Introducing College Presidents on Higher Education and Its Civic Purposes

Our democracy is in crisis. Our media discourse is dysfunctional, the electoral system is in gridlock. As a result, progress on major issues such as social inequality or climate change is almost inconceivable. In this context, our young people feel increasingly shut out of our democracy. Historically, higher education institutions have been created to meet civic challenges of this sort, yet they are under increasing pressure to focus on economic rather than civic purposes. At the same time, in popular discourse, the meaning of “democracy” has narrowed to focus on electoral politics and government institutions.

Kettering has recently begun working with college presidents to move beyond their administrative and fundraising roles and provide new leadership for civic engagement—to act as “public philosophers” for their institutions. Beginning with a meeting with a small group of college presidents in July 2015, we found that these presidents were indeed eager to take leadership on themes of democracy and civic engagement on their campuses and with their stakeholders. This blog series offers a space to gather and present their thoughts. — Derek Barker, Kettering Foundation

Participants in the July 2015 meeting included the following college presidents:

William Coppola, President, Tarant County College
Rassoul Dastmozd, President of Saint Paul College, Saint Paul, MN

Kevin Drumm, President, SUNY Broome Community College
Bill Flores, President, University of Houston-Downtown
Irene Kovala, President, Glendale Community College
Earl H. Potter, III, President, St. Cloud State University
Paul Pribbenow, President, Augsburg College

Adam Weinberg, President, Denison University (in absentia)

Additional participants:

Derek Barker, Program Officer, Kettering Foundation
Harry Boyte, Senior Scholar in Public Work Philosophy, Augsburg College
Sean Joseph Creighton, President, Southwestern Ohio Council for Higher Education
David Mathews, President, Kettering Foundation (President, University of Alabama, 1969-1980)
Bill Muse, President Emeritus, National Issues Forums Institute, and Senior Associate, Kettering Foundation (President, University of Akron, 1984-1992 and Auburn University, 1992-2001) 
Lorlene Hoyt, Director, Talloires Network