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Through its Institute for Effective Governance® (IEG), the American Council of Trustees and Alumni conducts board retreats specifically designed to help college and university trustees understand the fundamental issues that make governance in higher education a unique challenge.

IEG’s seminars for governing boards leverage ACTA’s expertise as a national voice in higher education governance for the past 23 years, and they draw upon the knowledge of our extensive network of college and university leaders.


As a trustee, ACTA provided me with the intellectual framework to be able to evaluate my institution’s general education programs and provided a road map for their academic improvement.

—Peter Alcock, Trustee at Pine Manor College; former Vice Chair of the
Massachusetts Board of Higher Education


Seminars Offered:

Governance for a New Era®

Ideal for orienting new board members to their responsibilities, or for boards undergoing a transition of leadership, this seminar provides an overview of university board governance based on ACTA’s landmark publication Governance for a New Era.

Topics include:

  • Articulating the Mission: Examines the mission statement of the institution for clarity and looks at the board’s role in evaluating how effectively the institution achieves its mission and goals.
  • Protecting Academic Freedom: Offers various perspectives on the importance of academic freedom and campus freedom of expression and suggestions for how the board can help protect these core values of higher education.
  • Setting the Educational Strategy: Examines institutional offerings with respect to curricular requirements and looks at the proper role of the board in reviewing academic policies.
  • Transparency and Performance: Discusses strategies for measuring performance and ensuring transparency.
  • Selecting and Evaluating the President: Offers strategies and templates for effective techniques of search and selection and provides guidance on how the board can be most effective in oversight and evaluation of the president.

Emerging Issues, National Trends

Crafted for boards engaging in strategic planning, this seminar places contemporary issues in American higher education in their historical and philosophical context.

Topics include:

  • History of Higher Education: Examines the history of higher education in the United States, its European models, and its foundational vision, including the views of the Founders, the rise of land-grant and research institutions in the 19th century, expansion after World War II, and higher education’s changing role in American society.
  • The Basics of the Higher Education Act: Offers an overview of the Higher Education Act of 1965 and its subsequent reauthorizations, especially how it has shaped the higher education landscape since its passage.
  • The History and Function of Accreditation: Examines accreditation, including how it came to be what it is, how it affects institutional budgets, how it works, and ideas for reform that create more efficient, cost-effective quality control.
  • Current Issues and Trends: Discusses current hot topics in higher education, including legislative actions at the state and federal level and policy actions by the Department of Education.

First Principles for Higher Education Leadership

Tailored for boards seeking to bring clarity to their college or university’s academic mission and identity, this seminar provides an overview of the theory and practice of higher education through the lens of philosophy, sociology, political theory, and history.

Topics include:

  • Theories of Education: Examines various theories of education, old and new, as put forth in classic texts ranging from Plato and Aristotle through John Dewey, as well as contemporary authors, including Mortimer Adler, Jacques Barzun, Derek Bok, and Peter McPherson.
  • The Idea of a University: Offers a look at the nature of higher education as presented in John Henry Newman’s The Idea of a University in light of contemporary debates on the roles of professional training and general, liberal education.
  • Education and Democracy: Examines the relationship of education and democracy and looks at the ways in which education helps sustain democratic political cultures and societies and the responsibilities of colleges and universities for civic education and understanding.
  • The Purpose of Liberal Education: Discusses the nature and purpose of liberal education and why it remains an important component of education in the 21st century.

As the higher education-serving organization that best reflects our Board approach and strategy, ACTA has been an important partner to our Board, providing insights and practical counsel about principles we are focused on.

—JoAnn Brouillette, Trustee at Purdue University


Customized Services

IEG can customize any retreat from a selection of these topics described above, or include others of interest on request. Typical modules include:

  • Program Prioritization
  • Administrative Costs
  • Strategic Planning
  • Building a Culture of Free Expression
  • Board Development and Candidate Selection
  • What to Do Before Hiring a Presidential Search Firm

ACTA empowers trustees to make decisions which prepare the university community to participate in the economic, political and cultural life of our nation.

—Carlos M. Azcoitia, Ed.D., Trustee and former
Chairman of the Board, Northeastern Illinois University


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WHO WE ARE

Launched in 1995, we are the only organization that works with alumni, donors, trustees, and education leaders across the United States to support liberal arts education, uphold high academic standards, safeguard the free exchange of ideas on campus, and ensure that the next generation receives an intellectually rich, high-quality college education at an affordable price.

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