Client TestimonialsRead what other's have to say about Susan.
Philip S. Khoury (American University of Beirut)
July 30, 2020
In the summer of 2019, Dr. Susan Pierce agreed to serve as consultant to the Board of Trustees of the American University of Beirut (AUB), which is the oldest and largest U.S. accredited university outside the United States. Her assignment: to help navigate the AUB Board of Trustees through an important but complex exercise to bring its governance fully into the 21st century.
Dr. Pierce admits that before she accepted her assignment she had not encountered a Board quite like the AUB Board, with its 45 regular trustees with no fixed term limits and distributed across the Americas, Europe and the Middle East, and with another dozen emeriti trustees who participate fully in its deliberations. Nor had she worked with a university obliged to respect both US law and the law of its host country, or that exists in such an unstable region of the world.
The AUB Board leadership has at different times in the past twenty years hired consultants to help it become more deliberately strategic in the pursuit of its mission. They came to the Board with national reputations and served us well. But, none has been as creative, thoughtful, and deliberate, or as patient, as Dr. Pierce in advancing us to our stated goal, and in line with best practices in not-for-profit American universities. What has allowed her to advance so ably the Board’s goal of revamping its organization is her vast knowledge from years of consulting on Board governance, about which she writes so intelligently, and her on-the-ground experience from serving with distinction as a university president; that experience required her to learn from the inside how to enable the very board that hired her to perfect its own governance system. Dr. Pierce’s credentials are impeccable.
Dr. Pierce did an enormous amount of homework before she began to roll out for the trustees’ Governance Review Committee a viable restructuring plan. She attended full Board meetings and specific committee meetings to observe close up Board behavior. She met with many trustees and the university leadership, and she has been fully engaged in the Board’s deliberations on proposed governance changes. She advanced the Board’s main goal: to become far more nimble and strategic in the pursuit of its mission and at the same time allow the daily management of the university to remain where it belongs, in the hands of the AUB president and his senior management team. Throughout her work Dr. Pierce also made certain to respect the best aspects of the Board’s culture and traditions.
Dr. Pierce has moved the AUB Board to the point where it will shortly vote in a major Board restructuring plan and begin to implement it on an accelerated timetable. By November 2020, the Board will begin to test the plan in its different dimensions. That all this has been accomplished is extraordinary, and especially because Dr. Pierce has had to work with the completely unexpected: a global pandemic and, in Lebanon’s case, the rapid decline of its economy and financial system, which has required exceptionally difficult and painful changes at AUB itself. At a time when it is easy to become distracted, Dr. Pierce kept our Board moving forward and always with sensitivity to the prevailing conditions and constraints we face. She continues to work closely with our Governance Review Committee and our full Board.
If new needs arise from within our Board or from our senior leadership team in Beirut that require external advice, I would first turn to Dr. Susan Pierce for her input. I know our president feels the same way. As a consultant to university boards on matters of governance and much else she is sui generis. I feel privileged to be working with Dr. Pierce.
(Associate Provost, Ford International Professor of History, Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
Daniel J. Buckley (Wilmington College Board of Trustees)
There are consultants, and there is Susan Pierce. With stellar credentials that include an
extraordinarily successful college presidency, she brings deep knowledge, experience, expertise,
and insight to her work. As a former college president, she understands not only the job of the
president, but relationships with their boards, faculty, staff and students. As a former faculty
member, she understands the relationships of faculty with their institutions. She relates easily to
every constituency, listens well, observes objectively, and provides forward looking suggestions
designed for the specific client. She learns about the traditions and history of each institution. In
short, her work product is excellent.
But there is more. Susan Pierce is savvy, honest, and a genuine pleasure to work with. She is one of
those people with whom others just want to talk and share their views and stories. She loves her
work and cares about the institutions and people she serves. There are consultants, and there is
Cheryl Glicker Milstein (Barnard College)
Barnard College recently brought Susan on to conduct a 360 review of our president. She quickly became known as very thoughtful and helpful in guiding the discussion and framing the right questions, in both private and semi private meetings with all constituents, making this process pleasant and easy for everyone involved.As Susan is able to draw from her past experience as a college president and her current role as educational advisor, her judgment was incredibly valuable. I found her to be focused on the right path, listening to what everyone had to say and synthesizing the information in a way that not only aided the trustees now, but will help form guidelines for use in future evaluations.As a newly appointed board chair, I counted on Susan to answer questions for me in areas that I was unfamiliar with. She not only drew from her own personal knowledge and experience, she also shared other sources to help me gain a more comprehensive view. I am truly grateful for this extraordinary assistance.Susan is a wonderful, patient, and very knowledgeable leader in the field of higher education, effective board governance, and presidential performance evaluations.Though tasked with a very specific job for Barnard, she became a great asset to the College on many levels, and we would not hesitate to consult with her again.Cheryl
Vincent Rougeau (College of the Holy Cross)
During the first year of my presidency at the College of the Holy Cross, we engaged Susan Pierce to lead the board, faculty, and administration toward improved collaboration around a common understanding of shared governance. Susan’s style was warm and engaging, and I was particularly impressed with her ability to be an active and engaged listener. She conducted numerous group conversations and 1:1 meetings with members of the board, faculty, and administration, and she inspired confidence across a very diverse group of people. As a new president, I was particularly appreciative of her wide-ranging perspective from a diverse set of colleges and universities around the country. She was able to offer very useful advice in real time on a number of issues that I was facing related to governance and community climate that emerged naturally as part of her consulting work with our community. Her final report was excellent and concise, and it immediately became an important point of reference for us as we have worked to nurture a healthy culture of shared governance at Holy Cross. I recommend Susan highly. She is an excellent partner and advisor for this important work.
Alisa Gaunder (Southwestern University)
Susan Pierce engaged with Southwestern University to promote a better understanding of shared governance among faculty, administrators and trustees. She met with various constituencies, presented best practices, and most crucially listened.
In my opinion, Susan’s greatest strength lies in her ability to build relationships and trust in a short period of time. Faculty responded to her warmth, empathy and deep attention.
Over the course of a year with her guidance and support our institution successfully created an aspirational statement on shared governance endorsed by both faculty and trustees.
Personally, as Dean of the Faculty and a close partner with her in this work, I continue to benefit from her wisdom and generosity of spirit. She is a valued and trusted mentor who has encouraged me to amplify my presence and voice in higher ed conversations. Her consulting work has been a true bright spot in my career.
Rabbi Dr. Ari Berman, President (Yeshiva University)
I have benefitted enormously from working with Dr. Susan Piece. Fittingly, she combines piercing insight, experience and wisdom together with warmth, compassion and understanding to her impactful work. I recommend her wholeheartedly to new and veteran leadership who are looking for guidance in navigating and excelling in the shifting terrain of higher education.
Robyn Hannigan, Provost (Clarkson University)
I cannot speak highly enough about the highest quality experience we had working with Dr. Susan Pierce. I also cannot imagine where we would be without her support of our efforts over the past year.
Dr. Pierce’s expertise and her extraordinary ability to engage multiple stakeholders in complex, sometimes fraught, conversations about shared governance profoundly and positively affected the culture and climate here at Clarkson University. Indeed, Dr. Pierce’s ability to quickly establish trust with the faculty and create inclusive spaces for dialog, even while remote due to COVID-19, are testament to her integrity, honesty, and kindness. With Dr. Pierce’s able partnership, Clarkson’s faculty, administration, and board of trustees developed a common understanding of faculty governance and shared governance. With common understanding and a renewed culture of transparency and trust, we have enacted positive, transformational policies, procedures, and processes. Thanks in very large part to the work Dr. Pierce did with us, we are, as a university, more united in purpose and more aligned in action than we have been in a long time.
Timothy Szerlong (Illinois Wesleyan University)
Susan’s leadership experience and deep insights into higher education are certain to be valuable to any college or university. She quickly develops a strong command of the key issues facing the institution, provides constructive analysis and challenges traditional thinking. She is an invaluable resource in advancing compelling ideas reflecting her depth of experience and deep awareness of the unprecedented challenges in higher education today. Her collaborative approach enables the development of the best alternatives to advance the university. She is well-positioned in the higher ed community and draws on her many relationships and resources to further support her clients.Susan is a skilled leader and valued trusted advisor. She demonstrated boundless commitment and real passion for IWU in her engagement with us. She is a truly vested partner who is tireless in her commitment to excellence.Board Chair Illinois Wesleyan University, Timothy Szerlong
Edward B. Burger (Southwestern University)
Dr. Pierce’s leadership experience in higher education, together with her remarkable capacity to actively listen to different perspectives and engage individuals in thoughtful conversations, invites open discussion and fresh perspectives among all constituency groups. She is able to identify opportunities for institutional improvement and then suggests creative ideas and practical initiatives for consideration to make those potential improvements a true reality. She is also a pleasure with whom to engage and inspires genuine optimism.President and Professor, Edward B. Burger
Prof. Wendy Cadge (Brandeis University)
Susan helped a committee of faculty work through a long and detailed process to revise faculty governance at Brandeis University. She provided expert guidance all along the way preparing background materials, interviewing a broad range of campus constituents, advising the group on best practices, and helping us strategize about how to bring the process to an effective close. The new faculty governance model is stronger because of her many contributions to the process, and the faculty most deeply involved learned an enormous amount along the way.Professor Wendy Cadge
Dr. Barbara K. Mistick (Wilson College)
Henry Stoever (President, Assoc. of Governing Boards)
I worked with Susan during this past year to elevate my knowledge of higher education and to expand my leadership capacity as a new president. The depth of her knowledge and the scope of her strategic insights were invaluable as I led AGB through the COVID
pandemic while also empowering our 40,000 members to serve as strategic thought partners focused on student success and long-term institutional vitality. Susan also is an excellent editor and has worked effectively on special projects with members of my Leadership Team, has presented to the AGB Board of Directors and will soon facilitate the Board’s annual retreat. Without hesitation, I highly recommend board leaders and presidents to engage with Susan and to collaboratively sharpen their strategies, initiatives, and plans to exceed community expectations.