It's not every day that you get the chance to have a real
conversation with one college president, let alone four of them.
Our October 20 Leadership in Transition panel gave us just
that opportunity. In a free-ranging, passionate and at times
humorous, discussion, the presidents of The University of
Massachusetts, Bentley University,
Massachusetts College of Art and Design and
Mount Holyoke College, touched on a range of
topics including: their goals for their respective institutions,
how gender impacts their leadership style, and how to communicate
the value of a college education in today's economy when the future
is so uncertain. All the presidents were hopeful and believe in the
"emancipatory power of education," as Dawn Barrett, president,
Massachusetts College of Art and Design put it.
When communicating the value of a college degree, Lynn
Pasquerella, the president of Mount Holyoke College, said "the work
we do at universities needs to connect with the public so they can
see the value of education and a degree." Gloria Larson, the
president of Bentley University, said their focus is on turning out
MBAs who are progressive-thinking managers, who are not just
focused on the bottom-line. Robert Caret, the new president of the
University of Massachusetts system, made an impassioned case for a
strong public system of higher education; his goal is to
reinvigorate the 400,000 alumni and reinforce pride in the
Ashley McCown, Michal Regunberg, Dawn Barrett,
Robert Caret, Lynn Pasquerella, Gloria Larson and Helene Solomon at
Solomon McCown's 16th SM& Presents Panel.
While only 25 percent of college presidents are female; three
out of the four panelists were women. The presidents talked about
what role gender and their own backgrounds play in how they are
leading their institutions. Their answers were revealing and
Bob Caret, who has served as president of Towson University and
San Jose University said the job is an emotional one and "you have
to be ready for the emotional challenge. You are the living logo of
Dawn Barrett harkened back to her role model - Dorothy in "The
Wizard of Oz." Dorothy, she said, talked back to the wizard. She
talked truth to power and that is something she has tried to
emulate in her leadership style.
Panelist discussion on Leadership In
Transition on October 20, 2011.
At the age of 16, Lynn Pasquerella worked alongside her mother,
who was a shop steward in a light switch factory. She saw how the
culture perpetuated classism, racism and sexism. Being a
philosopher taught her how to lead with authenticity and to be a
Gloria Larson said she has found her gender to present more
opportunities than challenges. She has been a lot of firsts at
Bentley - the first woman president, the first non academic and the
first with no business background. And as for her heroine and role
model - "Nancy Drew" hands down.
More than 100 business & civic leaders
from education, real estate, healthcare and professional service
agencies from across the Commonwealth attended.
With student loan debt at $3 trillion nationally--higher than
all credit card debt--the cost of education, whether at private or
public institutions has to be addressed. Bob Caret said "we need to
make education affordable - society needs to come to terms with
this and we need high quality institutions across the board - from
community college to state schools."
Dawn Barrett noted that "it's not the degree itself but the
education that is valuable. Education provides you with employment,
a better quality of life, and allows us to be contributors to
society." All the presidents made compelling cases that they will
carry that message far and wide.
By Michal Regunberg, Senior Vice President,
Solomon McCown & Company