Many years ago I participated in a seminar titled “Leading from Within.” The experience was fascinating and made a lasting impression on me. The essential idea was that leadership begins with what’s inside us—our most deeply held values. The purpose of the seminar was to help each of us explore our values and how they inform our leadership.
Many campuses pay lip service to values, but few seek to live those they espouse. For some it’s a marketing message. For others it’s an expression of institutional history, not current reality.
Central College’s values are part of what drew me to the college nearly a decade ago. Admittedly, we do not always achieve these ideals. But the measure of their worth is not that we lose sight of them from time to time, but that we muster the courage to make a change to realign with them. Our values call us to a higher commitment. When we make such commitments, we find ways to reclaim our values as time passes and circumstances change.
Our announcement of a new annual tuition price (see “Central Leads the Way”) is a good example. It would be easy to see this move as a purely tactical decision to gain a competitive advantage. However, after years of research and analysis coupled with careful thought and deliberation, the decision rested not on spreadsheets and survey reports. Rather, our choice reached into our most deeply held values as an academic community.
One of these values is authenticity. The gradual distortion of pricing in higher education has led to dysfunction as intensely initiated tuition levels yielded equally initiated discounts in the form of financial aid. Central’s values called us to a more honest price that reflects the true cost of educating a student at the level of excellence we expect. It’s a simple and straightforward task now to say, “Here is what we are trying to achieve on behalf of students and here is what it costs to be successful in that endeavor.”
Families today are bewildered by published prices that seem at odds with their own values. For many, the typical published tuition price for a private college is more than they would spend on anything. It just doesn’t make sense. And they are right.
We discover our values when we take a long, hard look in the mirror and ask ourselves the toughest question: “Is this who we are?” Beyond all the data analysis, the answer was clear.
I am deeply proud of our academic community for making the commitment to lead with our values.