The Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) is hosting seven “Talking About Private Colleges: Busting the Myths” workshops throughout the country between September 2019 and October 2020. The workshops provide participants with accurate data and persuasive arguments about private colleges and universities and help prepare them to influence community opinion through informal conversations with friends, neighbors, elected officials, and local businesspeople. CIC members institutions and state councils are invited to send a team of 4–7 people, selected by the president, to any one of the workshops.
On February 27, teams from Lewis & Clark College, Linfield University, and Warner Pacific University, as well as Alliance Interim President Brent Wilder, Alliance Director of Marketing, Grants, and Research Lori Silverman, six private institutions in Washington state, and staff from the Independent Colleges of Washington, attended the workshop at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, WA.
The workshop agenda included presentations and discussions about strong answers to tough questions, making the case for why private colleges matter, how presidents counter misperceptions, and sharing institutional facts and stories. Lewis & Clark College President Wim Wiewel (pictured right) served as a panelist during the discussion about how presidents counter misperceptions, sharing how he has successfully fielded difficult questions about higher education and private higher education institutions.
The workshop went well beyond a “listen and learn” format. There were interactive “lightning rounds” to address specific topics (e.g. access, affordability, student outcomes) and explore relevant research findings. Over lunch, participants were seated with colleagues in similar roles at other institutions for an informal exchange about private college myths and facts. Role-playing exercises allowed attendees to practice responding to specific questions with references to key data points. Every participant had a chance to ask and answer questions and then, as a group, all the participants critiqued and discussed a few sample conversations. Finally, the program concluded with a chance to “bring it home,” as institutional teams considered data and communication strategies specific to their own institutions in the context of the national data—and planned ways to share what they learned with their colleagues on campus and members of their local communities.
“Given the challenges Oregon’s private colleges have faced recently, this workshop was both timely and helpful,” said Alliance Interim President Brent Wilder (pictured left). “It was great to see genuine, realistic, and cross-institutional conversations happening between Oregon and Washington institutions. The workshop provided attendees with numerous sound bites and detailed responses to common myths and difficult questions. The fact that presidents, faculty, staff, and trustees took a full day to learn best practices, challenge each other, and practice answering tough questions demonstrates the importance of the workshop and its topic.”