Friday, May 30, 2014

Staying the Course...The University of the Cumberlands (KY)

Alice W. Brown's recent book, Staying The Course: How Unflinching Dedication and Persistence Have Built a Successful Private College in a Region of Isolation and Poverty is an important contribution to higher education literature.  Brown focuses on the University of the Cumberlands (UC)  in Williamsburg, KY and explores how the institution has evolved and grown over the years...in spite of characteristics commonly attributed to other institutions that have struggled or closed.  More specifically, UC serves a largely rural region of eastern Kentucky and is known for its strong Baptist heritage.

The initial chapter describes the region that UC serves and Brown then systematically covers every topic that a reader might expect from leadership, through funding, to the various constituencies that contribute to the campus culture.  Detailed statistics are provided in the appendices for enrollment, fundraising, endowment, curricular changes, and other aspects of the institution.

Brown is in many ways uniquely qualified for the task.  Her background includes 25 years of service as president of the Appalachian College Association where she was able to observe a number of institutions in the region as they all dealt in different ways with similar environmental influences.  In addition to this book, Brown has also written articles and edited a couple of other books that also have focused on smaller institutions.  Changing Course: Reinventing Colleges, Avoiding Closure was published in 2011 as part of the Jossey-Bass New Directions for Higher Education series.  This was followed in 2012 by another excellent book, Cautionary Tales: Strategy Lessons from Struggling Colleges.