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Trends in Higher Education Administration

Boston & San Francisco, California: March 31st-April 10th, 2009

 Higher Ed Group

 The Trends in Higher Education Administration program brought fourteen individuals from the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland for an eleven day study-visit to the United States. Taking place in Boston, Massachusetts and San Francisco, California, the program allowed senior administrators and policy makers from colleges, universities and relevant government agencies to explore trends and issues in such areas as enrollment management, fundraising, curriculum design, community building and establishing strong relationships and strategic partnerships with alumni and corporate entities. Consisting of academic seminars, lectures and site visits, the program allowed participants to actively engage with each other and their U.S. counterparts. In their meetings with educational policymakers and administrators, the participants had the opportunity to exchange best-practice strategies, and to create professional networks and contacts both in the U.S. and on the island of Ireland.


The need to expand access to higher education and create effective educational policy is something shared by the United States, the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.  In addition, the program was especially timely for participants from the Republic of Ireland. The third-level education system there is being restructured to operate with reduced government funding and increased sources of private revenue- a model similar to that of the United States. By working to expand educational opportunities and create diverse learning environments, the program participants addressed some of the issues central to a strong civil society.


The first week of the program took place in Boston, Massachusetts. At a seminar led by Dr. Philip Altbach, Director of the Center for International Higher Education at Boston College, the participants were given an overview of the American higher education system. The seminar also provided context for later meetings and site visits. A meeting with Dr. Patrick Keating, Executive Vice President of Boston College, highlighted the institution’s long range planning strategies and challenges in areas such as academic and financial infrastructure and campus expansion. The group members next had the opportunity to work in smaller focus groups in order to meet with a range of University administrators. Among those with whom the participants met were: Dr. Robert Wolff, Director of Premedical Programs; Ms. Louise Lonabocker, Director of Student Services; Dr. Bernd Widdig, Director of International Programs; Rev. Joseph O’Keefe, S.J., Dean of the Lynch School of Education; Mr. John H. Garvey, Dean of the Boston College Law School; and Mr. John Mahoney, Director of Undergraduate Admissions. The participants also attended a public lecture entitled “Life After Spellings: What Future for Teaching, Learning and Accountability in American Higher Education?” The lecture was presented by Dr. Peter T. Ewell, Vice President of the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems.


At their first off-campus site visit, participants met with Boston University’s Executive Director of Admissions, Ms. Kelly Walter. Also in attendance at that meeting were Ms. Liz Shannon, Director of International Visitors and the Trustee Scholars Program (and widow of former U.S. Ambassador to Ireland, William Shannon) and Ms. Gemma Hussey, Former Minister of Education for the Republic of Ireland. The next stop in Massachusetts was at Olin College, where the group was hosted by Olin College President, Dr. Richard Miller. Dr. Miller discussed ways to break down departmental barriers, as well as the unique ethos of Olin College and the challenges it faces in its mission to actively redefine the field of engineering.


The Massachusetts Department of Higher Education hosted the participants later in the week. Dr. Francesca Purcell, Associate Commissioner for Academic and P-16 Policy and Ms. Deborah Hattery, Director for Fiscal and Administrative Policy gave the group an inside look at some of the fiscal and budgetary challenges the Commonwealth faces in regards to funding higher education. Participants enjoyed this opportunity to meet with representatives of a government agency, and to contrast the strategies and policies of a state-funded organization with their own organizations in Ireland and Northern Ireland, and with the university site visits in Boston.


At a reception hosted by Dr. Thomas E. Hachey, University Professor and Executive Director of the Center for Irish Programs at Boston College, the participants were joined by Dr.  & Mrs. Patrick Keating, Ms. Deirdre Ní Fhallúin, Vice Consul for the Republic of Ireland and Ms. Fran Dubrowski, a Boston College graduate and Washington, D.C. based environmental attorney.


Participants next visited the University of Massachusetts, Boston for a meeting with Ms. Ellen O’Connor, Vice Chancellor for Administration. This session focused on the university’s fiscal strategies in a time of dramatic budget cuts. U-Mass, Boston was the first public university on the trip, and many of the group felt that U-Mass, Boston’s strategies were also applicable to their own organizations and institutions.


A lunch meeting at Northeastern University with Ms. Marian Stanley, Vice President of Foundation and Corporate Advancement provided the opportunity for the participants to discuss strategic partnerships with the corporate community. For the group’s final Boston site visit, they returned to Boston College to meet with Dr. Brenda Ricard, Associate Vice President for Advancement. This meeting was particularly fascinating for the group, as the very concept of alumni giving is a relatively new one on the island of Ireland.



The second half of the program took place in the San Francisco Bay region of California, where the group visited several public and private universities and met with a variety of educational policymakers. 


The week began with a visit to San Francisco State University, where participants met with Ms. Donna Blakemore, Associate Vice President for Advancement; Mr. Doug Hupke, Alumni Director; Mr. Mark Kelleher, Senior Director of Development and Mr. Richard Hall, Director of Corporate Relations. Topics of discussion included: assessment and quality assurance; and fundraising from the unique perspective of a large public university in the state of California. Dr. Kurt Daw, Dean of the College of Creative Arts made a presentation on SF State’s Creative Campus Initiative.


The next campus visit was to the University of San Francisco, a small Jesuit university in the heart of the city. Rev. John P. Fitzgibbons, S.J, Vice President for Administration and Acting Dean, College of Professional Studies and Mr. James L. Wiser, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs discussed university structure, finance and strategic planning with the delegation.


Later that week, the Irish visitors crossed the Bay to the University of California, Berkeley. While there, they had a very informative session with Dr. Christina Maslach, Vice Provost for Teaching and Learning. Dr. Maslach detailed UC-Berkeley’s comprehensive teaching and teaching efficacy programs. 


Nearing the end of their program, the delegates traveled south of the city to San Jose for two tremendously relevant sessions. The first was a specially arranged seminar with Mr. Patrick M. Callan, President of the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education. Mr. Callan outlined the necessity for objective policy analysis and provided a detailed critique of the American higher education system and the challenges it faces in the coming decades.  San José State University hosted the group for the final meeting in the Trends in Higher Education Administration program. Dr. Carmen Sigler, Vice President and Provost, led a lively discussion of issues ranging from university strategic planning and community engagement, to the relationship between the Silicon Valley industries and the university.