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October 11-13, 2021 - Midway, Kentucky

HEI 2021 Presidents Conference

Disruption Through Entrepreneuring: Radical Transformation of Higher Education in a Just-in-Time World



Dr. Mary Landon Darden

President of HEI, Author 

Entrepreneuring the Future to Move Higher Education Institutions from Survive to Thrive

Based on her research, consulting, and her recently released book Entrepreneuring the Future of Higher Education:  Radical Transformation in Times of Profound Change, Darden will cover some of the major danger points for higher education. Her focus is on the radical transformation of liabilities and emerging opportunities to create a renewed and more relevant road to success.



President of the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education

Being a Transformative President: How to Lead Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity at Your Institution

Before the pandemic, during the pandemic, and after the pandemic, higher education needed to accelerate innovation.  What is often left out in those innovation conversations is a strong focus on equity and quality.  

 Leaving any student behind on the innovation highway or a degree pathway hampers sustainable innovation.  DEI are more than initials, they are an innovative way to live out the true mission of higher education.  

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Dr. Sandra Gray

Recent national and international events have required leaders to make significant adjustments to college/university operations and practices.  While the dynamics produce different outcomes, history records change and disruption are a matter of course.  The charge for leaders is to not only remain in a state of readiness for the unexpected, but to discover opportunities that result in effective new paradigms. Successful leaders should embrace the unexpected as windows for innovative pathways to accomplish their institutional mission.   The integration of a relentless passion for higher education and a strong entrepreneurial spirit position Presidents well to advance the quality and direction of higher education by seizing the moment and engineering strategic structural shifts that produce long-term gains.  

Opportunities forged in Disruption:  A Gateway for Strategic Growth

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Dr. Joe D. May

Chancellor OF Dallas College

A Journey to One: Transforming a Community College District of Seven Colleges into One Unified Accredited Institution

The mere notion of consolidating a 54-year-old, seven community college district into one unified institution would likely keep anyone up at night. The decision to move forward, however – even in the midst of a global pandemic -- was simple.


Guided by the mission “to transform lives and communities through higher education”, the former Dallas County Community College District worked extensively to remove barriers between its students and their access to a degree or credential. So, imagine discovering that previous structure essentially did the exact opposite, hurting students’ ability to receive the degrees they so rightfully earned.


Join Dallas College Chancellor Joe May as he details the mammoth undertaking to reimagine one of Texas’ largest community colleges and ultimately, the landscape of higher education. 


Dr. Meredith Woo

President of Sweet Briar College

Importance of Place:  Changes in the Post-Pandemic World

When selecting Sweet Briar as one of the Most Innovative Schools, the 2019 and 2020 U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges rankings noted that in addition to curating an academic curriculum built on its areas of excellence, the College reduced tuition to make the superlative education at Sweet Briar affordable and the true cost more transparent. In the topic “Importance of Place:  Changes in the Post-Pandemic World” President Woo will speak on the importance of the campus as a physical entity, and, experiential education for a liberal arts college like Sweet Briar in the post-pandemic world.

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Dr. Melik Khoury

President and CEO of Unity College

The Radical Transformation of Unity College:  Board Governance, Instruction, Schedules, Structure and More

Unity College President Dr. Melik Peter Khoury is an education entrepreneur with a blend of industry-disrupting vision, strategic financial planning, and managerial expertise that has fostered sustainable growth in higher education for over sixteen years. He is an author and subject matter expert on change 

management, leadership, and organizational design.  At Unity College, Dr. Khoury radically transformed the institution with the Enterprise Model and found the perfect opportunity to leverage what he calls “functional leadership in abundance” as he and his team work to realize Unity’s mission as the nation’s premier environmental college. 

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President of Southwest Tennessee Community College

Redesign, Reinvent, and Reset: Organizing for Large Scale Systemic Change

In 2016, Southwest Tennessee Community College initiated a re-organization to modernize and build a structure to optimize student support services to address a seven-year decline in enrollment.  The College joined Achieving the Dream (ATD) and began the transformational process that has not only resulted in significant improvements in student services but has also positively changed the College culture.

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Dr. Chris Shults

Dean of Borough of Manhattan Community College

Reinventing the Community College Business Model: BMCC’s Journey from a Traditional Community College to one intentionally Redesigned for Student Success

Dr. Munroe and Dr. Shults will be sharing how BMCC has transitioned its business model from one focused primarily on enrollment and transfer to one focused intently on academic and life success as well as strategic alignment of academic programming. Starting with a college-wide intentional redesign effort strengthened by its inclusion as an AACC Guided Pathways 2.0 College, BMCC initiated a culture change process through the use of participatory leadership and involvement, predictive analytics and evidence-based inquiry, and expansion of assessment and evaluation. Building on this momentum and under the leadership of a new president, the College has taken advantage of the urgent need for change, increasing support for workforce development and retraining, and an expanded interest in applied associate degrees to intentionally align academic programming and workforce opportunities, develop micro-pathways with multiple options for credential attainment, and begin establishing itself as a partner hub. Students success, particularly retention, graduation, transfer, and access to short and long-term credentials and high-potential jobs are now central to BMCC’s mission and vision.



President & CeO of Hazard Community & Technical College

Tuesday Night Live: Bringing a Family Approach to Student Success Through an Innovative Comprehensive Intervention Programs

Hazard Community and Technical College (HCTC) has been able to recruit and retain adult students by eliminating both academic and non-academic barriers through its Tuesday Night Live Program.  HCTC 

has seen success through this unique program which provides children's activities while parents attend classes, a healthy meal for all, tutoring, extended hours for services, and flexible academic programs that meet one night per week. Come find out more in this special session! 

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Dr. Juston Pate


Risk and Culture:  How to Create and Lead an Innovative College

In this session, experiences will be shared regarding key strategies and foundations for leading a college into a more entrepreneurial/innovative culture.  These practices led Elizabethtown Community and Technical College to develop new instructional delivery models and move to an eight-week schedule, even in the midst of a national pandemic.




Leadership in These Interesting Times

More than 200 years ago, Abigail Adams wrote her husband a letter – letters for which she is famous – that “These are times in which a genius would wish to live.”  I suggest that these are similar times and, while the genius part is a question left to another time, to report that these are interesting and challenging times is a certainty.  Leadership matters more in such times, and in my session, we will look at “these times” and explore how “good and effective” leaders should prepare themselves to measure up.


Dr. Greg Leman


Creating Innovation Excitement and Momentum that will Disrupt Your Institution and Generate Revenue Streams

Nowhere is inspirational leadership and clear messaging more crucial than in today’s higher education institutions.  Presidents know that in tough times disrupting their institution and making necessary radical changes may be the only things that help their institution 

survive.  Unfortunately, disruption is most often met with resistance and lack of buy-in from stakeholders. Paired with today’s funding challenges, leaders may see no real way forward.  But recent research shows there is a way for presidents to move their institution in the right direction. In this presentation, leaders will learn how to create excitement and build momentum toward a “call to innovation.” Presidents will be provided proven solutions and key communications strategies to help them elicit a positive, campus-wide response, as they launch a new kind of unique, strategy-aligned invitation to innovation on their campus.

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Leadership Strategies for Necessary Change

Entrepreneurial leadership and finance are problematic in higher education. It is difficult to manage against the downside risk and, at the same time, be bold enough to determine which opportunities are worth the risk.  Innovations in organizational leadership, new 

technology adoption and truly supporting students pits leaders against vested interests, institutional inertia and not having enough time to effectively plan. In this session, veteran higher education technology leader Gordon Freedman walks through four arenas of needed change: internal leadership development, part-time external faculty management, full education-to-employment student support, and the most troubling of all general academics, mathematics.  Each case presents a new type of technology necessary to modernize institutions for the future and forms the basis for this session’s discussion of how leaders can manage just-in-time innovations. 

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Emily Downey

Woodford County Chamber of Commerce President/CEO 

Kentucky’s Signature Industries: How Auto Manufacturing, Horse Racing, and Bourbon Have Brought Kentucky International Fame

So, you have always dreamed about going to the Kentucky Derby, sitting in box seats and sipping on a mint julep.  You’ve imagined yourself there dressed to the nines and hobnobbing with royalty. And you

envision your dream ending with you having picked the first-place horse and taking home enough cash winnings to buy a new Lexus ES 350.  Welcome to the great Commonwealth of Kentucky where your dream can come true and where today you’ll meet some of the dream makers.    


Please join Woodford County Chamber President Emily Downey as she moderates a panel discussion among distinguished representatives from Kentucky’s three signature industries—auto manufacturing, equine, and bourbon distilling—as well as higher education experts who work with these industries.  Find out why Toyota (and Ford and General Motors) chose Kentucky for major auto manufacturing facilities, why the blue grass in Central Kentucky helps grow the best thoroughbreds in the world, and why the corn grown in Kentucky is more likely to turn up in a bottle of bourbon than on a dinner plate.   

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An Open Forum on the COVID Pandemic: Challenges and Opportunities for Future Success

Higher education institutions have faced a multitude of challenges since the COVID pandemic first came on the scene in March of 2020.  Four-year colleges and universities have been particularly challenged due to the prevalence of residential students,  a multitude of student activities and organizations, various competitive sports programs, and hard to retrofit facilities.  While some institutions have struggled, others have come up with innovative ways to address the pandemic and even reinvent themselves for the future.  During this forum, Dr. Oleka will lead a forum discussion about institutional challenges and opportunities in a pandemic, and hopefully, in a post-pandemic world.

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