What’s driving shifts in higher ed leadership? Social pressures, pandemic exhaustion and declining enrollment

Carlow University President Kathy Humphrey speaks during at interview at the school on Friday, Oct. 28, 2022, in Oakland. (Photo by Stephanie Strasburg/PublicSource)

Amid leadership changes at six of 11 local higher education institutions, academia looks to spread its benefits beyond the campus boundaries.

by Emma Folts, PublicSource

When Kathy Humphrey met with a nursing executive at UPMC last year, the Carlow University president asked what the health system needed. Was it more licensed practical nurses? More registered nurses? Her response, according to Humphrey, was: “I need it all.”

Carlow doesn’t have a program for licensed practical nurses. But because of the university’s conversations with UPMC and other members of the healthcare sector, Carlow is developing a program that will ideally launch this fall, Humphrey said. 

“That’s what I have to be, and Carlow has to be, constantly in pursuit of: What is the next great need that is connected to the work that we do every day?” she said.

Humphrey, who became Carlow’s president in July 2021, said she believes that connecting with other sectors to address community needs will help the university stay relevant. Since she took the helm, there have been plenty of new connections to make across local government, philanthropy and economic development — including with the new head of UPMC, Leslie Davis. 

This package was produced in partnership with Pittsburgh Magazine, which has been covering the city and western Pennsylvania since 1969.

In the higher education sector, six out of 11 local institutions have replaced their presidents or chancellors or have announced the departures of their current leaders since January 2021. As the county undergoes a changing of the guard, new leaders are applying fresh perspectives and novel ideas to help revitalize Pittsburgh and develop academic offerings that align with the city’s shifting needs.

“We are supposed to be committed not just to ourselves, but to the greater society,” said Humphrey. “And we have to role model that for our students.”

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