Independent Schools

What is Design Thinking, Anyway? And Why Should We in Higher Ed Care?

What is Design Thinking, Anyway? And Why Should We in Higher Ed Care?

If you’ve attended a conference or read articles or, well, done anything, really, in the past few years you’ve likely heard of something called “design thinking.” And if you’re anything like me, you’ve turned your nose up at what seems to be the latest fad out of Silicon Valley.

But design thinking is not business-school jargon. It isn’t pretentious, or fake, or overhyped. It’s actually useful—yes, even to higher ed, with all its quirks.

Here's why.

In 2018, Patch Your Leaks Before Building New Programs

In 2018, Patch Your Leaks Before Building New Programs

When your ship is sinking, is it better to try to patch the leaks, or to build another boat?

In higher ed, whether we realize it or not, our first instinct is often to build another boat. When our existing programming stops drawing crowds, we look for new programming to bring them back. What we should do instead is ask ourselves, "Why did this stop working?" and then try to fix it.

Switchboard for Independent Schools – St. Andrew's College

We write a lot about higher education, but Switchboard also partners with independent schools.

Alumni and advancement offices at independent schools face many of the same challenges that their college and university counterparts do. Connecting constituents, maintaining relationships, and managing limited staff time are just a few.

We asked Old Boy Officer Nick J.S. Weedon at St. Andrew's College to tell us how Switchboard helps his office overcome those challenges.

How Noble and Greenough School Uses Its Smallness to Its Advantage

Anyone even tangentially involved in fundraising is familiar with this equation:

Donations = Total Population × Giving Rate

Lower giving rates and smaller populations beget smaller yields.

Small schools, be they colleges or independent schools, have to face the challenge of having a small total population every year. They learn to make the most out of what they have and develop strategies that prioritize depth over breadth.

Noble and Greenough School, familiarly known as Nobles, is one of those institutions. They've created a culture of philanthropy that allows them to be aggressive about asking for support, and they've devoted resources to nurturing individual relationships with their alumni. Their Graduate Affairs Office has also made alumni career services and networking a priority. By building a network on top of an already tightly knit community, Nobles is making its smallness work to its advantage.

We interviewed Greg Croak, Nobles' Director of Graduate Affairs, about Nobles' success.

How Gill St. Bernard's School Re-Engaged Alumni After Decades of a Changing Identity

Keeping alumni invested in their alma mater is hard work.

Gill St. Bernard's School, an independent school in Gladstone, New Jersey, had to work even harder to re-engage alumni after a merger and decades of change.

It fell to the school's development and alumni relations teams to make their older alumni feel welcome again. We talked to Chanelle Walker, director of alumni relations, and James Diverio, director of development, about their efforts to honor their alumni's history without losing sight of the future. They recently presented on their work at the CASE NAIS Conference in New York.

St. Paul Academy on Changing Your Alumni Council's Culture

Alumni boards and councils are integral parts of well-oiled alumni relations machines. They're our liaisons to our communities, and they put in hundreds of hours in volunteer work every year.

But our hopes and dreams for our alumni councils don't always match reality.

St. Paul's Academy and Summit School, an independent school in St. Paul, MN, has revitalized its alumni council in the last few years to bridge that gap. We asked Jen Jung, director of alumni/ae programs, and Jennie Beadle, director of annual giving, about their efforts, which they discussed at their recent CASE NAIS panel, "Culture Change in Your Alumni Council."