Plenary Sessions

The 2017 Leadership in Higher Education Conference’s Plenary Sessions.

Opening Plenary Session

Thursday, October 19, 2017 | 5:15-6:30 pm

The Value of the Liberal Arts Education

Gregory Crawford, president, Miami University

In a climate that often speaks to the merits of hard science and STEM in advancing the human condition, it is the knowledge acquired through a holistic education that adds the depth and breadth of both perspective and thought that are vital to creating and solving problems in the world today. The skills that lend themselves to entrepreneurial activities and innovation are, at their core, the ability to synthesize complex ideas and to analyze multi-dimensionally. The benefit of the liberal arts education is that it complements and broadens one’s understanding of any one concept—building connections that otherwise might not be made. We will explore how the liberal arts deepen the educational experience and enhance one’s ability to lead.

About the Presenter:

 Gregory Crawford Gregory Crawford

Gregory Crawford, Miami University’s 22nd president, started enthusiastically in that role in July of 2016. For eight years prior, he was faculty at the University of Notre Dame, serving as dean of the College of Science, then as vice president, and finally as associate provost. From 1996-2008, Crawford was a faculty member at Brown University and served as dean of engineering. With a doctorate in chemical physics from Kent State University, he is also an entrepreneur holding 21 US patents and patent applications, and co-founder of two start-up companies. Crawford is passionate about the role of liberal arts in education, and is an advocate of inclusive excellence, openness, and shared governance. A native of Elyria, Ohio, Crawford is an avid bicyclist.

Dinner Plenary Session

Friday, October 20, 2017 | 6:30-7:30 pm

Reasons to be Optimistic about Pessimism and Pessimistic about Optimism

Jeffrey L. Buller, senior partner, ATLAS Leadership Training

Positive leadership (and, in particular, positive academic leadership) is frequently confused with the so-called “power of positive thinking.” But a large body of recent literature has suggested that positive thinking, blind optimism, and groundless confidence are more likely to result in leadership disasters than visionary triumphs. Certainly, there are times when optimism is an asset as an academic leader, but there are also times when pessimism, skepticism, and even cynicism are preferred. By exploring when one perspective is preferable to the other, discover how both learned optimism and learned pessimism are critical elements of positive academic leadership: the identification of the most constructive possible strategy in any situation and the direction of attention toward what can be achieved as opposed to what is impossible, regrettable, or impractical.

About the Presenter:

 Jeffrey L. Buller Jeffrey L. Buller

Jeffrey L. Buller, PhD, has been a department chair or dean for 31 of his 32 years in higher education. He is the dean of the Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College of Florida Atlantic University. His most recent book, Positive Academic Leadership: How to Stop Putting Out Fires and Start Making a Difference was released by Jossey-Bass in 2013. Buller teaches several courses each year at the Honors College, being a collegial supporter of other programs at FAU, and advising universities both in the United States and abroad on techniques of effective administration.



Lunch Plenary Session

Saturday, October 21, 2017 | 12:15–1:15 pm

Higher Education is Essential to Bridging the Skills Gap

Michael Lovell, president, Marquette University

Significant percentages of graduating college students are unemployed or underemployed six months after graduation. Corporate leaders frequently say they can’t get enough recent graduates with the right skills to fit their talent pipeline. This has led to misperceptions that a liberal arts education is becoming obsolete. In reality, liberal arts are becoming even more important as technology transforms the workforce needs of the future. From my own experience, I know that entering the labor market with multiple mechanical engineering degrees but not all the liberal arts skills would periodically slow my progress. We will explore co-op and internship success stories, the need to partner with key players in both the public and private sectors, and the idea that a liberal arts education, along with technical skills, can better prepare students for success in their careers and in life.

Learning goals:

  • Understand the value of a liberal arts education with technical skills to prepare students for their careers and lives more completely
  • Explore the need to collaborate with public and private sectors—especially key corporate partners
  • Explore and debunk the stigmas attached to technical careers in manufacturing and global freshwater innovation
  • Focus on flipped classrooms and hands-on education

About the Presenter:

 Michael Lovell Michael Lovell

Dr. Michael R. Lovell joined Marquette University as the 24th president in July of 2014. Under his guidance, Marquette is focusing on innovation, entrepreneurship, and community renewal and development—all consistent with the university’s Catholic, Jesuit mission. Along with his leadership team, Lovell is working toward implementing Marquette’s strategic plan, Beyond Boundaries, coordinating it with new plans for academic programs and campus infrastructure. The Core of Common Studies Revision Project is improving undergraduate education, and the Campus Master Plan Initiative is integrating academic, physical, and financial priorities.

President Lovell holds three academic degrees in mechanical engineering, including a doctorate, from the University of Pittsburgh.