are wrestling with similar issues.
We do not claim this is a comprehensive list; please let us know if you’d like to add something or see information that needs to be updated or corrected. Continue reading →