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A Love Letter to Higher Education Leaders



April 1, 2020

On this first day of April, in a year that already feels like a year of long months, I'm sending wishes for strength, health and grace in the days ahead. 


You are leading amidst the most extraordinary time in living memory for higher education. This is a moment when all of the ways our institutions create certainty for our students, faculty, staff, communities and the broader world seem at once uncertain. 


And yet, as I travel alongside you I see you being resourceful and innovative, meeting each new uncertainty with grace. As the waves of this pandemic crash upon your campus shores, you are


  • creating solutions for students that extend far beyond their educational needs


  • prototyping innovations for the shortage of healthcare equipment


  • marshaling resources to meet community needs


  • building dynamic public health models to inform decision makers and educate our citizens


  • leading through the complexity with a focus on finding clarity, generating choices and building connections for your institution and those you lead. 


You are doing all of this while learning, learning, learning to work in new environments, juggle new dynamics with children and care in new ways for aging family. You are holding the heavy weight of worry for all the loves in your life and grief for what has already been lost. 


If you are exhausted, you’ve more than earned it. You are doing extraordinary work. 


And, if you have not already done so, it is time to put on your oxygen mask. This is a marathon and for good reason, you’ve been operating as if it is a sprint. Now though is the time. You must pause, take stock of how you are doing physically, emotionally, spiritually.




Ask. How am I doing? How ready am I for the marathon?


Long after this “fog of war” subsides, your teams, students, campuses, families and communities will need your creativity, pragmatic optimism and care more than ever. Think of today as a moment you don’t get back, a moment in which the planning and preparation matters. 


What is one thing you can do each day to build your resilience for the long run ahead? 


What is one thing that can bring you from the worry of the future to reality of the present


What is one act that can fuel you? 


Here are a few ideas I’ve been collecting.


Reflect Start each day with a beautiful question that serves you. Here are a few of my favorites.


  • What am I grateful for? 


  • What am I letting go of today? 


  • What am I learning today?

  • What beauty am I creating, cultivating or inviting today? (a beautiful question from Laurie Ellington) 


Connect  “We are hardwired for connection and we can not do hard things without it. (Brené Brown)” Who can you connect with that brings a smile, laughter, calm, a soft landing? Who are you connecting with today and in the days ahead as a source of support? 


Grow This time will require new growth. Plant a seedling, place it somewhere you can pause to take stock of each day, watch it grow in the next few months, use it as a marker of time and a reminder you are growing too. 


Appreciate Get outside, be present to the world coming alive. Notice what is coming alive within you. This will prove to be a good reminder of strength and resilience in the days ahead. 



Thank you for giving your life to the worthy work of higher education and being the leader we need.

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