Making College Better

Views from the Top

by Joseph L. DeVitis (Volume editor)
©2018 Textbook XIV, 234 Pages


Today’s colleges and universities are facing mounting criticism from both internal and external interest groups and constituencies. While strident calls for reform accelerate, resources for higher education have weakened. Thus, demands to improve college education abound amidst hard times. This timely book, Making College Better: Views from the Top, offers more rational and practical responses to that public outcry by allowing college presidents and chancellors from a wide variety of postsecondary institutions the opportunity to address, in measured ways, many complex issues and how they might be untangled. Moreover, these academic leaders provide possible remedies to make college better through more strategic policies and practices.
Making College Better will appeal to all those interested in the future of higher education, including students, college administrators and other higher education personnel, parents, legislators and other officials, and public and private sector leaders. It is especially useful for courses in the organization and administration of higher education, the college presidency, contemporary issues in higher education, foundations of higher education, higher education and society, and college student development.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Introduction (Joseph L. DeVitis)
  • Part One: Views from the Private Sector
  • Part Two: Views from the Public Sector
  • References
  • Part One: Views from the Private Sector
  • Chapter One: Foundational Truths about Higher Education (Jonathan M. Brand)
  • Introduction
  • The Disconnect between Higher Education and Families
  • The Divide within Higher Education
  • The Divide between the Broad and Focused
  • The Disconnect between Higher Education and Employers
  • The Corner Office
  • Foundational Skills
  • Challenges
  • Appendix A
  • AAC&U Current Learning Measurements
  • Appendix B
  • Notes
  • Chapter Two: Liberal Arts Colleges: Building Capacity to Thrive (Steven C. Bahls)
  • Deliberate Focus on Integrating the Campus Experience and Enhancing Outcomes
  • Enhancing the Value of Humanities and Other Traditional Liberal Arts College Majors
  • Aggressively Reallocate Resources and Bend the Cost Curve
  • Building Capacity for Change
  • Fostering the Entrepreneurial Spirit of Faculty and Staff
  • Conclusion
  • Notes
  • Chapter Three: The Future of the Liberal Arts College, or How to Keep Smiling on the Edge of the Crevasse (Brian Rosenberg)
  • Will Many Small Colleges Vanish?
  • Will Small Colleges Stay Small?
  • Will the Small Highly Selective Liberal Arts College Become the Educational Equivalent of a Lexus?
  • Will the Model of the Teacher-Scholar Become Less Widespread?
  • Will the Traditional Liberal Arts Curriculum Vanish, to be Replaced by a Stronger Emphasis on Vocational Preparation?
  • Notes
  • Chapter Four: Making College Better— for Whom? (Timothy L. Hall)
  • Exclusionary and Inclusionary Excellence
  • Scaling Completion Success
  • Controlling Costs
  • Conclusion
  • Notes
  • References
  • Chapter Five: Rethinking Fit, Choosing to Include and Educating World Changers (Elizabeth (Beth) J. Stroble)
  • Rethinking Fit
  • Choosing to Include
  • Educating World Changers
  • Notes
  • References
  • Chapter Six: The Soul of a Christian University (J. Randall O’Brien)
  • The Future of the Past
  • The Way, The Truth, and The Life
  • A Few Practical Ways to Make the Christian College Experience More Meaningful
  • Conclusion
  • Notes
  • Chapter Seven: From Either/Or to Both/And: The Journey of a Lutheran College to Interfaith Living (Paul C. Pribbenow)
  • Why? The Gifts of Our Faith Tradition
  • How? An Organizing Framework for Interfaith Work Across the College and Beyond
  • What? Implementing Our Commitment to Interfaith Living at Augsburg
  • In the Curriculum
  • In Campus Life
  • In Institutional Practices
  • In Community Engagement
  • Interfaith Living in the 21st Century
  • Notes
  • Chapter Eight: A Case Study: Transforming a Catholic Women’s College (Patricia McGuire)
  • Forces of Change
  • Confronting the Imperative of Change
  • Sustaining Historic Mission by Changing Everything
  • Changing Curricula and Programs
  • Changing Student Demographics
  • Academic Challenges
  • Listening to New and Different Voices
  • Keeping College Affordable
  • Part Two: Views from the Public Sector
  • Chapter Nine: Learning to Thrive: A Perspective from Texas Woman’s— A Large Public University (Carine M. Feyten)
  • What Graduates Say: The Gallup-Purdue Survey
  • Tracking the Delta: What Is the Real Value Added of Any Higher Education Experience?
  • Helping Students Thrive: Making Texas Woman’s University Better
  • All Arrows Must Point in the Same Direction: Supporting Student Health and Well-Being
  • At the Table or on the Menu? The Importance of Leadership Opportunities
  • Implementing Improvements: It’s Not Only about Money
  • Summary
  • Notes
  • Chapter Ten: Making College Better Through a Reimagined Undergraduate Research Focus (Beverly Warren)
  • The Emergence of Undergraduate Research
  • A Reimagined Public Research University
  • Nurturing a Culture of Undergraduate Research
  • A Bright Future For Undergraduate Research
  • References
  • Chapter Eleven: Public Comprehensive Universities: The People’s University at a Crossroads (Sandra J. Jordan)
  • Notes
  • References
  • Chapter Twelve: The Role of Public Regional Universities in the 21st Century (Elsa M. Núñez)
  • Introduction
  • State University Beginnings—A Focus on Local Residents
  • New Challenges
  • Reaffirming Institutional Identity
  • Aligning Campus and System Identities
  • Prepared for Progress: A Living Strategic Plan
  • Keys to the Future: Responsiveness Relevance Engagement Accountability, and Advocacy
  • A Responsive Campus
  • Relevance in the 21st Century
  • Engagement: Motivating Today’s Students
  • Accountability: Turning Compliance into Opportunity
  • The Role of Advocacy
  • Conclusion
  • Notes
  • Chapter Thirteen: How Transformational Change Can Prepare HBCUs and MSIs to Be Competitive in the 21st Century (James A. Anderson)
  • HBCU Educational Design: Intentional, Coherent, and Evidenced Based
  • Monitoring Progress in Achieving Goals
  • Effective Teaching at HBCUs and MSIs
  • Ensuring That HBCUS and MSIs Are Addressing All Components of Academic Quality in the Competitive Educational Market
  • References
  • Chapter Fourteen: Energizing Higher Education in Tough Times: A Historically Black College President’s Perspective (Kevin D. Rome)
  • Articulating Goals and Values
  • In the Classroom: Changing Dynamics and Methods
  • On-and off Campus Experiences: Improving Students’ Academic and Social Lives
  • Working with Limited Resources
  • Making the Most of Governmental Resources
  • Solving Issues of College Costs
  • Diversity Is “Everyone’s Responsibility”
  • Facilitating Student Success
  • Assessing Faculty Success
  • Balancing Academics and Athletics
  • Taking Advantage of Technological Resources
  • References
  • Chapter Fifteen: Making Community Colleges Better (Edward E. Raspiller)
  • Core Values and Goals
  • Shared Services
  • Workforce Development
  • Leadership
  • Tyler 2021
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • Contributors
  • Series index

| ix →



These are not the best of times for colleges and college presidents. Often prized as national, state, or local treasures, colleges and universities, in these troubled times, are under continual siege from a wide variety of internal and external interests groups and stakeholders: faculty, parents, students, alumni, the media, board members, legislators, and other politicians (elected and would-be), among others. Yet postsecondary leaders are still expected to deliver all the goods—no matter what the times:

Colleges and universities are told to do more with less while, on the other hand, demands for innovation persist. The call for access and universal education remains. The desire grows for the development and delivery of new intellectual properties and products. While all these demands have increased, resources have shrunk. (Rowley, Lujan & Dolence, 2001, p. 8)

Simply put, this book joins the efforts to make college better. The different paths to improvement have already proven to be difficult. Amid all the contestation and controversies, our undertaking proffers insightful counsel from a host of presidents and chancellors who represent a wide array of higher education institutions: liberal arts colleges, large public and private universities, comprehensive regional universities, religiously affiliated colleges, historically black colleges and universities, women’s colleges, and community colleges. These academic leaders typically face daily multifaceted, complicated tasks that might drive many mortals to give up the ghost: ← ix | x →

To make matters worse, administrators often do so in a semi-domesticated environment in which they feel as if they are herding cats. Faculty can routinely ignore them and their relations with administrators can be downright frosty and adversarial. College leaders also face student and parent demands for more compliant and convenient customer service, outside audiences who seek more active campus involvement, and athletic boosters who desire wins above all else. Some commentators on university administration paint an even gloomier portrait than does Fish:

While realizing the above concerns, our contributors are attuned to these important needs: trust among all constituencies, effective strategic planning, building viable campus relationships, fostering town and gown interaction, and ameliorating political squabbles on and off the quadrangle. Like many successful leaders, they have a firm grasp of their campus culture, work on nurturing strong communication networks, hone in on mission and core values, and are not afraid to recommend “out-of-the-box” solutions. (Leslie & Fretwell, Jr., 1996) They walk a high wire to balance all manner of competing interests in the hope of creating a better college.

In this volume, they are pleased to share their knowledge as they seek the light at the end of the tunnel. They understand the promise and rewards of the modern academy—an institution that still warrants their constant care and vigilance. Above all, they are realists who continue to believe in a real future for all those students who enter the walls of ivy, stone, bricks, and mortar.


In Chapter One, “Foundational Truths about Higher Education,” Jonathan Brand, president of Cornell College (Mount Vernon, Iowa), addresses the large demographic shifts, considerable financial pressures, and sharp external criticisms that imperil today’s American campuses. He explicitly examines several important disjunctions that the academy must effectively deal with: disconnects between higher education and families; competition among academic institutions; disagreements ← x | xi → in discussions of breadth and depth of knowledge; and divisions between postsecondary education and the world of work. Ultimately, President Brand contends that colleges and universities must develop deeper foundational learning goals to prepare students for their futures.

In Chapter Two, “Liberal Arts Colleges: Building Capacity to Thrive,” Steven C. Bahls, president of Augustana College (Rock Island, Illinois), defends liberal arts schools within the context of changing social and economic demands. He claims that they will need to focus more on postgraduation goals and outcomes, showing how liberal education has instrumental value; reallocating resources and costs; and revamping shared governance to make it more effective. President Bahls warns against dependence on academic and campus life silos. He seeks a more integrated collegiate structure. He also advocates for more strategic “lean management” while encouraging faculty entrepreneurship to better serve students.

In Chapter Three, “The Future of the Liberal Arts College, or How to Keep Smiling on the Edge of the Crevasse,” Brian Rosenberg, president of Macalester College (Saint Paul, Minnesota), explores where liberal education is trending and how to allow it to sustain its viability. He predicts that few private liberal arts colleges are likely to die in the near future unless they are quite small and already struggling. But liberal arts institutions in general, he argues, will require more adaptability and less redundancy. President Rosenberg forecasts that many will welcome a more diverse student body as they fight to attain adequate revenue. Furthermore, he contends that they will tend to discard the fiscally unmanageable teacher-scholar model of pedagogy and move toward more cross-disciplinary structures.

In Chapter Four, “Making College Better—For Whom?” Timothy L. Hall, president of Mercy College (Dobbs Ferry, New York), argues for improving colleges and universities by making them better for all students—many of whom come from low-income homes and are underrepresented in elite, wealthy, and more “exclusionary” institutions. He focuses on student success and “inclusionary excellence” rather than serving only the “best” clientele who might boost institutional reputation. President Hall shows how innovative strategies, programs, and practices can yield higher college completion rates, help close the achievement gap, and tear down demographic hurdles.

In Chapter Five, “Rethinking Fit, Choosing to Include, and Educating World Changers,” Elizabeth (Beth) J. Stroble, president of Webster University (Webster Grove, Missouri), elaborates how university faculty, staff, and students can contribute to global awareness in ways that benefit all concerned. Emphasizing the power of diversity and inclusion in their myriad forms, she depicts a private university’s integrated strategy and systemic design for student success locally and abroad. President Stroble describes a network of campus locations and partnerships worldwide that affords Webster’s constituents expansive opportunities for international understanding, collaboration, and transformation. ← xi | xii →

In Chapter Six, “The Soul of a Christian University,” J. Randall O’Brien, president of Carson-Newman University (Jefferson City, Tennessee), analyzes how faith, or soul, can be integrated into the heart of the university. After tracing how Colonial colleges were founded by church organizations, he argues that the secularization of higher education corroded the fundamental functions of faith. Citing a host of esteemed clerical and nonclerical thinkers, President O’Brien contends that religious colleges and universities should extoll both academic freedom and a commitment to their theological heritages. He closes with numerous examples of how soulful living and learning can flourish on today’s campuses.

In Chapter Seven, “From Either/Or to Both/And: The Journey of a Lutheran College to Interfaith Living,” Paul C. Pribbenow, president of Augsburg University (Minneapolis, Minnesota), provides a stark example of how his institution’s traditions, values, and identity have made it a force for interfaith progress. He shows how his university has highlighted diversity beyond ethnic and racial boundaries through the agency of vocation, “critical and humble” inquiry, communitarian engagement, social justice, and the readiness to be open to reform. These goals have been implemented in curriculum, campus life, and service learning. President Pribbenow’s presentation underlines the significance of preparing students for a world of diverse beliefs, today and tomorrow.

In Chapter Eight, “A Case Study: Transforming a Catholic Women’s College,” Patricia McGuire, president of Trinity University Washington (District of Columbia), enumerates the challenges and achievements in saving an institution from near closing and then seeing it become a vital, special place. The renovation entailed creating a far more diverse student body by enlarging access to African-American women in particular. In addition, Trinity focused on a working-class clientele in general and modified its curricula, majors, and programs to keep pace with the times (e.g., establishing a much needed nursing program). President McGuire also guided Trinity in building bridges to organizations in the District of Columbia, especially in areas relevant to the College’s revamped academic structure.


In Chapter Nine, “Learning to Thrive: A Perspective from Texas Woman’s—A Large Public University,” Carine M. Feyten, chancellor and president of Texas Woman’s University (Denton, Dallas, and Houston), shows how her University strives to fulfill wide dimensions of student development and deeper purposes for higher education in general. Her chapter considers the creation of personal meaning and growth in whole personhood. Given her institution’s mission as primarily a woman’s college, she reaffirms commitments to female leadership, education in health, and “learning by doing,” especially service learning. Finally, she utilizes a ← xii | xiii → health care model as a practical metaphor for exploring ways to well-being at her University.

In Chapter Ten, “Making College Better through a Reimagined Undergraduate Research Focus,” Beverly Warren, president of Kent State University (Kent, Ohio), stresses the need for increased attention to inquiry-based learning at the undergraduate level and how public research universities are especially equipped to develop strong models of undergraduate research engagement. She offers several examples of successful programs and shares her own institution’s journey to a more robust undergraduate vision. President Warren argues that this reimagined focus affords undergraduates distinctive and critical opportunities for both academic and leadership development.

In Chapter Eleven, “Public Comprehensive Universities: The People’s University at a Crossroads,” Sandra J. Jordan, chancellor of the University of South Carolina Aiken, first provides a historical and philosophical account of the role and scope of regional state campuses. She characterizes them as “important social investments” that afford accessibility and practical and professional education to a vast plurality of the college population. Chancellor Jordan also understands the many challenges facing these campuses: changing student demographics, decreased state funding, increasing regulation, shifts in faculty roles, adapting to new technologies, the impact of the recent recession, and competition for students. She concludes with specific possible solutions surrounding the benefits of diversity, student advocacy, and local and regional collaboration.

In Chapter Twelve, “The Role of Public Regional Universities in the 21st Century,” Elsa M. Nuńez, president of Eastern Connecticut State University (Willimantic, Connecticut) begins by describing how those schools, particularly in Connecticut, were born and eventually grew to be key players in American higher education. She discusses a plethora of obstacles now confronting them. President Nuńez offers several remedies to revivify those universities: reaffirmation of institutional identity in terms of mission; core values; campus/system alignment; strategic planning guided by responsiveness, relevance, and more access for diverse students; engagement; accountability; and advocacy. She shows how each component can be nestled within campus units and offices in order to assure applied learning opportunities as well as wider economic and social benefits.

In Chapter Thirteen, “How Transformational Change Can Prepare Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs) to Be Competitive in the 21st Century,” James A. Anderson, chancellor of Fayetteville State University (North Carolina), analyzes the unique status of the latter campuses—ones that are often caught in a web of confounding issues in today’s higher education landscape. In the face of new demographic changes and fiscal constraints, he recommends more intentional, coherent, and evidence-based educational designs; closer monitoring of goal achievement; more effective pedagogical ← xiii | xiv → methods; and ensuring more academic quality and market accountability through better assessment of learning outcomes. Ultimately, Chancellor Anderson calls for more transformational leadership to attain those difficult aims.

In Chapter Fourteen, “Energizing Higher Education in Tough Times: A Historically Black College President’s Perspective,” Kevin D. Rome, president of Lincoln University (Jefferson City, Missouri) presents a coherent set of recommendations for improving postsecondary education, especially HBCUs, during an era of limited resources. Pointing to the need to educate students as “holistic contributors” to society, he deals not only with current campus issues, but also with crucial concerns beyond college graduation. President Rome seeks a kind of synergistic bond between internal and external contingencies. His ultimate goal is student success in college and in the world of work.

In Chapter Fifteen, “Making Community Colleges Better,” Edward E. Raspiller, president of John Tyler Community College (Chester and Midlothian, Virginia), focuses on salient features of why two-year colleges are vital to higher education and society. Along with a discussion of their values, purposes, and programs, he uses a microscopic lens for an in-depth exploration of how community colleges can share services in a scarce economy and tough political climate while connecting workforce development and globalization in more concrete ways. Finally, President Raspiller emphasizes the need for agile, proactive leadership in a world of ever-changing conditions and environments.

* * *

In closing, let us work to insure that our colleges and universities can continue to improve the lives of individuals and society as a whole. Let us strive to make college better.



XIV, 234
ISBN (Hardcover)
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2018 (January)
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2018. XIV, 234 pp., 14 b/w ill., 1 table

Biographical notes

Joseph L. DeVitis (Volume editor)

Joseph L. DeVitis is a prolific scholar and public intellectual in social foundations of education and higher education. Two of his books have earned Choice Awards from the American Library Association and four others have won Critics Choice Awards from the American Educational Studies Association as outstanding books of the year.


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