Chapter 10: The Blank Sheet of Paper: Crafting Curated Solutions for Strategic Partners

April 16, 2020

Pittsburgh is having a moment. 

High-end hotels and condos are springing up all over town. The tech, energy, and advanced manufacturing sectors are booming. We have a superb restaurant scene, great sports teams, and you can’t open up the travel sections of The New York Times or The Washington Post without coming across articles gushing over Pittsburgh as “the next Austin” or “the next Portland.”

Chapter 9: Creative Collaborations: The Promise of Strategic Partnerships

March 25, 2020

The future is collaborative. For small, private, four-year colleges, it is also, as countless articles and reports have warned, replete with risk. But despite the most challenging combination of demographic and cultural headwinds in generations, schools that choose to carefully cultivate vibrant, synergistic partnerships can not only survive but flourish.

Chapter 8: The Digital Transformation Age Means Personalized Learning for All

March 04, 2020

The United States has the best system of higher education in the world. It is the most comprehensive, multi-faceted, accessible, and well-funded system that any society has created, and despite its flaws and failures, it has stood the test of time for well over 125 years.

Chapter 7: Leveraging Our Assets: Adult Education as a Tool for Transformation

February 05, 2020

Having been engaged in K-12 and higher education leadership for over 40 years, I have personally experienced the significant changes in the higher education landscape in the past two decades in particular.

Chapter 6: Innovating to Advance Success for Students’ Diverse Needs

January 15, 2020

Alarms sound about the future of American colleges and universities as innovations proliferate to address the dynamics of how we educate, whom we educate, for what purpose, and with what value. Near universal agreement can be reached that business as usual will not serve anyone well; yet, no single solution can address the challenges we face. One size never fits all.

Chapter 5: Mergers and Acquisitions in Higher Education: Is There an Opportunity to Build Competitive Advantage, Collective Strength, and Mission Focus?

December 11, 2019

Higher education is in an unprecedented place in its history; competition has never been more intense for an increasingly smaller traditional student population, and many institutions now offer online programs and cater to adult and part-time students, not to mention the existence of corporate universities, continued for-profit participation in the industry, government regulations, and the often negative misperception too many have from the media concerning the value of a degree given the rising costs.

Chapter 4: Opening the Campus to Comprehensive Education and Careers

November 20, 2019

During my recent first year on a new campus, I found myself in search of the true character of the institution I had joined. What were the special strengths of this university? What opportunities existed for advancement? Were there areas where we could direct additional focus? 

Chapter 3: Your City (or Town) is More Than a Place to Call Home

October 30, 2019

When I became president of a private liberal arts college after nine years at the helm of a public research university, many surmised that I was practicing for retirement by starting to downsize.

Chapter 2: Building an Innovation Culture in Higher Education

October 01, 2019

A little more than a decade ago, as the university I serve prepared for a visit from its regional accrediting agency, a senior faculty member characterized the institution in the following terms: “We are a mediocre university, with a mediocre faculty and mediocre facilities, serving a mediocre community.” At the conclusion of the accreditation site visit, the Higher Learning Commission described the faculty relationship with the then president as “highly tenuous” and the University as being “without focus.”

Chapter 1: Educating the Environmental Stewards of Tomorrow: Presidential Leadership and Climate Change

September 04, 2019

As a society, we face numerous challenges that universities seek to address as part of higher education’s central mission to educate students and serve the community. Among them, and one that I care about deeply, is the threat to our future and the clear danger we all face due to climate change. As educators—and leaders of universities essentially equivalent to “small cities” with a direct impact on the environment—I believe we are compelled to address these threats and do everything in our power to counter global warming.

Chapter 10: All at Once: Never is the Past

April 11, 2019

A few years ago, California Lutheran University did what many of you do on a regular basis: we held a table-top emergency drill.

Chapter 9: From Academic Preparation, through Skills Development, to the Knowledge Continuum

March 28, 2019

Every fall, thousands of students start their academic journeys at universities across the nation, taking tentative steps towards degrees.

Chapter 7: Creating Pathways to Opportunity and Service

February 14, 2019

Higher education in the United States is under intense scrutiny. Recent polls reveal an unusually large drop in the public’s confidence in the value of a college degree.

Chapter 6: Meeting the Needs of the Next Generation of Learners: The Agile University

January 29, 2019

Today’s graduates will face a hyper-connected, rapidly changing economy and looming global challenges. Over the course of their lives, college graduates will hold nearly 20 jobs in five different industries, including industries that do not yet exist.

Chapter 5: Bridging the Town-Gown Divide

January 10, 2019

The town-gown divide is not a new issue for college presidents. The relationships between colleges and the communities they inhabit have always been complex.

Chapter 4: The Case for Sustainability: Challenges and Opportunities

December 06, 2018

Given all of the challenges university presidents face today, focusing on sustainability might seem like a luxury few have time for.

Chapter 3: Where Have All the “College Kids” Gone? The Changing Face of the Collegiate Student Body

October 31, 2018

“College kids” is a phrase beloved by lawmakers working on higher education policy and reporters covering campus life. 

Chapter 2: From Risk to Reinvention and Revival: Return on Athletics

October 03, 2018

Risk is characterized by uncertainty – that an event may or may not happen – and undesirable outcomes or loss.

Chapter 1: Engineering a 21st Century Higher Educational Model: Guidelines for Leading the Work

September 06, 2017

I'm an aviation nut, and one of the best gifts I've ever received was an hour of flying time in a 1932 Tiger Moth biplane over the south of England.

Chapter 2: Disrupting the Kitchen-Table Decision: One College’s Innovation to Change the Risk Calculus

October 04, 2017

"Disruption" does not fall lightly on the ears or minds of college leaders. If someone walks into your office to talk about disruption, it's likely that you might start reconsidering the quiet virtues of a scholarly life of research and teaching. There are so many tides of change washing over higher education these days; it hardly seems wise to go out seeking disruption.

Chapter 3: Stages of Transformation: Threading the Needle

October 31, 2017

Disruption is not a new concept for American higher education. In the 20th century, the Great Depression and dramatic enrollment falloffs during World Wars and a historic surge in enrollments following WWII due to the GI Bill brought dramatic changes to many campuses.

Chapter 4: Agility in Higher Education: Key to Synchronizing Student-Centered Advocacy and Public Policy Engagement

December 05, 2017

Recent events in our nation have caused the convergence of a tremendous amount of political changes, regulatory activity for higher education, and the pendulum of public attention swinging back to colleges and universities on a variety of important issues.

Chapter 5: Staying True to Mission and History: University of Detroit Mercy's Role in the Revitalization of a Historic City and Its Communities

January 10, 2018

Nearly 20 years into the 21st century, university presidents are developing potential solutions to ensure their institutions' sustainability and viability for future decades.

Chapter 6: Guiding Cycles of Transformational Innovation

January 31, 2018

Founded in 1842, Mary Baldwin University (MBU) celebrated its 175th anniversary in academic year 2016-17. It was a year of celebration and reflection upon our deep foundation. It was also a year of metamorphosis, culminating eight years of significant changes following the 2008 global economic recession.

Chapter 7: African American/Black Student Populations: Cutting-Edge Models for Best Practice

February 13, 2018

Hillsborough Community College (HCC), a two-year public institution with five campuses in Hillsborough County, Tampa, is one of 28 community colleges in Florida.

Chapter 9: The Dominican Experience for All: A Distinctive Program Approach to Innovation

April 04, 2018

Much of higher education is grappling with the tension between a fragile business model and a quality educational model. These two concerns have been on a collision course as student demographics have shifted, the traditional-age student population has declined, the cost of college has outstripped inflation, and as students see college primarily, if not exclusively, as a path to employment. Our knowledge of what is most effective in college teaching and learning has increased, even as our ability to supply that level of intense education is financially and philosophically challenged.

Chapter 10: Strategic Planning and Opportunism: Leaving Room for Serendipity

April 25, 2018

To state the obvious: the future is uncertain. To make it less so, we make valiant efforts to chart the course for our institutions through strategic planning. In broad consultation with campus communities, we envision bright futures and set bold aspirations for ourselves. We take into account our strengths and build upon them, while also making efforts to improve those areas that need attention. We take stock of our peers’ programs and pricing to see where we fit in our regional ecosystem to ensure our offerings remain relevant and attractive to prospective students and supporters.

Chapter 1: Designing for Integrative Learning

October 04, 2016

Teaching, building community and integrating learning are all design challenges. We know that faculty want students to learn, that students want to connect with each other, and that they desire to internalize their learning. Our role as leaders is to help guide the design of systems that will increase desired behaviors. An inclusive process will help create facilities that are welcomed by your community and designed to match the needs of your individual campus, but clear priorities for outcomes and the paths that lead there are essential.

Chapter 2: The Role of the University in Promoting Community Resiliency

November 10, 2016

According to, "resiliency" is an object's ability to return an original form after being bent, compressed, or stretched. In human terms, it is the ability to adapt and recover from illness or adversity. The word derives from the Latin resilire, to bounce or spring back. Resiliency assumes negative change—bad things will happen. The key question is: will we bounce back?

Chapter 3: After Katrina: Rebuilding a Residence Life Program

December 08, 2016

August of 2015 marked the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. I was president of Philander Smith College in Little Rock, AR, during that time. Along with the rest of the nation, I watched the developments in shock.

Chapter 4: The StepUP Program at Augsburg: Overcoming the Stigma of Addiction on a University Campus

January 05, 2017

It began nearly 20 years ago with one student, a student who went to one of his professors with a remarkable story. As he recounts it, the student told the faculty member that he was in recovery from addiction and that college was a really tough place for someone in recovery to negotiate. The faculty member responded with humility and compassion: "I don't know anything about recovery, but if I can help you succeed in college, we will go on this path together."

Chapter 7: Pathways for Success: From Pre-College to Campus Life

March 18, 2017

Imagine you are a business owner. You own a general store in a small town, and for many years you have depended upon a local manufacturing company to subsidize your business. But now they are downsizing, and their standing order has been reduced from 60% of your revenue to 20% and falling. They are laying off employees who, in turn, are moving away for new jobs. And, of course, internet providers are significantly undercutting your business as you are unable to compete with their pricing structure. What can you do?

Chapter 8: The Commons Concept: Building Dynamic Living and Learning Environments through Integrated Design

April 03, 2017

The University of British Columbia's Vancouver (UBC Vancouver) campus has the highest percentage of beds per full-time student in Canada. UBC Vancouver's inventory of on-campus, university-run housing spaces has grown by more than 4,350 beds in the last 10 years. Our Student Housing department currently manages 11,038 beds that both undergraduate and graduate, domestic and international students call home. As we have expanded our bed spaces over the last decade, our international student enrolment has more than doubled to our current enrolment of 13,174. For the first time this year, international students (51%) outnumber domestic students (49%) living in residence.

Chapter 10: Pathways to Success: Easing the Transition to Four-Year Universities with Comprehensive Guidance and Institutional Support

May 08, 2017

About 80 percent of students entering two-year institutions say they aim to ultimately complete a four-year degree. But only 14 percent of those students attain their goal within six years, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.