Jeffrey Selingo, professor of practice at Arizona State University and senior adviser to University President John J. DeGioia, discussed the future of leadership in higher education at a public forum at Georgetown’s downtown campus Tuesday. The forum, called “Leadership for the Innovative University,” was part of Georgetown’s “Designing the Future(s) of the University Initiative.”
Selingo, an expert in higher education and author of “College (Un)Bound: The Future of Higher Education and What It Means for Students,” assembled and moderated the panel with the goal of gathering a unique diversity of perspectives on how leadership training in higher education can be improved.
“This particular panel includes sitting presidents, but it also includes experts in leadership and innovation from industry and the military. The goal of this panel was to move beyond academic silos and bring together leaders accustomed to dealing with disruptive changes,” Interim Dean of Continuing Studies Walter Rankin wrote in an email.
DeGioia, Arizona State President Michael Crow, President of Northeastern University Joseph Aoun, retired Army Lt. Gen. Benjamin Freakley, author and co-founder of Rotman DesignWorks at the University of Toronto Heather Fraser, Chancellor of the University System of Maryland William “Brit” Kirwan and Acting Deputy Undersecretary in the U.S. Department of Education Jamienne Studley were present as panelists.
“We wanted a diversity of opinions pulled from inside and outside of higher ed,” Selingo said.
The event announced the partnership between Georgetown and Arizona State to develop a program that will help to train people within the higher education system to hold university leadership positions.
Through this partnership, which will be launched in fall 2014, the institute will develop a year-long, executive-style training program to be held in Washington, D.C., and Phoenix, Ariz., aimed at mid-career professionals working in higher education. The curriculum will be divided into modules that will each focus on a different challenge threatening the future of higher education, such as reshaping organizational culture and momentum for long-term success, designing new sustainable financial models for higher education and partnering with other institutions and providers to combine strengths.
“As we continue initiatives, like ‘Designing the Future(s),’ like the collaboration between ASU and Georgetown that we celebrate today, we create new ways for our communities to reaffirm and reinvigorate our commitment to these aspects of our shared work,” DeGioia said.
Selingo emphasized the importance of combining two very different universities, with two different perspectives and experiences, in pursuit of a common goal.
“The reason that we like it for this program is that it brings together a public university, a private university, one on the east coast — the nation’s capital — one on the west coast in one of the nation’s biggest, fastest-growing states, and it’s dealing with a lot of big issues,“ Selingo said.
Rankin agreed, adding that ASU’s larger size of over 30,000 students and the resulting larger number of courses and online degree options will provide Georgetown with a wider range of perspectives to pull from in developing the new program.
“ASU is different from Georgetown, and we view this as a tremendous benefit in helping us engage more deeply in conversations about higher education today,” Rankin wrote.
The panel primarily discussed the impending leadership crisis in higher education due to the lack of training within higher education for professors who wish to advance to leadership roles.
“And really, unlike many other industries, higher education does not have a deliberate pathway to the presidency. There is no really deliberate training program, so for example, you know leaders go usually and get an MBA. There’s nothing similar in higher ed, so that’s what we’re trying to build,” Selingo said.
Additionally, the median age of university presidents is 61, posing a problem for future leadership in the next decade.
“It takes time to become a full professor. So if you’re appointed as an assistant professor when you’re 25, 26, you serve six years in that role, and then you become an associate professor, and you serve six or seven years in that role, and then you become a full professor, and you’ve got to regain some maturity in that institution. I think the fact that we tend to look inside the academy … I think just that by that very nature it’s going to drive the age of the CEO, the president, higher on average than you might see in the corporate world,” Kirwan said.