Professional Education

Crisis Leadership in Higher Education

March 2-5, 2015Apply

Applications for Crisis Leadership are processed through Harvard Kennedy School. When you click to apply you will be routed to the HKS online application.

Tuition: $3,900

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What You Will Learn

Crisis Leadership in Higher Education focuses on the strategic and operational issues that arise when preparing for, responding to, and recovering from a crisis—from on-campus violence to natural disasters to controversial statements and actions by faculty or staff.

Program Overview

It is impossible to control whether a crisis will happen at your institution, but you can control the way you react to it. Organizations must improvise and innovate, usually under acute time pressure and high stress—making it critical to know how to respond, manage, survive and recover with minimal damage. The quality of your response can have a lasting impact on institutional community, culture and reputation.

Crisis Leadership in Higher Education will help you respond to crises effectively, develop protocols and practices that minimize the potential for future occurrences and inspire confidence in the long-term success of your institution. The program draws on the complementary expertise, knowledge and experience of Harvard Kennedy School in crisis management and the Harvard Graduate School of Education in higher education, creating a powerful opportunity to engage this important topic in a way that no other institution can.

Program Objectives

  • Diagnose and understand the event
  • Recognize critical distinctions between different types of crises
  • Foster situational awareness
  • Understand and manage both policy and operational concerns
  • Ensure appropriate accountability, both during and after crisis events
  • Clarify the role of training and exercises
  • Manage the transition from immediate response to long-term recovery

Who Should Attend

  • College and university presidents and chancellors, provosts, vice presidents, deans and other senior-level administrators with responsibility for crisis planning, communication and external relations
  • Administrators responsible for developing and implementing the campus crisis management plan (e.g., chief administrative services officers, heads of institutional communication and directors of campus safety and security)

Alumni Testimonial: Randy Humes, Maryland College of Art

After being recommended for the program by his director, Randy Humes, Assistant Director of Campus Safety at the Maryland College of Art attended the program this past March. We spoke with Randy after the program to learn more about his experience at Crisis Leadership.

Read more here.

Testimonials: What People Are Saying

"The case study approach was perfect and the international nature of the course was quite effective—tapping into the vast experience of each participant." —2012 participant

"The program was excellent. My role in crisis management is currently unclear, but no matter what my professional responsibilities become, the frameworks will be very useful." —2012 participant

"Rather than just rote memorization of topics and applications procedures, Crisis Leadership teaches you how to think critically. I found the use of case studies to be particularly effective teaching tools and recognized the many parallels between this course and law school. In general, law school does not teach you 'the law' but how to think critically about the law and how it develops." —2012 participant

Read more testimonials here.

Faculty Chairs

James Honan is Senior Lecturer on Education and Educational Co-Chair for the Institute for Educational Management (IEM) at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Honan's teaching and research interests include financial management of nonprofit organizations, organizational performance measurement and management, and higher-education administration. Honan serves as a consultant on strategic planning, resource allocation and performance measurement and management to numerous colleges, universities, schools and nonprofit organizations, both nationally and internationally.

Herman B. "Dutch" Leonard is the George F. Baker Jr. Professor of Public Sector Management at the Harvard Kennedy School and the Eliot I. Snider and Family Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School. Leonard teaches organizational strategy and leadership, with an emphasis on effective decision-making. His current research concentrates on crisis management and leadership, particularly on how organizations and individuals can better prepare in advance and better perform in the moment to increase the likelihood of effective improvisation and action in crisis situations.


Arnold M. Howitt, Adjunct Lecturer in Public Policy; Co-director, Program on Crisis Leadership, Harvard Kennedy School

Judith Block McLaughlin, Senior Lecturer on Education; Director, Higher Education Program, HGSE

Enrollment Instructions

Due to the highly-interactive nature of the program, participation is limited. Program admission is competitive and based on the nature and extent of prior professional experience. Relevance of the program to current administrative responsibilities and challenges is also considered.

Qualified applicants are admitted on a rolling, space-available basis. Admission decisions will be made within three weeks of submission of a completed online application. Early application is encouraged.  


The comprehensive tuition includes all instructional materials, most meals, housing and a certificate of participation.

Payment or a purchase order is due 30 days after registration. If acceptance into the program falls less than 30 days prior to program start date, payment is due upon acceptance. Participants are responsible for their own travel expenses.


Accommodations will be provided by Harvard Kennedy School at the Soldiers Field Park Apartments. Detailed housing information is provided to all admitted participants.

Cancellation Policy

Cancellations must be submitted via fax or email. Full refunds will be given up to 30 days prior to the start of the program. Due to program demand and pre-program preparations, cancellations received 29–14 days prior to the start of the program are subject to a fee of 10% of the program tuition. Cancellations received within 13 days prior to the start of the program and no-shows are subject to the full program tuition. Please note: cancellation fees are based upon the date the written request is received.

The Harvard Graduate School of Education and Harvard Kennedy School reserve the right to change faculty or cancel programs at its discretion. In the unlikely event of program changes, the schools are not responsible for non-refundable travel arrangements or other planning expenses incurred.

Non-Discrimination Policy

The Harvard Graduate School of Education affirms the right of all individuals to equal treatment in education without regard to age, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, handicap, national origin, or any other factors that are extraneous to effective performance. The Harvard Graduate School of Education will accommodate anyone with disabilities.