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Shelly Storbeck on the Help that College Presidents Need Right Now

Shelly Weiss Storbeck, the firm’s Founder and Managing Partner, published timely advice in the Chronicle of Higher Education this week in an article titled, "College Presidents Need Help Lately, Too."

Describing the “intense pressures” that college and university presidents face right now—from trustees, faculty and staff members, students, alumni, and local residents, among others—Shelly offers suggestions about the supports and lifelines that help campus leaders manage in a challenging year.

These supports include:

  • A strong, supportive board. What does this look like?
  • A safe place to vent. Every leader needs someone — a coach, a colleague, a former trustee — to be a trusted ear. 
  • A strong, diverse management team. Presidents are only as good as the senior staff members who support and challenge them. 
  • Stress management and coping strategies. What allows you to refresh?
  • Cultural-competency training. This is more, much more, than just a workshop on diversity.
  • Experts. The pandemic has created or exposed issues related to health care, technology, enrollment, athletics, and space management. Presidents need contemporary thinking and expertise.
  • Creative ways to connect with students, staff employees, faculty members, and junior administrators. What sparks joy?
  • Help in working with the neighbors. In many places, the pandemic has heightened tensions in town-gown relations.
  • Help in using social media effectively. It's important for leaders to offer quick, thoughtful reactions—without shooting from the hip.
  • Time. Do you have a savvy scheduler on staff?

"Every campus leader woke up in 2020 to the ringing alarm clock of the three p’s: pandemic, protests, and politics," writes Shelly. "And so far in 2021, those leaders haven’t been able to hit the snooze button or turn the damn thing off."

Shelly adds, "I've been hearing from so many presidents over the past year, and I am grateful for this opportunity to summarize and publish much of what I've heard and learned, in the hope of bringing attention and focus to these issues and sharing workable strategies as we begin the year 2021 together."

To read the full text of Shelly's article, click here.

(If you are not already a Chronicle reader or subscriber, you may be asked to create free account.) 

We welcome your additional insights on these issues, via email or Shelly's LinkedIn post


Storbeck Search Team Profile

Shelly Weiss Storbeck

Global Education Practice Lead and Managing Director

Shelly has one of the most widely recognized names in the field, having recruited senior leaders for America's most prestigious colleges and universities. She has led Storbeck Search as an independent firm since 2007.