The following compilation was developed by PRG partners Julie Peterson, Steve Kloehn, and Lisa Rudgers based on our own experiences and a review of best practices nationally.
One increasingly difficult, and perplexing, question for college presidents and their senior leadership teams is determining when to issue an official university statement in the midst of crises or concerning developments, whether they occur on campus or elsewhere around the nation or the globe.
Much has been written about this topic in recent years, and it’s no wonder. (See the end of this essay for a resource list of further reading.) The criticism that followed nearly every statement by a university president in response to the conflict between Israel and Hamas is a painful reminder of the inherent challenges. And that is just the most recent example. College leaders were also praised and pilloried for their response to the murder of George Floyd in 2020, the January 6 insurrection in Washington in 2021 and the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision in 2022, to name just a few. The expectation that university leaders will speak out in response to events beyond their campuses only appears to be accelerating, even as many leaders express growing reservations about taking on that role.Continue reading →
PRG senior associate, independent consultant and longtime higher ed leader Laurie Fenlason offers wise advice about the importance of college and university leaders making an extra effort to engage their staff. She notes that talent shortages, labor unrest, attacks on diversity and inclusion programs, and the complexities of hybrid work make employee engagement an even more urgent priority in the year ahead. Read the rest of her essay, which includes great examples of best practices, in Inside Higher Ed.
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.