Trustees Address Changing Higher Education Landscape

Stetson University Board of Trustees, 2016

At its board retreat, the Stetson University Board of Trustees led by Chair Luis Prats, heard from two leading experts about the changing national landscape and the transformations occurring in governing boards nationwide. Another expert discussed the state of fundraising nationwide and Stetson University’s “Beyond Success – Significance” comprehensive campaign.

Stetson University Board of Trustees, 2016
Stetson University Board of Trustees, 2016

National Landscape

John Walda, member of the Stetson University Board of Trustees, president and CEO of the National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO), discussed current issues in Washington, D.C., including Department of Education priorities with the new administration, the reported Falwell Commission on higher education, tax reform and its potential impact on fundraising, and timing of the Higher Education Act reauthorization in the coming legislative sessions. Walda discussed the emphasis from some members of Congress on university endowments, accountability and risk sharing.

Walda said there are four issues driving higher education public policy: graduation rates, tuition costs, student debt, and jobs and outcomes.

University Governing Boards

The university’s board also heard from Rick Legon, president of the Association of Governing Boards (AGB). Legon and AGB have been leading nationwide efforts to help university and college boards understand and realize the shift of national attitudes toward higher education, and the potential for legislative action at the state and national level.

“Boards should lead in adding value to the institution and as advocates for higher education,” said Legon. He added that traditional board structure is changing and boards are moving away from focusing on what has happened to what needs to happen in the next three-to-five years.


Michael Sinkus, senior consultant & principal director of consultant and client engagement at Marts and Lundy, a national philanthropy consulting agency, said Stetson University is on track to achieve its goals with the $150-million “Beyond Success – Significance” comprehensive campaign. Stetson University Vice President for Development and Alumni Engagement Jeff Ulmer indicated the campaign was about two-thirds toward its goal. Sinkus added the board and university development officers would need to work hard to bring the campaign to successful conclusion.

Board Action

During the retreat the Board of Trustees approved funding for capital projects for the 2017-2018 fiscal year. The board approved $13 million for the ongoing renovations and construction at the Carlton Union Building in DeLand and launch of construction for the Sandra Stetson Aquatic Center. The board also approved $3 million for ongoing infrastructure projects at the College of Law in Gulfport.

Reports from Administration

The retreat included administration reports to the board, and trustee discussion around initiatives at the university. These included a discussion around future consideration of undergraduate enrollment, an update on the status of the Climate survey and the release in early February of suggestions and action items to improve climate. There was an in-depth presentation by Institutional Research on retention statistics and how university Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) were updated to reflect plans to improve undergraduate retention.