Rice University creates new leadership institute

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Rice University says it believes all of its students can be leaders with the right cultivation and coaching. The university hopes a new $50 million institute will give students that push.

Professor Charged With Threatening to Kill Dean

Craig Boardman, an associate professor at the John Glenn College of Public Affairs at Ohio State University, is facing charges of aggravated menacing for allegedly telling a human resources officer that he had a gun and planned to kill his dean and then himself, TV 10 News reported. Authorities report that when they went to Boardman's house after hearing about what he had said, Boardman wasn't there. He was arrested a short time later, after he was in a car crash, on charges of operating a vehicle while intoxicated. Boardman did not respond to calls but his lawyer told the television station that Boardman never had a gun.

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Northwest Nazarene President, Under Fire, Resigns

David Alexander announced Tuesday that he is stepping down as president of Northwest Nazarene University, effective at the end of this month. His statement did not explicitly reference controversy that has been intense at the institution in recent months, with faculty members and many students and alumni angry over layoffs and what is widely perceived by faculty members as the retaliatory layoff of a popular professor whose work has sometimes been criticized by Nazarene traditionalists. While Alexander apologized for the way the layoffs had been handled and pledged to reconsider them, that was not enough for many critics, who said that they had lost confidence in his leadership.

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New Booklet: Emerging Markets, Emerging Strategies

Inside Higher Ed is pleased to publish a new booklet, "Emerging Markets, Emerging Strategies," in our series of print-on-demand publications. You can download a copy free, here. And you can sign up here for a webinar on the booklet's themes, to be held on Tuesday, June 23, at 2 p.m. Eastern.


Essay on trying to be an "outside-in" college president

Susan Henking wonders if it's possible to be a college president and speak truth to power.

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Former U. of Illinois football player alleges mistreatment by coach

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A former University of Illinois football player tweets that coach and staff forced athletes to play while injured. University promises investigation, but is backing the coach.

New presidents or provosts: DePaul Fort Hays Kentucky Pfeiffer RISD Rollins Salem Southern Arkansas WPI

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  • Trey Berry, provost and vice president for academic affairs at Southern Arkansas University, has been promoted to president there.
  • Bruce E. Bursten, Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and former dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, has been selected as provost at Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

Survey notes conditions of those seeking care at campus counseling centers

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Survey outlines the many challenges facing campus counseling centers -- and finds some increase in staffing.

Colorado's New Policy on Prior Learning

Colorado will standardize how its public colleges grant credit for prior learning, The Denver Post reports. The Colorado Higher Education Commission will create a comprehensive, statewide prior-learning assessment policy, which it said will provide more consistency and transparency. However, the state's colleges will have a chance to weigh in on the standards before they are finalized, the commission said.

"One of the main goals directing this work is to ensure that PLA credits earned at one public institution will be accepted in transfer and apply to equivalent general education requirements at any receiving public institution," said the commission, "and to unify equivalently applied cut scores for major and elective credit to the greatest extent possible."

Essay on the need to focus on administrators below presidents to change community colleges

A new book, Redesigning America’s Community Colleges: A Clearer Path to Student Success (Harvard University Press) is an important step forward for community colleges. The work bridges the all-too-familiar divide between research and practice, outlining actionable, transformative recommendations to improve student attainment that have emerged out of the extensive portfolio of research conducted over the past 20 years by the Community College Research Center at Teachers College of Columbia University. And while many aspects of the book deserve discussion, how change can be effectively instigated at community colleges is a pivotal issue on which any reform efforts will hinge.

Obviously, the call for organizational and structural change is nothing new. Early on the book notes that “recent reforms did not question the fundamental design of community college programs and services.” Redesigning America's Community Colleges boldly asserts that “to improve their outcomes on a substantial scale in an environment very different than the past, colleges must undertake a more fundamental rethinking of their organization and culture.”

The book’s authors, Thomas R. Bailey, Shanna Smith Jaggars and Davis Jenkins, argue that necessary institutional change will result from conscious redesign of many community college processes along the lines of behavioral economic principles. This implicitly challenges conventional wisdom that attributes successful change to college leadership -- typically the president. For years, community colleges have been bombarded with the belief that getting the right person into the presidency is the critical factor governing institutional success. Indeed, there is an entire cottage industry of community college leadership programs, consulting firms and organizations that promote the grooming and selection process of the community college president.

Redesigning takes on the “great leader” theory of change by providing specific and clear suggestions about how college intake processes, curriculum plans and organizational framework can be altered to directly impact student success. Of course, the authors recognize the importance of presidential leadership and commitment to the process, but they bet the farm on fundamental organizational change versus intervention by great men and women.

The authors present a useful strategic framework built upon CCRC’s research. But accompanying this wisdom is a significant challenge. Even if presidential leadership is decisive, how is the design and implementation of these changes driven throughout the institution? The closest the book comes to addressing this issue is noting the necessity of faculty involvement, overlooking the imperative to focus on administrative managers, who are in charge of the organizational structures that Redesigning targets for change.

Any leader of a large community college knows that their middle-level management is critical to institutional change. These are the directors of key units, the associate deans who work directly with the faculty, and the business, information technology, financial aid and student services staff. Many of these individuals are tethered to their colleges, infrequently interacting with other institutions, and have significantly longer tenure than most presidents and senior leadership. In most cases, they are the staff members who possess institutional memory and critical operational knowledge. They maintain most of the day-to-day contact and communications with faculty, students and community.

Winning their commitment to change is crucial to redesign efforts, because it is their jobs and their processes that will be the most challenged. Therefore, an important step to driving the organizational reforms proposed by the book will need to be supported by efforts focused on developing midlevel managers in community colleges. Too many currently available programs concentrate solely on senior talent management.

Paradoxically, a renewed emphasis on middle-level management could also help the oft-cited dilemma of the lack of a sufficient pool of those qualified and interested becoming community college presidents. It has almost become a ritual among the leadership programs to decry the lack of interest by high-level administrators willing to step up into presidential roles.

Who wants to work 12-hour days, attend frequent political events -- often involving early morning and evening commitments -- and chase after alternative funding sources, all the while serving as the pivotal internal change agent? A more empowered and determined staff could make the job of community college president more focused and manageable, while integrally contributing to change designed to drive higher levels of student success.

James Jacobs is president of Macomb Community College.

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