Hurd joins weekly online series that aims to unpack how college leaders are making decisions and navigating challenges
By Stella Katsipoutis-Varkanis
On Nov. 15, President Nicole Farmer Hurd made a guest appearance on Weekly Wisdom—an online discussion series hosted by Bridget Burns, executive director of University Innovation Alliance (UIA), and Doug Lederman, editor and founder of Inside Higher Ed—to discuss her new leadership role at Lafayette College.
The weekly motivational series—which is streamed live on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn—aims to unpack how college leaders are making decisions and navigating challenges at this moment in time.
During the sit-down, Hurd discussed how her previous work as founder and CEO of College Advising Corps set the stage for her to now take action as the College’s president and increase opportunities available to students. While her journey in the nonprofit sector was focused on broadening the scale and impact of the country’s largest college-access program, she explained, her focus has now shifted onto deepening her relationships with students, faculty, and staff to ensure student success.
“I believe in relationships, not transactions,” Hurd said.
Hurd went on to explain that liberal arts colleges are a critical component of the higher education tapestry, and it’s important for institutions to adopt an “and” mentality. For example, Lafayette emphasizes the value of blending educational experiences like engineering and liberal arts, academics and athletics, versus spotlighting one over the other.
Lafayette’s 18th president also expressed her excitement about now having the power and opportunity to make, firsthand, impactful changes in the lives of low-income, first-generation, and underrepresented students that she didn’t have before—including the recent steps she took to waive, for families from qualifying high schools, Lafayette’s requirement to complete the complex College Scholarship Service Profile (CSS Profile) in order to receive financial aid.
“We have to stop making low-income students prove they’re low-income over and over and over again,” Hurd said. Leaders in higher ed, she explained, have to ask themselves, “Who are we trying to be? How are we showing up for our students? What barriers are we putting up? And how are we telling them, ‘You are a part of this community’?” A “family” relationship with students, Hurd explained, should be established well before their enrollment and matriculation.
“It is so important that we see, hear, and value each other and be together,” she said. “It’s about making sure we’re supporting our students, our faculty, and staff in ways that lift them all up. It’s about grace and humility, and really listening and being in community. It’s about accountability,” she said. “How do we make sure that we actually do what we say we’re going to do, and that we stop doing things that don’t work and scale things that do?”
To close out the chat, Hurd—who says she is most fulfilled when she is spending time on campus and in the classroom with students—shared some of the best advice she’s received that she believes can be fruitful for all higher education leaders:
“It’s not about time management; it’s about energy management,” she said. “We are most powerful when our heads, our hearts, and our hands are in alignment.”
You can view a recording of the full Weekly Wisdom episode here.