100 student success stories to celebrate

Nearly seven years after five brave universities joined EAB to launch the Student Success Collaborative, many of the 550 colleges and universities we work with are seeing material shifts in metrics like persistence, graduation rates, and the reduction and elimination of equity gaps.

Improving student success is no overnight endeavor. It requires vision, fortitude, and an eye for long term change. Which is why we are honored to support our members as they make incremental changes to policies, processes, and technology. These are small changes that, taken together, often lead to an improvement in the big metrics.

But these shifting metrics are only part of the story—the people behind the metrics tell the full story.

Behind every percentage point increase in retention, there are young women and men whose lives have been altered forever by the decision to stay the course to graduation. Behind every faculty member who willingly engages with technology and submits an early alert is a student who has a better chance of succeeding because his university has been made aware of some critical signal of risk. Behind every proactive advising campaign are dozens of students who will make better decisions at the most pivotal moments because they know that their university is there to support them through obstacles and challenges.

100 Success Stories

This is why we are launching a celebratory campaign—100 stories in 100 days— to honor the accomplishments our members have achieved. As commencements around the country finish honoring the achievements of the latest batch of graduates, we will kick off this campaign. Then—for 100 days straight—we will spotlight unique examples of improvement and impact achieved. Later this summer, when the anticipation of the new school year reverberates across each campus, we will close the campaign with a special announcement.

Over time we have learned that it’s important to expect success in student success. Our collective passion and expectation for positive change is making a difference. There is more work to be done, for sure. We won’t stop innovating and improving until every student can succeed—until equitable outcomes are the norm, not the exception.

But until then, follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook this summer for #100SuccessStories—and help us honor the achievements of the members of the Student Success Collaborative.

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How Wayne State University harnessed virtual reality for student recruitment

The IT Forum’s 2018 research focused on digital transformation and its implications for higher education. During our national meeting series, we asked CIOs and IT leaders for examples of digital transformation projects, big or small, from their campuses. We heard many real-world, tangible examples of innovation in higher education – from attendance trackers to smart IT help desks. In follow up to those meetings, we’ve talked to dozens of IT leaders about those initiatives and the impact that they’ve had on campus.

One exciting idea comes from Wayne State University and their use of digital technology to transform the student recruitment process. Here, we outline their specific challenge and the impact that digital innovation has had in addressing it.

Student demographic declines puts extra pressure on recruitment efforts

It should come as little surprise that institutions across the country are increasingly struggling to recruit students. Demand for college is diminishing, driving up competition for an increasingly limited pool of prospective students. Unfortunately, declining demand doesn’t appear to be a short-term trend. As our colleagues on the Enrollment Management Forum recently highlighted, a sharp drop in fertility following the Great Recession means the number of college-going students is projected to decrease by 12% over the next decade. Between 2025 and 2029, the number of college-going students will decline by 15%—that’s over 400,000 fewer students in a span of four years.

Teams across campus challenged to develop a innovative recruitment strategy

Like most colleges and universities, leaders at Wayne State must think critically about how to increase their prospective student appeal and how to differentiate themselves in a crowded market. Recognizing that enrollment growth would likely come from out-of-state students, the provost challenged the IT, marketing, and enrollment teams to develop an innovative recruitment strategy targeted to students outside of Michigan.

The teams pinpointed two basic challenges in recruiting out-of-state students: First, Wayne State lacked a strong brand outside of Michigan; and second, out-of-state students are less likely to visit campus, and therefore less likely to apply and enroll. Project leaders understood that an effective recruitment campaign would have to solve both problems on a tight budget.

More exposure at lower cost—how digital flipped the recruitment process

The IT, marketing, and enrollment teams recognized that virtual reality could solve the second of the two challenges—if prospective students were unlikely to visit campus, why not bring campus to them? They envisioned a virtual reality experience which would enable prospective students at recruitment college fairs to immerse themselves in the campus and the surrounding city of Detroit. The experience would allow users to envision themselves as students at WSU, which should in turn drive interest in the university.

However, the IT team cautioned that VR headsets are expensive pieces of equipment and handing them out to excited prospective students during recruitment fairs presented a significant risk of damage. Instead, IT leaders suggested Google Cardboard headsets as a risk-free and more cost-effective means to achieve the virtual reality experience—and a significant opportunity for brand communication. For just $2 per Google Cardboard headset, prospective students could have the same virtual reality experience. The university purchased 10,000 college-branded headsets to be handed out at recruitment fairs. They also started filming key spots around campus with 360-degree cameras to build a fully functional VR smartphone app.

Once the app was developed, recruitment personnel began handing out the headsets at recruitment events. Prospective students download the Wayne State app to their smartphone and receive a headset at the university’s stand at college fairs. They place their phones in the device, and together the app and the headset provide a fully immersive VR experience. They can walk through campus, visit classrooms, see Detroit, and even stop by graduation. When the students leave, they take the headsets—and the Wayne State brand—with them.

Take-home goggles extend university outreach as prospective students share with friends

Reports back from the recruitment fairs indicate that the project was a huge success. The VR goggles produced a buzz around the booth as a line of eager prospective students formed. However, the true extent of success would not become apparent until three weeks after the first out-of-state event, when the AVP for enrollment received a text from a teacher in Chicago. It contained a picture of students showing off their Wayne State branded cardboard goggles to both teachers and peers. Students were taking turns using the device and looking around campus.

While the university can facilitate 10,000 direct interactions with the goggles, the network effect of take-home technology means that thousands of additional students will also interact with the VR experience. By leveraging this digital opportunity, Wayne State’s leadership has created an experience that echoes through prospective students’ social networks—building both a familiarity with campus and the Wayne State brand.

A guide for those who ask: “Where should we start with digital transformation?”

Wayne State’s creative use of VR is just one example of the ways in which universities and colleges are embracing emerging technologies to address urgent, mission-critical issues. In a world of increasing digitalization across industries, higher education should be leveraging those same emerging capabilities to enhance their own processes and operations. Often, however, campus leaders are left wondering: “How do I start with digital transformation?”

For leaders pondering this question, the IT Forum’s Digital Projects Compendium offers success stories from colleges and universities in the USA, Canada, Australia, and the UK to serve as a catalyst for creative conversations and digital innovation on other campuses.

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3 traits of the most successful advancement offices—and how to put them into practice

How should colleges and universities invest their scarce dollars in advancement? Here’s how the best advancement offices get the most bang for their buck.

I often hear from presidents that with growing revenue pressure, meeting with donors and attending fundraising events has never been more important. But it’s no longer enough to show up and shake hands. Presidents need to make sure that the advancement office has the budget and staff to meet ambitious goals.

How should colleges and universities invest their scarce dollars in advancement? To find out, EAB researchers benchmarked 150+ advancement offices at schools large and small. What they found were clear differences between high-ROI and low-ROI advancement offices. Here’s how the best advancement offices get the most bang for their buck:

1. They focus on major gifts, not just mega-gifts

Despite the headline-grabbing appeal of multi-million-dollar donations, EAB’s research found that what matters more is the number of overall gifts at every tier over $25K. Major gift officers at high-ROI advancement offices close almost 11 major gifts each year, compared to 7 major gifts at low-ROI advancement offices.

2. They staff up

It’s not surprising that the advancement offices with the most FTEs also raise the most funds. But what’s interesting is that as advancement offices get bigger, they also get more efficient—it’s the opposite of administrative bloat. As EAB’s advancement expert Jeff Martin puts it, “Every marginal dollar spent brings in more than the one before.”

It’s important to point out that where advancement offices add staff makes the difference. Small institutions benefit most from adding staff in prospect research and analytics, which helps make the most of scarce advancement resources. Large institutions benefit most from more marketing and communications staff, who can scale personalized outreach and gift proposals to large populations of alumni.

3. They invest in support services

It’s true that high-ROI advancement offices do have more major gift officers, but these don’t come at the expense of strategic support. Institutions willing to invest in things like prospect research, analytics, gift processing and financial reporting see outsized returns. On average, high-ROI advancement offices have 2.5 support services FTEs compared to 1.4 FTEs at low-ROI advancement offices.


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Your college probably isn’t designed for your students

Community colleges have a growing imperative to support post-traditional students. Here’s why (and how).

We had a standing rule in my house when I was working on my degree: on Fridays after work, I would disappear to my bedroom and not come out until my homework or research papers were done for the week.

Sometimes this meant I was free in time for Friday movie night, and other times it meant I was still working as my family prepared on Sunday for the next school week. Indeed, there were sacrifices, but I had a spouse who had the flexibility to serve as the sole parent running to soccer games and singing lessons or buying groceries over the weekend.

Looking back, I realize how lucky I was. I had supportive people in my personal life, a job that allowed me the opportunity to grow professionally in my field, and a salary that paid well enough to work just one job, so I could find the balance I needed to focus on my academics.

Post-traditional students face unique challenges

This is just what it’s like to be a post-traditional learner: parenting responsibilities, professional responsibilities, and academic responsibilities are kept in the air like juggling balls, seemingly changing in weight without notice. Most of today’s students aren’t as fortunate as I was. The support I received from my personal and professional allies meant that I didn’t have to count on my college to accommodate my complex responsibilities.

3 things student-parents need campus leaders to know

It isn’t hard to imagine how easily my efforts could have been derailed. Today’s students find classes aren’t available when they need them, and they’re penalized when they have to miss class for commitments like caring for a sick child at home or covering a shift change at work. They may be struggling to secure basic needs such as housing or food, and they often feel like they have little support on campus.

Their paths may feel nearly endless due to necessary part-time enrollment and programs with few milestones to celebrate progress along the way. And finally, they often bring a wealth of experiences that too often go unrecognized for college credit. Colleges must be flexible and adapt to today’s learners. Fortunately, opportunities abound for aligning offerings and support to the students they seek to serve.

Not only do students feel ill-supported in their seemingly endless path, they also often don’t find their career goals reflected in the classroom. It can be difficult to make connections between topics like science, math, or history to long-term professional goals. Yet, when students sacrifice time from their professional or personal responsibilities to attend class, they want to feel as though they are getting closer to the careers they seek.

Support for post-traditional students is more important than ever

The post-traditional student population is vast—some reports suggest they account for up to 85% of all students—and these learners are more likely to attend community colleges than four-year schools. Post-traditional students represent the changing face of higher education today. Colleges are increasingly racially diverse, have students from all income levels, and include special populations such as parenting students and veterans, but current data suggest colleges are not serving these students well. Just 37.5% of community college students will earn a degree after six years, and completion rates are heavily correlated to race (the attainment rate for White students is 46.5%, Asian students 46.8%, Hispanic students 35%, and Black students 26%). This is especially concerning because EAB analysis suggests that from Fall 2017 forward, public two-year institutions will enroll more minority students than white students.

Many community college leaders have accepted enrollment declines as an inevitable part of the recession cycle. But we are not going to see growing numbers of 18- to 21-year-olds who plan to live on campus and stay dependent on their parents. So, let the current enrollment declines serve as a call to action. The rate of student stop-outs since the recession demonstrates that students perceive the challenges of continued enrollment to outweigh the benefits of fulfilling their academic goals.

Community colleges today must demonstrate their ability to support post-traditional learners’ goals: a promising career that will offer secure (and hopefully recession-proof) careers. Our latest white paper provides 13 strategies for addressing the needs of post-traditional learners. From early career advising and adapting the college to working students, to preparing students for employment in unexpected ways, the research has identified low-dangling fruit for nearly any community college.

Now is the time to demonstrate to students that periods of economic prosperity should not stop progress toward their career goals. Instead, colleges should reflect those professional aspirations throughout the student experience.

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Gen Z wants an authentic experience. Use these Snapchat and Instagram features to deliver it.

We know that Gen Z students want authenticity in their social media connections, including interactions with potential colleges. We’ve tested new functions within both Snapchat and Instagram intended to cultivate that type of experience. Explore our findings.

Snapchat and Instagram are undeniably favorite communication channels among Generation Z. According to our 2019 survey of student communication preferences, Instagram’s daily usage has increased 14% to a total of just over 80%, while Snapchat stayed constant with 76% of students reporting daily usage since 2017. In that same timeframe, Facebook and Facebook Messenger, once the go-to channels for advertisers, have seen their usage tumble 43%.

GenZ Social Media Usage Over Time

As social media preferences change so must the methods by which colleges engage students on these platforms. Advertising strategies that worked five years ago on Facebook probably won’t be as effective on Instagram in 2019.

One thing we know that students want in their social media connections is authenticity. As a result, enrollment leaders need thoughtful strategies to leverage the capabilities and usage habits of these popular platforms in ways that further authentic, human connections with students.

You’re in luck, because my team has been exploring and testing new functions within both Snapchat and Instagram intended to cultivate that type of experience, including Snapchat Geofilters and Instagram Stories. Let’s explore some of our findings.

Snapchat’s interactive features are a favorite of Gen Z

Snapchat, a multimedia messaging app, has become virtually ubiquitous among Generation Z since its 2011 launch. According to EAB data, students use Snapchat an average of 18 times per day, and 60% of daily users access Snapchat to communicate with friends.

My team of recruitment-marketing specialists have been testing the Snapchat Geofilters feature. Generally, Snapchat filters are frames or overlays that a user can add to a photo or video to enhance it before sharing it with friends. Geofilters specifically are filters that show a user’s location or activity, typically with a custom font and graphic or animation. They’re a fun, interactive way for users to tell the story of a road trip, concert, or in the case of enrollment, a college visit.

Geofilter sample

When we put Geofilters to the test for a segment of our EAB Enrollment Services partners, Geofilters yielded 328 swipes on average during college visit days, with users posting the Geofilters at a 32% rate. To put that into perspective, Facebook advertisements typically see a 6.4% engagement rate (calculated by dividing total engaged users by total reach and multiplying by 100). Another exciting result we saw from the study was that friends of the user viewed our clients’ Geofilters an average 2,300 times

The stats from our testing are also significant because all of the traffic is organic, exposing people to your school’s brand from a trusted friend, which is invaluable social proof.

There are three best practices to keep in mind with Snapchat Geofilters:

  1. Empower students to interact with your Geofilter. Add some interactive elements, like something a student can appear to hold or fill out to encourage student usage and engagement.
  2. Test multiple filters to see what sticks.
  3. Make sure not to overload your Geofilter with text. Images sent via Snapchat only last three to ten seconds, and shorter messages will likely stand out more to viewers.

Related: 3 rules to maximize your digital enrollment marketing impact

In addition to the benefit of viral exposure via social sharing, these Geofilters can help colleges and universities become an authentic part of the story of their students. They’re not just an ad, they don’t feel forced or pushy, and they provide a simple way to leverage a feature that students use already.

Instagram Stories: A Snapchat-esque tool for authentic narratives

Instagram is another frequent haunt for Generation Z and it offers its own way for your college or university to provide an authentic experience for users. Like Snapchat Geofilters, Instagram Stories increase your visibility with Gen Z users and their networks without coming off as overtly commercial.

According to Statista.com, there are 500 million daily active Instagram Story users worldwide. That represents 70% of all Instagram users. Instagram Stories can prove an invaluable tool to get students interested and invested in the story you’re trying to tell about a student’s experience at your campus.

Instagram Stories, similar to Snapchat, offer users a way to post videos and photos that don’t stay around forever. Instagram Stories disappear after 24 hours and are popular because they offer a means to tell a story without clogging users’ permanent feeds with less polished photos and videos. Users also like the real-time nature of Instagram Stories as a means to update followers on their location and activities on a given day.

Sample Instagram Story

Preliminary results of our testing of sponsored Instagram Stories revealed that Stories perform particularly well when it comes to engagement.

For example, one public research university in the Midwest reached more than twice the number of students with the Story ad over Instagram feed ads, and nearly three times more than its comparable Facebook feed ad. It was also the most shared and drove the most students to the website. See the breakdown below:

  • Instagram Stories performance: 58 link clicks, 5,468 reached, 12 shares
  • Instagram feed performance: 2 link clicks, 2,431 reached, 0 shares
  • Facebook feed performance: 15 link clicks, 1,844 reached, 0 shares

While our testing focused exclusively on sponsored Instagram Stories, there are several creative ways that we’ve seen schools use organic Instagram Stories to engage with students. Some examples are sharing highlights from streamed live events (graduation, etc.), feature stories on students, sharing stories from alumni and current students, or general announcements. Your college or university can leverage video content that you already have or use animations with information on screen to further increase brand awareness.

Gen Z has never known a life without social media, smartphones, and basically, digital everything. They’re discerning and critical when it comes to online experience and sensitive to salesmanship—quick to determine if something’s worth their time or not. These qualities make incorporating authenticity and personalization into your digital strategy more important than ever.

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Why a Coordinated Care Network may be the key to improving the student experience

When student care is coordinated, students have a better experience. Learn how a Coordinated Care Network solves two key challenges related to the student experience.

I had minor surgery last month (don’t worry, I made a full recovery!). As a result, I’ve recently interacted with a whole host of medical professionals—from doctors and nurses to radiologists and pharmacists. As I made my way from one office to the next, I was struck by how infrequently I needed to explain who I was or why I was there, and by how coordinated all the different aspects of my care were.

The past few weeks taught me firsthand how important coordination is to the patient experience, and how much health care and insurance providers stand to lose if they don’t make it a priority.

The same goes for higher education. When student care is coordinated, students have a better experience. Conversely, as I’ve discovered through my research at EAB: uncoordinated care has major consequences. Instead of studying or participating in the college experience, students have to spend time navigating complex, inefficient, and bureaucratic processes. They feel lost, frustrated, or stuck. During a research conversation, a student once told us:

“The ‘shuffle’ is a known thing around campus. Whether it’s financial aid, paying bills, pretty much anything, we get bounced from office to office just to get one question answered.”

So how can schools prevent students from feeling like they’re endlessly stuck in a “shuffle”?

In a Coordinated Care Network, different offices across campus are mutually committed to meeting students’ needs with minimum hassle using shared processes and technology. A Coordinated Care Network solves two key challenges related to the student experience:

It ensures the whole campus shares responsibility for student care

If we want to make students feel like they are cared for by their college or university, the first step is to ensure that they feel like everyone on their care team—advisors, faculty, coaches, tutors—are truly working together as a team.

To achieve this, responsibility for student care needs to be a shared institutional goal that goes beyond the advising office. Every person and unit involved in student success must be committed to connecting students with the resources necessary to succeed—not just the resources their office has. It can no longer be the norm for a coach or a faculty member to see that a student has a hold on their account and think, “that’s not something I can address” or “the student needs to see another office to resolve that.”

A Coordinated Care Network allows students to receive help not just from the person they happen to meet with (usually their advisor), but from all of the people and offices suited to help them. Each frontline staff member is well-versed in the work of other departments and accountable to a unified vision of student success.

When George Mason University launched their new campus-wide student success initiative, Building the Ideal Student Experience, they created an infographic and used it in a PR campaign to spread awareness about their vision of coordinated care. Whenever any unit or individual is unsure what they should strive for or why it matters, they can reference this document as a reminder.

When staff can’t provide the appropriate response to a student because the scope of the student problem falls outside their role, they don’t just send students on their way. Instead, they proactively refer the student to the right support office. To make referrals even more effective, coaches or faculty members use technology, including case management, early alert, and appointment management tools, just as healthcare providers rely on technology to easily track progress when they refer patients to a specialist.

In recent years, we’ve seen countless examples of how various support units, including Residential Life, Financial Aid, Career Services, and Athletics, coordinate care and deliver high-quality student support using EAB’s Navigate technology.

How support units contribute to a Coordinated Care Network

Coordinated Care made up of many departments

It makes the experience seamless for the student

There’s nothing more frustrating than having to tell your story over and over to get the help you need, and colleges are often guilty of putting students in this position. It’s easy to understand why many students feel frustrated trying to gather information from separate and often isolated departments, and why some would simply give up on trying to resolve whatever issue they had.

In a Coordinated Care Network, staff have technology and processes in place to share information with one another, saving them from having to repeatedly ask students, “Why are you here, and where have you already been?” Like the electronic health records my health care providers used, a centralized student data center enables staff to more easily understand the whole picture when they meet with a student. They do this by accessing a shared log of all interactions and shared staff notes.

How a student app helped Robert Morris University achieve their highest retention rates

To make it easier for students to make their way to the right office, schools like MSU Denver and James Madison University have begun to co-locate multiple services within a single location. Our members take it one step further by offering students a technology platform where they can access a resource directory, easily make appointments, and share information with members of their designated support network—a one-stop shop right on their phones. This kind of seamless experience is something students have come to expect.

When I share my recent surgery experience, people are surprised and tell me I’m lucky to have received health care that was truly coordinated. I hope that we can aspire to do better for our students, and that coordinated care becomes the norm.

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Summer reading for college presidents

Get thee to a bookstore: these are the books college presidents need to read now, not later.

With Memorial Day behind us, summer is officially here. In addition to the chance for a well-earned vacation and time to catch up on administrative work, these quieter months offer a great opportunity for reading and reflection. We’ve asked each of the researchers on the Higher Education Strategy Forum for their summer reading recommendations:

The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups
by Daniel Coyle

Melanie Ho

Melanie Ho, General Manager, EAB Research

I oversee EAB’s research across all areas in higher education and spend a lot of time speaking with our members about the cultural challenges that span all types of issues and institutions.

Daniel Coyle’s book starts with the question “Why do certain groups add up to be greater than the sum of their parts, while others add up to be less?” Books and articles about culture are often too vague to be helpful, so I love that Doyle’s work draws on specific organizational examples (ranging from Pixar to Navy SEALs) as well as scholarly research.

The Surprising Power of Liberating Structures: Simple Rules to Unleash a Culture of Innovation
by Henri Lipmanowicz and Keith McCandless

David Attis

David Attis, Managing Director, Strategic Research

In my role, I spend most of my time facilitating on-campus workshops. This book makes a powerful case that small changes in how people interact can produce significantly more impactful results. The authors describe 33 “liberating structures” that can be used to organize a broad range of meetings to empower all participants to create new possibilities. It succeeds in redefining the role of a great leader as someone who unleashes the creativity and intelligence of their teams.

The Art of Gathering by Priya Parker

Megan Adams

Megan Adams, Practice Manager, Higher Ed Strategy Forum

As much as I think I spend my life in meetings, college and university presidents really are in back-to-back meetings all day long.

This is a book about meetings and how to use them to change the culture and direction of an organization. How do you define a meeting’s true purpose? What’s the right number of people to convene? How do you start? How do you end? (Spoiler alert: it’s not with logistics). Why does everyone crowd into the kitchen during a party? The answers to these questions make the difference between the daily slog of one-hour calendar invites and meetings that are energizing, electric, and productive.

The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming
by David Wallace-Wells

Rachel TannerRachel Tanner, Consultant

I’ll be honest: I usually stick to the fiction section for my summer reading, so this is not the kind of book I’m naturally drawn to. But it only took about 10 pages of reading for me to realize that it’s a must-read for anyone who, like me, spends a lot of time thinking about the future of higher ed.

From its first paragraph, this book is a litany facts, projections, and illustrations of what life on a warmer planet will look and feel like—what it already does look and feel like, most poignantly in countries like India and Saudi Arabia, from which American higher ed brings the bulk of our international students. This year’s spate of fires and floods on college campuses have given a very real preview of the future Wallace-Wells describes. Reading this book, it’s easy to see that weather-related incidents might quickly become the most common form of campus crisis.

Practical Wisdom: Thinking Differently about College and University Governance
by Peter D. Eckel and Cathy Trower

Helen SdvizhkovHelen Sdvizhkov, Senior Analyst

Process management has always gotten me really excited. The gnarlier the process-related problem, the more time I spend on my commute, or while cooking dinner, or occasionally when out with friends (but don’t tell them that) trying to come up with fixes. It’s why a book on board management, as dry as that may sound to the average person, has become one of my favorite recent reads.

In Practical Wisdom, Eckel and Trower reevaluate standard approaches to university governance. They offer advice on how to make board meetings more effective and reframe common trustee questions by giving nuanced, not-so-common responses. The book’s practical frameworks, relatable anecdotes, and thought-provoking primer questions make it a worthwhile read for anyone who works on or with higher ed boards, especially college presidents.

Playing to Win: How Strategy Really Works
by A.G. Lafley and Roger L. Martin

Brian Schueler

Brian Schueler, Analyst

In my senior year, my university hired a new president. As student trustee on the hiring committee, I found myself thrust into a familiar philosophical debate between advocates for a president with a “practical” business background and those staunchly against the corporatization of higher education.

With that experience in mind, I approached this book both with interest and skepticism about how the lessons would apply to higher ed. On the surface, selling paper towels, skin cream, and laundry detergent has little in common with leading an institution of higher education. Yet A.G. Lafley, the former CEO of Proctor and Gamble, and Roger Martin, a strategy consultant, describe a decision-making process that has less to do with consumer goods as it does with setting a direction for large, complex organizations.

The book describes five essential questions to guide strategic choices and focuses on analyzing the necessary conditions for a strategy to succeed, rather than just the expected outcome. Both academic and business leaders could benefit from this perspective.

Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter
by Liz Wiseman

Sarah Ferris

Sarah Ferris, Director

Multipliers distinguishes leaders who are “Multipliers” from those who are “Diminishers” and offers the opportunity for leaders to optimize—and even expand—the potential of their teams. Drawing upon research and analysis from across industries, Wiseman outlines the behaviors of leaders who amplify the talents and capabilities of those around them to realize outsized impact. Presidents for whom this can learn specific tools and tactics for leading as a Multiplier in their own colleges and universities.

Helping Children Succeed: What Works and Why
by Paul Tough

Maggie Everett

Maggie Everett, Research Associate

Through my education policy master’s program, I’ve had the opportunity to read about issues spanning the education system, beyond just higher ed. This book uses outside perspectives, such as neurocognitive science and psychology, to explain how growing up in adversity affects soft skills and stress response development in K-12 students. It raises the alarm that the reward-and-punishment structure in many schools does little to motivate students coming from adverse home environments.

This is important to higher ed leaders as the wealth disparity widens and a larger proportion of students come from socioeconomically diverse backgrounds and universities must find ways to address the downstream effects of K-12 policies.

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The 5 books Bill Gates wants you to read this summer

Bill Gates wants to introduce you to the concept of “disruption” this summer.

For his annual summer reading list, Gates has chosen five works that deal with upheaval—from “the Soviet Union right after the Bolshevik revolution, the United States during times of war, or a global reevaluation of our economic system,” writes Gates for his Gates Notes blog.

Here are his five picks for 2019:

Upheaval, by Jared Diamond. An avid reader of Diamond’s works, Gates recommends his latest book about how nations navigate moments of crisis. Diamond examines case studies of nations that successfully emerged from moments of conflict, including “existential challenges like civil war, foreign threats, or general malaise,” writes Gates. He adds that, while “[i]t sounds a bit depressing… I finished the book even more optimistic about our ability to solve problems than I started.”

Nine Pints, by Rose George. “If you get grossed out by blood, this one probably isn’t for you,” writes Gates, adding that the book’s title refers to the volume of blood in the average human adult. Inspired by George’s own struggle with premenstrual dysphoric disorder, Nine Pints takes readers around the world and through history—from an HIV clinic in South Africa to Nazi Germany during World War II—to learn about all things blood. “Many aspects of the book were uplifting, especially the parts that reminded me of the life-saving innovations that emerge from a better understanding of blood and its component parts,” writes Gates.

Also see: Last year’s summer reading list

A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles. Towles’ novel follows 30 years in the life of Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov, who is sentenced to life under house arrest in Moscow’s Metropol Hotel in 1922. Count Rostov’s sentencing coincides with the aftermath of the Bolshevik revolution, and he becomes a careful observer of the changes taking afoot in the Metropol and in Moscow more broadly. “You don”t have to be a Russophile to enjoy the book,” writes Gates, “but if you are, it’s essential reading.”

Presidents of War, by Michael Beschloss. Beschloss explores how U.S. presidents handled the nine major conflicts the United States entered between 1800 and the 1970s—from the War of 1812 to the Vietnam War. “The richest insights for me came from the fact that the book’s broad scope lets you draw important cross-cutting lessons about presidential leadership,” writes Gates.

The Future of Capitalism, by Paul Collier. The Oxford economist’s latest book wrestles with the potential consequences of the current capitalist system and the “understandable sense that the system is in crisis,” writes Gates. Gates adds that while he doesn’t agree with all of Collier’s proposed solutions to the “crisis,” the book is a “thought-provoking look at a topic that’s top of mind for a lot of people right now.”

(Gates, Gates Notes, 5/20 [1]; Gates, Gates Notes, 5/20 [2]; Gates, Gates Notes, 5/20 [3]; Gates, Gates Notes, 5/20 [4]; Gates, Gates Notes, 5/20 [5]; Gates, Gates Notes, 5/20 [6])

Complete your summer reading list

Top 10 most popular summer reading books of the past 11 years

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Here’s how 5 colleges celebrate LGBTQ+ History Month

Kathleen Escarcha, staff writerKathleen Escarcha, Senior Staff Writer

In celebration of LGBTQ+ History Month, colleges and universities across the United States put on a series of presentations, lectures, discussions, and social events.

LGBTQ+ History Month, which runs through October, was founded in 1994 by high school teacher Rodney Wilson. October includes National Coming Out Day, which falls on October 11.

Higher ed institutions use these four weeks to educate students and the community about the experiences of LGBTQ+ people and the history of the gay rights and related civil rights movement. We rounded up a few examples of how colleges have celebrated the month on campus. 

Ohio State University (OSU)

OSU hosted several panels for queer and allied students to discuss their experiences on campus and navigating campus life. Other panels focused on the experiences of black students, LatinX students, student veterans, and American Indian students who identify as LGBTQ.

Students were also able to attend talks by Adam Rippon, the first openly gay athlete to win a Winter Olympic Medal, and Ashleigh Shackelford, a black cultural producer, data futurist, and visual artist.

Students who attended certain events during OSU’s LGBTQ+ History Month could earn credits towards a Diversity, Intercultural and Community Engagement Certificate awarded by the university’s multicultural center.

University of South Florida (USF)

In early October, USF hosted a mixer for LGBTQ+ alumni and lecture about the history of LGBTQ+ Healthcare, Trans history, and sexual health.

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The university also hosted sessions to train students to become supportive allies and advocates for LGBTQ+ peoples on campus. Students who attended these sessions learned about LGBTQ+ experiences, the larger movement, and current local, state, and national policies and laws that affect the community.

Syracuse University

Queer students of color at Syracuse and the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry held a meeting to support and empower each other academically, politically, and socially. Syracuse also hosted a panel about the housing crisis for LGBTQ+ youth and a networking event for LGBTQ+ students interested in STEM.

On October 20th, Syracuse hosted a media symposium to bring together Queer and Trans People of Color creators, activists, podcast and video producers to discuss gender, sexuality, and race in new media.

In one event, Sir Knight, a Syracuse alumni and host of the BlackTransTV channel on Youtube, discussed the benefits of self-care and teach attendees self-care methods such as journaling and meditation. In another symposium event, students attended a live taping of Queer WoC: The Podcast and learned how to write, produce, and edit podcasts.

Virginia Tech (VT)

VT plans hosted panels about being a LatinX queer person and about being queer in politics. The university also hosted several events about “Vogue,” including a panel on the history of the dance movement, a “Vogue” dance class, and a screening of the film Paris is Burning.

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Northwestern University

Northwestern students kicked off LGBTQ month with an event that featured free food, art, history, and trivia. And to celebrate National Coming Out Day on October 11th, the university hosted a panel for students to discuss their experiences being out as LGBTQIA+ on campus.

(OSU site, accessed 10/12/18; Northwestern site, accessed 10/12/18; VT site, accessed 10/12/18; Syracuse site, accessed 10/12/18; Andre, Syracuse News, 10/4/18; USF site, accessed 10/12/18; GLSEN site, accessed 10/12/18).

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11 exercises to boost your creativity in 15 minutes or less

Creativity helps us become more innovative and adaptable when circumstances change. In fact, research shows that business leaders know creativity is valuable, and an IBM survey of more than 1,500 CEOs representing 33 industries and 60 countries found that creativity is the most important quality they look for when hiring.

But it can feel impossible to make time for creativity amid the daily pressures of emails, meetings, and unexpected fires to put out.

So the Daily Briefing team set out to compile a list of simple changes you can make to think more creatively—without sacrificing productivity. Devoting a few minutes to these creativity exercises may even boost your productivity by pushing you to work smarter—not harder.

Here’s how you can get inspired in under 15 minutes:

1: Take frequent breaks

To unleash your creativity, you need space to allow your ideas to take shape. And that space can come in the form of psychological distance, according to Lile Jia, an assistant psychology professor at the National University of Singapore. He recommends taking frequent breaks so that you can return to the problem with a new perspective. After all, staring at the same problem for hours rarely leads to new ideas.

2: Adjust your workflow

Rearrange your calendar to make time for deep analysis during the hours when you feel most alert.

“There are a few optimal windows for doing your most creative and focused work,” says Christopher Barnes, an assistant professor of management at the University of Washington‘s Foster School of Business. Detail-oriented work and strategic thinking should occur during high-energy windows, which for most people come in the mid-morning and late afternoon. Low-focus tasks “that are like muscle memory work”—such as clearing out your inbox—can fill in the gaps, says Carson Tate, author of a book on personal productivity.

To identify your optimal workflow, observe your energy, focus, and motivation throughout the day, recommends Chris Bailey, a productivity consultant.

3: Set constraints

It may seem counterintuitive to impose constraints while trying to nurture creativity, but setting limits can actually grease the wheels of free thinking, Emma Seppala wrote for Harvard Business Review in 2016. Researchers have found that constraints, like limited resources, can fuel creative problem-solving. Take advantage of this by imposing an arbitrary limit on yourself, such as restricting your materials or doing a process backwards.

For example, Hannah Jones, chief sustainability officer and vice president of the Innovation Accelerator at Nike, gives her team challenging constraints that force employees to push the boundaries of what they think is possible. The method has paid off: The Nike Flyknit shoe delivered on its goal of promoting athletic performance while cutting 60% of production waste.

In another popular example, Theodor Geisel (Dr. Suess) once accepted a $50 wager from his editor that he couldn’t write a children’s book using only 50 words. The result? Green Eggs and Ham.

4: Destress

When you’re stressed, you may be less open to new ideas. Author and theoretical physicist Leonard Mlodinow explains that relaxing your mind can let ideas flow unrestricted. To relax your mind, he recommends going for a walk or a run. 

You can also let your mind wander through meditation. “I meditate so that I can let go of existing thoughts and patterns in my mind and make space for new ones,” says Terykson Fernando, creative director at Sattva. “To me, creativity is all about letting things well up from within.”

But even if you don’t have 15 minutes to spare for meditation, a few deep belly breaths will give you a boost of energy by promoting the flow of oxygen, according to Barnes.

5: Get bored

Being bored brings the mind to new places, says U.K. psychologist Sandi Mann. In one of her own studies on boredom, Mann found that those engaging in a boring task, like copying numbers out of a phone book, produced more novel ideas immediately afterward than did those engaging in more stimulating activities.

“We might go off in our heads to try and find that stimulation by our minds wandering, daydreaming and you start thinking a little bit beyond the conscious, a little bit in the subconscious which allows sort of different connections to take place,” she says.

6: Change locations

A quick way to boost your creativity is to give yourself a change of scenery. Your surroundings affect the way you think, and high ceilings, spacious rooms, and dim lights can all help you get into a creative frame of mind. The typical office environment has the opposite effect.

Neuroscientists suggest relocating to spaces with high ceilings and architectural diversity to provoke creative ideas.

7: Turn off your phone

In any setting, be sure to remove yourself from interruptions and distractions. “A short phone call, email or even a text message can redirect your attention and thoughts,” explains Mlodinow. “Even the thought that some message may be awaiting you can have the same effect.” Turn off your phone or block out phone-free time in your day to both relieve anxiety and allow you to become more focused and engaged in your work.  

8: Confront existing beliefs

The best way to generate new ideas is to question your strongly held beliefs, says Mlodinow. Leave your comfort zone and try thinking about the situation from a new perspective. Former Google CCO Lars Bastholm says he regularly encouraged employees to reframe assignments with a new target audience in mind. Stepping into unfamiliar territory may be the catalyst for innovation.

9: Visualize your thought process

Creative people don’t always think in a linear way and may link together seemingly disparate ideas, wrote Karla Lant-Zapier for Fast Company in 2018. Mind mapping allows you to trace the connections between your ideas and give others a glimpse into your thought process. 

10: Seek criticism

A diverse range of perspectives, including from people outside your industry, can help you view challenges in a new way.

“When I have a promising business idea, I literally share it with every smart person I encounter who has any interest in it,” says Heleo CEO and founder Rufus Griscom. “This results in introductions and new information, and it increases the likelihood that the idea will one day turn into a business.”

11: Be positive

When we’re happy, we’re more willing to take a risk or experiment, explains Mlodinow. As he puts it, “Happiness, contentment, and gratitude are not just important life goals; they also prompt us to widen our range of thoughts and actions, explore our environment, and open ourselves to new information, all of which are important to success.”

(Cook, Scientific American, 3/21/18; Lant-Zapier, Fast Company, 3/19/18; (NPR Staff, NPR, 1/12/15; Seppala, Harvard Business Review, 9/14/16)

Learn more about how to think creatively

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