AGB President & CEO Update: Advocating a Culture of Innovation

By Henry Stoever February 10, 2020 October 26th, 2021 CEO Update

Greetings! I recently returned from an exhilarating three days in San Diego at AGB’s Foundation Leadership Forum, the only national conference focused on board governance for institutionally related foundation board leaders and CEOs. This was AGB’s largest ever Forum, convening more than 650 foundation professionals who play indispensable roles in supporting higher education institutions as revenue and resource raisers, stewards of assets, and entrepreneurial partners.

Addressing foundation leaders in his session titled “Choosing College, Choosing Students: Innovating Our Way toward Serving Students Better,” Michael Horn, a cofounder of the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation and a coauthor of Choosing College, identified a concern I know is top of mind for you: the need to innovate and find other sources of revenue. Horn said disruption on the scale we’ve seen in some industries is only beginning in higher education. With postsecondary and international enrollments declining and perceptions of workforce readiness and the value proposition of higher education being more rigorously challenged, faster and less expensive alternatives have emerged. Higher education institutions should translate these threats into opportunities. Horn also suggested that institutions should swiftly rethink and evolve their admissions processes and administrations’ orientation of how they serve students: play up their strengths and be honest about their limitations. And, as they reorient, they should raise their standards for students and stick to them. He spoke of the importance of creating student-centric experiences that motivate learners, and how that motivation informs their choices around attending and completing college. To view an excerpt of Horn’s presentation, click here.

AGB Innovation Resources

As leaders of governing boards, you play a pivotal role in fostering, engaging, and supporting a culture of innovation. To guide you, AGB offers practical resources designed to promote conversation and stimulate new thinking. Building on our AGB Board of Directors’ Statement on Innovation in Higher Education, we’ve developed an innovation checklist and several case studies that demonstrate how institutions are pursuing innovation across the sector. The Finance & Business Models section of our Knowledge Center also includes articles, webinars, and blogs showcasing the innovation that is happening throughout our sector. I encourage you to spend some time reviewing these resources.

Trustee Index

In case you missed it, late last month AGB released its annual Trustee Index, which revealed that more than 40 percent of trustees are very concerned about the future of higher education—a jump of 14 percentage points from the prior year. The two factors most often cited as driving that concern are “the financial sustainability of higher education institutions” (38 percent) and the “price of higher education for students and their families” (25 percent). The Index also includes key findings on the topics of admissions, workforce preparation, diversity, and board member time commitment.

The findings in this Index help inform AGB as we develop resources to equip you to address the challenges facing our sector. We strive to identify leading practices and share those approaches with you through our resources, programming, and services. I welcome your feedback regarding the insights we can provide to help you drive student success and institutional vitality.

We are in this together, and as we continue to collaborate please remember that our vision is your success. Thank you for your time, membership, and engagement. Please send comments, questions, or suggestions to me at