The Leadership Agenda

At a time of accelerated change in all of higher education, the Southwestern presidency offers a unique formula for success. The variety of Southwestern’s academic programs, the talent of its teaching faculty, the balance of liberal arts and professional offerings, and the wide array of its current student markets and pedagogies provide a cutting-edge foundation for this leadership opportunity. The new president will be asked to maintain Southwestern’s core values and existing strengths, while building boldly and creatively on the college’s potential for future growth.

The next Strategic Plan

Christy at night bathed in purple lightChanges in presidential leadership offer colleges a special moment in which to reconsider the substance and the style of the institution’s plans for the future. Southwestern has won the present and must now collectively and collaboratively chart the course for the future. 

Many believe that a fresh planning conversation, led by the new president, is likely to bring coherence and renewed perspective for Southwestern and help to integrate further the liberal arts and professional studies. In addition, there appear to be significant expectations for the continued development of new academic programs. A well designed strategic planning process will allow the college to articulate the priorities and trade-offs necessary for Southwestern to thrive with a unified sense of direction.

Enhancing Resources

The next president will lead with humility while exhibiting the confidence and courage to take SC’s enrollment, retention and fundraising endeavors to the next level. He or she must be decisive with a collaborative personality that can help maintain close unity among the students, faculty and staff to build an even stronger sense of community within the region and state. This leader will bring infectious energy to the institution and passionately and articulately convey the college’s path to continued and greater success.

Broadening the Reputation

This person needs to successfully balance the responsibilities of being a leader on campus and an ambassador to the community. The president is the primary representative for the College when dealing with local, regional, state, and national leaders and legislators. 

Faculty at CommencementThe next president will be expected to strengthen the college’s reputation by building awareness and recognition of the Southwestern program regionally, nationally and internationally. Living in the City of Winfield will help the new president enhance a positive town/gown relationship that exists today and will strengthen opportunities for building “community/public relations” beyond the main campus. As the base for Southwestern’s Professional Studies operation, Wichita provides prime territory for broadening and deepening the recognition and reputation of the college and its offerings.

The new president’s efforts, however, should not be limited to the local area. Raising Southwestern’s profile throughout the surrounding six-state region will not only enhance admissions efforts in the region, but may also improve the chances for developing effective partnerships and new collaborations that could enrich the college’s current program offerings.

The new president should also be knowledgeable about the issues currently impacting private higher education, statewide and nationally. The style and substance of the president’s public message should help to make Southwestern a more frequent “destination” in the minds of new friends, donors, prospective students, other colleges and universities, and influential stakeholders.

Strengthening Financial Equilibrium

With an operating budget that derives 85% of its revenue from tuition and fees, Southwestern has done a remarkable job of achieving financial equilibrium. This has been accomplished through sustained enrollment success and careful fiscal management. Long term debt totals $7 million. The margin for error, however, remains narrow and the new president will be expected to maintain the discipline and enhance the current financial equilibrium with an emphasis on more robust revenue streams. 

As enrollment and advancement planning are integrated into Southwestern’s overall strategic plan, the financial plan, which undergirds the college’s hopes and dreams, must continue to be well defined. Even though strong trustee and administrative support is available in the finance area, the new president must have the acumen to provide stewardship and leadership in all fiscal matters.

Maximizing Trustee Effectiveness

Trustee membership totals 25 and each member serves a three-year term with a limit of four consecutive terms. After 12 consecutive years of service, trustees may be re-appointed following a one-year absence. In addition to the Executive Committee, the work of the trustees is organized around six standing committees. The Board meets three times a year. Current practice includes a fourth meeting every third year, scheduled during the summer as a Board Retreat.

Knowledge of best governance practices and an understanding of Southwestern’s governing ethos will allow new leadership to maximize trustee effectiveness. Fostering a shared commitment with the Board will be central to the new president’s success. Recognizing the Board’s need for information and engagement in furthering Southwestern’s march to a strengthened position, a successful president must cultivate a strong partnership with the trustees.

Valuing Faith and Spiritual Connection

Students singing at ChapelSouthwestern values its heritage and ongoing relationship with the United Methodist Church. The value centeredness of campus life provides a foundation for inclusiveness, acceptance, and respect for all persons, while practicing a broadly-based commitment to service. The new president’s understanding of Southwestern as a community where spiritual principles are valued, discussed, and practiced will be important.

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