The Vermont Connection


Navigating in uncertain times is an understatement for leaders in higher education. There is no playbook for today’s institutional challenges. Student needs, administrative requirements, faculty demands, and community relations all warrant to fresh look into how institutions address the risks that threaten business as usual. COVID-19 has challenged the status quo – shaking established methods of conducting and promoting higher education to its core. Do the higher education community and all it constitutes realize it? Will leadership in higher education take the necessary steps to bring all stakeholders together to shape the path to the future? To answer these questions, every leader in higher education from board members to faculty members needs to understand whether or not their institution possesses the characteristics and competencies to innovate, change and grow. Through our research, conversations, and observations we address the unconscious defenses which can challenge any institution and propose a Framework for Risk Classification in Higher Education consisting of nine risk dimensions.

Getting through any crisis requires leaders to ask the right questions of the right people. The best leaders engage in a process that brings all stakeholders into focus, promotes an honest discussion to assess the current state of the organization, and collectively builds the bridge to the future. We present a series of critical questions for today’s leaders in higher education. These questions are centered in three areas: Institutional Purpose & Values, Stakeholder Engagement, and Operational Orientation.