2020-2021 Series Foreword

August 24, 2020

Recently, I had the opportunity to engage in a turnaround of a small college. What I learned along the way was that fiscal stress is debilitating. The stakes are high, and you can’t think about much else. Innovations that occur are focused on revenue. Then one day you finally get to the tipping point when all of your community’s resolve is rewarded and you can start looking forward to sustainability—fiscally and otherwise. Which brings me to the introduction of this volume of President to President.

Chapter 1: Leveraging Institutional Culture to Foster Innovation

September 08, 2020

In 1994, the U.S. Department of Defense closed Fort Ord as part of its Base Realignment and Closure process, the largest U.S. military base to be closed at the time. Built in 1917, Fort Ord housed 50,000 service members at its height and was the staging ground for the Korean and Vietnam wars. Fort Ord’s closure meant that a third of the economic base of the region was eliminated in one stroke.

Chapter 2: Embracing Campus Capital: Formulating a Vocabulary for Change

September 24, 2020

Like any new president, when I arrived on the campus of Wofford College in July 2013, there was a sense of anticipation and an expectation of change. The 11th president in the college’s 160-year history, this was my first presidency, and I knew that there was an opportunity to be seized.

Chapter 3: Bringing Corporate America to Your Campus

October 28, 2020

Innovation—the ability to anticipate and respond to changes taking place on our campus and throughout this 21st-century world—sets leading colleges and universities apart from the thousands of other institutions in the higher education marketplace. Innovation on our campuses can take many forms. Often it means adapting an existing strategy to emerging demands.

Chapter 4: Leading Through Crisis: Leveraging Goals to Build a Lasting Legacy

November 16, 2020

In 2020, those of us who have the privilege of working in higher education as college and university presidents have found ourselves at the helm of complex organizations coping with three significant crises. The first crisis is the public health emergency represented by COVID-19, a once-in-a-generation global outbreak of a highly contagious and novel disease. The second is the economic emergency triggered by the pandemic, requiring teams around the world to reinvent the way they do business. The third, prompted by the tragic loss of another Black life at the hands of law enforcement, is the unrest associated with renewed calls for social justice as we reexamine issues of racism and abuse of power.

Chapter 5: Innovation in a Time of Transition

December 07, 2020

There have been few moments as filled with transition and innovation as the spring of 2020. With limited warning, all of American higher education pivoted to respond to the global pandemic brought forth by COVID-19. In the face of a global public health and economic crisis, we found that what we value most in higher education was suddenly pathologized: no longer were we allowed to be in proximity to one another as we learned and lived together.

Chapter 6: Post-Pandemic Learning and Innovation

January 11, 2021

Hindsight is said to be 20/20, and with hindsight 2020 may be remembered as a transformational year in which real innovation took hold across the American higher education landscape. While colleges and universities are often criticized for a reluctance to change, the COVID-19 pandemic shocked the system and necessitated wholesale modifications in teaching and learning, as well as institutional policies and even business practices. As the scope of the crisis became apparent, at James Madison University (JMU) we sought to embrace the opportunity to think creatively about what we do and how we do it.

Chapter 7: Leading in Tumultuous Times: The Importance of Mission in Times of Real Change

February 01, 2021

The 2019-2020 academic year will figure prominently in the histories of our universities and colleges. Early in the morning of October 28, 2019, I awoke in the President’s home located near our University to the heavy presence of smoke in the air. Looking from my yard toward our campus atop the Santa Monica Mountains in Los Angeles, the unthinkable was suddenly very real.

Chapter 8: Want to be More Innovative? Ask the Right Questions

March 01, 2021

Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) is often described as innovative, and we annually rank at the top of the U.S. News & World Report in the “Most Innovative” category. As a result, we have lots of visitors from other institutions seeking to foster a more innovative culture back on their campuses. Culture is hard and is, in many ways, the sum total of how human beings co-exist in an organization—the messy combination of values, expression, reward systems, policies, power, acceptable and non-acceptable behaviors, and more. Changing culture is a heavy lift.

Chapter 9: When the Dust Settles, Higher Education Won’t Be the Same

March 29, 2021

This has been a truly extraordinary year. We have navigated through one of the most difficult periods in our history, impacting us personally and professionally. It is impossible to exaggerate how devastating COVID-19 has been. 

Chapter 10: Making Connections: How Strategic Education Reform Can Ignite Innovation and Build a Better Community

April 12, 2021

There is a reason why colleges never get around to rethinking general education. It’s a hard thing to do. Designing a compelling alternative to a century-old formula of distribution requirements is one kind of challenge. Getting a faculty to agree on the alternative—on what they should require of all students—is quite another.