Pathways to Presidency: Developing a Roadmap

Pathways to Presidency: Developing a Roadmap

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No two paths to higher ed presidency are identical. Craft an individualized 1- to 3-year roadmap for your journey to the presidency.

The Demands of the Presidency Are Evolving

With rapidly changing student demographics and growing pressures to prepare students for the workforce, there is an emerging momentum for more diversity in senior leadership positions within higher ed, especially at the pinnacle. The shifting nature of college presidency also calls for leaders who are financially literate and effective fundraisers. Due to these factors, boards are increasingly considering candidates coming from outside of the traditional academic background. 

Whether they’re bringing a non-traditional or a more classic track record, it is imperative that aspiring presidents understand the changing demands of the presidency, are intentional in their leadership pursuits, can successfully navigate the application process, and proactively plan for their transition. 


A Unique Opportunity to Advance Your Career

The goal of this one-of-a-kind program is to allow you to explore the presidency (including all its demands, requirements, and challenges), help you crystallize your ambitions, and understand what it’s going to take to get there.   

This event is also a chance for non-traditional aspirants to recognize that they are viable candidates, as well as identify the characteristics and size of an institution where they might be a good fit. 

Through a practical and interactive agenda, you’ll learn: 

  • How the presidency is developing in the context of systemic changes affecting higher ed 
  • Essential leadership skills of the future 
  • Common way presidents fail 
  • Non-traditional pathways to reaching presidency 
  • Key landmarks that can make or break a presidency 
  • How you can best identify your fit and craft your story 
  • The role of shared governance and consensus mentality in an egalitarian culture 

The program is capped at 40 participants to ensure personalized attention as you consider whether this role is right for you and how you can best succeed in it. Reserve your pass now to save your seat! 

Building Your Personal Roadmap to Success

This program provides an opportunity for you to develop a high-level understanding of what it takes to become a successful president and to craft your personalized roadmap outlining a plan for the next 1-3 years. Throughout this process facilitated by our expert panel, you will explore and conceptualize how you can move up, what you need to develop the necessary skills and personal experience, and what you would be asking of your family. 

A Chance to Learn from the Best

Our instructor panel boasts five excellent speakers, including current and past presidents, as well as a renowned leadership expert and author. Our panelists come from diverse institutional and professional backgrounds to help you get a holistic, comprehensive, and intimate view of the role.  

As part of your registration package, you will receive a copy of the 2nd edition of our Presidential Transition Guide by Kathleen D. Gaval, Pat Sanaghan, and other authors, a comprehensive guidebook providing a detailed transition walkthrough with tools and strategies that have helped new presidents hit the ground running. Each registration includes a copy of the book, which you will receive at the conference. 

Maximize the Impact with Follow-Up Coaching  

As part of our Premium Passes, we are also offering five supplementary follow-up coaching sessions to help you make the most out of your conference experience. 

  • Purchase this training with 5 one-hour follow-up coaching calls 
  • Work with an assigned coach who has extensive experience in higher ed 
  • Get individualized support to help you follow through on what you’ve learned 
  • Workshop your plans, run your ideas by someone, and get additional help 

To learn more, contact Patricia Sandler at or purchase the Premium Pass with coaching below.

Who Should Attend 

This program is designed for those aspiring to the presidency in the next 1-3 years, including professionals who may not think they’re currently a candidate for the role. While all aspiring candidates can benefit from this training, it will especially benefit those who are taking the non-traditional path, including:  

  • VPs leading administrative functions 
  • Deans who wish to move directly into the role of President, including Academic Deans, Deans in Student Affairs, Administrative Affairs, and Development
  • Board Chairs pursuing the presidency 
  • Leaders in the government and non-profit sector  

This program is geared towards leaders who understand that the awareness and alignment of one’s values, strengths, and sense of purpose is foundational to effective and fulfilling leadership, particularly for the demanding and fluid role of the president. 


Your registration fee includes full access to all conference sessions and materials, a copy of the 2nd edition of our Presidential Transition Guide, breakfast, lunch, and access to the networking reception on Wednesday, breakfast and lunch on Thursday, as well as refreshments and snacks throughout the conference. 

Day 1: Pathways for a Changing Presidency

8:00 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. 


Introductions, Purposes, and Principles

In this introductory hour, you will get to know one another and share key highlights about your leadership journey. We will discuss the program’s outcomes and underlying principles and introduce you to the roadmap you will be designing and drafting throughout the program.  



The Changing Presidency in Higher Education

We will explore how the role of the president is changing, and the implications this has on different pathways to the presidency. We will discuss how the changing presidency opens opportunities for non-traditional candidates and highlights gaps that traditional candidates need to address.   



The Future Skillset for the Changing Presidency

Understanding the changing role of the president, how do you lead when there is no map? When the territory is unknown? What different skills are needed? Drawing on extensive research and conversations with leaders across higher ed, we’ll share five of the less obvious skills and qualities future leaders, particularly presidents, will need to thrive. 



Frameworks for Your Roadmap

Drawing on the future skills for the changing role of the president, you will have the opportunity to reflect on motivations for your presidential aspirations, your current experience and strengths, and how this shapes your own individual roadmap.    



Presidential Stories: The Differing Pathways to the Presidency

In this session, you will have an up-close experience of hearing the journeys that different presidents have taken on their pathways to the presidency. Rather than share the “how to” of the presidency, this is an opportunity for you to listen to and reflect on the different avenues.  



Presidential Q&A

This is your chance to ask the experts. In small groups, you’ll meet with a few members of our faculty panel to ask your specific and burning questions, such as: How do you assess whether the role or institution is a good fit? How do you vet opportunities? What’s the biggest mistake our experts have made? What’s their most important advice to someone aspiring to the role?    



The Lay of the Presidential Land

During this hour, you will have the opportunity to rotate among different discussion tables that address some of the key landmarks that can make or break a presidency.  

  • Diversity  

There is a growing urgency for universities to make a true commitment to diversity. In order to successfully lead in this context, presidents must commit to a holistic understanding of diversity. We will discuss ways to model and embrace diversity throughout your senior leadership team, as well as your leadership practices.  

  • Board Governance  

As an aspiring president, building a productive and lasting relationship with the Board and the Board Chair is of critical importance. In this discussion, we will explore the differences between reporting to a board at a private vs. public institution and what it takes to report to a board of ten to sometimes 30-40 people. We will address questions around how you can report to and develop a rapport with both the board and board chair.   

  • Faculty Governance   

Presidents who don’t understand faculty governance rarely make it past the one-year mark. We will examine the unique role of faculty, how it affects a strong egalitarian culture and consensus mentality, and how presidents can work collaboratively with these important stakeholders.    

  • Athletics  

Athletic controversies have been a major reason for the derailment of Presidents. They are often the Achilles heel of presidents who are either intimidated by athletic directors or who compensate for their lack of knowledge or disinterest in sports by letting the athletics department run itself.   



Sharing Your Roadmap with Peers and Presidents

You will have the opportunity to work together with a group of peers and presidents to explore ways to leverage your experience, work towards bolstering your position for a presidency, address gaps, and explore a potential good institutional “fit.” You will begin to get feedback on your 1-3-year plan for reaching the presidency or a similar role that aligns with your life and career plans.  



Networking Reception

This informal reception is your chance to decompress, have some refreshments on us, and expand your network of connections. Our programs are intentionally designed for smaller groups, so this is a great time to catch-up with attendees and speakers whom you may not have connected with yet.   


Day 2: Navigating Presidential Leadership

 8:30 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. 


How Higher Ed Leaders and Presidents Derail

Drawing on research published by Academic Impressions and the highlights from the Presidential Q&A, our facilitators will share some of the key ways in which higher ed leaders derail and some of the strategies for mitigating them. We will utilize national research to explore some of the factors that have led to presidents leaving involuntarily.  



Exploring an Institutional Fit and Story

In this interactive session, we’ll talk through the different demands of the presidential search process, including how to discern a good institutional fit, considerations for your family, and whether to engage a search firm. We will also explore important factors for crafting your narrative about your fit for the presidency at an institution. 



A Deep Dive into Your Roadmap

We will explore different strategies and considerations to address the strengths and gaps in your pathway to the presidency, including building a network of trusted advisors, ensuring you are getting honest feedback about your leadership, and understanding how coaching may support your leadership development.   



Transitioning Well

More important than landing the role is being successful in the role. While you may still be several years away from being appointed to the role, it’s never too early to consider the steps towards the presidency and how you can effectively plan for your transition. Whether you are an internal or external candidate, we’ll share the most important areas you need to pay attention to, why 100-day plans don’t work, how you can accelerate your learning curve, how to effectively lead change, and how to manage the expectations of the board, the campus community, and state.  



Refining Your Roadmap and Conference Close

Whether you decide you want to pursue the presidency or not, this is the opportunity for you to complete mapping your leadership development plan for the next 1-3 years.  



Peter Cimbolic, Ph.D.

President (Retired), Ohio Dominican University

Peter Cimbolic has spent his entire career in higher education in both the private and public sector, and has held key leadership positions in both academic and student affairs. He served as the President of Ohio Dominican University for seven years and retired from this position in 2017. Prior to his term of office at ODU, he served as provost at Bellarmine University, and then provost at Marywood University. He also served at the Catholic University of America for 22 years.

Read Peter's full bio here.

Photo By Tommy O'Laughlin '13

Mary Hinton

President, College of Saint Benedict

Mary has held a variety of administrative positions at many Catholic colleges throughout her career, including associate vice president of academic affairs and diversity officer at Misericordia College in Dallas, Pennsylvania. Just prior to her selection as president, Hinton was the vice president of academic affairs at Mount Saint Mary College, where she demonstrated leadership in academic affairs, enrollment management, planning assessment, institutional research, and student affairs.

Read Mary's full bio here.

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Dr. Bob Kustra

President Emeritus, Boise State University

Bob stepped down as president in July 2018 after serving for 15 years at the helm of Boise State. During his presidency, he led the university in a time of dynamic growth in student enrollment, graduate college and doctoral programs, new construction, fundraising, and research. The creation of the College of Innovation and Design was a notable achievement of his presidency.

Read Bob's full bio here.


Pat Sanaghan

The Sanaghan Group

Pat leads his organizational firm that specializes in leadership development, executive coaching, strategic planning, and leadership transitions. Pat has worked with over 200 campuses and hundreds of organizations in the last 25 years. He has taught leadership to thousands of leaders in higher education and helped over one hundred campuses conduct collaborative, transparent strategic planning processes.

Read Pat's full bio here.


Steve E. Titus J.D., Ph.D.

Presidential and Executive Coach
President Emeritus, Iowa Wesleyan University

Steve is President Emeritus of Iowa Wesleyan University. Called to companion leaders on the leadership journey, Steve holds a particular concern for the interiority of leaders exercising leadership. A seasoned higher education executive, Steve previously served as the 13th president of Midland University and has held other various executive roles in higher education.

Read Steve's full bio here.


Dr. Karen Whitney

President Emerita, Clarion University

Throughout her 40-year career in higher education, Karen has held a variety of executive and leadership positions with increasing levels of responsibility, beginning as a Director to Associate Vice President, Vice Chancellor, President, and Chancellor. Karen is also a nationally recognized organizational and leadership development writer, speaker, consultant, and advisor.

Read Karen's full bio here.

Questions About the Event?

Patricia Sandler

Patricia Sandler
Program Manager, Academic Impressions

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