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.
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.
Something fascinating happened over a 7-week period this fall: several universities announced enormous gifts, innovative partnerships, or both, aimed at hugely ambitious and strategic goals in health and science. Each of these announcements represented a clear strategic vision on the part of the school, as well as highly effective communications work that helped to leverage media coverage and storytelling content for positive momentum and visibility.