The Learning Alliance for Higher Education
Campus Roundtable Program
The Campus Roundtable Program is a facilitated on-campus dialogue to help colleges and universities formulate institutional strategies for academic renewal. In the tradition of the Pew Higher Education Roundtable, the campus roundtable provides occasion for members of a college or university community – which may include faculty, administration, alumni, and trustees – to affirm the institution's core values and outline a strategic direction to ensure its continued success in achieving those values. The campus roundtable helps an institution to identify strategic priorities, formulate strategic goals, and define the organizational steps needed to move the institution in a strategic direction.
In 1993, the Pew Roundtable extended the scope of its efforts, beginning a series of campus-based roundtable discussions that sought to improve quality, contain costs, and sustain the values that define the learning communities of individual colleges and universities. Over 150 institutions nationwide have participated in campus roundtables. Today the Campus Roundtable Program is a component of the Learning Alliance for Higher Education, based at the University of Pennsylvania.
Effective change presupposes an institution's ability to come together around a common set of values and educational goals – to rise above individual differences and see itself whole. The premise of a campus roundtable is that a college or university gains strength both academically and operationally when its constituents speak collectively and engage in constructive dialogue. A roundtable serves as a forum both for voicing individual thoughts on the challenges facing an institution and for forming a collective understanding of those challenges within the campus community. The roundtable is not a standing committee or an implementation group, but rather a community seminar in which participants are encouraged to explore ideas together in a candid and trusting environment.
In some instances, one or more senior members of the Learning Alliance visit the campus and interview the roundtable participants about the key issues confronting the campus; a summary of the results of these interviews is then provided as an agenda memorandum before the first roundtable. A roundtable consists of 25 to 30 individuals. The participants are, above all, people who enjoy talking about and listening to ideas, and who are capable of checking their constituent hats at the door. Roundtable participants are also loyal members of the community, skilled at weighing the choices their college or university must make in fulfilling its educational mission, maintaining quality, and reducing costs. Roundtable participants represent the culture of the community, but they are not members of an institutional "ark." Often a substantial proportion of the participants are faculty, though the composition can vary according to a roundtable’s particular purpose.
Facilitation and Written Summary
The conversations of the roundtable are facilitated by a nationally recognized figure in higher education, someone with broad knowledge of relevant issues and skill in eliciting focused discussion. The role of the facilitator is to guide the discussion much as a seminar leader would, drawing together the general themes articulated by roundtable members and providing summaries at regular intervals. Toward the end of each campus roundtable meeting, the facilitator provides a verbal summation of the key themes that were discussed and asks for final comment. A summary of the roundtable’s central themes and direction is prepared. This document serves a useful purpose for the institution, both in identifying key issues and recounting particular language participants have used to describe those issues.
Following completion of the roundtable discussions, the senior advisor continues to maintain contact with the institution to learn of progress made in the campus planning effort, and to consider possible avenues for sustaining the momentum generated by the roundtable process.