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2019 - SCUP Distinguished Service Award Recipient

Linda L. Baer, Mark Valenti

This year’s Distinguished Service Award Winners are a pair that propelled SCUP toward what we are today — an organization that aims to unleash the promise and potential of higher education.

At the end of 2012, the SCUP board of directors called upon Linda and Mark to serve as guest members as the association shifted into a time of organizational self-reflection and reinvention. The two were selected because of their unique shared experience as catalysts for prodigious organization transformations; generally a rare find within associations. Charged with assisting the board in examining SCUP’s purpose, role, and value to higher education, Linda and Mark brought insight, foresight, and visionary thinking that would energize a trajectory for the board work, and ultimately, SCUP’s future. 

Mark’s approach to the process came through the lens of a veteran business leader, continually adjusting to market forces, keen on instituting strategy that is both constant and nimble. Linda then added an academic’s perspective, focused on an acute need to measure outcomes and effectiveness for what SCUP was to accomplish. Their synergistic approach from the academic and corporate perspectives challenged the board’s thinking and helped lay the groundwork for the governance and strategic planning culture in place today. 

Linda L. Baer, Senior Consultant in Higher Education, and SCUP Board of Directors At-Large Director 2008-2009 and Guest Director 2013-2016; Partnerships Task Force 2008-2009, Governance and Leadership Committee 2014-2016, Planning for Higher Education Author and SCUP Book Author, SCUP Fellows Coach 2018-2019

Linda has spent her career leading the planning process for numerous higher education institutions and organizations as they began thinking about their future and strategizing new ways to drive transformative change to improve student success, build human resource capacity, and drive accountability and data-driven decision making. 

She inspires leaders to innovate, integrate, and implement solutions that improve student outcomes and build a sustainable future for higher education. In addition to her critical role in our board’s governance reorganization, Linda is well-known in our community as a regular annual conference presenter and frequent contributor to SCUP’s publications on driving change, leadership, and student success. Most notably, she is a ground-breaking researcher, author, and co-author of various books and publications on how institutions can unleash the power of data through student success analytics. Her newest co-authored book, An Analytics Handbook: Moving From Evidence to Impact, was published by SCUP earlier this year.  

She has served over 35 years in executive-level positions including faculty, researcher, Senior Fellow with Civitas Learning, Senior Program Officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, system senior vice chancellor for academic and student affairs, university senior vice president, and interim president.

The Chair Academy, an international organization that provides leadership training for post-secondary education leaders recognized Linda as an International Exemplary Leader. She has served on many boards, and currently serves on the National Advisory Board for Civitas Learning, and her future work includes working on building innovative strategies to scale student success programs.

Mark Valenti

Mark Valenti, Former President and CEO, The Sextant Group, and SCUP Board of Directors – Guest Director 2103-2016, SCUP Finance and Audit Committee Member 2013-2016, SCUP 49 Conference Committee, Local Host Chair, SCUP 2018 Annual Conference, Plenary and Invited Sessions Chair, and SCUP 2019 Annual Conference, Program Chair 

Mark has been recognized time and time again for his interactive visioning process, speaking and writing, that has helped so many in higher education and other industries, effectively plan for a rapidly-evolving technology-enhanced future. Specifically, it was the interactive visioning process that led the SCUP’s board’s discovery process and established its new governance model that led to the newly activated and transformational strategic plan that was adopted in late 2018. 

Mark is the founder of The Sextant Group, a national independent, technology consulting firm that challenges clients to explore and articulate their present and future needs, resulting in more effective, efficient, and future-proofed systems and spaces.

In addition to his board and volunteer work, Mark has served on the SCUP Finance and Audit Committee sharing his strong financial acumen. His insight helped establish SCUP’s current budget and resourcing process.

A leader born to connect and expand learning through dialogue, Mark has served SCUP time and time again on SCUP’s Annual Conference committees helping source, and select programming that would unite higher education leaders preparing our membership for higher education’s rapidly changing future. 

Mark is a faculty member for the Institute for Facilities Management of the Association for Higher Education Facilities Officers (APPA), and Past President of InfoComm International (now AVIXA). When he’s not at work, Mark loves jazz, cooking and wine, and preferably all at the same time!