Sunday, June 30, 2013

Enjoyable evening at Bill and Maria Kiefer's house in Canonsburg, PA, as friends and colleagues expressed appreciation to Bill for his years of service to Bethany College. A 1971 graduate of Bethany, Bill retired Friday after eight years as Executive Vice President and General Counsel. He previously served on the Bethany Board of Trustees and the National Alumni Council Board of Directors.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Beautiful day on the mountaintop for the first of our New Student Orientation programs. Nice chance to visit with my friend "Boomer" at the check-in table.

We capped an outstanding New Student Orientation Day at Bethany with a parents social at Christman Manor. Pictured with me at the social are Ken and Gina Lindley. Their son, K.C., is currently a Bethany student. Daughter, Megan, will enroll this fall.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Appalachian College Association Presidents Meeting

Nice visiting with former Bethany College Vice President Pam Balch at the Appalachian College Association Presidents Meeting in Maryville, Tennessee. Pam is President of West Virginia Wesleyan College and was elected this week as Chair of the ACA Board of Directors.

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Senior Leadership Academy

An enjoyable lunch discussion today on the topic "The Strategic Thinker: Presidential Leadership for Higher Education Today" with participants in the Senior Leadership Academy in Washington, DC. The program is sponsored by the Council of Independent Colleges and American Academic Leadership Institute. I've served as an officer with both organizations. Dr. Ann Die Hasselmo is President of AALI.

Bethany Trivia

What band performed for the first time in 1905?

Click here to see the answer and other Bethany Trivia questions

Friday, June 14, 2013

Congratulations to our own Jay Eisenhauer, who was elected to his third term as Mayor of Bethany.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Pictured at a reception the Burnet Art Gallery at Le Meridien Chambers Minneapolis with colleagues from today's panel discussion at the Lawlor Symposium at the St. Thomas Law School. From left, Rick Hardy (Concordia University Irvine), Mary Madden (Pew Research Center), Mike Petroff (Harvard), and Rachel Reuben (Ithaca). Earlier today, I led a session on the college president and social media strategy.

The Lawlor Symposium

With host John Lawlor before the start of the acclaimed Lawlor Symposium at the St. Thomas Law School in Minneapolis. I'll be speaking this afternoon on a presidential perspective of marketing through social media and then serve on a panel with Mary Madden (Pew Research Center), Rick Hardy (Concordia University Irvine), Rachel Reuben (Ithaca), and Mike Petroff (Harvard).

Monday, June 10, 2013

Repaying a Debt That Society Can Ill Afford

(The Huffington Post, June 10, 2013)

College Commencement season across America is all about achievement, dreams, hope—and debt.

The student loan crisis in America is reaching epidemic proportions, to the tune of a trillion dollars owed by students for the privilege of pursuing an affordable higher education.

As with most complex issues, there is good news and bad. “Most students have manageable debt, and repay their loans—a fact that is being lost in the current media coverage and policy conversations on student loans,” says the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU). But, suggests NAICU, student loans are part of a “growing college affordability crisis.” A briefing by the organization cites growing numbers of low-income students aspiring to college, cash-strapped middle-income families, diminished public-funding support “for all sectors of higher education” and the still-recovering economy as contributing factors to that crisis.

As the cost of college rises annually, so do the potential and reality of assuming greater financial debt to pay for those costs. Often most affected are the latecomer groups to higher education—adults and other non-traditional students, along with first-generation college students. For them, realistic opportunity seems to be slipping away despite the availability of need-based and merit scholarships, campus work-study jobs and improved advising and orientation for such specialized groups.

Even if Congress acts to preserve lower, Stafford federal student loan interest rates (at 3.4 %), the overall loan outlook remains troubling.  During a roundtable discussion in May convened by West Virginia Sen. Jay Rockefeller, the real message emerged that no viable long-term solution is at hand. Without solutions, the situation will remain “intractable,” Sen. Rockefeller said, “an under-the-radar problem” that “can bring a person down in life.”

A supporter of measures including public loan forgiveness, income-based repayment and enhanced student financial literacy, among other strategies, Sen. Rockefeller hosted a 90-minute session in Morgantown that focused not on rates and statistics but the real human cost of the student-loan burden.  It’s not an encouraging picture.

The consensus of the group, which included students, college administrators and financial counselors, was that loan debt cripples lives, not just the checkbook. Graduates delay marriage and family, choose alternate career paths, defer establishing small businesses and, no doubt worst of all, suffer deep emotional shame and guilt when they default, all for “pursuing something society wants them to do in all good faith,” Sen. Rockefeller said. “Here we are at war with ourselves, hurting our country.”

It can take a student 10 years to pay off his or her debt, while living in sub-standard housing and delaying needed purchases. Then he or she may confront the possibility that their spouses and children will continue the cycle, because of their own student loan debt, of putting life on hold to make the monthly payments that never seem to go away.

No one is suggesting that students should not seek education, or should dodge their repayment obligations that come with loans. For its part, NAICU says it supports solutions “that don’t diminish the quality of education.” But the group in Morgantown agreed with me that the whole process of student loan application and management should be more user-friendly, along with greater outreach by campuses to teach families what the impact will be once their students cross the graduation stage. As former West Virginia University President David Hardesty put it so well, “the message should be that you go through college, not (just) to college….” The process of managing your education doesn’t end with Commencement. You need to pay off your loans on the other end.

I am confident that colleges and universities, their professional associations and parent councils, the government, the financial community and, most of all, our constituent students and their families will continue proactive, productive discussion and advance realistic solutions not only on the loan situation but the overall higher-education affordability crisis. We need to do something now—to focus, as President Hardesty said, on those dimensions of the problem that can be solved.

That seems to be the best way to begin to ensure that society is not crippled in a larger sense by a debt that now cripples so many, so silently, at home.

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Dr. Scott D. Miller is president of Bethany College and M.M. Cochran Professor of Leadership Studies. Now in his 22nd year as a college president, he serves as a consultant to college presidents and boards. 

The President and Institutional Branding

(College Planning and Management, May 2013 - by Scott D. Miller and Marylouise Fennell)

The congested college and university marketplace means that every presidential communication must further institutional branding and messaging.  Contemporary presidents are the public “face” of the institution, and competition for audiences’ attention has never been fiercer.

Here are some suggestions from our experience that will help you make every communication count while enabling your messaging to stand out among others.

Communicate across multiple platforms to tell your story.

Use of social media such as presidential e-letters, blogs, Twitter, Flicker, LinkedIn and Facebook increase frequency of communication to key current and future constituencies, including prospective students, families and donors, at little or no cost.

Using such technologies, presidents can foster and cultivate new relationships, expand existing networks and raise the entire institutional profile.  Further, a great deal of mileage can be gained from reprints of such communications—in fact, often more than from the initial exposure. 

Raise your visibility.

Because the President is the public face of an institution, it is important that the image he or she presents is both reflective of the institution’s mission and values and in sync with its core messaging and overall branding strategy.  The president is the institution to most key publics, including the media.  Perception is reality when it comes to such marketing communications. 

Communicate early and often.

In his 2007 bestseller Millennials Go to College, Neil Howe observes that if prospective students don’t know your brand by the age of 13, it is unlikely that they will consider applying when they are high school juniors.  Thus, it is critical that you get your institutional brand out early and often.  Just as the successful realtor’s mantra is “location, location, location,” the effective communicator relies on “repetition, repetition, repetition.”  Presidents need to be able to relate what’s been called the “30-second elevator message” about their institutions in a concise, compelling way.

Consistency is key.

Many communications experts have noted that when evaluating the efficacy of messaging, they find that consistency and continuity often trump  content.  In an August 2012 interview with the McKinsey Quarterly’s Allen Webb, Olympic decathlon champion Dan O’Brien observed, “In the long run, consistency always wins out.”  O’Brien won a gold medal in the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, following three consecutive world titles in decathlon.

“Although Dan’s commentary focuses on athletics, not business, executives may find parallels between the competitive challenges he describes and those facing their companies,” Webb notes.  Simply put, it’s almost impossible to repeat a message too often for today’s multi-taskers.

Cultivate compelling messages.

A vast body of research demonstrates time and again that people act on emotion undergirded by fact much more responsively than they do on the basis of facts alone.  Emotions and effective storytelling trump facts, data and statistics every time.  Personalizing, localizing and using emotion to connect with audiences are the hallmarks of persuasive communications that cause people to change their behaviors in ways favorable to the college or university. We like the “SUCCES” formula for “sticky messages” advanced by authors Chip and Dan Heath: compelling and memorable messages must be simple, unexpected, concrete, concise, use emotions and tell stories. 

So, as a college president, tell your story as often and in as many ways as possible.

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Dr. Scott D. Miller is President of the College and M.M. Cochran Professor of Leadership Studies at Bethany College in West Virginia.  Now in his third college presidency, he has served as a CEO for nearly 22 years. He is Chair of the Board of Directors of Academic Search, Inc.

Dr. Marylouise Fennell, RSM, a former president of Carlow University in Pittsburgh, PA, is senior counsel for the Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) and principal of Hyatt Fennell, a Higher Education Search Firm.

They have collaborated on nine books, including “President to President:  Views on Technology in Higher Education (2008)” and “Presidential Perspectives: Strategies to Address the Rising Cost of Higher Education” (2012.)  They are regular columnists for Enrollment Manager. Both serve as consultants to college presidents and boards.

Presidential Perspectives

(This month's issue of Presidential Perspectives, a presidential thought series, published by Scott D. Miller and Marylouise Fennell with support of Aramark Higher Education). 

This month's chapter is titled "The Intersection of Intent and Action: The College Completion Paradox."

Bethany Trivia

Who holds all threes single season offensive records for women's soccer?

Click here to see the answer and other Bethany Trivia questions

Friday, June 7, 2013

Attended a dinner at The Lombardy Hotel on Pennsylvania Ave. in Washington, DC last night for the Boards of Directors of Academic Search, Inc. and American Academic Leadership Institute. Honored to currently serve as Chair of the Academic Search Board and Vice Chair of the AALI Board. Pictured with Dr. Jessica Kozloff, President of Academic Search, Inc. and a former president of Bloomsburg University.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

You'll "LIKE" This: Developing a Presidential Social Media Strategy

(The Lawlor Review, Spring 2013 - by Scott D. Miller and Marylouise Fennell)

If you could find a cost-effective way to expand your visibility, matching messages precisely with targeted audiences while promoting your institutional brand, would you take advantage of it?  Social media allow you to do this and more, fostering constituent relationships, expanding interest in your institution and positioning your college or university as being ahead of the technology curve. 

Yet only about 100 of some 3,500 college presidents nationwide actively use Twitter as a strategic communication device, with just a few more accessing Facebook.  Approximately 700 regularly use LinkedIn, YouTube, blogs and other tools.  Those who do not employ social media are missing out on a host of opportunities to enhance and control their message while fostering the personal, interactive relationships at the core of all effective branding and marketing.

Here are some proven reasons we think you will “like” social-media applications as part of your institution’s external-relations strategy.

For nearly 20 years, we have teamed to write on a variety of issues related to higher education practices.  So when Scott Miller was appointed president of Bethany College six years ago, we created and tested a long-term social-media strategy. The strategy focused on reinforcing the brand of a nationally ranked liberal arts college located in a rural section of West Virginia, and further engaging an already loyal base of alumni and friends. In the process, we would position Scott as an experienced opinion leader on a wide variety of higher-education topics. 

The results have been astonishing.  In just five years, with minimal cost, start-up and maintenance, we now have more than 1,100 followers on Twitter, with an additional 73 lists, over 1,800 LinkedIn connections and 1,650 Facebook followers. This is in addition to visibility through regular e-cards, e-blasts, blogs, opinion pieces, monthly presidential e-letters, a weekly online newsletter and monthly online commentaries for The Huffington Post and a statewide business newspaper.

Bethany’s direct primary list of 30,000 has been greatly expanded by secondary and tertiary audiences who receive institutional messages almost simultaneously with those on  internal e-lists.  For example, a recent post to 1,655 people on Facebook was quickly viewed by more than 7,000 followers as a result of the share function. Therefore, entire new audiences for the institution, previously unknown, have become instant constituents.

It remains surprising to us that relatively few presidents and senior administrators have embraced social media. Notable exceptions include E. Gordon Gee of Ohio State; Santo Ono, the University of Cincinnati; Christopher Kimball, California Lutheran University; David Rowe, Centenary College; Jeff Abernathy, Alma College; John Maeda, the Rhode Island School of Design; Angel Cabrera, George Mason University (who tweets and blogs in both English and Spanish); and Walter Kimbrough, Dillard University. 

Here’s what we have learned from Bethany College’s social-media strategy:

Social media quickly and effectively allow you to send disparate, relevant messages to diverse audiences in a matter of seconds.  As an active college president who is closely identified with the Bethany brand, Scott controls eight different platforms from his desktop, iPhone, iPad or Netbook. Although followers of each site receive a different message, since many are on more than one site, all content supports the College’s mission and value of liberal arts education and reinforces the branding message of Bethany. LinkedIn allows Scott to advertise position openings to colleagues and to repost college media releases often picked up as “tip sheets” by higher education and general circulation media, while Twitter allows the president to reach alumni and students with more personal messages (“shout outs”) for congratulations and condolences.  A recent tweet about a campus-related death, for example, generated 7,000 re-tweets, posts and e-mail responses within a few hours.  Using the president’s “public figure page” on Facebook, students, families and alumni are encouraged to follow Scott’s activities without a privacy invasion to the follower.

Social media also permit you to control the frequency and distribution of your message.  We’ve found that electronic distribution services at nominal cost allow us to time-deliver messages to balance distribution.  These might include campus news, reports and interesting articles from outside organizations that reinforce your institution’s message and image.  In addition, by taking advantage of “dead times” in the news cycle, you can schedule messages to arrive when audiences have time to read and assimilate them.  You can also ensure a high degree of frequency, so that key audiences receive a continuous flow of appropriate communications.   Further, student interns in the president’s office scan national media for outside news items of interest to target audiences. Several campus units also funnel information to the president’s office for consideration; however, the president controls all messages that are posted.

Finally, in times of crisis, social media are essential in distributing general and timely alerts, messages and updates instantly and comprehensively. We’ve discovered that many students, for example, prefer accessing social media to checking their campus email accounts.    

Thus, social media reinforce the perception that the administration is focusing on communications 24-7. Since 2007, Scott has transitioned from e-mail on desktop to texting on Blackberry and Netbook to iPad and iPhone more recently. We will admit that at the outset of our experiment, it took a while to set up templates for Bethany’s weekly online newsletter, The Old Main Journal, and monthly e-President’s Letter. It’s also important to keep social-media content fresh and concise. The impact of this strategy, however, has far outweighed the time needed to create and implement it.  The social-media initiative for Bethany College has been an unqualified success, exceeding our expectations and widening the reach of Bethany’s marketing strategy.

In the late 19th century, when electricity was in its infancy, President and Mrs. Rutherford B. Hayes, among others, are said to have so feared this new technology that they asked their servants to turn the White House switches on and off.  One day soon, we will find our early qualms about using social media to be equally unfounded.   Like electricity, social media are here to stay, with virtually unlimited applications for serving our institutions and target audiences.  We urge you and your colleagues to harness this vast potential.                            

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Dr. Scott D. Miller is President of the College and M.M. Cochran Professor of Leadership Studies at Bethany College in West Virginia. Now in his third college presidency, he has served as a CEO for nearly 22 years. He is Chair of the Board of Directors of Academic Search, Inc.

Dr. Marylouise Fennell, RSM, a former president of Carlow University in Pittsburgh, PA, is senior counsel for the Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) and principal of Hyatt Fennell, a Higher Education Search Firm.

They have collaborated on nine books, including “President to President: Views on Technology in Higher Education” (2010) and “Presidential Perspectives: Strategies to Address the Rising Cost of Higher Education” (2012.) They are regular columnists for College Planning and Management and Enrollment Manager. Both serve as consultants to college presidents and boards.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Pomp, Circumstance and Purpose as Bethany's Year Comes to a Close

(The President’s Letter, June 2013)

Who could have asked for a more beautiful Commencement Weekend this year at Bethany College?

With 154 members of the Class of 2013 assembled with their families and friends on May 18 at the Tilock Amphitheatre in the Pennington Quadrangle, the sun shone bright along with the prospects for these new alumni. Following an inspiring and very well-received Baccalaureate sermon the evening before by the Rev. Dr. Jack Sullivan, Jr., Regional Minister and President of the Pennsylvania Region of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), on Saturday morning our graduating seniors were convened for the last time.

Our Commencement address this year, “Times of Change Are Times of Opportunity,” was delivered by Ralph Baxter, Chairman Emeritus of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP.

“I believe that you are graduating at the most dynamic time in the history of human kind,” Mr. Baxter told the graduates. “The world is changing faster today than it ever has. The change in the world is pervasive, it is universal, and it will create opportunities for all of you in your lifetimes.”

For their special contributions to Commencement 2013, we presented honorary doctorates to both Jack Sullivan and Ralph Baxter. As with many of our distinguished and perceptive guests over the years, they summed up the tone and tenor of our time, with all of its anxiety-producing impact, but suggested that our graduating seniors discover for themselves the special purpose of their lives and the resulting pathways to personal fulfillment through social responsibility.

This is the spirit that unites Bethanians across the generations—the willingness to do the right thing for the benefit of others. In my own comments to the Class of 2013, I acknowledged that we live in challenging times. Their generation, I reminded them, “is called to address worldwide
strife; to rebuild our nation’s roads and bridges; to preserve our fragile environment; to explore further sources of renewable energy; to foster innovation and economic growth.”

“It’s a tall order,” I concluded, “but generations of Bethanians before you have left these halls to accomplish all these goals and more.”

Recognition of two outstanding graduates during this year’s Alumni Weekend confirmed this tradition.

Justice Kaye Gorenflo Hearn, Class of 1972, was honored with the Alumni Achievement Award. Elected to the South Carolina Supreme Court in 2009, she is only the second woman on the state’s highest court. After graduating fifth in her class from Bethany, she went on to graduate cum laude from the University of South Carolina School of Law and later, she earned an L.L.M. degree from the University of Virginia’s Graduate Program for Judges. We were happy to welcome Justice Hearn, our Darline Nicholson Breakfast speaker two years ago, back to Bethany to receive this latest honor from her alma mater.

Jeff Flick, Class of 1982, president and CEO of BD&E in Pittsburgh, was the recipient of the 2013 Alumnus of the Year Award. Jeff has worked in the marketing communications field for the past 30 years. He has been the project manager for comprehensive branding, identity and marketing communications programs for a variety of publicly-traded corporations. His clients include Bethany College, for whom he has produced many of our marketing and branding campaigns and materials. Most recently, his firm designed the uniforms for Bethany’s new marching band, The Stampede, which will debut this fall at Bison Stadium.

Bethanians make their mark in numerous ways, and we are proud of all who have enriched our world with their talents and generosity. I am confident that the Class of 2013 will be no less engaged and influential in their world.

As we conclude another outstanding academic year, we pause to thank everyone who has brought our newest Bethany alumni to this important milestone: the devoted faculty and staff on campus who have mentored them; the parents, families, friends, and classmates who have stood behind them; and the alumni of the College who are generous with their time, counsel, and career connections.

To the Class of 2013, congratulations, and to all Bethanians everywhere, thank you for your support and continuing engagement with A Small College of National Distinction.

Monday, June 3, 2013

June's Schedule

Upcoming Events
June 24 – Early Bird Orientation

(Faculty and students are invited to breakfast or lunch with the president; contact the Office of the President to schedule)


June 4 & 20 – President’s Cabinet

June 5 – American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment Steering Committee, Boston.

June 6-7 – Academic Search and American Academic Leadership Institute Board of Directors Meetings, Washington, DC

June 11-13 – The Lawlor Group Summer Symposium, Minneapolis, MN, Speaker- "A President’s Perspective on Marketing Through Social Media"

June 17 – Senior Leadership Academy, Washington, DC, Speaker-"The Strategic Thinker:  Presidential Leadership for Higher Education Today"

June 17-18 – Appalachian College Association Annual Meeting & Board of Directors, Maryville, TN

June 19 – NCAA Division III Nominations Committee Meeting, Indianapolis, IN

June 20 – WVICU Executive Committee Meeting, Charleston, WV

Schedule and attendance at events subject to change