AGB President & CEO Update: Is Your Board Prepared for the Return to Campus? (Foundations)

By Henry Stoever August 3, 2022 Blog Post

Welcome to a new academic year! The buzz of students, faculty, and staff on campus is invigorating, and I trust you will take some time to experience the energy that permeates the heart of your campus community. Given the time of year, I encourage you to reflect upon your foundation board’s role in promoting the health of students, faculty, and staff.

The obvious place where many boards will start is the ongoing response to the pandemic. The past few years have been a whirlwind, upending the normal campus routine and related health policies. Despite the fact that many vaccine and mask mandates have ended at the state and federal levels, COVID-19 continues to infect—and reinfect—members of your campus community. Although the pandemic has transformed into a minor concern for some, the consequences for those most affected are still echoing throughout our lives.

According to a recent Trusteeship magazine article, the Center for Collegiate Mental Health at Pennsylvania State University reported that 94 percent of surveyed students indicated COVID-19 has negatively impacted at least one area of their lives. For example, consider the pandemic’s effect on new freshman students coming straight from high school. Some of these students have spent more time behind a computer than face to face in a learning environment, and some experts are concerned about the learning loss, both academically and emotionally, that stemmed from missing in-person participation. Unfortunately, some of these students may not be as prepared as previous cohorts to engage in the college experience without additional support.

As much as the COVID-19 pandemic has dominated the campus health conversation, it would be a mistake for boards to focus exclusively on the pandemic. The U.S. Supreme Court’s recent opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson, overturning Roe v. Wade, has broad implications for students and staff, influencing the way that colleges and universities recruit, enroll, retain, and engage with stakeholders across their campus communities and health centers.

Gathering information about how this issue is affecting your campus can yield important insights as your board considers how it can contribute to student success. I encourage you to read the recent Trusteeship magazine article “Foundations of Consequence: Student-Focused Philanthropy” and reflect on how the needs of your institution and its students would benefit from foundation philanthropy. In addition, foundation boards must consider the impact of health policies on their employees, and they should consider how institutional policies affect foundation responsibilities.

Questions for Board and Committee Chairs

  • Do you plan to discuss campus health in your future board and/or committee meetings?
  • How are your board and committee receiving information regarding campus health outcomes, and where does that fit into the board’s priorities?

Questions for Board Members

  • What barriers to accessing mental health services exist, and how can your foundation board’s policies help overcome these barriers?
  • Does your budget adequately account for foundation staff needs for mental and physical health?

A Question for CEOs and Leadership Teams

  • What information do you share with your board to provide a comprehensive picture of campus health and well-being?

Nominations Open for the AGB John W. Nason Award for Board Leadership

Each year, AGB recognizes select governing boards that have demonstrated innovation and exemplary leadership with the John W. Nason Award for Board Leadership. Nominations are now open, and institutions, systems, and foundations are invited to apply. This year, special criteria will focus on board leadership that has resulted in the advancement of the educational mission and the success of all students in just, equitable, and inclusive ways. Recognize your board’s exceptional leadership by submitting your nomination by October 14, 2022. Learn more and apply at AGB.org/Award.

Thank you for your hard work and commitment to serving as consequential, strategic thought partners focused on long-term institutional vitality and student success—for all students. To empower your efforts to govern with knowledge and confidence, please visit your Personal Home Page and engage in the other new, complimentary AGB member benefits, available now.