3 Priorities for EDUCAUSE’s Next CEO

Opening a conversation with John O’Brien.

January 21, 2015
Congratulations to John O’Brien on his selection as the next CEO of EDUCAUSE. I don’t know John, but from what I can see from his background, (and knowing how thorough EDUCAUSE is with these sorts of processes), it seems that he will be a great choice to lead the organization.  John will be taking over an EDUCAUSE on June 1st that, thanks to Diana Oblinger, is an excellent shape. 
I’ve always been impressed by Diana’s professionalism and deep commitment both to the educational technology profession and to higher education. If you’ve been to the EDUCAUSE Annual Conference you know that it is an extremely well-run event. Diana has been able to build an efficient, productive, and service oriented organization at EDUCAUSE.  She has put in place an accomplished team of senior higher educational professionals on the leadership team at EDUCAUSE, a leadership group that is complemented by a highly professional and mission driven staff. Under Diana’s leadership, EDUCAUSE has developed a range of important relationships (such as with the Gates Foundation), and launched a series of highly regarded initiatives such as the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative (ELI - headed by Malcolm Brown and Veronica Diaz) and the Next Generation Learning Challenge (NGLC).  
In short, John O’Brien is fortunate to move into the CEO role in a stable, well-run, economically disciplined, and growing organization. This is an excellent base for John to lead the organization into its next phase of impact and service.
As John and the organization thinks about short-term and long-term priorities for EDUCAUSE, I’d like to offer some suggestions to consider. My real hope is open up a dialogue on the future of EDUCAUSE, finding ways to engage John and his leadership team during the transition.
Priority 1 - Grow EDUCAUSE’s Thought Leadership Footprint:  EDUCAUSE is blessed with a highly experienced, highly accomplished, highly passionate, and highly opinionated staff of education professionals. The problem is that you would not know about the quality of EDUCAUSE’s staff unless you attended EDUCAUSE events. I’d like to see John set a challenge to the EDUCAUSE staff of joining conversations and debates outside of the EDUCAUSE orbit. We should be seeing more EDUCAUSE people on panels, in op-ed pieces, in online communities, and in social media. How often do we see Views pieces or even comments from EDUCAUSE people in this community?  EDUCAUSE also needs to grow its thought leadership bench. How come no Kevin Careys or Jeff Selingos work for EDUCAUSE? EDUCAUSE should have been a go to place to lead the discussion on the Obama Administration’s higher education proposals and policies, as postsecondary innovation and change are really at the heart of what EDUCAUSE is about.
Priority 2 - Rethink EDUCAUSE’s Communications Platforms: I think that EDUCAUSE needs to start from scratch without its communications platforms. There is no sense trying to evolve or fix http://educause.edu/ - the model on which it is designed is simply too broken.  EDUCAUSE’s communications platforms have for too long been about transmission and not about conversation. How many of us go to the EDUCAUSE website on a daily (or even weekly) basis for analysis and community?  My vote would be greatly simplify the site, build it around fast search and retrieval for content, and spend all the energy and thought in figuring out how to build the community aspects of EDUCAUSE’s digital platforms.   How can EDUCAUSE connect members with each other, and not just articles and data?  While the website is being re-thought, it is long past time to have all the EDUCAUSE publications become available on multiple platforms. Reports and articles should be available as e-books. The magazine should also be a mobile app with offline access. Community features should be built into all the content.   
Priority 3 - Expand EDUCAUSE’s Leadership Development Efforts: EDUCAUSE has a range of high quality professional development and leadership training institutes. I’m a graduate of the Learning Technology Leadership Program, and I hope to one day be accepted to the Leadership Program, the Leading Change Institute, and the NGLC Breakthrough Models Incubator. Where I think that EDUCAUSE has an opportunity to invest in leadership development are in programs outside of the traditional CIO career track.  EDUCAUSE has the opportunity to develop new programs, or integrate and evolve existing programs, for leaders and emerging leaders seeking to develop the skills and relationships necessary to help lead organizational and system-wide change. These leadership development efforts should not be episodic or event/content based, but rather be designed to develop a long-term supported cohort of change agents. These programs should ideally be funded by external sources (foundations, industry underwriting), and be built around long-term and intensive models of leadership development and ongoing coaching. I’m thinking something closer to high quality executive education programs than a traditional leadership institute.  
These 3 priorities are only suggestions for where John could focus EDUCAUSE.  What is most important, I think, is to discover ways that the community can have an open and positive discussion about the future of EDUCAUSE.
What are the priorities for EDUCAUSE would you suggest?


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