Peer Review

From the Editor

This Peer Review issue focuses on collaborative leadership for liberal education and explores how campus leaders—presidents, faculty, staff, administrators, and boards—can best work together and with stakeholders outside of the academy to foster successful learning outcomes on their campus. This theme is longstanding in AAC&U’s work. In The Quality Imperative: Match Ambitious Goals for College Attainment with an Ambitious Vision for Learning, AAC&U’s Board of Directors asserts that, in order to help students meet twenty-first-century challenges, we must “foreground collaborative efforts—national, regional, and local—to advance a shared framework for accomplishment that embraces all students, whatever their background, choice of major, or postsecondary institution.”

The topic of this issue of Peer Review holds particular interest for me because for the past six years, I’ve had the honor of serving on the board of Hampshire College, my alma mater. My work with the board has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life, as I’ve been able to give back to an institution that helped to form my sense of self and provided me with a rigorous liberal education. As chair of the board’s academic affairs committee, I work closely with the school’s vice president of academic affairs/dean of faculty and the committee members—other trustees and on-campus representatives who are faculty, staff, and students. Last year, as our board committees created new charters, we had the opportunity to think deeply about our responsibilities to the school. As we were crafting the academic affairs committee charge, one of the campus members wrote to me, asking the purpose this endeavor. After some reflection, I wrote to her the following explanation:

I hope that you will look at our work of creating the charter in the spirit of a partnership. In partnering with our campus committee members, trustee members ‘stay in the loop’ so that we can ask our best questions, effectively share information with the rest of the board, and make informed choices for the school when voting on educational policies. Therefore, our committee needs guidelines—the charter—that inform current and future academic affairs committees about how to maximize the partnership between the two committee member groups.

Working in partnership—collaboratively—with Hampshire faculty, administrators, staff, and students allows our board to uphold our fiduciary responsibility. However, we find it sometimes difficult to know where the board’s role begins and ends. During a talk he delivered at AAC&U’s annual meeting, John Casteen, former University of Virginia president, spoke to this point and shared a quote from Adam Yarmolinsky, an educator and board chair who provided training to other boards, that speaks to a golden rule of trustee work. Yarmonlinsky said, “Trustees live in tents; the rule is that their noses go into the tent, their fingers stay out.” In addition to staying within the boundaries of our role, I’ve found that our board makes the best decisions for the college and our students when mutual respect for the expertise and commitment of each constituency group is brought to the table.

In this issue, Richard Morrill fully explores the challenges and benefits of president and trustee collaboration for liberal education. Other authors address collaborative leadership through other lenses—Debra Humphreys explores why new forms of collaborative leadership are important in today’s environment; Judith Ramaley addresses conditions for working more effectively with policy makers; Elsa M. Núñez writes about how collaborating with community partners supports student engagement; three Georgetown University faculty share their story of engaging diversity through collaboration; and a Hostos Community College writing team tells how faculty and staff came together on their campus to promote experiential learning for their students.

AAC&U President Carol Geary Schneider has the last word in this issue as she offers three questions for trustees about learning and quality. In a piece that surely will be distributed at board meetings across the country, she writes, “Clear aims, an intentional curriculum, milestone and cumulative assessments: these are the big three for any campus seriously committed to high-quality learning and the larger meanings of student success.”

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