Bethany College President, Advocate for College Leaders’ ‘Bully Pulpit,’ Third Leading National Op-Ed Writer

BETHANY, W.Va. –Identified in a national study of college and university opinion writers as the third leading contributor of op-ed pieces and special presidential communications, Bethany President Scott D. Miller continues advocating for the effectiveness of college leaders’ ‘bully pulpit.’  

Dr. Miller was included in “Who is Writing the Op-eds? The Presidents Behind the Words,” by Roland H. King of PhairAdvantage Communications, as one of the “Top 16 Presidents Publishing Op-eds.” Dr. Miller ranked third in the survey behind Wesleyan University in Connecticut’s Michael Roth. Four of the top writers were presidents of residential liberal arts colleges, including Roth (1), Miller (3), Christopher Nelson, St. John’s College (4), and Daniel Porterfield, Franklin & Marshall College (5). rolandking2.jpg

According to King, the study identified those presidents who were most prolific in expressing their views – the Top 14.  That select group includes both male and female presidents, and representatives from every sector of nonprofit higher education – public four-year, public two-year, and private.

Although the study noted that women presidents account for only 18 percent of the opinion pieces, and community colleges, special-purpose and some other institutions are seriously underrepresented as to their presidents lending their voices to the public discourse, Dr. Miller has long advocated for college CEO’s to utilize the campus ‘bully pulpit’ to the advantage of their colleges and universities.

Now in his 24th year as a college or university president, Dr. Miller was a newspaper journalist early in his career and has taught the topic at the college and university level.

“The public does listen to the influential voice of the higher-education presidency, collectively and individually,” Dr. Miller states. “Matters of national social, economic, cultural, and even political importance find their way to our campuses as to all other sectors of society, and most college or university presidents, despite their possible reluctance to speak out, do have something of substance to say in the public arena.”

King’s study demonstrates that the public voice of higher-education leaders is, in many cases, heard more often now than in the recent past.

“For years, higher education critics have complained that college presidents are reluctant to speak out on social and federal policy issues,” King notes.  “These findings show that perception is misguided and unwarranted.  There are a lot of voices speaking out eloquently and forcefully on a wide range of topics, including some of the most controversial issues facing the country.”

Topics of the presidential op-eds analyzed include race relations, immigration, climate change, incarceration, returning veterans, gender issues, and the proliferation of firearms.  Campus issues presidents have addressed include sexual assaults, alcohol, college access for low-income students, free speech, college cost and debt, emotionally unstable students, and abuses in sports programs. 

Bethany’s Dr. Miller welcomes the trend of presidents expressing their views. In his own commentaries, he has often addressed the increased regulatory climate that influences campuses, shifting expectations by college students and their families about the value of a four-year degree, and a general need for transparency and more effective communication by higher-education institutions. Dr. Miller’s op-eds are carried in “The Huffington Post” and collected on his blog page (“Dialogue”) and on the Bethany College website (www.bethanywv.edu). He is a regular columnist for “College Planning and Management,” “Enrollment Manager,” and “The State Journal,” and edits “Presidential Perspectives,” a best-practices thought series for college and university presidents that has resulted in nine books. For the last nine years, Dr. Miller and Dr. Marylouise Fennell, senior counsel for the Council of Independent Colleges, have served as co-executive editors of “Presidential Perspectives”  (Aramark Higher Education, Philadelphia).

One concern noted in the PhairAdvantage study is the limited representation of female presidents in the opinion pieces studied.  While women constitute 26 percent of all nonprofit college presidents (according to American Council on Education data), only 18 percent of the op-eds studied were written by women presidents. 

“There is a crying need for gender equity in policy-making and in shaping public views of the issues facing society,” King says.  “I see women presidents’ voices as essential in that ongoing debate.”

Another concern is the disparate representation of some types of institutions.  “We found that 70 percent of the op-eds studied were by private college presidents,” he notes, “with 45 percent written by those heading baccalaureate institutions, which are predominantly private colleges.”

The next largest subset – another 24 percent of the opinion pieces – are those with the Carnegie classification of master’s colleges and universities.  King notes that nearly two-thirds of the master’s institutions are private as well.  The smaller but highly influential group of doctorate-granting universities, which is 60 percent public and 40 percent private, accounts for another 16 percent of the op-eds studied.

This is the second time this month that Dr. Miller has attracted national attention as a higher-education advocate. He is one of 22 leaders of Canadian and American colleges and universities featured in a new book released last week on social media in higher education.

The book "#Follow The Leader – Lessons in Social Media Success from #HigherEdCEOs," by Dan Zaiontz, was published by EDUniverse Media and is available for purchase in paperback from mStoner (https://www.mstoner.com/thought-leadership/follow-the-leader/) or Amazon Kindle and the iTunes Bookstore. 

In this groundbreaking work, Zaiontz provides insights and tips for leaders in higher education who want to adopt social media — or learn how to use it more effectively.  Through research and interviews with the 22 leaders, Zaiontz learned what strategies and tactics leaders found most effective — and which to avoid to mitigate risk. Filled with insights, anecdotes, and profiles of leaders who have successfully used social media in their roles as college and university presidents, this book offers sound advice to novices and experts alike—and to those who advise them.

For example, the book covers how trusted presidential advisers, including marketing and communications staff, can strategically support their organizational leaders in delivering more compelling and effective social media content.

Zaiontz, who specializes in social media strategy, speechwriting, and corporate communications, works in Strategic Planning and Public Affairs, and serves as a professor at Seneca College in Toronto. In his former sports, PR and communications roles, he represented the official Canadian broadcasters of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games and the Toronto Blue Jays.

Highly regarded nationally as an outspoken advocate of the value of a residential liberal arts education, Dr. Miller is widely considered one of the most active social media presidents in the country.  His social media presence was discussed in a local feature “Being College President in 140 Characters or Less”: http://www.bethanywv.edu/about-bethany/news/2014-15-news-archive/being-college-president-140-characters-or-less/ 

Dr. Miller is now in his 24th year as a higher-education CEO and his eighth year as President and M.M. Cochran Professor of Leadership Studies at Bethany College, a nationally ranked liberal arts institution and West Virginia's oldest degree-granting college or university. He was previously President of Wesley College (1997-2007) and Lincoln Memorial University (1991-97). He is Chair of the Board of Directors of Academic Search, Inc., and the Independent College Enterprise.

He has been featured in several books in recent years, including “The First 120 Days:  What a New College President Must Do to Succeed”; “The Entrepreneurial College President”;  “The Small College Guide to Financial Health”; and “Born, Not Made: The Entrepreneurial Personality.”

King, Senior Strategic Communications Advisor at PhairAdvantage Communications and former National Association of Independent Colleges & Universities (NAICU) Vice President of Public Affairs, directs the Presidential Op-eds Project.  

Based in Washington, D.C., PhairAdvantage Communications, LLC is an independent consulting firm providing global public relations and marketing consulting services with a special focus on education and nonprofit associations. King is in his second year as Senior Strategic Communications Advisor at PhairAdvantage.  He most recently served as Vice President for Public Affairs at the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU) in Washington, D.C., for 15 years, retiring in 2013. NAICU’s members are the presidents of nearly 1,000 private colleges and universities, as well as the CEOs of more than 70 specialized private college associations.