As I write this, I am just back from beautiful Baltimore, MD, where the second annual Leadership in Higher Education Conference was held. We spent our time at the Renaissance Baltimore Harborplace, located right across the street from the historic Inner Harbor, so many of us found at least a chance or two to sneak out for a walk along the water or to sample some of those famous Maryland crab cakes.
The real excitement, though, was in the event’s regular sessions, preconference workshops, and plenary sessions, all of which featured presenters who brought a wide range of perspectives and experiences to share with our attendees.
First, our plenary presentations featured experts with decades of experience in higher education leadership. We then bookended the conference with two university presidents whose institutions are preparing students to enter their careers with cutting edge skills while still developing a firm liberal arts foundation. Our opening plenary was delivered by Dr. Gregory Crawford, president of Miami University, who shared the reasons and methods by which Miami infuses all of its programs, including those in STEM disciplines, with a liberal arts focus that allows students to develop not only the ability to handle the latest technologies but also the philosophical framework to decide on the ethics and human impact of the work.
Our closing plenary offered another perspective on the topic, as Dr. Michael Lovell, president of Marquette University, discussed the skills gap in the workforce and how higher education can best prepare students to benefit from the tremendous increase in knowledge and productivity. Liberal arts plays an important role in this work, but so does a robust suite of co-op, internship, and educational opportunities at Marquette.
On Friday night, Jeffrey Buller, senior partner at ATLAS Leadership Training, gave us an entertaining look at reasons to be optimistic about pessimism and pessimistic about optimism. His lively look at leadership styles across different institutional types gave us a new perspective on why higher education needs its own type of leadership, plus lessons we can all learn from George Costanza from Seinfeld.
Our optional preconference workshops presented a chance for attendees to explore a single topic in depth. We welcomed Stephanie Ferguson, dean of distance learning and professional studies at New Mexico Junior College, who presented on Best Practices for Online Course Design, Delivery, and Review. This session was filled with attendees who wanted to learn how to develop and assess the highest quality online courses and make sure that their online courses were as rigorous as their institution’s face-to-face offerings.
We were also privileged to have the expertise of Richard Riccardi, senior associate provost at Rider University, who presented on Creating Your Data-Informed Culture. This session was a deep-dive into ways of using data to improve student success, faculty productivity, and institutional effectiveness, all delivered with the good humor that Riccardi is known for.
Finally, Scott Schneider, partner and lead of the higher education practice group at Fisher & Phillips, LLP, spoke on Effectively Navigating the Five Most Difficult Legal Issues Faced by Deans and Department Chairs. These issues included discrimination and contract issues, dealing with an erratic colleague, handling faculty performance problems, denying tenure and terminating a tenure-line professor, and handling Title IX concerns. As always, Schneider made the highly technical information clear and interesting.
The advisory board and presenters
Magna Publications and I, your conference chair, would like to thank our advisory board. These higher education experts have been with us for two years, and we could not have put on such a robust conference without them:
I would also like to thank the 45 individual session presenters who competed in a pool of 170 applicants for a spot presenting at this year’s conference. The quality of our individual sessions was very high, and we look forward to this trend continuing into next year.
Finally, I would like to invite all attendees and future attendees to contact me with any suggestions you have for speakers, workshops, conference topic tracks, or anything else you would like to see. We want to make this conference a valuable experience for all, and we look forward to welcoming you to Minneapolis next October 18-20!
Jennifer Patterson Lorenzetti, MS, is the chair of the Leadership in Higher Education Conference, the editor of Academic Leader, and the owner of Hilltop Communications (www.hilltopcommunications.net).