2023 Annual Meeting

Presidents' Trust Symposium

Friday, January 20, 2023 /

Hyatt Regency San Francisco

Leading in Times of Polarization

The annual AAC&U Presidents’ Trust Symposium provides opportunities for chief executive officers to network with peers and engage with leading experts on the most pressing issues facing higher education. Participation in the symposium is open only to chief executive officers of colleges, universities, foundations, associations, and invited guests.

The 2023 symposium will be held in person as part of the AAC&U annual meeting and will focus on “Leading in Times of Polarization.” Sessions will address presidential transitions, excellence and equity in undergraduate education, athletics and academic quality, incivility, and higher education’s contributions to lives of purpose.

The 2023 Presidents' Trust Symposium is sponsored by the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations, The Teagle Foundation, Lumina Foundation, and Wiley Education Services.

  • Shelly C. Lowe

    Featured Speaker: Shelly C. Lowe

    Chair, National Endowment for the Humanities

    Shelly C. Lowe is chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Lowe is a citizen of the Navajo Nation and grew up on the Navajo Reservation in Ganado, Arizona. From 2015 to 2021, she served as a member of the National Council on the Humanities, the 26-member advisory body to NEH, an appointment she received from President Obama. Lowe’s career in higher education has included roles as executive director of the Harvard University Native American Program, assistant dean in the Yale College Dean’s Office, and director of the Native American Cultural Center at Yale University.

  • William Damon

    Featured Speaker: William Damon

    Director, Stanford Center on Adolescence; Professor of Education, Stanford University

    William Damon is the Director of the Stanford Center on Adolescence and Professor of Education at Stanford University. Damon's research explores how people develop purpose and integrity in their work, family, and civic life. Since 2017, he has focused on the development of purpose in contemporary contexts of U.S. higher education, in a multi-institution study funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Damon's work has been used in professional training programs in fields such as journalism, law, teaching, and business, and in K–12-character education programs. He is the author of the influential book The Path to Purpose.

Register for the Symposium

Advance registration is required. Registration is complimentary for members of the AAC&U Presidents’ Trust. The $250 registration fee for non-members may be applied toward membership in the Presidents’ Trust.

Symposium Schedule

All times are in US Pacific Time.
The schedule is subject to change.

8:00 a.m.

Breakfast Available
8:15 - 8:20 a.m.Symposium Welcome and Opening Framing
Lynn Pasquerella, President, AAC&U
8:20 - 9:45 a.m.Developing Students' Sense of Purpose Orientation

Research Presentation by William Damon, Professor of Education at Stanford University and Director of the Stanford Center on Adolescence

Panel Discussion
  • Gilda Barabino, President, Olin College of Engineering
  • Bobbie Laur, President, Campus Compact
  • Suzanne Rivera, President, Macalester College
  • Mary Dana Hinton, President, Hollins University (moderator)
Damon will share key findings of his multi-institution research project funded by the Mellon Foundation, including how colleges—and liberal education experiences especially—contribute to students’ cultivation of purpose. Then, respondents will reflect on the way students develop a sense of purpose on their campuses.
9:45 - 10:45 a.m.Providing a Blueprint for Excellence & Equity in Undergraduate Education
Panel Discussion with Members of the Boyer 2030 Commission
  • Andrew Delbanco, President, The Teagle Foundation
  • Barbara R. Snyder, President, Association of American Universities, and Co-chair, Boyer 2030 Commission
  • Claude Steele, Lucie Stern Professor in the Social Sciences, Emeritus, Stanford University
  • Lynn Pasquerella, President, AAC&U (moderator)
In its report released in November 2022, the Boyer 2030 Commission outlines a compelling agenda for US research universities to fundamentally enhance the distinctive educations that they provide for undergraduate students. Within this session, members of the Boyer 2030 Commission will discuss how the report can aid leaders in broadly collaborative efforts to meet the equity/excellence imperative within a challenging world of deeply entrenched inequities.
10:45 - 11:45 a.m.

Responding to Acts of Incivility
Panel Discussion

  • Mary Lee Kennedy, Executive Director, Association of Research Libraries
  • Ben Nelson, Founder and Chancellor, Minerva University
  • Kevin Worthen, President, Brigham Young University
  • Brooke Barnett, Provost, Butler Unviersity (moderator)
Bomb threats. Hateful chants at football games. Protests interrupting campus programming. Banned books and “canceled” scholars. Offensive behaviors on campus, at meetings, and online. Uncivil behavior violates norms of respect and disrupts learning. How can leaders respond to acts of incivility in ways that ensure safety, foster belonging, support academic freedom and freedom of expression, and sustain learning environments? Panelists will speak from their own experiences handling incivility and welcome discussion about the complexities of responding to these challenging incidents.
11:45 a.m. - 1:15 p.m.
Presidents' Luncheon: Leading in Times of Polarization
Keynote by Shelly C. Lowe, Chair, National Endowment for the Humanities

Introduction by Lynn Pasquerella, President, AAC&U
Sponsored by Wiley

1:15 - 2:15 p.m.Linking Athletics and Educational Mission
Panel Discussion
  • Gabe Feldman, Sher Garner Professor of Sports Law and Paul and Abram B. Barron Professor of Law, Tulane University
  • Walt Harrison, President Emeritus, University of Hartford
  • Amy Privette Perko, Chief Executive Officer, Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics
  • Jonathan Alger, President, James Madison University (moderator)
Intercollegiate athletics can be a positive experience for student-athletes—fostering a sense of purpose, the development of essential life and career skills, strong and supportive social networks, and good physical and mental health—and an asset to institutions and communities. It can also present challenges to campus leaders when an athletics program does not help maintain the core educational mission, within a culture of integrity. Panelists will speak about the president’s role in aligning athletics with the educational mission to create a supportive environment that enables the success of all student-athletes, and that responds to critiques that athletic programs are superfluous or even damaging to our institutions.
2:15 - 3:15 p.m.Handling Presidential Transitions: Transitioning In and Out with Grace
Panel Discussion
  • Anne Coyle, Consultant, Russell Reynolds Associates
  • Shirely A. Mullen, President Emerita, Houghton College
  • Eduardo Ochoa, President Emeritus, California State University-Monterey Bay
  • Beverly Warren, Executive Search Consultant, AGB Search, and President Emerita, Kent State University (moderator)
Sponsored by AGB Search

Given the average tenure of a college president, presidential transitions now demand the attention of about one-quarter of US colleges and universities at any given time. The work of transitioning from one leader to the next can be laborious, stressful, and disruptive to a campus community, and difficult for the leaders themselves who are joining or separating from the community. In this session, former presidents and search professionals will reflect on handling transitions in ways that turn these times of change into opportunities.

3:15 - 3:30 p.m.
Closing Remarks
Lynn Pasquerella, President, AAC&U

About the Presidents' Trust

The Presidents' Trust is a network of higher education leaders who advance the vision, values, and practices that connect liberal education with the needs of an increasingly diverse student body, a global workforce, and thriving communities.