CIC’s report, A Study of Chief Academic Officers of Independent Colleges and Universities, examines the characteristics, responsibilities, and career trajectories of chief academic officers (CAOs) of the nation’s small and mid-sized private, nonprofit colleges and universities. Using data from the American Council on Education’s The CAO Census: A National Profile of Chief Academic Officers, CIC analyzed the career pathways; demographic characteristics such as gender, race/ethnicity, and age; major field of study; current duties and responsibilities, including levels of satisfaction, time-consuming activities, best and most challenging relationships, and greatest frustrations; and career aspirations, looking specifically at CAOs’ interest in a college presidency. Comparisons were made between CAOs of CIC member institutions and CAOs of four major sub-sectors: public baccalaureate and master’s level institutions, private doctoral universities, public doctoral universities, and public two-year colleges.
Chief academic officers of independent colleges and universities are the principal leaders and managers of the academic programs of the institutions they serve. The core functions of higher education—teaching students, conducting scholarly research, and service to the academic community—usually fall under their purview. In many cases, CAOs serve as the second executive leader of the institution, behind the president, often with oversight of institutional operations beyond the academic program. Despite these important responsibilities, few comprehensive studies have been conducted to examine the characteristics and duties of CAOs, and of these studies, none has focused on the CAOs of the nation’s small and mid-sized private colleges and universities.
Since 2008, the Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) has pursued a research agenda to support professional development for leaders of small and mid-sized private colleges and universities. An initial report, “A Study of Career Patterns of the Presidents of Independent Colleges and Universities
,” examined the various career routes and characteristics of first-time presidents. Given the earlier finding that presidents of CIC colleges and universities are less likely to have been CAOs than their presidential colleagues serving in other types of institutions (except for presidents of private research universities) and the concern among trustees and search consultants about an adequate pool of qualified candidates for presidential vacancies, CIC is particularly interested in the aspirations of CAOs to the college presidency.
CIC is grateful to the American Council on Education for providing access to data from The CAO Census.
Funder: American Academic Leadership Institute and Academic Search, Inc.