Public Purpose Magazine, Winter 2017
Public Purpose Winter 2017 - Cover

Table of Contents

Between the LinesAn AASCU Hallmark: Service at All LevelsSusan M. Chilcott
Donor stipulations around institutional gifts—large or small—are not new. Supposedly, former Massachusetts Attorney General A.E. Pillsbury left several Ivy League schools $25,000 apiece in his 1931 will. But he had a proviso: The schools had to use the bequests to combat the feminist movement that had “already begun to impair the family as the basis of civilization and its advance.” Pillsbury envisioned the schools creating a lectureship that could help keep women in the home. It’s not clear if that story is apocryphal, but given what we know about potential institutional gifts that come with strings attached, it doesn’t seem that farfetched. Stephen Pelletier’s cover story, “The (Potentially) Messy World of Large Donations,” looks at the need for state colleges and universities to develop more sophisticated skills in managing potentially controversial gifts. His story includes a valuable list, suggested by fundraising experts, of seven strategies universities should employ “before you take the money.”

The (Potentially) Messy World of Large DonationsAs public universities get more accomplished in fundraising, they also need to develop sophisticated skills for managing potentially controversial gifts.By Stephen G. Pelletier
A multimillion-dollar gift for a new academic center—sounds like a college president’s dream, right? But what if that gift comes from a controversial donor who wants to leverage that money to advance a pet cause? That may cast a shadow on the grant. 

Western Carolina University (WCU) in Cullowhee, N.C., recently found itself in circumstances not unlike that scenario. Edward J. Lopez, a professor of economics in WCU’s business school, where he is BB&T Distinguished Professor of Capitalism, proposed a new center for the study of free enterprise. The Charles Koch Foundation committed $1.8 million as seed money. On recommendations from WCU’s chancellor and provost, the WCU board of trustees gave the center its unanimous approval. After the center was announced, though, a more entangled backstory played out. 

After considerable discussion, WCU’s faculty senate expressed reservations about the center. Upholding the principles of academic freedom and the right of an academic center to “appropriately address a specific agenda,” the senate issued a statement cautioning that the donor’s ideological beliefs could have undue influence on research, and that “negative publicity” about the donor could affect WCU’s reputation. Questioning the need for the new center, how much it would cost and how it would be reviewed, faculty also expressed concern about starting a free enterprise center after centers on poverty and civic engagement had recently been shuttered. 

As might be expected, this progression of events sparked a heated campus debate. Ultimately, though, a rapprochement was realized. WCU announced an agreement in which selected faculty and administrators would jointly staff an “implementation advisory board” to ensure that the new center aligned with the university’s mission and “core values.” The experience also gave WCU an opportunity to review its policies on how it accepts grants. 

In a statement, WCU Chancellor David Belcher acknowledged that the university may have moved a bit too fast before adequately engaging faculty perspectives about the new initiative. Within the same statement, the head of the faculty senate said he was still opposed to the new center, but he praised the “high quality” of the discussion about it. He also said he had great respect for the chancellor, and from that point on, “we can move forward productively.” Reflecting on the experience in an interview, Belcher said, “It was not necessarily the easiest time for us to go through, but I think we have come together, and come out of this stronger than we were.”

Anatomy of a Successful GrantBy Cherise Carrera
The enormous potential value in funding opportunities, whether research or program grants, or from governmental or private sources, for higher education faculty, staff, students and institutions has always been clear. However, the time, effort, and faculty and staff coordination that they require can turn that “obvious” revenue prospect into an insurmountable feat–especially while classes are in session.

Notwithstanding, the benefits can be significant. Entire academic programs, campus expansion projects and more that target key institutional objectives—such as attracting and graduating more underrepresented students—can be supported and developed with those funds. The prestige and prospects stemming from awards also benefit the present and future of institutions. Moreover, overall, there is not a dearth of competitive grants opportunities.

The Challenge of Presidential LeadershipThis article is adapted from President Burnim’s lecture at AASCU’s 2016 Annual Meeting in Miami, Florida. A tradition at the AASCU Annual Meeting for more than 30 years, the President-to-Presidents lecture is a signal honor bestowed by the AASCU Board of Directors on one of their Mickey L. Burnim
Thanks to my colleague and friend Jerry Farley for the introduction. Congratulations to Distinguished Alumna Dr. Doris Taylor and to Muriel Howard on her excellent leadership of AASCU. My compliments to Steve Jordan on a fine job this year as chairman of the board. Thanks to the AASCU board for granting me this very high honor. LaVera [my spouse] and I have been active in AASCU for at least 20 years now. The association has been wonderfully supportive to both of us as we have worked to lead two different AASCU institutions. The annual meetings have consistently provided relevant themes and sessions that have been food for thought, and opportunities for engaging discussions about the roles of the president or chancellor, and the spouse or partner, and strategies for dealing with many of the common problems/opportunities that we have faced. The summer meetings have been relaxing respites for unwinding and recharging, and enjoying the fellowship of colleagues and friends while beginning to formulate plans for the ensuing academic year. One way that I have described the AASCU meetings is that they are “venues for comfortable commiseration,” and opportunities to learn from colleagues—both formally and informally.

AASCU institutions have been a very important part of my personal and professional life. My parents met at one, and I graduated from one! They serve large proportions of first generation college students, have improved the economic well being of individuals and families, and in doing so, have helped to strengthen our social fabric. These institutions work to improve access and inclusion for all; put our students first; foster innovation; support our leaders; and hold ourselves accountable in doing all of this. I am thankful and proud of my association with AASCU institutions and with this organization.

Reflections on a Vision:Arkansas State University Querétaro CampusBy Charles L. Welch and Doug Whitlock
Dr. Edmundo Ortiz had an idea and it centered around a huge “what if?” He looked at the city of Querétaro in north central Mexico and wondered what if an American university would agree to establish a campus there. He hoped to bring a true living-learning community to a city and region of burgeoning economic growth— more than 1,300 multi-national corporations are located there. He envisioned an institution that could offer programs especially suited to this increasingly high-tech environment and was specifically interested in engineering, science, business and communication. In 2012 he started to broach the proposition to U.S. institutions and found open minds receptive to his proposal at Arkansas State University. In December of that year, the Arkansas State University System Board of Trustees approved the proposal to begin negotiations to establish a campus in Querétaro. Soon thereafter, the Arkansas Department of Higher Education gave its blessing. The governor of the State of Querétaro has publicly shared his support of the project and his predecessor was a 2014 commencement speaker at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro.

Right Time for Opportunities for AllThree presidents share their experiences implementing AASCU’s branding initiative for state colleges and universitiesBy Cherise Carrera
Emblematic of changing times, the newly elected presidential administration and legislatures will surely bring with them possibilities as well as challenges. However, without an extensive education outlook from the administration to reference, the specifics as they pertain to higher education can only be surmised. What is clear is that communicating the true value of state colleges and universities (SCUs) is paramount in helping to secure and improve the future of SCUs nationwide, despite (and because of ) this unchartered political landscape. As AASCU’s vice president of government relations, Michael Zola, stated during an AASCU webinar in November, “A new administration means new people. And it’s our burden to explain [who we are].” Honing and streamlining that message, in addition to making it stronger by creating a unified voice, can ensure that communicating with these “new people” is productive.

Higher Ed in the Age of Trump?By Barmak Nassirian
The election of Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States and the continued Republican control of Congress took most of the political class, media pundits, and perhaps the president and the GOP themselves, by surprise. Mainstream opinion in the weeks leading up to the election was chiefly constructed around a broad insiders’ consensus of a Hillary Clinton presidency and an almost certain take-over of the Senate by Democrats, with the only known unknown—to borrow the elegant epistemological phraseology of a former secretary of defense—being whether the House would remain in Republican hands. The disruption of that narrative on Election Day upended every facet of the American political life, and, given the mercurial tendencies of the president, introduced an extraordinary level of anxiety, most of it driven by the numerous unkown unknowns about the coming Trump administration and what it may or may not do.

GRC at 50By Richard Wellons
In 2017, the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) Grants Resource Center (GRC) will mark its 50th year of providing vital information and expertise on external funding to its member colleges and universities. Half a century is a long time for any organization to last, which speaks to the continuing (and growing) relevance of GRC’s mission, despite a major evolution within the field of grantmaking over time, and despite the often dramatic shifts in tone and emphasis of federal activity as different presidential administrations have come and gone from power. There have been lean years for federal grants and even threats to dismantle major grantmaking agencies (as during the administration of President Ronald Reagan, who called for the abolishment of the U.S. Department of Education—a call recently echoed by the current president.) Through it all, GRC has closely followed developments in Washington, D.C., and their effects on federal and private funding. As AASCU institutions prepare for the Trump administration, understanding the new tone and priorities of the federal government will be crucial for state colleges and universities when they are looking for the resources and partnerships needed to fulfill their role as stewards of place within their communities.

A Better Formula for Student SuccessPresidents & PracticesBy Ronald M. Berkman
In high school, Amber Kuehn sustained a serious ballet injury that required surgery and extensive physical therapy. After beating the odds and making a full recovery, she came to Cleveland State University (CSU) in Ohio, a first-generation college student who aspired to become a physical therapist herself. Nobody said it would be easy. Nonetheless, Amber plowed ahead with her pre-PT studies, including a battery of challenging anatomy and biology courses. She was determined to succeed. Student success: It’s the mantra du jour in higher education. But merely repeating buzzwords over and over won’t make them a reality. If we really want students to succeed, we must provide an “operating system” that maximizes the chance to be successful.

Currents & Transitions

AASCU Names New VPs

John R. Ballard, the former dean of the National Defense College in the United Arab Emirates, was appointed vice president for military and veteran partnerships/Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges (SOC) director. In his new position, Ballard implements the contract granted to AASCU by the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD), managing SOC and all of its projects and programs. Additionally, he coordinates all AASCU activities, programs and research related to military and veteran student populations. He also assists AASCU’s government relations division with the review, articulation and understanding of the impact of proposed legislation on military and veteran student populations. Ballard began his career as a Marine infantry officer and has commanded at the company, battalion and group levels in both the active and reserve components. He has also served in faculty and academic leadership positions at various higher education institutions around the world, including service as a dean in three different institutions.

Toyia K. Younger is now the vice president for leadership development and member services (LDMS). Younger came to AASCU from Minnesota State Colleges and Universities, where she served as interim chief diversity officer and associate vice chancellor for student affairs. She brings with her more than 15 years of higher education experience. In her most recent roles, she provided leadership and direction for developing, implementing and monitoring programs and processes that promote and sustain access, diversity and equity throughout the system. She also provided system-level support and advocacy for student affairs functions on all 31 college and university campuses. As LDMS vice president, Younger leads the association in the creation, management and successful implementation of programs and activities in membership recruitment and retention. She also provides thought-leadership on conference programming and logistics—including registration, leadership, and oversight of corporate sponsorships and related areas for AASCU members and their constituents. 

EndSightsExecutive Order On Immigration: A Chilling and Harmful Effect On Colleges and UniversitiesBy Muriel A. Howard
President Trump’s recent executive order on immigration, unless significantly amended, is likely to have a deleterious impact not only on our society and economy, but also on research, scholarship, and the international economic competitiveness of the United States. AASCU strongly believes that it would be in the best interest of the country and its scientific, economic and military preeminence for the order to be rescinded altogether. We have therefore asked the administration to reconsider its recent action. The United States has long benefited from the scientific, cultural and economic contributions of international students and scholars. America’s state colleges and universities are strengthened by the presence of students and faculty from around the globe, including those from the seven countries specifically targeted by the president’s executive order. International students and scholars bring a richness of ideas, perspectives and skills to colleges and universities, and typically are strongly motivated to contribute deeply to the institutions and communities that have accepted them. Indeed, recognizing the considerable value that international exchange brings, many institutions have worked ardently to open more doors to students and scholars from abroad, as well as to find important bridges for their students and faculty to study and research in other countries. Through countless successful examples, colleges and universities have seen first-hand that welcoming students and scholars from abroad enriches laboratory research, classroom discussions, and the fabric of life on college campuses. Those benefits extend broadly to society as a whole—the presence here of international students and scholars broadly enriches communities across the United States both socially and economically.