Changes in Higher Education

Changes in Higher Education

August 29, 2019 0 By Ronny Jaskolski


This is a second career for me. I have been
associated with the Governing Board since 1995 when I became board chair of my alma
mater, St. Lawrence University. And before that I was associated in the mainstream of
corporate America, CEO of some fairly large companies. In addition to my undergraduate
degree at St. Lawrence University, I have a graduate degree from Harvard. And putting
it all in together, I can say without question that the work I’ve done for sixteen years
with — now eighteen years with AGB has been more rewarding than the business career. I
have seen higher education change, change dramatically in that period of time. Looking
at boards, for example, boards have moved from being close-knit locations for individuals
who have high net worth and I’m about to say low intellectual life, and in many cases that
was true. And what they did thirty years ago for a board meeting was sit and listen to
the president who expounded about the university or the college, listen to the board chair
who sometimes was part of a small coterie of individuals, including the president to
decide what was best for the university. The trustees were almost all male, white haired
males like me, but they were not asked beyond two questions. One question was how much will
you write your check for this year, Joe? And Joe would say — how much do you need? And
the president would say — well, we’re going to do a new library this year, we’re going
to renovate a couple of dormitories. If you could upgrade from your $5 million last year
to say $7 million this year, we would really appreciate it. And Joe would write his check
and that would be it. And the second question that they always asked was when are we eating
and when does the bar open? And aside from those two questions, that was what a board
meeting was all about. Today the board has evolved to the point where it is, despite
the fact that it’s a group of volunteers in the private sector, it has evolved to become
in those universities and colleges that are at the top, top rank of respected universities
for their high level of excellent governance, it has become a center of decision making,
of collaboration with the president, collaboration with the staff and the faculty to think together
what the strategic future is for the university or college. So a big change that I’ve seen
in the last certainly thirty years and a fairly large change over the last ten years even.
This is a progression of responsibilities for the board that is quite remarkable and
not well written about, not well written about. There’s not a strong understanding, I think,
of how this change has existed.