Lessons from Leading Universities

Susan visits two or three leading universities routinely each year to talk with leaders and scholars about the opportunities and issues they face. Here is a sampling of recent themes from conversations.

  • Leading universities are investing in two beliefs-contemporary problems cross disciplinary lines, and multidisciplinary collaboration will continue to define knowledge production. Because progressive leaders know that creative scholars cannot excel without strong intellectual relationships across fields, they actively encourage those internal ties.
  • In turn, those ties encourage a more entrepreneurial style of faculty work. One example is when presidents or provosts fund inter-faculty programs, especially those that require the collaboration of deans. Once a new area is defined, leaders provide administrative support in subtle, almost invisible ways.
  • Leading universities are helping faculty advance their academic interests rather than seeming to impede scholarly work by forcing those interests to fit into existing bureaucracies. In other words, progressive leaders are more devoted to advancing ideas than to strengthening administrative structures.
  • Universities that base fundraising campaigns on collaborative approaches to solving contemporary problems have a distinct advantage over those trying to raise funds for buildings or individual professorships. In fact, universities that invent and advance such problem-based programs seem to have an enduring capacity to renew themselves.

Susan finds that these lessons often bring benefits to clients. She and CFAR’s Larry Hirschhorn are using them to help one university design and implement a major fundraising campaign. Read more about the lessons in The University as Global City¬†(Change, 2004).