Our Story

Building A Beautiful Beginning: Bringing Design Thinking To Higher Education Space Planning


Tom Gavic, an engineer with a heart for higher education and profound understanding of the spaces that impact learning, founded a small engineering and architecture firm in Wisconsin under the name of Performa, Inc., the first iteration of what would eventually become Credo. As a fledgling crew, the Performa team collaborated to design meaningful campus master plans and architecture for colleges and universities. Different from other architecture firms that did not focus on higher education, Performa became quickly known for putting students at the center of the entire design process, ensuring that optimal learning conditions were met and exceeded through intentional, focused planning and community engagement—an ethos that still guides our Credo campus planners and architects in their work.

Co-Founder Tom Gavic pictured around the time of Credo’s founding.

Disney, Leadership, Space & Place

1999 -2001

Credo, then Performa, co-created and ran a Disney Institute program called Enhancing The Student Experienc ewith the Council Of Independent Colleges (CIC). Fifty-five colleges attended over three years, building on research about how the physical environment influences (student) behaviors and giving participants practical solutions to implement as they returned to their own campuses and communities.

Feature from the CIC Independent about Credo and the Disney Institute.

Two Founders Meet: The True Origin Story of Credo

2001 -2002

Was it fate? Tom Gavic met then-future Co-Founder Joanne Soliday in 2001. The two quickly connected personally and professionally, realizing fast how deeply connected their respective work was: Tom, coming from campus space-and-place and Joanne with her expertise in university strategic planning, enrollment, and fundraising. Together the two integrated and expanded space-and-place work into strategic planning and enrollment. As the team quickly grew, so did the spheres of higher education expertise, resulting in the firm becoming the first and only comprehensive higher education consulting firm in the country.

Tom and Joanne are presented a plaque by the Council of Independent Colleges.

Building The Framework for Thriving Colleges & Universities


As the Credo team met with presidents to develop their leadership and institutions, they began to recognize some familiar themes. Together they collected themes and data for what would become The Thriving Framework, a collection of foundational truths guiding leadership of thriving colleges and universities.

Now administered as a survey to inform leadership prioritization, The Thriving Framework would also be foundational material for Joanne Soliday and co-author Rick Mann to write the book "Surviving to Thriving: A Framework for Thriving Colleges & Universities."

Moving The Needle On Student Success


In 2011, Dr. Joretta Nelson, MTN Founder and Credo Vice Chair, was then a consultant focused on student success with a dream of scaling success across campuses, communities, and consortia. Known colloquially as MTN, Moving The Needle has been and continues to be grounded in the Thriving Framework and builds a culture of inclusive, culture-changing leadership at all levels. Carried out through modules, integrated with professional development, and infused through an entire campus, MTN is driving or has driven the future of student success and retention on over 45campuses and counting!

What's In A Name?


As the firm grew, it became clear it was time for a new name to better reflect the work of the firm and the shared commitment to education. What used to be Performa became Credo, meaning "I believe." We placed our trust as individuals collaborating towards a mission of impacting the future of higher education right in our name. Each individual at Credo believes in our work and our impact. Our mission has extended out of our name: we believe that we will impact a million learners by 2025. Join us!

Hot Off The Press!


Credo Press launches and releases its inaugural book, "Surviving To Thriving: A Planning Framework for Leaders of Private Colleges & Universities." Co-written by Joanne Soliday, this foundational work contains the guiding principles that Credo has built upon and adapted since their inception, The Thriving Framework, giving leaders at not only independent colleges, but any higher education institution or organization the tools needed for individual, student, and organizational success.

“Surviving To Thriving” cover image

Celebrating Courageous Leadership


Credo doesn't just talk about courageous, collaborative leadership: we live it, we acknowledge it when we notice it, and we celebrate it in ways large and small. As a way to honor leaders of colleges and universities that are impacting change in their communities and in the field of higher education, Credo began awarding an annual Courageous Leadership Award in January of 2014. This award is presented annually and one need not be a client to win the award.

Credo Commits To Empowering The Next Generation of Women Leaders In Higher Education


As Credo partnered with more institutions, the consultants and firm leaders began to notice there was a growing need to create a space for women presidents and leaders to come together to support the development of a community of women leaders and to collaborate to increase the number of women represented in higher education leadership positions. The Credo Women in Leadership Initiative was born in 2015 to a small group of future-focused, driven, collaborative women leaders, and has grown each year since then. In 2022, the event expanded to include a space for cabinet-level leaders, in addition to continuing to provide a unique space for women college and university presidents to come together for a time of shared growth and learning.

CWLI 2015 program and table setting

This was an exceptional opportunity to constructively engage critical topics of the presidency with strong female leaders at colleges and universities across America. I appreciated the diversity of experience and the different perspectives offered. I am taking back ideas that I believe will fundamentally help me become a stronger leader at my institution.

CWLI Participant

Publishing Pivot: A Vision for the New University


"...higher education is far from doomed. It is at this inflection point in which independent colleges and universities have the opportunity to revolutionize higher education. It is time to pivot towards a new university, one that radically refocuses structure and pedagogy on students and their learning; reimagines the foundational institutional structures of leadership, tenure, and the higher education business model; and produces national examples for access and inclusion."

"Pivot: A Vision for the New Institution" has become a map used by boards, cabinets, and leadership teams to chart a future through change and uncertainty. Higher education is far from doomed, and "Pivot" is the critical reimagining of how that education is shaped that guides a vision for the new university.

“Pivot: A Vision for the New Institution” cover image

Adapting Through Change & Naming Our Strengths


Our Credo mission to serve learners and leaders and the core values at the heart of the Credo ethos came into focus with the changing social and political landscape of the 2020s. We are on the way with our campus partners to actualizing our vision, and we do it as an extended team of Credo employees, affiliate consultants, and campus partners through the shared values of: Courageous Leadership, Heartfelt Service, Limitless Potential, Risk With Trust, Learning In Action, and Ethical Stewardship.

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