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Getting Governance Right: Moving Beyond Managerial Oversight

Getting Governance Right: Moving Beyond Managerial Oversight

Georgia Yuan is an independent leadership coach and a consultant for AGB Search. She is former general counsel for two institutions, Smith College and the University of Idaho, as well as former deputy undersecretary of the U.S. Department of Education. She served on AGB’s National Commission on College and University Board Governance, which released its final report in November 2014.

When was the last time your board left a meeting feeling like they knew more about the institution and had contributed to its overall well-being?

When boards are organized around the administrative functions of the college, board members often miss the fundamental value they might otherwise bring to governance.

The academic affairs committee may hear a report about a new curricular initiative or research in progress, but have they really spent time reflecting on the future of the college and the mission to educate? Where is the conversation about instructional effectiveness, innovative delivery methods, or the pressure to graduate students in less time? The student affairs committee may be apprised of recent student activities or about successes in athletics, but are they talking about the strategic alignment of alcohol policies, for instance, and their influence on student behavior? Defining the strategic goals of your institution and engaging the board in conversations around those goals elevates trustee time and talent. Changing board agendas and committee structures to focus on cross-cutting issues rather than administrative functions offers a clearer path to making the most of trustee expertise, judgment, and advice.

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