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CAO Briefing: July-August 2017

July 12, 2017

CAO Briefing


​Welcome to CAO Briefing, ACE's bi-monthly news roundup for chief academic officers. Summer is a great opportunity—in that always-mythical spare time—to catch up on the reading that has piled up over the academic year. And if you like what you see here, take a few minutes and browse through previous editions of CAO Briefing. We’ve also started an email subscription page, so please forward this link to your colleagues and friends so they can sign up.

Continue sending your news tips and feedback on CAO Briefing to Sherri Lind Hughes, director, ACE Leadership. For those of you on Twitter, follow ACE at @ACEducation and ACE Leadership at @LeadershipACE.


Here's Why You Don't Have The Time To Achieve Your Big Goals (Forbes). Your goals are not your to-do list and your goals are not whatever is filling up your email inbox, writes Mark Murphy. These are actually everybody else’s goals. To find time for your own, make sure that you’re not treating your to-do list as your goals, and don’t pick more than 1-2 major priorities for the year.

Six Tools for Communicating Complex Ideas (Kellogg Insight). One of the primary tasks of every leader is communicating ideas to others and convincing them that this is the right way to think about a problem. Kellogg School of Management (IL) Professor Mitchell Petersen, an expert in empirical corporate finance, offers six tools to help you communicate complicated ideas to a wide range of audiences.

Teaching Humility in an Age of Arrogance (The Chronicle of Higher Education). Michael Patrick Lynch, professor of philosophy at the University of Connecticut, writes that if we want to live in a tolerant society where we are not only open-minded but also willing to learn from others, we need to balance humility and conviction. We can start by looking past ourselves—and admitting that we don’t know it all.

Do You Know How Each Person on Your Team Likes to Work? (Harvard Business Review). When you first become a manager, it’s helpful to spend time up front connecting and creating a common language with your team. When they know how you like to work and how you plan to manage them, they’re able to produce results faster. And when you know how each of your direct reports likes to work and communicate, you’re able to save time when setting direction.

You Don’t Need More People! (Not Just Leadership). The complaint “we don’t have enough people” is often used as an excuse to explain why things aren’t completed correctly or when they aren’t done at all. Unfortunately, many managers believe they need more people because the work they require their people to do is not getting done, according to a brief on the blog Not Just Leadership. This is the “checkers” level of management, when the goal should be the “chess” level of management.

Academic Affairs

‘Fear of Looking Stupid’ (Inside Higher Ed). Anthropologist Lauren Herckis was brought in to Carnegie Mellon University (PA) to understand why, despite producing leading research into how students learn best, the institution had largely failed to adopt its own findings. The surprising conclusion: Faculty are simply too afraid of looking stupid in front of their students to try something new.

The New Censorship on Campus (The Chronicle of Higher Education). Free speech faces many challenges at colleges and universities these days, but none greater than the growing skepticism of some students—especially those who feel particularly marginalized and disempowered in our society. And campaigns led by these students to silence and exclude from their campuses speakers whose views they find offensive has triggered a serious politicization of the principle of free speech, write Jeffrey Herbst, a former president of Colgate University (NY), and Geoffrey R. Stone of the University of Chicago. Also see: "Senate Hearing Examines Free Speech on College Campuses After Incidents at UC-Berkeley, Middlebury" (The Washington Post, June 20.)

With Innovation, Colleges Fill the Skills Gap (The New York Times). How large is the so-called skills gap? Of the more than 42,000 employers the Manpower Group surveyed last year, 40 percent said they were having difficulties filling roles. While some experts say that complaints about the quality of talent emerging from colleges is a perennial complaint, no one argues the importance of developing programs to meet the needs of employers in a fast-changing workplace. The New York Times looks at a selection of institutions that are doing just that.

The Young Academic's Twitter Conundrum (The Atlantic). Social media continues to be both a boon and a trouble spot for faculty members and institutions alike; navigating the fine line between expressing oneself and making a positive impression can be tricky. At most universities, the provost has the task of balancing the often-competing interests of the institution’s deans, alumni donors, and the university president; staying on good terms with all these stakeholders is a provost’s primary duty. And they cannot prioritize academic discourse to the exclusion of all other strategic objectives, writes historian Oliver Bateman.

Higher Education Policy

What DeVos’s ‘Reset’ on 2 Major Consumer Rules Means for Colleges (The Chronicle of Higher Education). Last month, the Department of Education announced that it would delay and renegotiate two of the Obama administration’s signature higher education regulations: the borrower "defense to repayment" rule and the gainful employment rule. The rollback of these regulations presents a host of questions—chief among them: What happens to students who have been defrauded, and how will the regulations be rewritten?

OPINION: Don’t Let Good News on Summer Pell Grants Distract From the Trump Budget’s Damaging Higher Ed Proposals (The Hechinger Report). Restoring year-round Pell is to be celebrated, although the credit goes to Congress, not the administration. But don’t let that good news distract from the Trump budget’s deeply damaging proposals that target higher education and student aid—including raiding the Pell surplus, write Ben Miller and Marcella Bombardieri of the Center for American Progress. Also see: "What’s in Trump’s 2018 Budget Request for Science?" (Science, May 23.)

ACE Events

Invest in Your Team, Invest in the Future. Prioritizing professional development for both you and your team is critical to having a strong core of institutional leaders in the years to come. ACE has programs to help you do just that. More information can be found at

Is there a member of your team or in your institution who shows great leadership promise? Nominate them for the 2018-19 cohort of the ACE Fellows Program. For the institution that nominates an ACE Fellow, it is an opportunity to build institutional capacity and reap the benefit of a Fellow’s newfound knowledge, skills and relationships while contributing to expanding the pipeline of future higher education leaders. The application is due Nov. 1. For more information or to speak directly with an ACE Fellows Program staff member, please call the ACE Leadership office at 202-939-9376 or email us at

2017 CAO-CBO Collaborations: At no time has the relationship between CAOs and chief business officers (CBO) mattered more to the effective leadership of colleges and universities. To help better understand and support this important relationship, ACE and the National Association of College and University Business Officers will bring together CAOs and CBOs for an annual two-day meeting, this year scheduled for Aug. 7-8 in Washington, DC. We encourage you and your CBO to register together to receive a team discount and make the most out of the program.

Advancing to the Presidency: Thinking about the next step? Designed for CAOs and other administrators at the dean’s level and above who are planning to seek a college or university presidency in the next several years, this program provides leaders with the tools and skills necessary to obtain a college or university CEO position. Apply now to join your colleagues for this two-day exploration of leading an institution. The next program is scheduled for Oct. 16-17 in Washington, DC.

ACE Reports

Now in its eighth edition, the American College President Study 2017 continues its historic focus on presidential demographics, and for the first time, examines the views of presidents in three key areas: diversity and inclusion; state funding and political climate; and areas of importance for the future. The results of the survey conducted last year give a sobering look at the ongoing challenges of diversifying the ranks of the college presidency. The percentage of women holding the top job at colleges and universities stood at 30 percent in 2016, up just four percentage points from 2011. The percentage of minority presidents also saw only a four percentage point increase since 2011, rising to 17 percent in 2016 and up just 10 percentage points since 1986. The report was produced in partnership with the TIAA Institute.

ACE’s Center for Internationalization and Global Engagement has released its signature research project, Mapping Internationalization on U.S. Campuses, which assesses the current state of internationalization at American colleges and universities, analyzes progress and trends over time, and identifies future priorities. According to the report, nearly three-quarters of responding institutions reported that internationalization has accelerated on their campuses in recent years. The production of the report and the dissemination of the findings were sponsored by Navitas.

Successfully confronting challenges facing higher education leaders in the 21st century requires new forms of leadership, particularly the principles of collaborative or shared leadership, according to a recent paper from ACE. The report, Shared Leadership in Higher Education: Important Lessons from Research and Practice, is the latest in the ACE Center for Policy Research and Strategy's Viewpoints: Voices from the Field series.

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