117: Rob Westervelt—Thinking Forward for Higher Education

 Listen now as Rob Westervelt explains how he dramatically changed one university’s vision, finances and culture!  

Rob Westervelt is a visionary leader, an accomplished strategist and a leading innovator whose mission is to create brighter futures, faster. Robert A. Sevier calls him “One of the most forward-thinking leaders in higher education today.” When we were introduced to Rob, we were so impressed that we had to do a podcast with him so he could share his ideas with you, our listeners. A Stanford-trained innovator, Rob is known for his groundbreaking work in creativity and marketing at George Fox University. To learn from a true game-changing visionary, listen in!

rob-westerveltThere are few higher ed leaders that have Rob’s span of expertise and record of accomplishments.

Not only has Rob led a diverse range of departments at George Fox University, including marketing, analytics, IT, human resources, fundraising, legal affairs, enrollment, admissions, financial aid, institutional research, student accounts and public relations, but under his leadership, the institution has become one of the only tuition-driven universities in the country to achieve five consecutive years of record-breaking freshmen enrollments (2013-2017).

In addition, in just five years, his team added $65 million in new student revenue to the university’s bottom line. What’s even more impressive is that both of these milestones happened during one of the worst down markets in higher education history, a period when most colleges were seeing large declines in enrollment. 

Further career highlights at George Fox include Rob’s pioneering work in analytics and technology, his successful re-brand of the university, his leadership in developing its vision, values and “Be Known” brand promise, and his contributions to increasing the institution’s financial strength. 

Still going strong, Rob continues to take on new challenges.

His latest is called the Future State Project, an initiative designed to help George Fox create the university of the future, one that partners with business to create win-wins for academe and industry. The Sandbox College is one project that has come out of this initiative.

In addition to his work at George Fox, Rob is a sought-after speaker and consultant. More than 500 colleges have attended his webinars and presentations on marketing and innovation and his influence continues to reshape how colleges approach the marketplace. 

In this podcast we dig into several important areas: 

  • Why is it so difficult for long-standing organizations, like universities, to adapt to fast-changing times?
  • What type of leadership is needed to invigorate a university that often is encumbered by the refrain: “That’s not the way we do it”?
  • How did Rob accelerate the changes to make dramatic impact on enrollments, financial performance and organizational culture?
  • Looking ahead, how is his Sandbox College bringing together new stakeholders to create the university of the future?  

You can contact Rob at rwestervelt@georgefox.edu. 

Some additional material for you: 

Podcast: Understanding Higher Education with Brent Wilder 

Podcast: Seeing, Feeling and Thinking About Higher Education in a Whole New Way with Ken Hoyt 

Blog: Is this the Death of Higher Education Institutions?

Blog: Blue Ocean Strategy Can Really Work for Higher Education

Additional resources:

Like George Fox University, is your organization in need of change?

At SAMC, we are often engaged by colleges and universities to help them see, feel and think in new ways, in many instances to change their cultures. To do this, we like to use the tools and methods of Blue Ocean Strategy® or Innovation Games®. We invite you to contact us to brainstorm ideas on how we could work together to create custom solutions to overcome the challenges your business or higher education institution is facing. 

Download the 1-page synopsis of my book, “On the Brink: A Fresh Lens to Take Your Business to New Heights” here