Regular updates to the campus community following Board of Trustees meetings are important. I am committed to such updates highlighting those matters addressed in board meetings that I feel would be of particular interest to the campus community. So here it goes, update number one from the first board meeting of the academic year.
Building the Team in Support of Good Governance
Board Chair Bob Lamb and I share the goal of making Suffolk University a recognized leader in best practices in higher education governance. To do that will take a collaborative effort that includes all stakeholders – trustees, senior leadership, faculty and staff, students and alumni. On Thursday, we held the first of a regular series of in-depth conversations about complex matters affecting Suffolk. At our first Board “Plus” Dinner, members of the board and the University’s leadership team met to share a meal in the Sargent Hall function room and talk about how we can form a stronger team. Collaboration between the board and senior leadership is a critical component of good governance.
During that dinner we had the privilege of listening to a governance expert talk about what great governance looks like. Cathy Trower, author of The Practitioner’s Guide to Governance and Leadership: Building High Performing Nonprofit Boards, has provided governance consulting to more than 130 universities and other nonprofits. Her message was a valuable one: Great governance requires a culture of shared responsibility and open communication. The board and senior leadership, working in concert with the entire University community, should be talking together to define the challenges we face and the outcomes that we want, and then we should work together to achieve those outcomes. We need to have mutual accountability, and we also need to have each other’s backs.
The board’s new Academic Affairs Committee held its inaugural meeting Oct. 20. The newly established committee monitors the University’s progress in advancing our educational mission. The committee replaces three separate school-based academic affairs committees, in line with best practices in University governance. The single Academic Affairs Committee can now look at key issues and priorities in the three schools within the context of the entire University.
As an example, one key agenda item was a presentation by Acting Provost Sebastián Royo on our assessment of the core curriculum, a program that cuts across two schools and which would not have gotten sufficient attention under the old committee structure. It is important that the Academic Affairs Committee and the board understand the quality of the outcomes for our students based on these assessments.
Administration and Finance
Laura Sander, senior vice president for Administration and Finance/Treasurer and Michael Crowley, senior vice president for Enrollment, presented to the board on the budget and enrollment picture, all in preparation for multiyear budget proposals, including the budget request to be made in late spring for FY18. Looking ahead in a strategic manner is a critical element of our new focus for the University Leadership Team.
There also was a discussion of tuition and room-and-board rates for next year. Rates will be announced later in the semester.
As you saw from Chairman Lamb’s message last week, the board elected two new trustees who bring great leadership experience and expertise. I’m very excited about the contributions that Trish Gannon and Larry Smith will make. Both are alumni who have shown exceptional commitment to this University. Here is a link to the University news story for anyone who missed it.
I look forward to keeping our community updated on board and leadership initiatives, and as always, I welcome any questions or input.
Marisa J. Kelly