Associate provost and director of graduate programs Kenneth Kitts said that administrators in colleges and universities across the country are facing challenges due to the current economic situation and rapidly changing environment of higher education.
“The current era in higher education is marked by dramatic change,” Kitts said after returning from the Institute for Educational Management (IEM) held at Harvard University this summer. “From online learning to funding challenges to increased competition for students, it seems like the old playbook for college administrators is obsolete. We are trying to make sense of a very complex environment and prepare for a future that is likely to be very different from anything we could have imagined.”
Kitts, who was selected to attend the two week program along with 93 other administrators from colleges and universities around the world, said that it was a pleasure to work and learn alongside his peers through multiple small-group sessions. Kitts said that he found that his time learning with other administrators at the IEM provided him with new tools and fresh ideas on how to tackle rising issues in higher education.
“It’s an exciting time, but also a little unsettling,” Kitts said. “I found it reassuring to know that other schools face similar challenges. As you would expect, there was lots of talk about the economic downturn and the current financial pressures on higher education.”
According to Kitts, the IEM, which was conducted by Harvard faculty and nationally-known guest speakers, served to remind him how fortunate FMU is to have such an open and cooperative culture.
“I came away from IEM with a newfound appreciation for Francis Marion University,” Kitts said. “In comparing notes with colleagues from other schools, it became clear that we have something very special going on here. We’re not perfect, but our sense of purpose is very strong at FMU. We also get along with each other – students, faculty, staff, and administrators – and that degree of unity is often lacking on college campuses.”
According to Kitts, his time at the IEM provided him with plenty of material to bring back and share with his colleagues at FMU as they continue to strive towards that unity. Some of the topics that were covered throughout the program included managing for change, leadership transitions, working with governing boards and college finance. The participants even spent a day working with a psychologist who helped them identify their weak areas as administrators and gave advice for how to improve those areas.
Kitts said that he would recommend the IEM to anyone interested in educational leadership, and that the Harvard faculty truly lived up to their reputation.
“The whole experience really served to reinforce the value of what we do in higher education and the need to make sure we do it well,” Kitts said. “When we get it right as administrators, our students are the big winners.”
Kitts became a member of the FMU faculty in 1987 and held previous positions at the University of South Carolina and Appalachian State University. He is the author of a book titled “Presidential Commissions and National Security: The Politics of Damage Control,” and he was the first recipient of the Florence World Affairs Council’s Citizen Diplomat Award in 2000. Kitts was also named FMU’s Distinguished Professor for the 2002-2003 school year.