The Sandbox (Live!) | Trustees: Can’t Live with ‘Em (But Have to)

Discover methods for building and sustaining a great working relationship with your governing board.

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We know there are good trustees and bad trustees. We also know that a president’s or chancellor’s success or failure often hinges on having an excellent working relationship with their governing board. This means forging connections with individual members and with the board as a whole. If wrangling the faculty can be like herding cats, this task may be more like wrestling alligators.

In a lively, informal and candid chat, Doug Lederman will, Sandbox-style, fire questions at two board whisperers. Cathy Trower and Peter Eckel will share tips, tricks and strategies to manage the Lake Wobegon of higher ed, where all the regents—captains of industry and masters of the universe—are above average. Even if their understanding of higher education may be stuck in the days when they were playing frisbee on the campus quad or doing keg stands at the fraternity.

They will address topics like engaging versus managing a board, helping board members translate their expertise to the higher ed environment, and getting the most from trustees. They will respond to (anonymous, off-the-record) questions from the audience.


  • Cathy Trower, Ph.D., President at Trower & Trower, Inc.
    For 25 years, Dr. Trower has provided consulting and coaching services to over 300 nonprofits, including dozens of colleges and universities, independent schools, hospitals and healthcare systems, foundations, federated organizations, associations and international NGOs. Her consulting focuses on improving board performance, including best practices to enhance board culture and deliberations; foster an effective partnership with the CEO and senior leaders; improve strategic thinking and decision-making; and ensure effective committee structure, board composition and accountability. 

    Cathy served as a senior-level administrator of business degree programs at Johns Hopkins University for four years. For four years prior to that, she was a faculty member and department chair at a liberal arts college. Previously, Dr. Trower served as the Chair of the RiverWoods Board of Trustees and Chair of the BoardSource Board of Directors. Cathy served on the Wheaton College, MA Board of Trustees from 2012 to 2017. She holds a BBA (1981) and an MBA (1984) from the University of Iowa, and a Ph.D. (1996) in higher education administration and leadership from the University of Maryland, College Park.

  • Peter Eckel, Ph.D., Senior Fellow and Director of Leadership Programs, AHEAD at the University of Pennsylvania
    Peter Eckel is an expert on higher education management, governance, and strategy, with a special focus on the role that university boards and presidents should play in helping institutions fulfill their missions. In addition to his research, Eckel develops and delivers highly innovative capacity-building programs and projects, including consulting efforts to strengthen and advance higher education. He has worked with public and private American universities and state systems and has advised ministries of education and universities around the globe.

    He additionally serves as trustee at the University of La Verne (CA), serving on the academic and student affairs, finance, enrollment and governance committees. He writes frequently for Inside Higher Ed on issues of governance and leadership. He has been quoted in leading media outlets such as The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Bloomberg, Higher Education Dive, The Chronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Ed

  • Doug Lederman, Co-founder and Editor at Inside Higher Ed
    Doug Lederman helps lead the news organization's editorial operations, overseeing news content, opinion pieces, career advice, blogs and other features. Doug speaks widely about higher education, including on C-Span and National Public Radio and at meetings and on campuses around the country, and his work has appeared in The New York Times and USA Today, among other publications. 

    Doug was managing editor of The Chronicle of Higher Education from 1999 to 2003. Before that, Doug had worked at The Chronicle since 1986 in a variety of roles, first as an athletics reporter and editor. He has won three National Awards for Education Reporting from the Education Writers Association, including one in 2009 for a series of Inside Higher Ed articles he co-wrote on college rankings. He began his career as a news clerk at The New York Times. He grew up in Shaker Heights, Ohio, and graduated in 1984 from Princeton University.

Additional resources:

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