Inside AGB

By AGB    //    Volume 29,  Number 3   //    May/June 2021

AGB Publishes the Principles of Trusteeship 

AGB has published a new resource entitled the Principles of Trusteeship: How to Become a Highly Effective Board Member for Colleges, Universities, and Foundations. The publication outlines nine actions and attributes that individual board members should develop to better serve their institutions, systems, or foundations. While AGB has historically focused on the work of the board as a whole, since authority rests with the full governing body, Principles of Trusteeship serves as a guide for individual board members to strategically navigate an evolving higher education landscape and drive successful outcomes. The nine actions are grouped into three fundamental functions of effective trusteeship, which include understanding governance, thinking strategically, and leading by example. A full discussion of what is included in the book is described in the cover story of this issue of Trusteeship, “What Kind of Board Member Are You?” by Marla J. Bobowick, a governance consultant who served as the project director for the AGB Principles of Trusteeship project.

“Although it may seem evident that boards are only as strong as their individual members, it remains critically important that board members understand their individual responsibilities,” said Merrill Schwartz, senior vice president for content strategy and development at AGB. “We convened experts from across higher education who have served on multiple boards in various capacities and asked them to identify the most important characteristics for effective board membership. This book distills decades of experience into something that’s easily understandable.”

The Principles of Trusteeship is the first result of a year-long initiative to identify the characteristics and conduct that define exemplary board member behavior. It lays the foundation for additional content that will dive into these actions and characteristics via webinars, podcast episodes, Ask-the-Expert discussions, and AGB events. Visit

AGB Releases its Latest Survey of Board Professionals 

AGB is excited to unveil the results of the 2020 AGB Survey of Board Professionals. The quinquennial survey is intended to offer insight into the role of the board professional, the primary planners for the board and the critical liaisons between the board and other campus leaders.

Overall, the study showed a marked progression in respondents’ perceptions of the job’s complexities and responsibilities compared with five years ago, in part due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on higher education. Specifically, when asked whether or how the complexity of their role had changed over the past five years, respondents’ most common response was that their boards had requested an increased level of information (58.8 percent). The next most common answer was “increased number of responsibilities for the role” at 54.8 percent. Some respondents used the free response comment area to outline the impact COVID- 19 has had on their workload, including quickly adapting to the virtual meeting environment. Other reasons included a greater emphasis on shared governance and increased expectations from board members for the board professional to provide guidance on complex governance matters. Only 7.9 percent believed that the level of complexity in their job had remained the same.

Among other findings, the board professional role remains mostly homogenous in terms of demographics. Consistent with previous surveys, the majority of respondents were women (84.3 percent), White (84.1 percent), and older (59.5 percent of respondents were over the age of 50). At the same time, board professionals appear to have arrived at the role from across the institution, hailing from academic-related positions, administrative/special/executive assistant positions inside and outside higher education, and legal staffing positions, among others. A majority are recruited from within the institution; only 8.1 percent of respondents said they were recruited from a national search. AGB hopes this information will encourage higher education executives to broaden their applicant pool so that institutional leadership can better reflect an ever more diverse society.

“The data suggest that while women are well-represented overall, institutional hiring pools need more critical examination in terms of who is included—and who is not included—in them,” said Lesley McBain, AGB director of research. “The board professional position tends to be held by long-serving and experienced employees but does not have a clearly defined career pathway, unlike tenure-track faculty positions. So, while individual board professionals’ career backgrounds vary widely, the demographic results’ consistency over the last several surveys suggest the lack of diversity in the role has systemic roots instead of being unique to the board professional position.”

The survey, conducted every five years, is intended to offer data and insight into the role of the board professional across large, small, public, private, four-year, and two-year institutions, as well as institutionally related foundations and public university systems. In 2020, more than 220 active board professionals responded to the survey, a 19 percent response rate.

AGB Members can download the 2020 AGB Survey of Board Professionals.

AGB Releases a New Statement on Justice, Equity, and Inclusion 

AGB recently published the AGB Board of Directors’ Statement on Justice, Equity, and Inclusion and Guidance for Implementation. It challenges higher education governing boards of all types to incorporate the values of justice, equity, and inclusion (JE&I) into their daily practices. The statement’s guidance is organized in the form of recommendations, key questions, strategies, and an appendix of important definitions. The three strategies for implementing JE&I governance work include:

  • Developing and applying an equity lens in the board’s governance structures and processes;
  • Applying a justice, equity, and inclusion lens throughout the institution; and
  • Contributing to social justice and equity in the communities where the institution is located.

“We’re all in,” said Henry Stoever, president and CEO of AGB. “Showing leadership on these issues is key to the sustainability and viability of our institutions and is a critical part of the board’s fiduciary responsibilities.”

The AGB Board of Directors’ Statement on Justice, Equity, and Inclusion and Guidance for Implementation is the latest resource from AGB as part of its Justice, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (JDE&I) Initiative. Other materials include an FAQ guide, a toolkit to assist boards in having relevant conversations in the boardroom, and Trusteeship magazine articles. AGB Consulting has also launched a practice area to provide tailored support to the specific needs of individual institutions. JDE&I was also a focus of several sessions at the recent 2021 National Conference on Trusteeship, which was held in April 2021.

Welcome New AGB Members 

AGB welcomes new members that have joined since December 7, 2020.

American College of Education

Bastyr University

Bryant & Stratton College System

Clinton College

Coastal Carolina University

College of Lake County Foundation

H. Lavity Stoutt Community College

Holyoke Community College

Maryland Institute College of Art

Middle States Commission on Higher Education

Nightingale College

Pittsburgh Theological Seminary

Prairie View A&M State University Foundation

Stephen F. Austin State University Foundation, Inc.

Tarrant County College Foundation

The Ohio State University Alumni Association

Ultimate Medical Academy

Universidad de Las Americas (Ecuador)

Universidad Zamorano, Honduras

University of Saint Francis

University System of Georgia Office

Washington College

Hebrew Union College- Jewish Institute of Religion

Miles College

Mount Tamalpais College

Northland College

Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts

Queens University of Charlotte

Quest University

Saint Augustine’s University

Southern Arkansas University Foundation

Union College

University of Wisconsin-Platteville Foundation

Van Andel Institute Graduate School

*This list is accurate as of April 8, 2021

Upcoming Events 

Increasing Academic ROI at Public Higher Ed Institutions: Session 3 of the Strategic Transformation Workshop Series
May 19, 2021      Workshop increasing-academic-roi

Rethinking Campus: Costs, Consortia, and Connected Learning
May 20, 2021   Ask the Expert

Membership Navigator
June 10, 2021   Webinar

How to Grow Your Best Resource: Board, Leadership, and Faculty Development
June 17, 2021   Ask the Expert

High-Impact Practices and Preparing Engaged Citizens in the Context of Work-Ready Graduates
June 23, 2021   Webinar

Optimizing Administrative Spend at Public Higher Ed Institutions: Session 4 of the Strategic Transformation Workshop Series
June 30, 2021   Workshop


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