Bucks vs. Ducks: Lessons on leadership and change in Higher Ed


Here we go! Just a few days away from the NCAA National Championship between The Ohio State University and the University of Oregon. It’s an incredible honor to be watching two teams and two institutions I love dearly play for the title in a whole new model of playoffs.

But I have to tell you, as excited as I am, this game is also a personal DISASTER. There is nothing simple about this for my family. In fact, this is a crisis. This is exactly what we were hoping would not happen.

You see, my son is a student at The Ohio State University – a beautiful campus, an amazing opportunity, a super-cool band and the recipient of our family’s tuition dollars. But our family lived in Eugene, Oregon for 17 years – and I worked at the University of Oregon Foundation. So we love everything green and yellow. Approximately 60 percent of our t-shirt/sweatshirt inventory says Oregon, though I don’t dare wear any of it in public right now since I live in Ohio where there are petitions to cancel school on Tuesday, January 13 so we can recover from an historic event – Oregon by 7, for example.

The key to winning: Leadership
My favorite part of all of this has been observing the great examples of leadership. Coach to coach, I love to watch the integrity of Urban Meyer vs. Mark Helfrich. They have earned this opportunity. Urban Meyer is leading change to include funding for players’ families to attend the national game and keeps strong momentum on a team that is on their third quarterback this season (not third-string at all though – let’s be clear).

Meanwhile, Mark Helfrich is leading carefully as he navigates comparisons to previous head coaches and builds amazing trust and respect from his players. It feels like both coaches have high expectations of their players but insist on integrity in their behavior – and the players are rising to that challenge beautifully.

The same leadership story is seen quarterback to quarterback. Outstanding performances by both, although the Ducks quarterback has a Heisman trophy. And on we go – offense to offense, defense to defense. It really may be one of the best football games we ever watch.

The key to leadership: Game plans
So let’s use the big game as an opportunity for us to apply our own leadership. Call a huddle and gather your team. How can you serve students better in the New Year? How can you increase communication between colleagues and departments? How can you optimize alumni correspondence?

My advice is to start looking into how paper-based processes are slowing you down. After all, relying on paper in the Information Age is like putting a 400-pound lineman in your backfield. Not really a strategy for success.

Look around your office, your campus. Find the places you can bring smarter business processes using tools like enterprise content management (ECM). Odds are, you’d like to go paperless to optimize processes in enrollment, HR, advancement, athletics and other departments. Because for every Higher Ed team, every player matters.

O-H-I-O and go Ducks! That said, Ducks by 3 in the hardest game they will have ever played!


Laurel Stiller

Laurel Stiller brings her passion for helping institutions strategically maximize their efficiency to Hyland as its marketing portfolio manager for Higher Education. A graduate of Miami University, Ohio, with more... read more about: Laurel Stiller

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