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Lessons Learned from College Presidents

Posted by Kate Seat on Jun 21, 2016 8:02:46 AM
Topics: Higher Ed, administration

For new administrators, it can sometimes be difficult to strike a balance between what they hope to achieve and what's realistic to actually accomplish. And while a certain amount of experience can only be gained hands-on, finding out what others in the field wish they'd known sooner can often be a real asset to those just beginning a new role. In order to lend guidance to incoming deans, vice presidents and provosts, several seasoned college presidents gathered last week to share lessons they'd learned thoughout their careers.

Lessons Learned from College Presidents

More than 25 deans, vice presidents and provosts with presidential ambition gathered in Washington, DC, last week for the 18th annual American Association of State Colleges and Universities’ Millennium Leadership Institute.

Unorthodox paths and strategic matching for presidential vacancies emerged as a highlight of the discussion.

Armstrong State University President Dr. Linda Bleicken talked about being recruited for and working in student affairs positions, despite having a passion for academic affairs. Her advice to the 2016 cohort? There’s no such thing as being ready for an executive appointment or presidency, but pay attention to your level of comfort and skill for any position which may be offered.

“Don’t try to follow my career, because basically I was the utility infielder,” she said. “You will never really feel like you are ready, particularly if you are a woman. Ask yourself, how might I contribute? If you are nervous about something, and think 'this could be a bad role for me long term,' don’t hesitate to negotiate up front about how long you will be in that role.”

When panelists were asked about the amount of time they each dedicated to fundraising, a majority of the leaders suggested more than 70% of their time was spent building relationships or making direct asks.
“It's very important to understand that we don’t have a safety net from a government or state or county that backs us up,” Zane said. “We have to be financially independent. Every dollar we spend is a young person or family making a sacrifice in terms of saving for this institution."

Fredonia State University President Dr. Virginia Horvath added that strategic transparency with stakeholders was key in the fundraising role of the president. She said it is key presidents find “the balance between sharing information about limitation of resources, providing hope about why the work remains worthwhile,” she said.

Discussion about institutional culture rounded out the discussion, with presidents agreeing building understanding and support for new administrative vision is among the hardest parts of the presidential function.

— Jarrett Carter via Education Dive
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About Kate Seat

Kate Seat is a former copywriter at MBS. When away from work, she’s either creating one-of-a-kind art dolls, reading or watching way too much tv with her husband, daughter and an irritable chinchilla named Klaus.

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