Plenary Speakers Lineup to Challenge Your Thinking

ACE2017 features plenary speakers specifically selected to keep you on the cutting edge of trends in higher education and boost your leadership efficacy. Designed to collectively help you see around the corner, the speaker lineup offers campus leaders content tailored to make you a more effective leader and instill visionary qualities to your everyday work.

Robert H. Atwell Plenary Session

When the Middle Ground is the High Ground: Free Speech and the University
Sunday, March 12, 2017, 5:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Sponsored by Fidelity Investments
Download the Plenary Program (PDF, 1MB)

Steering the University of Virginia through a period of significant progress, Sullivan will challenge your thinking about leadership, helping you move from a sustaining leader to an innovate one. With her leadership team, Sullivan has prepared UVA to tackle the serious challenges in higher education related to cost-containment, affordability, student-debt reduction, faculty compensation and the emergence of online education. This plenary will implore ACE2017 attendees to deeply reflect on their leadership styles, and attendees will likely relate to at least one of Sullivan’s challenges on their own campus.


Teresa A. Sullivan

President of University of Virginia

Monday Breakfast Plenary Session

Higher Education in the Balance: What Does Society Want from Colleges and Universities
Monday, March 13, 2017, 7:45 a.m. – 9:15 a.m.
Sponsored by Storbeck/Pimentel & Associates
Download the Plenary Program (PDF, 1MB)

The debate regarding the economic and non-economic purposes of higher education has never been more compelling. The recent election demonstrated stark contrasts along educational lines, with some questioning the overall value of a college education and others questioning whom we educate and for what purposes. ACE believes this moment presents higher education leaders with a challenge and opportunity to re-engage society in a discussion about the value and purposes of higher education for promoting economic opportunity and engaged citizens. Campus leaders will be challenged to become visionaries and consider the larger role of higher education in America in this session. DeGioia will moderate a conversation between Carnevale, a research professor and director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, and Baum, a senior fellow in the Income and Benefits Policy Center at the Urban Institute and professor emerita of economics at Skidmore College.


Sandy Baum

Senior Fellow at the Urban Institute

Anthony P. Carnevale

Research Professor and Director at Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce

John J. DeGioia

President of Georgetown University

Monday Luncheon Plenary Session

Whiplash: How to Survive Our Faster Future
Monday, March 13, 2017, 11:45 a.m. – 1:15 p.m.
Sponsored by TIAA

Activist. Entrepreneur. Venture capitalist. Innovation is the thread that binds these ideas. In this session, Ito, the director of the MIT Media Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, will help you rethink your approach to how higher education institutions are led, managed and deliver education. Innovation evolves and shapes organizations in different ways. For some it creates inspiration and unleashes new paths to mission fulfillment. For others, it sets the stage for chaos and stagnation. Organizations besieged by the steady pace of innovation struggle to overcome the restraints built into the fiber of their institutional systems. Engaging in an ethos of inter-disciplinarity, key innovation processes, such as, prototyping, and scaling, can allow an organization to capitalize on the unyielding forces of innovation. This discussion is sponsored by TIAA.


Joichi “Joi” Ito

Director of the MIT Media Lab

Tuesday Closing Plenary Session

The Competition of Political Ideas: Navigating the Left and Right for Successful Leaders
Tuesday, March 14, 2017, 9:45 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.
Download the Plenary Program (PDF, 1MB)

In a field with significant public investment, a successful higher education leader must look beyond today’s political and policy debates to pinpoint the competing ideas, values, and policies that are framing our national dialogue on the economy and society. This leader must move to the next level of thinking to be more impactful on the job. Understanding this back-and-forth movement of ideas forms the foundation of insight needed to create mission-centered, resilient, and value-adding institutions. Look around the corner on your campus with forward-looking executives. PBS NewsHour’s Woodruff will moderate a conversation with AEI’s Ornstein on the competition of social, political, and economic ideas in our current political environment.


Judy Woodruff

Co-anchor and managing editor of PBS NewsHour

Norman J. Ornstein

Resident Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute

Countdown to ACE2018