Clemson President Clements pens chapter in higher education leadership book

CLEMSON — Clemson University President James P. Clements is among three dozen national higher education leaders to share their insights and experiences in a new book “Leading Colleges and Universities,” published this month by Johns Hopkins University Press.

The book, a successor to “Presidencies Derailed: Why University Presidents Fail and How to Prevent It,” is designed to serve as a roadmap for current and future higher education leaders by offering lessons from some of the most successful college presidents in the country that address a wide range of leadership challenges.

Clements is in his fifth year as Clemson’s president after serving in the same role at West Virginia University for five years. In his chapter, Clements provided insights on successfully navigating the transitional period at the start of a university presidency.


Titled “Winning the First Quarter,” Clements’ contribution to the book details the importance of quickly learning the culture of your new institution and building relationships with key influencers across the university community. He also writes about the different challenges he faced in inheriting an unsettled situation at West Virginia and in following a long-tenured and popular president at Clemson.

“I am blessed to have had the opportunity to lead two outstanding, but different, universities at very different times in their history, and I just hope some of my experiences can help other higher education leaders now and in the future,” Clements said. “It’s humbling to be in the company of so many outstanding leaders who contributed to the book, and I’ve learned a great deal just by reading their insights.”

Other chapters in the book deal with topics as varied as building a leadership team, maintaining good relationships with a board of trustees, managing donor relations, when to take a stand on national issues and how to exit the presidency gracefully. The authors include current or past presidents and chancellors at some of the most respected universities in the country, including Columbia University, University of Michigan, Texas A&M, University of California-Berkley, the State University of New York and Virginia Tech, among others.

The book is edited by Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, president emeritus of George Washington University; Gerald Kauvar, special assistant to Trachtenberg and research professor of public policy and public administration at George Washington; and E. Gordon Gee, president of West Virginia University. Trachtenberg and Kauvar co-authored “Presidencies Derailed.”

Clements, who earned his bachelor’s degree in computer science from the University of Maryland-Baltimore County (UMBC) before going on to earn master’s degrees from Johns Hopkins and UMBC and his Ph.D. from UMBC, also is the author of the successful textbook, Project Management. The book is in its seventh printing and has been translated into multiple languages and used in classrooms around the world.

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