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CAO Briefing: May-June 2017

May 03, 2017

CAO Briefing


Welcome to CAO Briefing, ACE's bi-monthly news roundup for chief academic officers. As colleges and universities around the country prepare to wind down their spring semester, we have a quick selection of links to read during your breaks from practicing names for graduation. Please be sure also to check out our blog recap of ACE2017, our 99th Annual Meeting, which includes breakout session summaries, photos and videos from most of the major plenary sessions.

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.


Collaboration Overload Is a Symptom of a Deeper Organizational Problem: For many institutions and organizations, the costs associated with never-ending meetings, emails, IMs and other forms of workforce collaboration can easily exceed the benefits. But what can get lost in the eye-popping statistics around excess email and meetings, according to this piece in the Harvard Business Review, is that collaboration overload is almost always a symptom of a deeper problem.

4 Keys to Strengthen Your Ability to Influence Others: Effective leaders don’t just command; they inspire, persuade and encourage. Leaders tap the knowledge and skills of a group, point individuals toward a common goal, and draw out a commitment to achieve results. How do they do that? A new book from the Center for Creative Leadership and George Hallenbeck identifies the four fundamental skills of a successful leader.

6 Things Every Mentor Should Do: Given how important mentoring is, there’s surprisingly limited guidance about how to become a good mentor, write Vineet Chopra and Sanjay Saint in Harvard Business Review. Drawing from their experience in academic medicine, they outline an informal set of guidelines for good mentorship.

Academic Affairs

What Some Colleges Are Quietly Doing to Help Undocumented Students: With the fate of undocumented students still up in the air in these early months of the Trump administration, some colleges and universities are focusing on other ways to help these students by making changes that could have a big impact. The University of Utah is creating a resource center for undocumented students, and similar supports have been put in place by Georgetown University (DC), Harvard University (MA), Western Washington University, San Diego State, San Francisco State and the California Polytechnic campuses at San Luis Obispo and Pomona. Read more in The Hechinger Report.

Why One University Is Sharing the Risk on Student Debt: As college costs have grown in recent years, both student loans and grant aid have had a hard time keeping up. To address this problem, Purdue University (IN) President Mitch Daniels has instituted tuition freezes, lowered room and board costs, and partnered with Amazon to reduce textbook costs for students. Now, Purdue is experimenting with an alternative form of financial aid called an “income-share agreement.” Read more in The Atlantic.

Fighting Racial Bias on Campus: The New York Times talks with Shaun R. Harper about his new book Race Matters in College, due out in June. A leading scholar on racial equity in higher education, Harper will in July be leaving the University of Pennsylvania, where he founded and directed the Center for the Study of Race and Equity in Education, and joining the University of Southern California, where he will teach and start up a similar center with big ambitions.

Dealing With Dysfunctional Academic Departments: What strategies and tactics can an academic leader undertake to help a department in trouble? In this essay for Inside Higher Ed, C. K. Gunsalus, Richard P. Wheeler and Ruth Watkins recommend five linked steps to help academic leaders improve struggling units. A foundational lesson, they write, is that nothing happens in isolation: structural, cultural, financial, interpersonal, scholarly and leadership problems interact with one another in complex ways.

Why Academics Write and Speak in Jargon—and What They Can Do About It: Academics and other professionals often speak in the multisyllabic jargon of a doctoral thesis, which can diminish their message. A recent Hechinger Report-led panel at SXSWedu looked at a new movement that is trying to help those who suffer from edu-speak learn to translate complex ideas for a wider audience.

The National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA) is conducting a new edition of its NILOA Provost Survey, which takes place every three years and is a way for NILOA to engage, listen and learn from administrators about practices and activities related to assessing student learning on campuses. You can preview the survey and find out more about it by clicking here. You may already have received the link that allows you to access and participate in the interactive survey. If not, you can obtain it by emailing Jillian L. Kinzie at


Pell Grants, Research Stand to Benefit Under FY 2017 Spending Bill. Congressional negotiators reached an agreement April 30 on a $1 trillion-plus spending bill that would fund the federal government through September. The deal contains a provision restoring year-round Pell Grants—also known as “summer Pell”—which were cut due to cost in 2011 and also includes a $2 billion funding boost for the National Institutes of Health. A number of stories (click here, here and here) on the plan suggest it signals that Congress is not inclined to follow President Trump’s approach to funding higher education.

How Threats to Indirect Research Payments Could Make Universities Less Willing to Gamble on Science. Some 60 to 70 percent of the costs of university research structures such as laboratories are covered by federal research dollars. But last month, the Trump administration made it clear that its proposal to cut billions of dollars in research spending involved entirely eliminating the payments that universities use to help pay for this infrastructure. The Chronicle of Higher Education looks at what cutting these indirect cost reimbursements would mean for universities.

ACE Events

ACE Institute for New Chief Academic Officers: If you are new on the job, please join ACE for this nine-month program consisting of three meetings that focuses on issues of immediate concern to recently appointed academic vice presidents. Each convening is highly participatory, incorporating interactive panels with experienced CAOs, mini case studies presented by program participants, conversations with peers from a range of institutions and briefings by national experts. The first session will take place July 25-27 in Washington, DC. Other meeting dates are Nov. 28-30 in Albuquerque, NM, and March 9-10, 2018, in Washington, DC.

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 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, including mock video-taped interviews and CV/resume critiques, candid conversations with search firm executives and the ins and outs of contract negotiation. The next program is scheduled for Oct. 16-17 in Washington, DC.

Advancing to the CAO: ACE is launching a new program this fall specifically for mid-career administrators (typically department chairs and above) who will be seeking a CAO position within the next two years. Similar to ACE’s Advancing to the Presidency workshop, Advancing to the Chief Academic Office will focus specifically on the tools and skills necessary to ascend to the next level of college and university administration. Encourage leaders on your campus to apply for the workshop, which will be held Oct. 2-3 in Washington, DC.


The 40-Year Decline in the Tolerance of College Students, Graphed: Recent protests over speakers such as Charles Murray at Middlebury College (VT) and conservative commentator Ann Coulter at the University of California, Berkeley, are being held up as yet another example of intolerance on college campuses. However, The Washington Post takes a systematic look at the survey data on political tolerance to show a much longer trend at work. Forty years ago, young college students were the most tolerant of controversial speech. But that is no longer the case.

New Books

Realizing the Distinctive University. (By Mark William Roche; Notre Dame Press). A former dean of the College of Arts and Letters at the University of Notre Dame (IN), Mark Roche argues for the importance of an institutional vision over simply an institutional brand. Using the history of the German university to assess the need for a distinctive vision at American colleges and universities, Roche provides a road map to creating a superb arts and sciences college within a major research university and offers an analysis of five principles that have shaped the modern American university: flexibility, competition, incentives, accountability and community.

Restoring the Soul of the University: Unifying Christian Higher Education in a Fragmented Age. (By Perry L. Glanzer, Nathan F. Alleman, Todd C. Ream; IVP Academic). In terms of money, prestige, power and freedom, American universities appear to have gained the academic world. But at what cost? We live in the age of the fragmented multiversity that has no unifying soul or mission, according to the authors. Christian universities can recover their soul, they argue, but to do so will require reimagining excellence in a time of exile, placing the liberating arts before the liberal arts, and focusing on the worship, love and knowledge of God as central to the university.

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