On My Agenda: AGB’s New Year’s Resolution During Our 100th Anniversary

By Henry Stoever    //    Volume 29,  Number 1   //    January/February 2021
Trusteeship Cover: January/February 2021 with cover article "Foundations and Alumni Associations: Better Together or Apart?"

The past year has been one of the most disruptive periods of our lives. Considering these challenges, this column highlights AGB’s resolution to you and the entire AGB membership in 2021. You have heard me discuss elements of this resolution in the past, for they are integral to the future success of higher education.

A Promise to Help Create Inclusive, Strategic Boards

During 2021, a year that marks AGB’s 100th year of service to higher education boards, our focus will be on our commitment to create inclusive, strategic boards throughout all AGB’s programs and resources. In the spirit of helping your board and you elevate your effectiveness as strategic partners for your institution, foundation, or system, there are two pillars that support our resolution: the Principles of Trusteeship and Justice, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (JDE&I).

AGB’s Principles of Trusteeship will launch this spring and will serve as a North Star designed to help board members, higher education leaders, and policymakers understand the essential attributes  and  behaviors of individual board members. AGB has engaged hundreds of board members and other higher education leaders to develop the gold standard for board member behaviors and attributes. The launch of AGB’s Principles of Trusteeship will be accompanied by practical resources offered throughout the year, including a Trustee Essentials Workshop at our National Conference on Trusteeship (AGB.org/NCT).

Justice, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (JDE&I) are moral imperatives that we all must embrace, regardless of industry or organizational type, which is why we launched the AGB JDE&I Initiative (AGB. org/JDEI) in 2020. I urge you to join AGB in embracing this commitment to create a better world in which everyone is treated with dignity and respect.

Occasionally, I will hear a president or board member say, “Higher education is in crisis; there are so many fundamental challenges to our operations. I don’t know that this is the time to double down on JDE&I.” I understand that it can feel daunting to move forward when so much of the landscape is uncertain, and my response is simple: This is exactly the time when JDE&I is most needed. Gathering and including diverse perspectives in strategic planning and crisis response preparations, for example, are essential to ensure no one feels forgotten or ignored, to develop a community of belonging, and to create an inclusive culture that supports well-informed decisions and the long-term vitality we envision. These values will only become more important over time.

The revamped section of the AGB Knowledge Center focusing on JDE&I summarizes why these values are essential, provides key questions for board members to ask, suggests additional resources to deepen one’s competency, and highlights aspirational outcomes. Additionally, we will publish the AGB Board of Directors’ Statement on Justice, Equity, and Inclusion this spring, and we will integrate the strategic recommendations into our programs and additional, practical resources including sessions during the Foundation Leadership Forum (AGB.org/Forum) later this month and the national conference in April, where we will explore these and other issues.

These two pillars—the Principles of Trusteeship and the values of JDE&I—will assist board members and executives as boards and leadership teams  reimagine their vision statements, business models, and strategic priorities to become more relevant for the future. Just as important, these initiatives will assist boards in addressing the challenges that cannot yet be seen. My sincere wish is that you leverage AGB’s resources as you frame key issues and pertinent questions with your board and senior leadership team, ensure the entire board is engaged in the strategic planning process, and include relevant perspectives.

As a final note, I recognize that the past year has been immensely difficult for boards, presidents, faculty, students, and staff, and I hope you are taking time to care for yourself. The current environment will continue to be a fast-paced marathon and not a sprint. We at AGB, as are your students, faculty, and staff, are counting on you to build trust as a strategic asset to advance your commitments. A key driver of building trust is empathy, and strategic board and executive leadership requires empathy to be effective over the long haul. We are here to support your success.

Here’s to elevating the effectiveness and inclusivity of your strategic board in 2021.

Henry Stoever, AGB President and Chief Executive Officer.

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