2022-2023 Series Foreword

by Mildred Garcia, Ed.D.

Posted on August 29, 2022

Download as a PDF

Download as a PDF

As the President to President publication enters its 19th year, higher education has experienced and been affected over the last several years by external forces and unexpected crises never experienced in most of our lifetimes. The demographic shifts throughout our country have changed the student populations we serve. Our institutions are serving a more ethnically diverse population that is the new majority of America. In addition, these students are not the traditional 17-21-year-olds. As a matter of fact, this particular population is a small minority of who we serve nationwide. In my experience as a three-time college and university president, most students are ethnically diverse, older adults, employed, and/or low-income and/or are attending to family responsibilities.

This country has also witnessed the senseless murder of George Floyd, killings of too many African Americans, the racist attacks on the Asian American population, Latinos, and LGBTQI+ populations, and the emergence of the #MeToo movement. Gun violence has risen exponentially where Americans don’t feel safe in schools, supermarkets, shopping malls, or religious institutions. Plus, we experienced an insurrection on U.S. democracy, hitting at the very core of what makes this country the envy of the world. With all of this we see protests, a country divided, and a student body yearning for a quality education, a rewarding career, and a fulfilling life. 

Furthermore, the world was hit with the COVID-19 pandemic, which necessitated that colleges and universities immediately transition to new ways of serving their students as well as delivering knowledge through technology. Throughout this pandemic, no campus was left unscathed. We witnessed faculty turning to online learning utilizing Microsoft Teams, Zoom, etc. We had college and university staff members delivering laptops and hot spots to homes so students could continue their studies. 

Despite the pandemic, we also had staff as frontline workers returning to their institutions to take care of the buildings, maintain campus grounds, provide security, and attend to laboratories. 

The pandemic has affected enrollments because students and families are struggling after losing employment. Many of those students, faculty, and staff who could return are grappling with mental health issues, food insecurity, and fear of going back to campus. Burnout is present on many of our campuses after dealing with these stressful occurrences. On top of all of this, the country is experiencing inflation, with gas prices topping an average of $5.00 a gallon, and groceries and rents also increasing. 

All together, these events have hit higher education like a tornado upending so much of what has been colleges’ and universities’ traditional way of being. These 10 presidents will provide us their perspectives on many of these critical issues mentioned above. They are providing lessons learned, ways to deal with these unexpected episodes in our collective history, and documenting these realities for the future. 

Through their perspectives, we will see leadership at its best. Leaders who confront these challenges despite all that our students, faculty, and staff are living through and finding ways to ensure that the best higher education system in the world delivers and survives. To paraphrase Brené Brown, these presidents are brave, never silent about hard things, and doing it all with the love for students and the institutions they serve. These leaders are daring their campuses to be better and serve the communities and students they have, not the students they wished they had. They are leaders who epitomize Brazilian educator Paolo Freire because they recognize that there is no success in the struggle without hope. These hopeful presidents and the presidents serving our colleges and universities of today are the silent heroes and heroes who are educating Americans to be educated citizens prepared to enter the world as leaders in a diverse democracy and global world, living financial, social, and healthy lives.