Reflective Inquiry into Practice

Creating structured space for reflective inquiry into practice is fundamental to all of NERCHE’s work and represents the primary purpose of NERCHE’s signature program, the Think Tanks for administrators and faculty in the New England region. Think Tanks provide forums that allow college and university leaders to question the assumptions and tacit knowledge that inform their practice,  engage in cross-institutional, in-depth dialogues about pressing issues in the academy, and speak frankly and confidentially about the challenges they face on their respective campuses. Think Tanks serve multiple purposes, including knowledge generation, professional development and affiliation, leadership development, and policy formation.  (For a deeper exploration of reflective inquiry into practice, see Schön, D. [1995]. The reflective practitioner: How professionals think in action. London: Ashgate Publishing.)


Current Projects:


Past Projects:

The New England New Presidents Network (NENPN)
With a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, NERCHE developed a program for new college and university presidents in the Northeast.  Among the primary goals of NENPN were to strengthen the leadership capacity of first-time presidents and maintain institutional momentum during leadership transitions.  Most importantly, NENPN sought to provide new presidents with ongoing confidential and objective guidance from seasoned academic leaders. Click here for more information.


National Issues Forum Public Policy Institute
On September 14, 2006, NERCHE sponsored “Democracy’s Challenge: Reclaiming the Public’s Role” at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester MA. This one-day Public Policy Institute was open to educators interesting in learning how to be a National Issues Forum (NIF) facilitator, to join the NIF network, or just get better acquainted with models of public dialogues. In this six-hour institute, participants learned about national efforts to reengage Americans through public discourse, essential facilitation skills, and some tips for organizing forums. (To learn more about the National Issues Forum, go to


Democracy and Higher Education:  The Future of Engagement
NERCHE and the Kettering Foundation sponsored two forums to encourage discussion about the challenges to and opportunities for promoting community engagement and democratic citizenship as key institutional priorities for American colleges and universities.  The first component of this project was an Invitational Colloquium involving a representative and diverse group of 33 academic and community leaders. The group met at the Kettering Foundation in Dayton, Ohio, on February 26-27, 2008, to identify problems and issues associated with reforming higher education for community engagement and democratic citizenship and to suggest ways for cultivating the next generation of engaged scholars in American higher education.

Recognizing that countless individuals have played leadership roles, both nationally and on their campuses, over the past two decades, NERCHE established a web blog for this wider audience.  This blog comprised the project’s second component, which was an expanded version of a Virtual Forum established in late January 2008. Read more...


Leadership Speaker Series
Sponsored by NERCHE on behalf of the doctoral program in higher education administration at UMass Boston, the Leadership Speaker Series is a chance for doctoral program students, alumni, and faculty to meet in an informal, invitation-only environment with state, regional, and national leaders, acknowledged for their vision and ability to make substantive change in higher education.  Read more...


Mapping Opportunities for Structural and Cultural Change within Four-Year Public Institutions
Funded by Carnegie Corporation of New York, NERCHE's "Mapping Opportunities" project was formed to convene a select group of individuals from New England's four-year public colleges and universities in an effort to identify the cultural and structural changes needed to facilitate the success of low-income students, students of color, and students who are first in their families to attend college. The one-day meeting, held in mid-January 2009, in Providence, Rhode Island, brought together 25 participants who, along with their respective institutions, have demonstrated commitment to ongoing institutional transformation to better match the assets of underserved students.  Individuals attending the meeting represented a cross-section of campus life, including Presidents, senior leaders in academic affairs, student affairs, administration and fiscal management, institutional research and institutional advancement as well as deans, multicultural center directors, and faculty.  Read more...


CSU-AAUP Faculty Workload Study
In late 2010, NERCHE concluded an independent, comprehensive study of faculty and professional employee workloads within the Connecticut State University system. The research team was led by Dr. Jay Dee, Associate Professor in the Higher Education Doctoral Program at UMass Boston, and included Dr. Glenn Gabbard, Associate Director, and Sharon Singleton, Senior Program and Research Associate, from NERCHE and Nancy M. Ludwig, Director of Institutional Research at Northeastern University.

Commissioned by the CSU-AAUP, this 16-month workload study examined full-time and part-time CSU faculty workloads; workloads across academic departments and between graduate and undergraduate programs of study; policies and practices associated with teaching-load adjustments; the relationship between faculty workloads (including opportunities for professional development) and practices that support student learning and retention; effects of workload on recruitment, retention, and career satisfaction of faculty; and workload issues for other academic professionals, including librarians, coaches, and counselors. In addition, NERCHE conducted an analysis of the relationship between faculty workload and student outcomes reported in state accountability reports, as well as a longitudinal analysis of trends in faculty workload.

Boston Area Social Network Project
UMass Boston partnered with CIRCLE (The Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning & Engagement) and the Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service at Tufts University on a project using social media to increase and deepen youth civic engagement.

This three-year project was funded by a grant from the Corporation for National and Community Service.  It was administered by NERCHE and coordinated by a leadership team of students in Asian American Studies, along with faculty members Peter Kiang (Asian American Studies and Education), Shirley Tang (Asian American Studies and American Studies), and Sam Museus (Higher Education Doctoral Program).

Through the project, Asian American Studies offered courses employing a community-based curriculum and community-mapping software to analyze community issues and networks. Read more...