1st Edition

Practical Wisdom Thinking Differently About College and University Governance

By Peter D. Eckel, Cathy A. Trower Copyright 2019
    228 Pages
    by Routledge

    228 Pages
    by Routledge

    Co-published with This series of essays written for trustees and administrative leaders of universities and colleges draws on the authors’ extensive consulting experience, research into the dynamics of boards, and service as trustees, to focus on practical insights that will help readers improve governance. The authors have contributed a series of essays on governing well to Inside Higher Education, which formed the inspiration for this volume.The primary aim of the book is to provide insight that boards can use to enhance their governing practices. The author’s take is not a “how to do” book but rather one on “how to think.” Their basic premise is that too many boards are underperforming because they adopt or continue ineffective practices. However, thinking in more intentional if not new ways about not only what they do as boards, but how they go about their efforts, will help boards add value to the institutions and state systems they govern. The authors use thought provoking-titles and a conversational tone to engage the readers, get them to reflect on their work, and broaden their horizons.

    Figures and Tables Foreword by Richard Chait Acknowledgements Introduction. Thinking, Doing, Governing 1. The Evolving Board. Ways to Think About Governing Today 2)The “Damned If You Do, Damned If You Don’t” Dynamics of Governing 3)Is Your Board Mediocre? 4)Individual Competencies for Collective Impact 5) Right Answers; Wrong Questions 6)Spending Scarce Time Wisely 7)Ensuring Accountability for the Board by the Board 8)Curiosity. The Boardroom’s Missing Element 9)The “Jobs” of Committees (of Drill Bits and Milkshakes. 10)The Culture of Boards. Making the Invisible Visible 11)The (Not So. Hidden Dynamics of Power and Influence 12)The Prime Partnership Between Presidents and Board Chairs 13)Creating the Capacity for Trying Issues 14)Strategy, Higher Education, and Boards (and Forget Planning. 15)Getting to Grips With Shared Governance 16)Governing Circa 1749 16 ½. Half a . The Unfinished Work References About the Authors Index


    Peter D. Eckel is senior fellow and director of leadership programs in he Alliance for Higher Education for Democracy in the University of Pennsylvania's Graduate School of Education. He coleads the Penn Project on University Governance and serves as a trustee at the University of La Verne. Cathy A. Trower is president of Trower & Trower, Inc., a board governance consulting firm, and former research director at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

    "The work of the Board and the chief executive officer has never been more critical in higher education than it is today. As we face this unparalleled disruption, we are all searching for the right "hands-on" tools that can moor us in times of challenge, point us in the right direction, and add wind to our sails as we reposition. This book rightly assumes that the success of institutions will be most determined by the Board's ability to govern effectively. This is not an esoteric work where you have to be an insider to understand its recommendations; rather, it is a practical guide to how we should be thinking about governance with ready made tools that can be used almost immediately.

    It should be required reading for all boards of trustees and executives at colleges and universities."

    Carmen Twillie Ambar, President,

    Oberlin College

    "As colleges and universities face increased scrutiny and mounting pressures, effective board governance has moved from a luxury to a necessity; if our institutions are to succeed in this environment, they need effective leadership from their Boards. Few are equipped to provide it. What a gift to have the wisdom of two distinguished leaders at our disposal during this critical time for higher education. Their extensive experience working with presidents and boards is displayed on every page of this book. Observations and suggestions are organized into clear and accessible essays that will prove equally valuable for public and private boards, presidents, and leaders. During a time of tumult and change, the wise counsel of Practical Wisdom serves as an essential guide to effective governance."

    Mary B. Marcy, President

    Dominican University of California

    From the Foreword:

    “Practical Wisdom astutely focuses on the means—tools, techniques, and templates—that enable trustees and, by extension, executives to determine, pursue, and achieve a core strategy aligned with core values. There’s no more valuable contribution a book on governance can make.”

    Richard Chait, Professor Emeritus of Higher Education

    Harvard Graduate School of Education

    "Practical Wisdom embraces the intricacies of university board governance by providing thoughtful insights into the multiple issues that contribute to its complexity. Treating governance as a learning process and drawing from personal experiences working with public and private institutions, Eckel and Trower challenge trustees and administrators to think more intentionally about the work of the board, while providing well-informed and astute practical guidance for powerful learning to drive higher performance."

    Sabah Randhawa, President

    Western Washington University

    “The relative success or failure of higher education institutions is highly correlated with the effectiveness of board governance, and yet most new trustees join these boards wholly unequipped to understand, let alone to serve constructively. This book will not only be helpful, it could prove indispensable.”

    Thomas J. Hollister, Vice President for Finance and Chief Financial Officer, Harvard University and former board chair Tufts Medical Center and Wheaton College

    Harvard University and former board chair Tufts Medical Center and Wheaton College

    “Practical Wisdom is a must-read on trusteeship and governance. Eckel and Trower have written a clear, smart and example-laden book to help college and university presidents and their boards of trustees work effectively together to advance their institutions and address the challenges that confront them. If you are looking for the best 'how to manual' on college and university governance, this is it!”

    Isiaah Crawford, President

    University of Puget Sound