Retreat for Board Chairs and Presidents of Independent Colleges and Universities

November 9-10, 2020
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The Necessary Partnership in a Time of Uncertainty

The most critical relationship for effective campus governance is that between the board chair and the president. To succeed, both individuals must commit their time and talents to work as partners for the institution and the students they serve. Certainly, this is one of the most tumultuous periods of disruption institutions of higher education have ever experienced. However, it’s also a time of opportunity and potential long-term growth and innovation. With the ongoing pandemic and its continuing impact, AGB has created a retreat that allows our members to engage virtually to address their most pressing issues.

AGB’s Retreat for Board Chairs and Presidents of Independent Colleges and Universities allows board chairs and presidents to engage with a small group of their peers to receive tailored facilitation and guidance to help you navigate these uncharted times.

By participating in this institute, participants will:

  • step back from their day to day duties and relationship to focus on strategic alignment
  • craft a document focused on opportunities for continued reflection, action, and improvement
  • enhance the overall functioning of the governing board and campus
  • engage in a customized, confidential coaching session with the retreat facilitator post-retreat

The retreat will be tailored to the needs of your team and peers to address the immediate, real time issues related to COVID-19, reopening, and the unfolding academic year based on individualized campus circumstances. Following the session, teams will have the opportunity to meet individually with the facilitators to build upon the action items that were proposed in order to enhance the opportunity for successful campus implementation.

We Will Address These Immediate Challenges:

  • Recovering from impacts on tuition and room and board losses, fundraising
  • Making difficult budget decisions fairly and strategically
  • Reviewing and updating plans to safely reopen campuses and facilities
  • Addressing fears about safety among students, faculty, and staff
  • Complying with changing and conflicting guidance and regulations
  • Navigating increased student activism

…Against the Backdrop of These Longer-Term Issues:

  • Questions about the value of online instruction vs in-person
  • Long-term changes to student demographic and enrollment challenges
  • Uncertain finances, revenues, and business models
  • Concerns about racism and social justice
  • Continuing the role of higher education in promoting access and its role within a civic democracy

Why attend?

At the Retreat, board chairs and presidents will reinforce their working relationships, develop mutual expectations, and identify concrete actions for addressing their challenges.

Key Reasons to Attend

Stop, step away, and with expert guidance, devote your full, undivided attention to:

  • Assess your specific challenges, agree on priorities, develop strategic alignment, and map your way forward.
  • Capturing your consensus, areas for further consideration, and action items in a planning document you can immediately begin to implement at your institution.
  • Learning how your peers at other institutions have applied best practices for working together and navigating challenges.
  • Continue development through a customized, confidential coaching session with the retreat facilitator post-retreat.


  • The retreat is hosted virtually and conducted as an immersive, fully interactive small-group conference.
  • Sessions are for AGB members only and limited in size so that you will receive the full attention of our faculty.
  • Interactive, facilitated sessions convey best practices, innovations in governance, and examples of successful strategies from other institutions.
  • Meetings among your own team are interspersed throughout the program so that you’ll have time to think through and apply what you’ve learned to your specific challenges.

Event Resources


Monday, November 9, 2020
12:00 pm EST Team Meeting

Your team will discuss your individual responses to the pre-retreat assignments and prepare for the Day 1 sessions.

1:00 pm EST Welcome, Setting the Stage

Meet the facilitators and your fellow participants, review the institute program, and share your expectations for the Retreat.

1:20 pm EST Key Challenges Facing Institutions and Leaders (reflecting on beginning of year)

Step back from the day-to-day and reflect with fellow attendees on how your campus’  various adjustments/changes have worked; how faculty, staff, and students have responded to campus and social conditions; and what lessons will be helpful for the future.

2:20 pm EST Maintaining Effective Board and Campus Communication

Assess your current approaches and discuss effective strategies for strengthening communication with all constituents under current conditions.

2:50 pm EST Break
3:00 pm EST Mutual Expectations of Board Chairs and Presidents 

Essential for good governance and a highly engaged board is a strong partnership between the board chair and the president.  We will explore the keys to an effective relationship with an emphasis on how your team may have modified your interactions in the current environment.

3:30 pm EST Breakout Sessions – Board Chairs and Presidents

Building on the afternoon’s discussions, presidents and board chairs will review with peers the lessons of the last several months, share their most urgent upcoming challenges, and identify ways to leverage the board-president partnership to address them effectively.

4:30 pm EST Wrap-Up and Homework

Homework: Each team will meet to discuss peer group conversations, to identify key insights from others, and to develop initial action steps. 

4:45 pm EST Adjournment

Tuesday, November 10, 2020
12:00 pm EST Team Meeting

Each team will review the previous day’s discussions and begin to focus on priority action steps.

1:00 pm EST Peer Group and Team Reports; Development of an Abbreviated “Heat Map”

We will discuss key insights from the peer group discussions. Participants will then highlight their greatest challenges by developing an abbreviated “heat map.”

2:30 pm EST Mini-Break & Team Meeting Time

Teams will determine action steps focused both on preparing for the second semester (the upcoming 2-3 months) and for the next academic year (the following 6-9 months).

2:45 pm EST Action Plan & Next Steps

Our final session will focus on highlights from each team’s action plans and on strategies to ensure goals are met, while adjusting to the unpredictability of the times.

4:00 pm EST Wrap-Up & Homework for Individual Team Consultations
4:15 pm EST Day Concludes

Post Session- each team will meet individually with one of the facilitators.


Thomas Flynn

Dr. Flynn is an AGB Senior Fellow and president emeritus of Alvernia University (PA), having served from 2005 to 2019. At Alvernia, he oversaw the development of strategic and campus master plans and the achievement of university status. Also completed were a comprehensive fundraising campaign and a successful effort to build a Recreation, Wellness, and Health Sciences Complex (named by the Board of Trustees for the Flynns). The O’Pake Institute for Ethics, Leadership, and Public Service; the Holleran Center for Community and Global Engagement; and the widely acclaimed Reading Collegiate Scholars Program for inner-city underrepresented youth were also established and partially endowed. Previously, Dr. Flynn served as Senior Advisor for the Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) and as Provost and President at Millikin University (IL). He spent fourteen years on the faculty of Mount Saint Mary’s College (MD), where he was Professor of English and served as Dean of the College.

An undergraduate at Boston College, he earned his M.A. and Ph.D. in American Culture from the University of Michigan. He has completed professional development programs at Harvard University and received awards for his teaching, academic leadership, and community engagement, besides service on the boards of several higher education associations.

Eileen Wilson-Oyelaran

Dr. Eileen B. Wilson-Oyelaran, President Emerita of Kalamazoo College, retired in 2016 after serving a President for eleven years. Her previous positions include vice president and dean of the college at Salem College (North Carolina) as well as faculty and administrative positions at Winston-Salem State University, North Carolina Wesleyan College, and Obafemi Awolowo University in Nigeria. During her tenure at Kalamazoo, she led the most successful fundraising campaign in the college’s history to support scholarships, endowed professorships, capital projects, and the creation of the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership. Under her leadership, the institution heightened trustee and alumni engagement, revised the curriculum, and made considerable strides toward becoming a more diverse and inclusive campus. Dr. Wilson-Oyelaran serves on the Board of Trustees of United States International University Africa (Nairobi, Kenya) and Salem Academy and College along with her alma mater, Pomona College. She is the recipient of numerous honors and awards for her work in higher education, diversity, and inclusion, including the Gender Equity Architect Award from the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, the Star Award from the Posse Foundation, and an American Council of Education Fellowship.

Registration Fee & Cancellation Policy

Registration Fee – $1,995: The registration fee includes program expenses for both the board chair and the president as well as program materials and a consultation with the facilitator after the retreat.

A vice chair can be added to the team for an additional $995.

All cancellations and requests for refunds must be submitted in writing to AGB will issue a full refund if written notification of cancellation is provided to AGB by October 26, 2020. AGB will issue refunds after the meeting. No refunds will be issued for attendees who cancel after this date.