Institutional Leadership

Institutional leaders do far more than simply manage or administer their systems and campuses. Chancellors, presidents, provosts, vice presidents, and department chairs lead by helping to set the vision for reform and by facilitating the structural changes necessary to implement at scale.

Role in Mathematics Pathways

In the Dana Center’s vision of “faculty–driven, administrator–supported” work, institutional leaders play the pivotal role of creating the conditions that allow faculty and staff to step forward and take action. Leadership matters: how presidents, provosts, vice presidents, deans, and departments are distributed across different leadership positions will vary depending on institutional size and organization. General suggestions are given below. (See the DCMP Implementation Guide for more information about process and actions.)

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Institutional Leadership in Action

In Spring 2018, Texas Tech University and the Charles A. Dana Center hosted a West Texas Regional Transfer Convening. Eight community colleges and five universities reviewed research on student transfer and mathematics course requirements by program, held cross–institutional discussions on transfer and mathematics pathways alignment, and planned for seamless transfer in the region through an exploration of key metrics and regional data.

Texas Tech President Dr. Lawrence Schovanec, who began his career as an assistant professor and then chair of the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, highlighted key issues related to mathematics pathways work at this convening. Institutions are facing mathematics pathways challenges such as alignment, transfer and maintaining collaborative communication between two– and four–year institutions. Dr. Schovanec emphasized how critical this work is, explaining that “the business of trying to create meaningful pathways is very important. One of the most difficult things for students going from a community college should not be issues related to transferability of credits. That should be a minor matter but it’s not.”

For further information on the work to seamlessly align transfer in regions of Texas, see this page.



Differentiating Roles of Institutional Leaders
Role Responsibilities

Presidents and Chancellors

Establish a vision for math pathways connected to the institutional mission and integrate it into the institutional strategic plan.

Make and communicate a longterm institutional commitment to mathematics pathways.

Establish and set the charge for a leadership team.

Work with other presidents and chancellors to mobilize and support crossinstitutional efforts.

Monitor and celebrate progress.

Vice Presidents of academic affairs or undergraduate studies, Provosts, and Deans

Ensure follow–through on the commitment made by the President.

Set expectations for datadriven goals and decision making.

Identify resources to support implementation.

Maintain communications and oversight until math pathways are fully implemented.

Serve as the administrative lead on the leadership team.

Collaborate with the math faculty lead to manage implementation and support crossinstitutional action.

Facilitate crossinstitutional communications and engagement.

Mathematics Department Chair

Make and communicate a long–term departmental commitment to mathematics pathways.

Chair the leadership team or appoint a representative.

Communicate and engage with all mathematics faculty including adjunct faculty. Support faculty in implementation through high–quality professional learning, mentorship, and opportunities to take on new responsibilities with support.

Communicate and engage with chairs and faculty of partner disciplines.



Essential Ideas and Selected Resources

Institutional leaders ought to consider these essential ideas as they work to set the vision for change and facilitate adjustments to institutional organization.

  • Essential Idea 1

    This work is not just about mathematics. Mathematics pathways are an integral part of an institution’s student success agenda and can contribute to other change efforts, especially guided pathways.

  • Essential Idea 2

    Commit to implementation at scale.

  • Essential Idea 3

    Successful math pathways implementation is not just about curriculum. Establish a cross–functional leadership team to connect work across departments and roles in order to create sustainability and a coherent student experience.

  • Essential Idea 4

    Empower and support faculty and staff to take leadership roles and build capacity. Utilize respectful strategies for addressing skepticism or resistance.

  • Essential Idea 5

    Engage with colleagues at high schools and other higher education institutions to ensure alignment across systems and support transfer and applicability of mathematics courses.

Mathematics pathways can serve as a catalyzing step towards establishing guided pathways and should be integrated with other collegewide efforts to support student learning and completion. When managed well, work on math pathways will open lines of communication and generate collaborative efforts across departments and institutional roles.

Selected Resources:

Drastically improving student success requires changing the normative practice of the institution. Leaders must clearly articulate early in the process what a fullscale implementation means and communicate a commitment to that vision to the entire college community.

The DCMP model also encourages institutional leaders to move quickly on the structural changes described in the first two DCMP principles: implementing pathways aligned to programs of study and ensuring that most students take their gateway math course in the first year. Many institutions find it is easier to scale up quickly than to phase in implementation, which requires supporting two systems. At the same time, the institution should prepare for the longterm continuous improvement described in DCMP principles 3 and 4: integrating and aligning with student success strategies, and utilizing evidencebased curriculum and pedagogy.

Selected Resources:

A leadership team works over multiple years to implement, monitor, and improve math pathways. The inclusion of people from different roles allows for a proactive strategy of considering multiple perspectives, understanding, planning for potential impacts, and addressing challenges early. The leadership team should have a faculty lead supported by an administrative lead who has the authority to make key decisions, understands crossinstitutional change management, and reports to the president regularly. The work of the team is enhanced by a clear charge, permission to act, a timeline, and clear accountability measures around key data points.

Selected Resources:

Sustainability depends on building a depth of capacity across the faculty and staff who will be champions, on-the-ground leaders, and implementers.  Ongoing success can be thought of in three categories.

Support for implementers. Consider creative ways to recognize and support faculty and staff efforts. Offer release time and stipends tied to clear expectations; arrange to provide food at meetings or provide administrative staff support to schedule meetings and take notes; publicly recognize individuals and ensure supervisors make efforts to value faculty and staff contributions.

Build leadership and capacity. Offer mentoring and professional learning opportunities to emerging leaders and across key departments. Build depth beyond a few “goto” people.

Engage the skeptics. Gather data to understand concerns and find ways to surface and address valid concerns.

Selected Resources:

Full implementation of effective math pathways depends upon coherence across institutions and systems. Ensuring that students can apply math credit to a degree requires consistency in math requirements across two– and four–year institutions. It is also important that high schools understand evolving college readiness standards and gateway mathematics options, and collaborate with higher education on better preparing students.

Institutional leaders and administrators play an essential role in initiating and supporting these conversations. Presidents and chancellors set the charge for cross–institutional engagement with their own staff and faculty and often make the first contact to their counterparts to initiate efforts. Provosts, vice presidents, and deans help organize meetings, ensuring the right people are involved. Department chairs from across disciplines engage directly with their institutional and cross–institutional colleagues to develop and align math pathways.

Selected Resources:


Join the Joyful Conspiracy

Making mathematics pathways the normative practice at full scale within and across institutions requires coordinated actions across stakeholder groups and across sectors. Uri Treisman coined the phrase “the Joyful Conspiracy” to describe this united effort.

Explore the critical roles of each stakeholder group:




Learn more about the organizations that support and innovate in the mathematics pathways movement: