Preparing the 21st-century president

By AACC 21st Century Center Staff

A new report looks at the skills the next generation of college presidents need to succeed.

As politics, student demographics and technology evolve, so too should the training that new college presidents need. That’s according to the Aspen Institute Task Force on the Future of the College Presidency. The group looked at what skills 21st-century college and university presidents must possess in order to be successful.

“For two generations, college leaders have been builders, mandated to build the enrollment, build the campuses, build the athletic program, build the endowment, and build the reputation, Valencia College President Sandy Shugart said in a press release. “What the field needs now, what our institutions need, is leadership for impact. This requires a different orientation, a different set of gifts, and a willingness to stand creatively in the tension between institutional and societal interests.”

Among the task force’s recommendations:

  • Greater attention to intentional onboarding of new presidents, as well as “additional learning opportunities in important emerging areas such as digital learning, predictive analytics, and social media.”
  • Provide trustees with proactive and consistent coaching to better inform their decision-making with college and university leaders.
  • Advance new and expanded ways to identify and develop a diverse presidential talent pool. This includes having sitting presidents provide mentorship to future leaders, as well as exposing nontraditional candidates to service and leadership positions at higher education institution.

There’s an urgency to implement these recommendations. Turnover of presidents and senior leaders continues to be high and there’s a shrinking pool of interested candidates, according to the task force. Also, systems for preparing diverse and non-traditional candidates are inadequate.

Inaction will “leave higher education incapable of delivering quality in the face of demographic, political and economic pressures,” according to the task force.

The task force’s full report is available online.

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AACC 21st Century Center Staff

is a contributor to the 21st-Century Center.