15 institutions that grow future college presidents

The nation's college presidents are disproportionately likely to have worked at one of these institutions—a recent report has dubbed them "talent factories."

The report, published by by Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech)'s Center for 21st Century Universities and Deloitte's Center for Higher Education, lists the institutions doing the best job of preparing future higher ed leaders—and highlights how they've managed to do so.

To compile the list, the report's authors analyzed resumes from over 800 current college and university presidents. Recognizing that many of these presidents had been employed by the same institutions at some point in time, the authors decided to look into what these "talent factories" were doing differently than other schools.

The top 15 talent factories—where current presidents once served as faculty members, deans, provosts, or senior staff—are as follows:

  1. University of Minnesota, Twin Cities;
  2. Indiana University Bloomington;
  3. University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (UM);
  4. Cornell University;
  5. Dartmouth College;
  6. Brown University;
  7. Harvard University;
  8. Yale University;
  9. Princeton University;
  10. University of Pennsylvania;
  11. Johns Hopkins University;
  12. Georgia State University (GSU);
  13. Texas A&M University, College Station;
  14. Arizona State University, Tempe (ASU); and
  15. University of California, Berkeley.

Though the list of talent factories is largely dominated by Ivy League institutions, the report profiles three public institutions that also make the list:

  • UM, where department chairs and deans can take part in informal leadership programs to learn about institutional fundraising, finances, and more;
  • GSU, where department chairs and deans gather monthly to learn about university operations, and where faculty members are encouraged to take on administrative roles; and
  • ASU, where 36 faculty and staff members attend three separate two-day offsite sessions per year, during which they build connections between schools, departments, and disciplines.

Essential practices for new college leaders

The report goes on to identify five main practices consistent across the list of talent factories:

1. They intentionally train their prospective college presidents

This gives leaders the time and resources to go beyond their otherwise narrow scope to learn about their institution's big-picture strategy.

2. They encourage leaders to think long-term, even when pursuing "quick wins."

Many leaders have tunnel vision when it comes to institutional goals; they only focus on the near-term. But talent factory schools help leaders align these near-term goals with  bigger plans for the future.

3. They educate transition teams and search committees

Talent factories realize the individuals responsible for hiring presidents need to have a strong grasp on exactly what makes a good leader, which is why they ask committee members lead panels and share their experiences. They also appoint specific transition coaches to help new presidents adjust to new responsibilities.

4. They don't rule anyone out

A lot of institutions prefer their presidents to come from traditional backgrounds in academia—but the talent factories don't. Instead, they take into account the diverse set of skills needed, and then look for these traits in leaders from a variety of industries.

5. They engage with all stakeholders in their communities

This is especially true of faculty and students—with whom some presidents rarely interact. At talent factory schools, leaders pay close attention to campus activism and view a college presidency not as a position that is deeply rooted in the local community (Deloitte/Georgia Tech study, accessed 5/3).

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