Lewis, co-founder of Academic Leadership Institute, focuses on mechanics of leadership

June 21, 2022

U-M’s Center for Social Solutions is part of an effort working to address issues of representation, belonging and retention along the pathway to leadership in higher education.

The Academic Leadership Institute is a partnership between CSS and The New School, helping to cultivate a network of rising leaders, including faculty of color, committed to diversity, equity and inclusion through a series of webinars and a selective residential program.

Insights from the American Council on Education’s 2017 Minority President report found that college and university presidents are still predominantly white and male.  A 2020 report found that only 13% of executive officers in higher education were from racially and ethnically diverse groups, thus lagging that of student enrollment and the U.S. population.     

Despite increased monetary pledges from institutions and DEI strategic plans in recent years, many elite colleges and universities paradoxically have seen faculty of color leave due to unsupportive environments.

In addition to the changing landscape of academia resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic and national protests for racial justice and equity, faculty of color face unique barriers and obstacles to leadership that surface such questions as, “What does it mean to bring your whole self everyday as a leader?”

The ALI mobilizes conversations to prepare the next generation of institutional leaders with a tailored curriculum that promotes individual and organizational diversity and transformation. It is distinct from other leadership boot camps in its inclusion of DEI throughout all aspects of the curriculum as well as participants’ extensive records of DEI commitment.

“We aim to prepare the next generation of academic leaders to assume critical leadership roles in higher education,” said ALI co-founder Earl Lewis, Ford School professor and the Thomas C. Holt Distinguished University Professor of History, Afroamerican and African Studies, as well as the founding director of the CSS at U-M.

“Our inaugural class featured 22 leaders from liberal arts colleges, public and private universities, and historically black colleges and universities. This year’s cohort is equally diverse.

“Unlike most educational leadership programs, this one focuses on more than the mechanics of leadership. We invite participants to share their vulnerabilities, embrace their full selves, and center the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion.”

The goals of the Academic Leadership Institute are to:

  • Create a space in which diversity, equity, access and inclusion are foundational values.
  • Build a space of affirmation in which participants can move quickly to a place of professional intimacy and collaboration around shared values and vision for higher education.
  • Spark a leadership movement that centers on talent cultivation, networking and sourcing.
  • Generate a shared vision for transforming higher education, and developing individuals who are capable of making this change.
  • Work to elevate individuals and transform institutions.

Program participants learn from current and past leaders in positions ranging from university presidents, chancellors and provosts to academic-adjacent positions such as philanthropic leaders and general counsel.

This year’s Residential Program will be July 31-Aug. 4 at Swarthmore College. Although the application period is closed for the 2022 program, applications for the 2023 cohort will be available in November at the ALI website.

Speakers at the 2022 gathering will include:

  • Dwight A. McBride, president and University Professor at The New School, ALI co-founder
  • Johnetta Betsch Cole, president emerita of Spelman and Bennett colleges
  • Jonathan Holloway, president of Rutgers University
  • Mildred Garcia, president of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities
  • Félix Rodríguez, chancellor of the CUNY system
  • Reginald DesRoches, president-designate of Rice University
  • Marvin Krislov, president of Pace University and former U-M general counsel
  • Lynn Wooten, president of Simmons College and former associate dean of the Stephen M. Ross School of Business
  • Erika James, dean of The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania

This article was written by Victoria Fisher, CSS