Campus News

McBee lecturer warns of upcoming ‘watershed moment’ in higher ed

McBee Lecture 2013-h. Louise McBee and Teresa Sullivan
Teresa Sullivan

Teresa Sullivan, president of the University of Virginia, provided a warning of upcoming shifts in higher education during the 25th annual Louise McBee Lecture on Dec. 6.

Sullivan, who spoke to an audience at the Chapel, said colleges and universities are facing an array of daunting pressures at a time when the landscape of many faculties will be changing.

“As these pressures mount, we face another challenge because we’re entering a generational turning point with our faculty, with many faculty members approaching retirement age in the next decade,” Sullivan said. “We’re in a watershed moment in the history of higher education.”

At UVA, leaders are planning under the assumption that as much as half of the faculty will retire in the next seven to 10 years, Sullivan said. That same expectation is at many of the colleges and universities across the nation.

“To face all these challenges in the years ahead, we’re going to need strong leaders at every level,” Sullivan said.

Universities and colleges need to focus on better cultivating academic administration careers earlier in faculty members’ careers, Sullivan said. Another area schools need to focus on is proper training for newly appointed academic administrators.

“Newly appointed chairs can do more damage than good for their departments if they’re unprepared for the job,” she said.

Sullivan also argued that it is imperative to make faculty members’ early experiences in leadership-like serving as committee members or department chairs-“consequential and productive.”

“These early experiences have a profound effect on a faculty member’s willingness to take on greater levels of responsibility,” Sullivan said.

She said it is important that colleges and universities foster effective leadership for the challenges and times to come.

“We’re working for this generation, but more importantly we’re working for generations that have not been born,” she said.