New AGB Book Illustrates How to Best Evaluate and Develop College and University Presidents

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New publication encourages boards to go beyond traditional assessments to focus on new expectations and responsibilities of presidents and chancellors

The Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges (AGB), the premier organization representing higher education governance, today announced the release of Assessing and Developing College and University Presidents: An Enterprise Leadership Approach. While AGB has long encouraged periodic review of both boards and presidents, this latest resource recognizes that ongoing disruption in the higher education industry demands a broader array of skills from chief executives. Strategic governing boards should pair regular, thoughtful assessments alongside ongoing development for chief executives to thrive in a rapidly changing environment.

The phrase “enterprise leadership” in the book’s subtitle reflects the recognition that presidents must now guide institutions through an adaptive process that positions them for success in a fast-changing environment. As the needs of institutions have changed, so have the expectations for presidents leading these complex academic enterprises, and therefore so must the metrics and evaluations that measure presidents’ success.

The author, Terrence MacTaggart, is a former chancellor at the Minnesota State University System and University of Maine System, as well as an AGB senior fellow. In the publication, he details the need for effective, comprehensive presidential assessment and education. Chapters One and Two lay out the context that all presidents and boards face and the need for a reimagined assessment process, moving from a traditionally annual cycle to more frequent review. Chapters Three and Four are dedicated to helping readers understand the kinds of assessments needed to effectively measure progress, including important information for developing virtual assessments that have become more prevalent due to the coronavirus pandemic. Chapter Five takes a serious look at the need for comprehensive professional development programs that can equip presidents to face challenges that may not have existed a few years ago.

Merrill P. Schwartz, AGB senior vice president for content strategy and development, has worked on issues such as these for more than 20 years. Schwartz, who authored the publication’s foreword, said, “This book is an excellent tool for presidents and board members who want to transform the assessment process from an unavoidable obligation to a worthwhile professional development experience that cultivates and keeps good presidents.”

Many board members and presidents are especially concerned about the business model and operations of the higher education enterprise. According to the AGB 2020 Trustee Index, the number one concern for surveyed board members was the financial sustainability of higher education institutions. Likewise, the Inside Higher Ed 2020 Survey of College and University Presidents indicated that 69 percent of presidents agreed or strongly agreed that their college needs to make fundamental changes to its business model, programming, or other operations. These surveys, conducted prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, demonstrate the need for governing boards to select and support an individual who can organize and communicate effectively while adapting to changes in the industry. The coronavirus is driving ongoing challenges that signal even more impetus for innovative leadership.

“Hiring, supporting, and overseeing a college president are some of the most important responsibilities of any governing board, and having a courageous, insightful, and visionary leader as president is a prerequisite for success during such challenging times,” said Henry Stoever, AGB president and CEO. “It is imperative that boards not only ensure the president is held responsible for outcomes related to institutional and student success, but also that they provide meaningful feedback and opportunities for leadership development and education across their teams, administration, and faculty.”

A complimentary e-book version of Assessing and Developing College and University Presidents is available for AGB members at AGB.org/AssessingandDevelopingPresidents. It is also available for purchase in hard copy with a membership discount. Both the digital and print versions include tips for board members and presidents.

About AGB
The Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges (AGB) is the premier membership organization that strengthens higher education governing boards and the strategic roles they serve within their organizations. Through our vast library of resources, educational events, and consulting services, and with nearly 100 years of experience, we empower 40,000 AGB members from more than 2,000 institutions and foundations to navigate complex issues, implement leading practices, streamline operations, and govern with confidence. AGB is the trusted resource for board members, chief executives, and key administrators on higher education governance and leadership.

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Morgan Alexander
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