Plenary Sessions

The Leadership in Higher Education Conference presents three plenary sessions. Hear from innovative professionals with engaging thoughts on trends and opportunities in higher education today.


Opening Plenary

Thursday, October 7, 2021 ǀ 5:00–6:00 pm

Pursuing Quality, Access, and Affordability: What Leaders Need to Know

By Stephen C. Ehrmann, PhD

Steve Ehrmann has studied six institutions, all of which have been simultaneously improving their quality of learning, equitable access, and affordability. His questions: How is that possible? And how can an institution develop the capacity to pursue such -three-fold gains?

While the six institutions were quite different from one another, each had developed a constellation of mutually supportive institutional features and initiatives.  Each institution’s constellation included some teaching and learning initiatives (e.g., high-impact practices), some changes in organizational practices (e.g., reward systems), and some alterations in how the institution interacted with its wider world (e.g., recruiting new students). And, before they began, those institutions were probably not very different from yours. Learn about the cross-silo collaboration that helped these case-study institutions succeed. Imagine the results other institutions—including yours—could achieve if more up-and-coming leaders had a broader awareness of how to contribute to their institution’s pursuit of 3fold gains.

Know your presenter:



Stephen C. EhrmannStephen C. Ehrmann, PhD, consults on strategies for creating and evaluating academic innovation and  educational uses of technology. His recent research is detailed in Pursuing Quality, Access, and Affordability: A Field Guide to Improving Higher Education. Ehrmann has received two national awards for his contributions to distance education research. He has served as vice provost for teaching and learning at the George Washington University; associate director for research and evaluation at the Kirwan Center for Academic Innovation at the University System of Maryland; vice president of the non-profit Teaching Learning and Technology Group; director of the Flashlight Program for the Evaluation of Educational Uses of Technology; senior program officer for interactive technologies with the Annenberg/CPB Projects; program officer with the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE); and director of educational research and assistance at The Evergreen State College. He earned a PhD in management and higher education from MIT.

Dinner Plenary

Friday, October 8, 2021 ǀ 4:30–6:00 pm

A Renaissance Vision to Preempt the Enrollment
Cliff: Becoming an Agile Institution for Future Generations

By Hilary L. Link, PhD, president, Allegheny College

The impact of a declining U.S. birthrate will ripple throughout all aspects of higher education, affecting students, faculty, campus finances, and infrastructure—even local communities and industry.  This means that colleges will have to work harder and smarter in an ever-leaner era. President Hillary Link is leading Allegheny College’s approach, focusing on inclusion and success to innovate, educate and serve Gen Z students while keeping the college financially viable. “We are putting aside the more rigid, discipline-specific and vocational nature of education to meet the self-view of Gen Zers—multidisciplinary learners and people who want to be lots of different things. We are preparing them to make their own futures and solve problems they care about.”  Listen as she shares how renaissance thinking makes it possible to create big ideas that address intersectional needs of higher education institutions, their faculty, and students; implementing an entrepreneurial management system may seem unorthodox in higher education, but it makes achieving ambitious goals possible; and Gen Z students are looking for a different higher education experience than that of their parents—and even older siblings. This presentation offers some insights on how institutions of higher education can prepare students to succeed, not just for a job, but in life.

Know your presenter:



Stephen C. EhrmannHilary L. Link, PhD, is the first female president of Allegheny College—one of the nation’s oldest, most innovative colleges where multidisciplinary learning breaks the conventional mold. She is a visionary, dynamic and entrepreneurial leader, with a particular commitment to and expertise in internationalization, cross-cultural education, experiential learning, and women’s leadership. In more than 20 years of experience across a broad range of institutions, including dean of Temple University Rome and vice provost at Barnard College, Link has provided students with a cross-disciplinary path to think critically and communicate creatively. In her first year, Link saw Allegheny College over the finish line to become one of the first 10 U.S. colleges to achieve carbon neutrality. Her leadership style offers promise for a new era of students committed to conquer the world’s complex problems and crave an education that prepares them for life, not merely a job.

Panel Discussion

Saturday, October 9, 2021 ǀ 12:30–2:30 pm

Academic Leadership: Future Trends and Issues

The Leadership in Higher Education advisory board reflects on trends and themes revealed during the conference and participates in a sure-to-be lively discussion about future challenges and opportunities to lead in all institutions of higher education.