Conversation on Higher Education with
Provosts/Chief Academic Officers
Transcript edited by Mary Todd
Anew feature of the convention was a conversation on higher education with chief academic officers. Facilitated by
the Executive Director, the panel included
Loren J. Blanchard, Ph.D., Provost and Senior
Vice President for Academic Affairs at Xavier
University of Louisiana; Brig. Gen. (Retired)
Dana H. Born, Ph.D., Dean of the Faculty at
U.S. Air Force Academy from 2004 to 2013,
now a lecturer in public policy at the Harvard
Kennedy School of Government; and Christine
Bahr, Ph.D., Provost and Dean of the University at McKendree University. We invited these
thought leaders on higher education trends to
address current issues and to take questions
from the audience. We began by asking what
issue most threatens higher education today.
BAHR: McKendree has about 3,000 students.
Certainly enrollment and retention is always the
challenge in a small, private institution. We do a
very good job of bringing students in, but more
and more students have difficulty affording higher education after the first year. So, we really
focus a lot on what we can do to keep students
on the path to graduation, constantly thinking
about programs we can launch to help students
get to the finish line. We focus on quality and
activities that supplement the academic program. In this part of the country, that’s sports.
And that’s another challenge — students are
doing more than just taking classes.
BORN: The Air Force Academy is undergradu-
ate only, 4,000 cadets, very much a liberal arts
experience and very much a balanced
foundation of education, but very scientific and
engineering rich — everybody graduates with a
bachelor of science degree. But a great oppor-
tunity to assess your students through a four-
year experience in athletics, academics, leader-
ship, management and character. One of my
Harvard colleagues, Richard Light, has captured
three priorities we ought to be focused on right
now: the diversity of the student population,
what it means to have liberal education in the
21st century, and global crisis issues. Certainly
the economy is something we all feel.
BLANCHARD: Xavier University of Louisiana is
the only historically black and Catholic university
in the United States. Xavier’s primary signature is
that we have for the past 25 years prepared and
sent the largest number of African-Americans to
From left to right: Facilitator and Phi Kappa Phi Executive Director
Mary Todd, Provost and Dean of the University at McKendree University
Christine Bahr, former Dean of the Faculty at U.S. Air Force Academy
Dana H. Born, and Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs
at Xavier University of Louisiana Loren J. Blanchard share a lighthearted
moment during a panel discussion on issues affecting higher education.
“A sense of humor — levity is just really, really essential,” said Blanchard
when asked about the key qualities and skills of a good provost.
Go online to www.phikappaphi.org/convention for the full video.