Scott Beard Leadership Circle

Leadership Development Circle
Class of 2024: July 23-26
Hosted by Sonoma State

Beard Leadership Circle

The Beard Leadership Circle is tailored to the unique needs of leaders at public liberal arts colleges. The BLC expands strategic skills, trust, and peer networks to help COPLAC administrators work effectively with their institutional missions, lead their academic units, and support student and faculty success.

Who should participate in BLC 2024?
Current or in-coming department chairs or academic unit leaders who want to advance their leadership skills and are committed to participating in the BLC activities.
Why participate in BLC 2024?
The Beard Leadership Circle is an investment in the health of your institution at a time when we all face new challenges, current realities like state funding, enrollment challenges, changing student demographics, and ongoing demands on students, faculty, staff, administrators, and programs. 

COPLAC institutions have a different set of contexts for leadership than any other sector of American higher education. Our size and mission often separate us from larger public institutions, and our public focus, governance structure, and funding models often separate us from similarly sized private institutions. COPLAC campuses face similar needs and challenges in identifying, developing, and recruiting academic leaders who can make a compelling case for the public liberal arts mission.

The BLC addresses these objectives:
  • Reflecting on your leadership journey and identity
  • Gaining deeper exposure to a range of issues, approaches, contexts, challenges, and successes
  • Creating collaborative learning communities
  •  Adapting and adopting practices that advance collaborative action

And the 2024 BLC focuses on these topics and leadership skills for department chairs.

Administrative Topics Administrative Skills
Academic Reorganization Managing Change
Budgets and Budget Models Effective Delegation
Curriculum: Trends and Data-Driven Decision-Making for Reform Dealing with Messy Issues
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (policies, curriculum) Collaboration
Faculty Workload Administering with Emotional Intelligence
Assessing Organizational Structures Leading Colleagues: Accountability and Boundaries
Engaging and Mentoring Faculty Saying No
How to be nominated for BLC 2024
The Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges invites your campus to participate in the fourth Beard Leadership Circle. The 2024 iteration will work with department chairs/program directors and features virtual events in spring 2024 and culminates with in-person workshops held at Sonoma State University in Rohnert Park, CA from 23 July to 26 July 2024.

Nomination Process & Applicant Requirements
  • CAOs should discuss the Beard Leadership Circle with interested early- to mid-career department chairs/program directors, including prospective chairs. Nominated department chairs should be dreamers and doers, demonstrate a clear interest in leadership, and be totally committed to participating in the BLC activities (see below: What to expect from BLC 2024), including the mandatory in-person session in California from 23 to 26 July 2024.
  • CAOs may nominate up to three department chairs.
  • The COPLAC Office will send a nomination link to COPLAC CAOs in January 2024.
  • Nominations from CAOs must be received by the COPLAC Office before Friday, 16 February 2024. Approximately 40 participants will be accepted for the BLC Class of 2024.
What to expect from BLC 2024
Conducted virtually during Spring 2024 and in-person in July, our format of intensive, problem-based workshops allows teams or individuals from institutions to focus on crucial issues and skills. 

Senior COPLAC administrators will facilitate workshop sessions and mentor attendees, encouraging “communities of practice” to create a network for departmental leadership within a public liberal arts context. 

For the spring 2024 virtual events, participants will share a brief response (300-500 words) to the first of three case studies, give written feedback to a small group of colleagues’ responses, and meet virtually to discuss the issues presented in the first case.

The July 2024 in-person gathering features workshops on second and third case studies; presentations on skills; and discussions. 

After the spring virtual events and July in-person event, the Beard Leadership Circle will continue throughout fall 2024 with optional virtual meetings that can build relationships and foster the sharing of ideas and models. 
Case Study Discussions (June & July 2024)
At the center of the BLC curriculum are small group discussions of three case studies that explore issues relevant to leading – not just managing – a department at a public liberal arts college. These case studies focus on issues of change, budget, resources, curriculum, mission, and/or personnel.
Workshop Sessions (July 2024)
The BLC Team has designed discussions, workshops, and sessions that focus on such leadership topics as:
  • Academic Reorganization
  • Budgets and Budget Models
  • Curriculum: Trends and Data-Driven Decision-Making for Reform
  • Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (policies, curriculum)
  • Faculty Workload
  • Assessing Organizational Structures
  • Engaging and Mentoring Faculty

And on such leadership skills as:

  • Managing Change
  • Effective Delegation
  • Dealing with Messy Issues
  • Collaboration
  • Administering with Emotional Intelligence
  • Leading Colleagues: Accountability and Boundaries
  • Saying No
When is BLC 2024?
Timeline for Participants

16 February 2024 – department chair nominations from CAOs close
March 2024 – notification of acceptance to the 2024 BLC cohort and acceptance from nominees
12 April 2024 – a 90-minute virtual session to meet the facilitators, cohort peers, and overview of the BLC curriculum
Mid June 2024 – a 60-minute virtual session for mentored, small group discussion of the first case-study
23 - 26 July 2024 – an intensive, in-person, four-day program at Sonoma State University, a COPLAC campus.  Participation at this gathering is mandatory. In-person programming will not be livestreamed or otherwise recorded. 
Where is BLC 2024?
The setting for the four-day July, in-person component of the Beard Leadership Circle is at Sonoma State University in lovely Sonoma County, California, located conveniently close to metropolitan airports in San Francisco and Oakland. Campus housing, in SSU’s apartment-style residential facilities, will be available to reduce costs and create a sense of community. Either before or after the Beard Leadership Circle, participants can hike our regional and state parks, visit the ocean, and explore our famous wineries. 
How much does BLC 2024 cost?
COPLAC is working to keep registration fees and other costs affordable. We know your campus faces tough choices about where it spends money. Costs for the 2024 cohort are finalized and will remain the same as last year’s (2023).

Early Registration Fee (1 February - 15 March 2024) 
$1200 without housing, but including meals for the four-day gathering in late July 2024.
$1600 with on-campus housing and meals for the four-day gathering in late July 2024.

Standard Registration Fee (16 March- 1 April 2024)
$1500 without housing, but including meals for the four-day gathering in late July 2024.
$1900 with on-campus housing and meals for the four-day gathering in late July 2024. 

Participants’ travel is not included in the registration fees. However a few Scott Beard Leadership Circle Travel Scholarships are offered to help cover travel costs to the in-person workshops for participants whose institutions are struggling financially. We offer six (6) $750 Travel Scholarships to participants for the 2024 workshop in July at Sonoma State University. CAOs for nominated participants should contact the COPLAC Office to apply for a travel scholarship by 15 March 2024.
Why is it called the Beard Leadership Circle?
COPLAC named the Leadership Circle after Dr. Scott Beard, a provost at Shepherd University.  Before his untimely death in 2021, Scott served COPLAC as an At-Large Member of the Executive Committee, as the Chair of the working group that developed the Online Course Sharing Guidelines and registration form, as a member of the Membership Committee, and as an active member of the Leadership Circle planning group. In all these roles, Scott generously shared his significant intelligence, organizational skills, and administrative acumen. Just as importantly, COPLAC benefited from his humor, his spontaneous singing, his collegiality, and his commitment to our mission to promote affordable, public access to a liberal arts based education. 

This initiative has been renamed the Scott Beard Leadership Circle to honor Scott’s contributing his time in planning, writing case studies, and mentoring deans, associate deans, associate provosts.
Meet the BLC Facilitators and Staff
Karen Moranski (Sonoma State University), Chair
Jennifer Amox (Midwestern State University)
Claire Bailey (COPLAC)
Troi Carlton (Sonoma State University)
Eric Dickson (Truman State University)
Katie Gantz (St. Mary’s College of Maryland)
Susan Hangen (Ramapo College)
Randall Helmstutler (University of Mary Washington)
Candace Nadon (Ft. Lewis College)
Raymond Ozley (University of Montevallo)
Mykola Polyuha (Commonwealth University of Pennsylvania)
Kim Purdy (Sonoma State University)
Bill Salka (Eastern Connecticut State University)
Nicholle Schuelke (University of Wisconsin Superior)
Nicole Schutter (Northern State University)
Hannah Walters  (Northern State University)
Cole Woodcox (COPLAC)
Past BLC Cohorts
Past BLC Cohorts by YearHere’s the link (read only)
Past BLC Cohorts by InstitutionHere’s the link (read only)

COPLAC institutions have a different set of contexts for leadership than any other sector of American higher education. Our size and mission often separate us from larger public institutions, and our public focus, governance structure, and funding models often separate us from similarly sized private institutions. COPLAC campuses face similar needs and challenges in identifying, developing, and recruiting academic leaders who can make a compelling case for the public liberal arts mission. To promote leadership capacity at our individual institutions and within the public liberal arts sector of higher education, COPLAC will host a three-day professional development workshop in July 2024 for early- to mid-career department chairs/program directors, including prospective chairs, at COPLAC member institutions. Participants will be able to engage with COPLAC peers to address common challenges, develop professional networks, share resources, and build decision-making strategies.

“This is an extraordinarily difficult time to be a leader in Higher Ed. The opportunity to have these conversations was valuable for me as an individual to have a sense that I am on the right track.”
2021 BLC Participant

Our format of intensive, problem-based workshops allows participants to focus on issues COPLAC administrators have identified as crucial. Senior COPLAC administrators facilitate workshop sessions as well as mentor attendees. The Leadership Circle fosters a leadership network within public liberal arts colleges. The next BLC starts in spring 2024 with virtual meetings to build relationships, discuss a case study, and foster the sharing of ideas and models for decision marking, mentoring, and leading.  Participants will meet in person for 3 days in summer 2024, and mentoring will continue into the 2024 - 25 academic year with ongoing virtual meetings for the cohort. 

CAOs will nominate participants in early 2024.  The BLC Planning Group particularly invites the nomination of chairs/faculty from underrepresented populations.

“I think as a result of the activities at the circle and throughout the year I am much more disciplined in controlling my defensive reflexes and instead of saying “we can’t” to say “yes; how?”
2021 BLC Participant

2024 Frequently asked questions

How do I sign up for this?
Participants must be nominated by their Chief Academic Officer. If you are interested in attending, please contact your CAO.
When does the airport shuttle run?
Sonoma County Airport Express runs regularly from each of the regional airports (SFO, OAK, and STS). The schedule varies by airport, be sure to review the schedule for the last pick up time of every day and read the pickup location instructions carefully. Tickets are available for purchase online (only), cost is $38 each way. The shuttle drops off in Rohnert Park at the Double Tree Hotel, a quick 4 mile Lyft or Uber ride to Sonoma State University.
What does the schedule look like?
The group will meet virtually a couple of times in spring 2024, leading up to the four-day, in-person workshop in July. At the workshop, there will be a mix of plenary and smaller breakout sessions, with one evening providing a chance to explore Sonoma County. A final schedule will be shared ahead of time! Opportunities for continued virtual conversations will continue throughout the following academic year. See the schedule for 2022’s event here.
How accessible are your campus and facilities?
Campus facilities are generally accessible. The residence hall is a ten minute walk to the meeting rooms, and golf cart rides can be provided if needed. Many of the Beaujolais Village rooms are accessed by stairs, but ground floor rooms are available upon request.
What is the residence hall like?
Beaujolais Village is in a nicely landscaped area off the main campus road. You will have your own bedroom and a private bathroom in a shared suite with up to three other Leadership Circle attendees. There will be a conference representative at check-in available to answer questions or address any issues you may have.
What meals are provided?
Reception and dinner Tuesday; breakfast, lunch, and breaks Wednesday (dinner is on-your-own); breakfast, lunch, breaks and dinner Thursday; breakfast and boxed lunch Friday.
Do I need to prepare for the Beard Leadership Circle?
Participants will be asked to respond to several Case Studies and read others' responses before discussing during the spring and summer gatherings. Short readings selected by the facilitators will be recommended in advance of the July event.
Where can I park on campus?
If you are driving yourself to the Leadership Circle, we will provide you with a parking pass at check-in. Nearby parking is available in lot R9 (closest) or lot F right next to the residence hall.
What if I need to cancel?
We do accept cancellations and can issue partial refunds up to 7 days (7/16/24) in advance of the event. If your institution nominated more than one person, you can also transfer your registration to the next nominee from your campus without any additional fee.
Will I have time to explore Wine Country?
Yes! Wednesday evening will be an opportunity to explore local dining with your colleagues. For those who choose to extend their stay, Sonoma County has an abundance of hiking, wine tasting, beer tasting, and dining to enjoy. Sonoma State University staff are happy to provide recommendations for the many choices available in the region.
Which nights have lodging provided?
Your stay in the residence hall will be on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday night. If you would like to extend your stay in Sonoma County, you will need to find other accommodation as the housing office is hosting many additional summer programs. There are several options close to campus, including Double Tree by Hilton, Oxford Suites, and The Gables Inn. If you would like to venture deeper into wine country you might try the Jack London Lodge in Glen Ellen, or stay at Sonoma’s El Pueblo Inn.
What should I pack?
Dress for the Leadership Circle is casual, so no need to overpack. Sonoma County has a Mediterranean climate, warm in the day with cool evenings. It is always best to have layers to wear once the sun goes down. Check the weather forecast. Lodging is in a residence hall (Beaujolais Village); linens/towels/pillows are provided, but other amenities that a hotel might offer are not. Bring your own toiletries, alarm clock, hair dryer, etc. (Campus is also walking distance from a 7/11, for small items)