Lessons from the top

College presidents share advice, strategies for career success

Last week a panel of presidents shared advice and lessons for other administrators and faculty at an annual leadership conference run by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities

Among the panelists was Armstrong State University President Linda Bleicken, who spoke about mapping out a career path and taking advantage of unexpected position vacancies.

No one is ready to serve as president or in another executive position, she said, while encouraging attendees to pay attention to their skill and comfort levels when jobs open up. 

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"You will never really feel like you are ready, particularly if you are a woman," she said. "Ask yourself, how might I contribute? If you are nervous about something, and think 'this could be a bad role for me long term,' don't hesitate to negotiate up front about how long you will be in that role."

The panel also dealt with fundraising strategies and donor relations. Most of the panelists said they spent more than 70% of their time building donor relations and actually making donation requests.

"It's very important to understand that we don't have a safety net from a government or state or county that backs us up," said Hilbert College President Cynthia Zane. "We have to be financially independent. Every dollar we spend is a young person or family making a sacrifice in terms of saving for this institution." 

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A key component when fundraising as president is maintaining strategic transparency with stakeholders, said Fredonia State University President Virginia Horvath. Presidents must find "the balance between sharing information about limitation of resources" while also "providing hope about why the work remains worthwhile" (Carter, EducationDive, 6/16). 

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