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Lessons Learned:
Reflections of a University President
William G. Bowen

Paperback | 2013 | $18.95 | £14.95 | ISBN: 9780691158082
184 pp. | 6 x 9 1/4
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eBook | ISBN: 9781400837588 |
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(News at Princeton)

Lessons Learned gives unprecedented access to the university president's office, providing a unique set of reflections on the challenges involved in leading both research universities and liberal arts colleges. In this landmark book, William Bowen, former president of Princeton University and of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and coauthor of the acclaimed best-seller The Shape of the River, takes readers behind closed faculty-room doors to discuss how today's colleges and universities serve their age-old missions.

With extraordinary candor, clarity, and good humor, Bowen shares the sometimes-hard lessons he learned about working with trustees, faculty, and campus groups; building an effective administrative team; deciding when to speak out on big issues and when to insist on institutional restraint; managing dissent; cultivating alumni and raising funds; setting academic priorities; fostering inclusiveness; eventually deciding when and how to leave the president's office; and much more. Drawing on more than four decades of experience, Bowen demonstrates how his greatest lessons often arose from the missteps he made along the way, and how, when it comes to university governance, there are important general principles but often no single right answer.

Full of compelling stories, insights, and practical wisdom, Lessons Learned frames the questions that leaders of higher education will continue to confront at a complex moment in history.


"[Bowen's] advice on how to be a successful leader of a university is invariably spot-on."--Alan Ryan, New Statesman

"This is a sensible and sensitive account of the job. . . . These are lessons learned sometimes the hard way, and Bowen is quite prepared to admit it."--Sir Drummond Bone, Times Higher Education

"William G. Bowen somehow makes many of the things that drive nonacademics crazy about universities--tenure, specialization, faculty politics, student protests--seem necessary and even a little bit wonderful."--Justin Fox, Harvard Business Review

"For readers interested in senior administration in higher education, Lessons Learned is a valuable and distinctive addition to available literature. Written with wit, humor, candor and clarity, the volume offers an engaging and thoughtful guide to the nuances of presidential leadership. His humility and collaborative spirit resonate throughout, making the work as inspiring as it is practical."--Michael Steven Williams, Teachers College Record

"The essential manual for university presidents. . . . More than a memoir and less than a handbook, it distills presidential experiences into useful maxims and advice with examples of both successful decisions and unfortunate missteps. . . . Bowen's well-written, authoritative counsel will be helpful to university presidents and administrators as well as leaders in other complex organizations. It could easily be used for exemplar case studies in leadership, organizational management, and business administration courses. Highly recommended."--Jane Scott, Library Journal (starred review)

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