Future of the College Presidency

Recommendations toward strengthening college presidencies.
Supported by The Arthur Vining Davis Foundations

In light of enormous turnover of college presidents and senior leaders, a shrinking pool of candidates, and the need for better systems for preparing diverse and non-traditional candidates for the job, the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program, in 2015, convened the Task Force on the Future of the College Presidency. Thirty-five distinguished presidents from across four sectors of higher education—research universities, community colleges, regional public universities, and liberal arts colleges—spent 18 months identifying major issues facing colleges and their presidents and crafting near- and long-term recommendations in three key focus areas:

1. Expanding and improving transition planning, professional development, and peer learning opportunities for new and veteran presidents.

2. Providing boards greater and more integrated assistance to hire, support, and work with presidents who will act not just as institutional stewards but also as forward-thinking educational leaders in a changing environment.

3. Advancing new and expanded ways to identify and develop a diverse presidential talent pool.

The Task Force report, Renewal and Progress: Strengthening Higher Education Leadership in a Time of Rapid Change, offers guidance for boards of trustees, presidents, search consultants, and other stakeholders regarding how to ensure that a new generation of campus leaders has the deep and broad skill sets needed to meet the demands of an increasingly complex college presidency.

We are grateful for the wise counsel and thoughtful deliberation of Task Force members, as well as to valuable observations from focus groups of faculty, deans, student leaders, trustees, and search advisors.

Click below to read the executive summary and full report, Renewal and Progress, made possible through a generous grant from The Arthur Vining Davis Foundations.
Renewal and Progress
Strengthening Higher Education Leadership in a Time of Rapid Change
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Keith Witham, Deputy Director