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When Prior Presidents Stick Round Campus

Dr. Charlie Nelms, senior scholar at the American Association of State Colleges and Universities and senior consultant for the Association of Governing BoardsDr. Charlie Nelms, senior scholar on the American Affiliation of State Schools and Universities and senior marketing consultant for the Affiliation of Governing Boards

Retired college presidents are typically nonetheless lively at the establishment that they as soon as led, similar to instructing programs as a tenured college member. Throughout management transitions, that may imply a brand new president should strike a cautious steadiness between their imaginative and prescient and the prior president’s institutional reminiscence.

“For essentially the most half, I don’t suppose it is a downside, although it is determined by the prior president’s stage of involvement within the establishment,” mentioned Dr. Robert T. Palmer, an affiliate professor and chair within the division of academic management and coverage research at Howard College. “A previous president staying round is usually a position mannequin for present college students by instructing a course or by serving the establishment in another useful capability. I feel this turns into a problem if that individual will get actually concerned in attempting to sway the administration, to exert affect with out permitting the brand new president to give life to his or her imaginative and prescient.”

Dr. Charlie Nelms has held three college presidencies, together with because the chancellor of North Carolina Central College. Like Palmer, Nelms harassed the significance of prior presidents stepping again and making area for his or her successors — and, for successors, of respecting previous presidents’ decisions. Nelms is a senior scholar on the American Affiliation of State Schools and Universities, and he’s a senior marketing consultant for the Affiliation of Governing Boards.

“I need to say that in my three presidencies, I’ve by no means had a scenario the place the prior president was nonetheless concerned with the establishment, particularly in any inappropriate method,” mentioned Nelms. “And one piece of recommendation I give to all new presidents is that this: by no means get your self ready of criticizing your predecessor. You don’t know what her, his, or their scenario was — and no matter it was, it wasn’t what you’re coping with now. I’m certain these individuals did the most effective they may below the circumstances they have been dealt — simply like you’re doing now.”

H. Patrick Swygert, president emeritus and professor of regulation at Howard College, agreed. From 1995 to 2008, Swygert served because the president of Howard, and he stays dedicated to the college in addition to the presidents who succeeded him. Just lately, Swygert led an effort to safe a $16.8 million award from PNC Financial institution for Howard’s Faculty of Enterprise, funding which established the Howard College and PNC Financial institution Nationwide Heart for Entrepreneurship.

“Each incoming or new president has his or her personal imaginative and prescient and is dedicated to that imaginative and prescient,” he mentioned. “And the one factor that an outgoing president in my opinion mustn’t do is to in any method intrude with that imaginative and prescient.”

Dr. Alvin Schexnider, the previous chancellor of Winston-Salem State College and at the moment a senior marketing consultant on the Affiliation of Governing Boards, moreover famous that an establishment’s board can play a giant position in guaranteeing a easy management transition.

“I feel rather a lot is determined by the establishment itself,” he mentioned. “I do know of universities the place the board is fairly intentional about availing itself of institutional data or institutional reminiscence, tapping into the sorts of relationships the establishment has developed through the years. And a former president might be essential in serving to his or her successor construct on these connections.”

Schexnider defined {that a} new president’s first months on the job are sometimes about studying that establishment’s specific tradition. A president listens and observes what can really feel international, and a previous president round campus can act virtually like a translator ought to the brand new president search assist.

However Schexnider in addition to Palmer emphasised that it’s best for the brand new president to take that initiative to ask for counsel from the prior president — somewhat than a president emeritus stepping on toes, whether or not inadvertently or not.

“The brand new president ought to nonetheless be aware and open as a result of the previous president could have encountered some roadblocks as a result of their very own making,” mentioned Palmer, who research greater schooling management. “So, because the present president, you will get some recommendation, however you continue to must have the psychological wherewithal to behave with your individual intestine, to be brave in taking the lead.”

Dr. Felecia Commodore, an assistant professor of academic foundations and management at Previous Dominion College, additionally researches greater schooling management. She identified that some transitions might be extra difficult than others.

“I feel it’s a fragile scenario extra so when there was a longstanding or very beloved president previous to the brand new president — as a result of the actuality is that this new individual is coming in who, in a technique or one other, is inheriting another person’s individuals,” mentioned Commodore. “There’s additionally a kind of grief {that a} campus can undergo with the retirement of a beloved or longstanding president. So, a brand new individual is available in, and individuals are typically excited, however they’re navigating that hope alongside this grief as nicely.”

Commodore added that when an establishment turns into so carefully related to one previous president, then the college dangers being seen as “an extension of that persona.” This could make management shifts robust, doubtlessly harming the establishment’s longevity.

Some former presidents are intentional about relocating to one other metropolis, removed from their former establishment.

Dr. Walter M. Kimbrough, who lately stepped down as president of Dillard College in New Orleans after a decade on the job, mentioned that he’s remaining in NOLA — at the least for now.

““I’m going to be round, simply as an lively citizen,” he instructed columnist Will Sutton, including that in between his work as govt in residence on the College of Southern California’s (USC’s) Race and Fairness Heart, he stands prepared to help the college’s new president, Dr. Rochelle Ford.

“I’m the 24/7 helpline,” he mentioned. “You solely have one president at a time.”

To Nelms, this distinction between the establishment and particular person at its helm is essential. Whether or not the prior president continues to be round campus or not, understanding the better objective of the job could make all of the distinction.

“The ethical of the story is that this: establishments are better than people,” he mentioned. “And every individual will get an opportunity to serve that establishment throughout their watch. However what we have to be cautious about is to not find yourself conflating their watch with our watch.”

Rebecca Kelliher might be reached at



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