Leadership at Lakeland University


Image courtesy of Lakeland University

Lakeland University President, Beth Borgen.

Michaela Schmitz, Staff Reporter

Lakeland University has been blessed by the leadership and expertise that many people on the board of trustees have exhibited here along with President Beth Borgen. Especially, with trying to navigate different unforeseeable challenges and problems, like COVID-19.

Many students have no idea what the board of trustees does on a daily basis to ensure students are offered the best college experience available. Borgen says, “As President, I report to the board of trustees. Their responsibilities are largely fiduciary. This means they are responsible for the financial success and sustainability of the university. They approve the annual operating budget, as well as any major expenses (over $100,000), capital projects (i.e., the new residence hall project), major fundraising campaigns, the university’s annual audit report, risk management strategies, etc. They also approve tuition, room and board rates, the conferring of all degrees, tenure of faculty and emeritus status for faculty, board members and presidents.

Their strategic role is to advise university leadership on the opportunities and challenges that face Lakeland and the overall environment of higher education. Our board has five standing committees: Finance & Risk Management, Trustee & Human Capital, Traditional Program, Kellett School, and Lakeland University Japan. They have official meetings three times each year. Our board members share a common love for higher education and the difference Lakeland makes in the lives of our students and community”

Borgen has also played a key role in some of the beneficial changes that we have seen this year and plans to continue pushing others and herself to bring the best available options to Lakeland’s community. She says, “This is my 17th year at Lakeland. My current role began in January of 2021. Our mission is what has kept me at Lakeland. The ability to play a role in changing the trajectory of students’ lives keeps me motivated each day. I am a first-generation college student, and I know first-hand how education plays a significant role in your long-term success.

A unique part of this job, versus prior jobs, is our true sense of community. As I walk through campus, I can think of stories of alumni and leaders who have come before all of us and have made a positive impact on this place. Their names are on buildings and spaces and programs. I can picture each of them – I know their stories and the students they have mentored. Lakeland has been blessed to have so many “legends” in its 160-year history.”

COVID-19 has been a challenge to people all over the world, including Lakeland University. There have been ups and downs and incredibly challenging decisions needing to be made along the way. Borgen states, “A challenge facing all higher education at this moment in time is the recovery from the pandemic. Higher education was already facing scrutiny before the pandemic – is a college degree worth it?

We know and firmly believe that higher education, especially a liberal arts education, is a worthwhile investment. With the job market being so attractive right now, with high starting salaries and signing bonuses, less students are choosing to go to college. Since the pandemic started, there are one million fewer college students enrolled.

Lakeland is poised to weather this storm, with our cooperative education program. Students don’t have to choose between work and college – they can choose both at Lakeland.

In the last 10 years, we’ve been faced with significant infrastructure challenges. Lakeland has made prudent financial decisions and been successful with capital campaigns, which has led to a front entrance project (bridge and monument), complete renovation of the Younger Family Campus Center, significant upgrades to Taylor Field and now two new residence halls that will serve 400 students this fall. We have reduced our deferred maintenance from $25 million to $5 million in a short amount of time. While we still have work to do, we have made significant strides. All of this is possible through the support of alumni and donors.”

President Borgen also offers some well-earned words of wisdom for all Lakeland students who are eager and hungry to be successful in their career and the world in general. She says, “My mentor always told me – the only way to predict the future is to create it. I think of this often as we face uncertainty. When you are unsure of your future and face unexpected obstacles, envision the future you want to see. Then, go after it. Figure out what all needs to occur to get there. It’s up to you to make it happen.

Another practical bit of advice that I have used: be inquisitive and be self-driven. As you begin your careers, always ask questions. Strive to continue learning and developing. Don’t assume you know everything, and don’t be satisfied with simply getting your job done. Ask what more you can contribute. Find out how your role fits into the larger goals of the organization. This attitude and behavior will set you apart from your colleagues. You will be identified and recognized as a rising leader – one worthy of continued investment and opportunity.”

To learn more about the amazing leadership that leads, holds together, and inspires the Lakeland community, check out https://lakeland.edu/lakeland-leadership. To discover new projects and potential future changes go to https://lakeland.edu/news. Next time you see one of these amazing leaders don’t be afraid to stop them and say hello or  thank them for their continuous efforts to improve student’s college experiences.