Initiative Launched to Develop Aspiring Presidents of Minority-Serving Institutions - Higher Education
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Initiative Launched to Develop Aspiring Presidents of Minority-Serving Institutions

by Jamal Eric Watson

In an effort to groom the next generation of college presidents who will preside over minority-serving institutions (MSIs), The Center for Minority Serving Institutions (CMSI) at the University of Pennsylvania is launching a new pipeline initiative to develop budding talent.

“MSI Aspiring Leaders” is the new initiative. The program will include a forum, one-on-one mentoring, and is designed to bring mid-career aspiring leaders together to engage with leaders in the education, nonprofit and business sector.

The program is being supported with more than $745,000 in grants from the ECMC Foundation and the Kresge Foundation.

Dr. Marybeth Gasman

Dr. Marybeth Gasman

“The leaders at minority-serving institutions are some of the most innovative and dedicated educations in the nation. They have to be because they’re at institutions that educate students who are historically underserved,” said Dr. Marybeth Gasman, a professor of higher education and director of CMSI. “Strengthening leadership pathways for these colleges and universities is one way to ensure institutional commitment to diversity and equity in higher education.”

By bringing together presidents and experts to engage on a variety of topics such as the presidential nomination process, managing relationships with the faculty, using data to make decisions, and navigating the media, participants will gain skills and develop a network of MSI leaders and peers who have similar aspirations, Gasman said.

“I have been studying leadership at various MSIs for over 20 years and from the moment we opened the Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions, I wanted to make leadership a central focus of what we do as it is essential to the success of MSIs and to the lives of all of the students they serve and educate,” says Gasman in an interview with Diverse. “With MSI Aspiring Leaders, we will be able to open a solid pathway for those mid-career professionals to pursue their leadership goals.”

Participation in the forum will be free for mentees — who will be invited to apply and CMSI will offer travel support for those that need assistance. Following the forum, mentors and mentees will participate in a one-on-one mentoring relationship through in person meetings, conference calls, and emails.

In recent years, MSIs — particularly historically Black colleges and universities — have experienced an unusual high turnover. Education leaders argue that the need for creating a pipeline for future leadership is necessary.

“Leading a university is a challenging job, and that can be especially true at Minority Serving Institutions,” said Caroline Altman Smith, deputy director of education at Kresge. “Given how many presidents will be retiring in the current years, and how important minority-serving institutions are to the nation’s college completion agenda, we believed it was critical to invest in the professional development of those who will lead MSIs in the next decade and beyond.”

Jamal Eric Watson can be reached at You can follow him on Twitter @jamalericwatson.

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