Role of the College President

10 January 2024

The role of the college president has been much in the news over the past few weeks, with commentators noting its uniqueness as a leadership position that is responsible to a wide range of internal and external constituencies. I thought it might be interesting to use this week as a brief snapshot of what that work looks like for a Carleton president.

This week began with a Faculty Meeting, which occurs monthly during term time and is one of my best opportunities to interact with faculty. Preparation included a regular meeting with the faculty president to discuss my planned report and agenda items, and discussions last term with the Faculty Affairs Committee and its chair, along with the provost, about a proposal prepared by a special subcommittee for new handbook language relating to academic freedom. 

Work with staff leadership included a weekly Cabinet meeting, standing meetings with each vice president, and a meeting with colleagues from Inclusion, Equity and Community, the Chaplain’s Office and CCCE who are preparing for the Voices of Israel and Palestine dialogue events, so that we could discuss plans for facilitating those discussions thoughtfully, and what support from administration might be helpful.

On the student side, my interactions included a regular meeting with the CSA president, to learn what is on their agenda and hear his thoughts about issues on the minds of students at the start of term; some emails with students engaged in Israel-Palestine issues about ways the administration can facilitate dialogue between groups; work on a message to parents that was included in this month’s Parent and Families Newsletter; and writing some graduate school recommendation letters for a student from my course last fall.

Trustee and alumni conversations included a Zoom meeting with Board leaders and Cabinet officers to talk about next steps in implementation of the strategic direction; individual calls with two potential new trustees; and a trip to Phoenix and LA at the end of the week to meet with several alumni and donors to talk about the goals of the new strategic direction. 

Within the broader higher ed landscape, I also belong to a number of consortia, boards, and national organizations. I enjoy my work on the Steering Committee of the Presidents’ Alliance for Higher Ed and Immigration, a group of over 100 colleges and universities devoted to advocacy for undocumented, immigrant, and refugee students, which had a Zoom meeting this week to talk about some innovative programs for creating legal pathways for work. I also took part in a virtual meeting with other Minnesota Private College Council presidents to talk about our efforts to promote a positive public message about private higher education in Minnesota, a subject particularly important to many of our members since the creation of the North Star Promise state program, which provides funding for Minnesota students to attend public colleges. 

This schedule, though undramatic, gives a sense of the many dimensions of the role I am privileged to occupy. Though balancing the perspectives of many different constituencies can be a challenge at times, it is actually the aspect of the job that I like best!

Featured in Carleton Today, January 11, 2024