Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Postsecondary Success

April 27, 2017

Episode 2: Leading Innovation

In episode two of our podcast, To A Degree, Casey Green speaks with author Jeff Selingo, Michigan State University president Lou Anna Simon, Sinclair Community College president Steve Johnson, and Rick Legon, the president of the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges.

Segment 1: Jeff Selingo

Discussing his current work on the role of college presidents, best-selling author Jeff Selingo argues that president leadership and longevity are key factors that foster and sustain institutional innovation and excellence.

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Segment 2: Lou Anna Simon

According to Michigan State University President Lou Anna Simon, the essence of effective institutional innovation “is to make everyone in the organization feel free to be an innovator, to be an experimenter, to take ideas from those around them and try these new ideas without the administrative constraints that squash the opportunity to be better.”

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Segment 3: Steve Johnson

Sinclair Community College President Steve Johnson suggests that focus, collaboration, a willingness to experiment, and learning from both successes and failures are essential for institutional advancement and innovation.

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Segment 4: Rick Legon

Association of Governing Boards President Rick Legon discusses the evolving role of governing boards in supporting institutional excellence and innovation and the importance of collaboration and communication between presidents and their boards.

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Guest Bios

Jeff Selingo is the author of College (Un)Bound (2013) and There Is Life After College (2016). He is a professor of practice and special advisor to the president at Arizona State University, and a visiting scholar at Georgia Tech’s Center for 21st Century Universities.




Lou Anna K. Simon is the president of Michigan State University and leads the university’s work to advance the common good in Michigan and around the world. She has engaged Michigan State in a strategic and transformative journey to adapt the principles of its land-grant heritage to 21st-century challenges.



Steven L. Johnson has served as the president on Sinclair College in Dayton Ohio since 2003. During Dr. Johnson’s presidency, Sinclair has experienced extraordinary gains in enrollment, student success, and student completion rates.




Rick Legon has served as president of the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges since 2006. He has led initiatives on policy issues challenging higher education’s unique form of governance and has fostered a new level of board and presidential collaboration.




Moderator Bio

Casey Green

Casey Green, the moderator and co-producer of To A Degree, is the founding director of The Campus Computing Project, the largest continuing study of eLearning and information technology in American higher education. Check out his blog, Digital Tweed, and follow him on Twitter at @DigitalTweed.



To A Degree is produced for the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation by G2 Education. Jinny Goldstein, the co-founder of G2Ed, is the executive producer of To A Degree.