Forward-Looking Leaders

“If historians look back 50 years from now, what would they say about your presidency?”

This question framed the Presidents Institute keynote address, “The Presidential Challenge: Race, History, and the Urgency of Action Now,” delivered by Eddie R. Cole, associate professor of higher education and organizational change at UCLA and author of The Campus Color Line: College Presidents and the Struggle for Black Freedom. Cole shared the remarkable history of how college presidents helped shape the struggle for racial equality and the challenges they faced and continue to face both on- and off-campus to steer social change and protect students of color.

Cole offered historical accounts of college presidents’ actions and words, as well as of their inactions and silence, when issues of race demanded some of the most defining and difficult moral decisions of their careers. Lessons from presidential leaders of the past can inform the choices today’s presidents must face, and Cole emphasized the urgency of action now. He noted that wise presidential knowledge extends beyond an institution’s formal history and into the social “people’s” history of a campus and surrounding communities, suggesting that presidents set up regular meetings with the campus archivist. In honoring that knowledge, presidents can be proactive, not reactive, and build remarkable legacies.

Two photos: Eddie Cole presenting on stage
Eddie R. Cole, associate professor of higher education and organizational change at UCLA, delivered the Keynote Address about “The Presidential Challenge: Race, History, and the Urgency of Action Now” at the 2023 Presidents Institute. John R. Swallow, president of Carthage College, member of the CIC Board of Directors, and session chair, is also pictured.

The Design Thinking Workshop provided an opportunity to experience an innovative mode of leadership thinking while addressing real questions that will shape the vision, mission, strategy, and values of a college or university:

  • How might we lead independent higher education business model adaptation and change?
  • How might we create new ways independent colleges and universities can lead in support of democracy and civic engagement?
  • How might we realize the dream of truly equitable education in a demographically changing nation?
  • How might we create mission-driven responses to networked digital information’s pedagogical, intellectual, economic, political, and social implications?

Participants framed the problem being solved and the people who are affected, explored qualitative and quantitative research, experiences, and perspectives, generated multiple potential solutions and ways to carry them out, prototyped these solutions by testing them and gathering feedback, and finally cultivated one solution and discussed ways to involve the people who will plan, implement, and maintain and refine the solution after it launches and institutional priorities shift.

Two photos: Dawan Stanford presenting on stage
Dawan Stanford, president of Fluid Hive, presented to participants as part of his interactive workshop, “Designing the Future: A Guide for Presidential Leadership”.