Does the nontraditional president debate miss the point?
- In his new book, Higher Calling, Scott C. Beardsley, pulling from his own nontraditional pathway toward becoming dean of the University of Virginia's Darden School of Business, explores the debate over hiring nontraditional vs. traditional presidents — and concludes the debate distracts from the more important concern of hiring a president that is the best fit for the institution.
- Beardsley says the terms "nontraditional" versus "traditional" are not clear-cut either, as he found a third of the presidents from the 248 liberal arts colleges he looked at could be considered nontraditional. He also noted institutions with lower rankings and smaller endowments and enrollment had more nontraditional presidents — suggesting that pathways to the presidency at large, elite colleges and universities is still traditionally academic, reports Inside Higher Ed.
- Further, the research showed nontraditional presidents were more likely to follow traditional predecessors, which means that their numbers will continue to rise as tenured presidents increasingly resign and campuses demand presidents that can tailor their leadership approaches to more diverse, older student bodies.
The profile of the presidency is definitely changing, even though the traditional move to the position is still the same: tenure track to dean to provost or vice president and onward. But now as the presidential turnover rate increases and those in the position stay for shorter amounts of times, younger individuals have started to get the job, and not just through academia. For instance in Ohio, ten of the presidents in the state's public colleges were all hired in the last three years alone, and that opened up the opportunity for five women, a black man, an Indian man, and a white man under the age of 46 to take on the role — and Ohio is now the most diverse state in the nation when it comes to the presidency position.
While the pathway to the president's seat is changing and becoming more open to those outside the traditional faculty to managerial pipeline, that's not really the crux of the matter. The debate over the terminology of "traditional vs. nontraditional" takes away from the more essential factor, which is that university and college campuses are demanding a different kind of leader — who may just be taking a nontraditional path to the position. As student bodies become more diverse and the profile of college becomes more political, the strictly academic and background leader may no longer be right for the position, which means that the nature of the position really boils down to who's the best fit for the individual campus.
- Inside Higher Ed Defending Nontraditional Presidents
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