min read

The inaugural 2019 Convergence Forum is a new EDUCAUSE-Deloitte event intended to explore critical topics common across higher education institutions, especially among C-suite leaders.

patchwork image of short, linearly-aligned arrows with several skipping to other rows
Credit: Olivier Le Moai / © 2019

It is always exciting to have the opportunity to talk with leaders throughout higher education, at all types of colleges and universities. Each institution has different priorities, different challenges, and different cultures. And yet beneath those differences lies a common set of interests such as student success, affordability, the role of modern technology, management of an ever-evolving set of risks, and the changing perceptions of higher education. Shared interests across different settings form the magic that makes professional networks worth cultivating. It is wonderful to meet people with divergent experiences that overlap with ours just enough to enable us to learn and grow—and often to make lifelong colleagues.

The dissonances of dissimilarity on campus can be difficult and consequential. The varying roles and responsibilities of the president, chief academic officer, chief business officer, chief information officer, and other C-level positions result in divergent perspectives, ways of working, ways of thinking, and ways of communicating. Despite shared missions and best intentions, leaders can still find themselves struggling to come together in the face of so many different perspectives and ways of getting things done.

Yet the institutional leaders the two of us meet all want to move past the barriers of language, experience, and viewpoint: they want to spend more time with leaders in roles other than their own, learning not just from one another but with one another.

We wanted to help. So we began talking about how to help these leaders examine their most pressing problems from the multiple perspectives that exist within institutions and how to foster their ability to move beyond divergence to achieve convergence of mind, intention, and action. We talked about holding an intimate, relaxed, and stimulating event that would invite presidents, CAOs, CBOs, CIOs, and other C-level leaders to gather and learn together. Our conversations across more than a year have led to our inaugural Convergence Forum to be held in June 2019 in Toronto. We are gathering a group of 100 leaders in different roles from varying types of institutions to explore common important topics: the future of work on teaching and learning, effective board and trustee interaction strategies, the need to find the right talent in today's challenging environment, evolving business models in higher education, and the impact of AI and machine learning. We believe the conversations at the Convergence Forum will give attendees new insights, not just about the topics but also about how to bridge institutional chasms to advance higher education. Our two organizations are bringing to the Convergence Forum what we do best: EDUCAUSE brings its convening power, its trusted role as a professional association, and its inclusive, expansive network of members. Deloitte brings its considerable experience beyond higher education on analogous challenges, its relationships with higher education business and institutional leaders, and its state-of-the art executive education facilities in Toronto, Canada.

This year's Convergence Forum is a small step in a direction that we hope will help make a big stride forward and will help foster the kinds of campus collaborations and mutual understandings that are needed now more than ever before.

If you'd like to request an invitation to attend this new convening, please contact [email protected] by June 1, 2019.

John O'Brien is President and CEO of EDUCAUSE.

Cole Clark is Managing Director, Higher Education, for Deloitte.

© 2019 John O'Brien and Cole Clark. The text of this work is licensed under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 4.0 International License.