Leading a Small College or University

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Leading a Small College or University: A Conversation That Never Ends


Harry Peterson (BIO)

President Emeritus
Western State College of Colorado

Former Chief of Staff, Office of the Chancellor
Emeritus Affiliate, WISCAPE
University of Wisconsin-Madison

Book Cover: Leading a Small College or University


Few works on presidential leadership in higher education focus on the unique aspects of small colleges and universities. Too often leaders treat these universities as smaller versions of larger institutions and, while extensively trained in academic disciplines as faculty, typically acquire an understanding of their organization only through this limited experience. This is scant preparation for the difficult job of leading a complex university in the 21st century.

Under WISCAPE sponsorship, Harry Peterson, a long-time administrator and leader in higher education, has written a guide designed to help small college presidents—or those preparing for a presidency at some point in their careers—obtain a thorough understanding of their organization. Leading a Small College or University: A Conversation That Never Ends is also useful for other leaders in small colleges and universities who play important roles in their institutions.

Peterson supports his ideas with the theoretical work of several higher education scholars and his own extensive experience as a small college president. He has held senior administrative positions at three institutions and a central system administration and has reported to six chancellors and presidents. Peterson’s administrative career culminated with the presidency of Western State College, a small institution in Colorado. He also earned a doctorate from the UW-Madison Department of Educational Policy Studies, where he studied leadership and organizational change.
Peterson discusses the many challenges, opportunities, and other issues associated with being the president of a small college or university,including:

  •     Understanding the organization of universities;
  •     Recognizing and utilizing the unique characteristics of small institutions;
  •     Sources of influence for small college presidents;  
  •     Availability and mobilization of authority at small universities;
  •     Responsibilities and activities of effective presidents;
  •     Choosing and leading a senior team;
  •     External relations;
  •     A walkthrough for the first year of the presidency; and
  •     How and why presidents fail.

Purchasing Information

Leading a Small College or University is available from Atwood Publishing and Amazon.com.

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