in Higher Ed


Gender discrimination is real. The gendered wage gap is real. The mommy tax is real.

It’s bad for straight white women.

It’s much worse for women with brown and black skin; for lesbians and queer, bi, and trans women; for women whose first langauge is not English; for women who are entering professions as the first in their families or social circles and don’t have allies to support them.

So let’s take a lesson from Machiavelli: look the monster in the face, and determine our best course of action given the lay of the land. Let’s strategize. Not to be brutal, but to lift each other up. 

And let’s take some cues from the book Machiavelli for Women by Stacey Vanek Smith. She identifies four archetypes of nasty female colleagues, and I suggest actionable strategies you can practice this week to protect yourself and the women around you from these types, by being a mentor and an ally.

Mentors & Allies

Now more than ever higher ed needs to model the tenets and tensions of a liberal democracy: one that promotes fact-based debate from multiple perspectives in order to find a communal way forward. In this episode I ruminate on how I came to care about this question in the first place.

The Role of Women Leaders in Educating for Democracy

In this final post of our “back to school” theme for September, I encourage you to take a fresh look at caring for yourself and encourage you to take a Tiny Sabbatical.

A New Kind of Self-Care

Alienation is a natural outcome of systemic accretion: the ongoing increase of tasks and projects that seem OK by themselves all together become impossible and lead to disengagement and burnout. Leaders can reduce alienation by reconnecting people to their purpose at work.

Humanity vs. The Economy

“The power to trust and be trusted is an essential prerequisite to enhancing the department climate.” Mary Lou Higgerson wrote that 26 years ago, and it’s as true now as ever before. 

From “Soulless Opening Year Academic Speeches” to “Calling it Quits” to “Why 2022 is the Year of Workplace Culture,” US employees are hyper-focused on the need for inspiring leadership that fosters vibrant cultures at work. How to get there seems elusive, and so we spend time and money on surveys, 3rd party vendors, and expensive consultants to help us through. 

A large body of research is clear, though, that trust is the key to unlocking a healthy work environment: one that celebrates growth, coaches mistakes, and never resorts to fear, shame, or retaliation. This is not some made-up fantasy: I have lived and led in environments like this, and you can too. I share my favorite strategies, proven over more than 10 years of experimentation, for infusing your leadership and your team with deep and rewarding trust. 

From Toxic to Vibrant: The One Thing You Can Do to Improve Your Campus Climate

Boring meetings are a bad habit. They are expensive, and soul-crushing, and I think we should stop holding them already.

But change is hard, and requires understanding what to stop doing as well as what, and how, to start doing. So I’m kickstarting this for you by dissecting traditional meetings and comparing them to meaningful gatherings. I also list four steps you can take to shift your meetings into purpose gatherings, bringing clarity and possibly even joy to your campus meetings. 

If you’re one of the hundreds of thousands folks around the country who want to kick “meeting malaise” to the curb on your campus, read on!

Making Meetings Matter

three happy, smiling women sitting at a table with their laptops open working on something together.

In this post I share four guidelines and more than 20 actionable strategies for creating THE BEST FIRST DAY EVER! for your students and colleagues.

How to Have the Best First Day Ever

We just welcomed our fourth dog into our family (no, not all at the same time!) and here I am with a 10-week-old puppy in the house and it’s staring me in the face all over again: Everything you need to know about leadership you can learn from raising puppies. Here are the 10 lessons I think are most important. 

the end of alpha

When PWIs use “race” as the primary signifier of diversity, we burden our colleagues with black and brown skin and reify structural and behavioral racism. We can do better.

Unleashing the Creative Power of Diversity by Creating Psychological Safety

If you’ve been following me anywhere on social media or listening to the podcast, you know I’m low-key obsessed with the Dobbs ruling and the way it will affect our college campuses. To my mind, there is no question of whether it will affect colleges…the question is when and how we’ll see those effects: how […]

Planning for an Uncertain Future Through Storytelling 

episode title: planning for an uncertain future through storytelling