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ACE Fellows Program

The nation’s premier higher education leadership development program preparing senior leaders to serve American colleges and universities.

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Description

Since 1965, more than 1,800 vice presidents, deans, department chairs, faculty, and other emerging leaders have participated in the ACE Fellows Program.

The ACE Fellows Program helps ensure that higher education’s future leaders are ready to take on real-world challenges and serve the capacity-building needs of their institutions.

Fellows:

  • Observe and participate in key meetings and events, and take on special projects and assignments while under the mentorship of a team of experienced campus or system leaders.
  • Participate in three multi-day seminars, engage in team-based case studies, visit other campuses, and attend national meetings. 
  • Develop a network of higher education leaders across the US and abroad.
  • Observe and participate in key meetings and events, and take on special projects and assignments while under the mentorship of a team of experienced administrators.

The ACE Fellows Program enables participants to immerse themselves in the culture, policies, and decision-making processes of another institution.

This unique program condenses years of on-the-job experience and skills development into a single year. As a result, the ACE Fellows Program is the most effective, comprehensive leadership development program in American higher education today. Of more than 1,800 Fellows to date, more than 300 have served as chief executive officers at more than 350 institutions.

For additional information about the ACE Fellows Program or to speak to a staff person, please contact:


Contact Information:

ACE Fellows Program
American Council on Education
One Dupont Circle NW
Washington, DC 20036-1193
202-939-9420

 

 Testimonials

 

"I nominated an emerging leader to the ACE Fellows Program because I wanted that person to have the benefits of the mentorship I received as a Fellow."

Marie Foster Gnage

President, West Virginia University at Parkersburg

Immediate Past Chair, AACC Board of Directors

  • Julie Buehler

    Vice Chancellor for Information Services and Strategy and CIO at University of Massachusetts Amherst

  • Mike Lee

    Vice President for Administration and CFO at California State University, Sacramento

Program Staff

Juanita Banks

Senior Program Manager

Brian Madden

Program Manager

Diane Whitt

Program Assistant

Contact us about ACE Fellows Program
 

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Who Can Participate

Individuals and institutions can participate in the ACE Fellows Program in 3 ways, each of which affords valuable opportunities for professional and institutional development.

Participate as an ACE Fellow

Individuals who wish to apply must seek nomination from the president or chief academic officer of their institution. If the institution is not a member of ACE, upon the candidate’s acceptance into the Program, the institution must become a member of ACE. (Those institutions that are not already members can join ACE by contacting the Membership Department.) The nominator agrees to pay the candidate's salary and benefits throughout the duration of the fellowship.

Nominees must demonstrate a record of leadership in an institution-wide context. Successful candidates have held positions such as vice president, dean, department chair, or program director; others have served as unit leaders in student affairs, advancement or admissions.  Senior faculty who have successfully chaired a major committee or faculty senate are also eligible to apply. In seeking a broad representation from across the higher education community, ACE encourages candidates from diverse personal and professional backgrounds, function areas, and institutional sectors.


Benefits to the Fellow
The Fellows Program provides participants with the opportunity to:
  • Develop the expertise to serve the institution's agenda and to see the institution as a whole.
  • Observe how other campuses address challenges and solve problems.
  • Take part in seminars with other leaders and experts in the field, thereby developing a broader understanding of higher education .
  • Participate with knowledgeable Mentors in structured, off-campus experiences.
  • Observe college and university presidents and other senior-level administrators to learn about their leadership styles.
  • Learn about national and international issues and how they affect individual campuses.
  • Become a member of a national network of more than 1,800 current and former Fellows who serve as resources during the fellowship year and throughout one's career.  
Mentoring and Experiential Learning

The Fellowship year is uniquely structured to allow Fellows to spend an extended period of time on another campus, working with the president and senior leadership team. This extended learning experience enables Fellows to observe firsthand how another institution and its senior administrators lead the institution and deal with change.  Fellows are mentored by a team of experienced institutional leaders, usually the president and vice presidents.  The ACE Fellows Program is the only national, individualized, long term professional development program in higher education to provide on-the job learning.

The placement at a host institution can take 3 forms: 

  1. Academic year placement - This placement options enables Fellows to immerse themselves in the events and culture of a host institution for the full arc of the academic year.
  2. Semester placement - This option enables Fellows to immerse themselves completely for one semester in the host institution. During the semester at the home institution, in addition to participating in the Fellows retreats, campus visits, and other Fellowship learning activities, Fellows also undertake Fellowship-related learning through specially designed opportunities.
  3. Flexible schedule of periodic visits (totaling at least 12 weeks) - The flexible schedule enables Fellows to spend brief but intense periods at the host institution, while enabling the Fellow to remain on the home campus for most of the year. The schedule of visits to the host campus is designed in consultation with the nominator and the mentor, and may range from a week or two per month to a full month three times over the course of the year. In all cases, Fellows on periodic visits should seek to immerse themselves on the host campus for key events and the activities that surround them. As with the semester placement, while Fellows are on the home campus, they are expected to engage in learning opportunities that are consistent with the goals of the Fellows Program.  

Fellows Program Retreats  

The Fellows Program retreats are designed to broaden and deepen the Fellows’ knowledge of leadership, strategy and the world of higher education. These face-to-face gathering of several days each also afford Fellows to develop collegial and working relationships. 

  • Opening Retreat (August): provides a foundation of knowledge upon which Fellows build the placement and campus visit portions of their individualized learning experience.
  • Midyear Retreat (January): examines issues relating to leadership, diversity and the change process, and provides connections between what Fellows are experiencing in their placements and their own leadership experiences.
  • Closing Retreat (June): ties together threads of the Fellowship year through networking across the entire Fellows family, examination of higher education and its linkages to the world beyond campus, and consideration of the repositioning of Fellows in their careers and within their home institutions as leaders contributing to the advancement of higher education.

These retreats, which take place at various locations throughout the United States, incorporate active learning (case studies, simulations, problem-solving workshops, small group discussions, et al) and pre-seminar readings and multimedia resources. Free-flowing dialogues among Fellows, national leaders, former college and university presidents, and other experts enrich the unique learning experiences at the retreats. 


Individualized Learning and the Learning Contract

Because ACE Fellows’ backgrounds, interests, and goals vary greatly, ACE seeks to foster individualized learning by providing a foundation upon which individual Fellows construct a program that is meaningful for the Fellow, the home institution, and the host institution. This plan is developing in consultation with the nominator and the host institution mentor and articulated in an individual Learning Contract which is reviewed and updated by all parties at scheduled intervals through the Fellowship year. In consultation with the nominator, Fellows also identify an area of focus for the Fellowship Project, which is designed to contribute to the capacity of the nominating institution.  

To advance their Fellowship learning goals, to enhance their learning about best practices in particular areas of interest, and to broaden their perspectives, Fellows visit other campuses and higher education organizations. They attend the ACE Annual Meeting and other national conferences to gain exposure to critical issues, build relevant knowledge and skills, and develop networks.  

 

Participate as a Nominator 

The president or chief academic officer from any ACE member institution may submit nomination forms for up to two candidates annually for the ACE Fellows Program. Nominations are also accepted from nonmember institutions; however, upon the candidate’s acceptance into the Program, the institution must become a member of ACE. 

The Nomination Process

The president or chief academic officer of the candidate's institution completes the nomination form. The nominating institution determines the process for identifying the nominee(s); some institutions hold an internal competition. 

Benefits to the Nominating Institution

The ACE Fellows Program provides the nominating institution with numerous immediate and long-term benefits, including:

  • The opportunity to identify an important issue that will be the focus of the Fellow's learning experience.
  • The opportunity to enhance the leadership and management skills of a faculty or staff member who returns to the home campus with new ideas, perspectives, knowledge, and skills in critical areas.
  • The development of campus leaders who can implement special initiatives or critical projects and are better prepared to assume a variety of positions.
  • Access to a national network of other institutions and to seasoned colleagues who are willing to share their best practices and approaches to institutional challenges.

 

Participate as a Mentor 

Senior administrators at any ACE member institution may serve as Mentors to ACE Fellows while hosting a Fellow on their campus.

How to Host an ACE Fellow

Any ACE member institution may serve as a host institution for the ACE Fellow. Institutions must become members of ACE in order to host an ACE Fellow. The host site is selected through a guided process of research that Fellows undertake after acceptance into the Program. After consultation with the nominator and the Fellows Program directors, Fellows identify potential host institutions. Letters of introduction are sent to the presidents or chancellors of those institutions who generally serve as primary mentors to Fellows. Prospective mentors and their leadership teams are encouraged to interview Fellows to learn more about their interests and to determine how the Fellow and the Mentor might work together over the course of the year.

Mentor-Fellow Relationship

Fellows typically attend high-level decision-making meetings on both the host and home campuses to study leadership in action. The fellowship experience combines observation with active participation, and the senior administrators who serve as Mentors are encouraged to give Fellows meaningful tasks and projects that will both engage them in the life of the institution and enhance their knowledge and skills. Mentors should engage Fellows regularly in discussions of institutional challenges and potential solutions. These ongoing, informal discussions between the Fellows and the Mentors are pivotal in the Fellows' learning, providing personal and intellectual depth to the off-campus experience. 

Fellows contribute to their host institutions and Mentors by providing an "informed outsider's" perspective on challenges confronting the host institution, working on short- and long-term projects, and gathering information and data as needed. Fellows' recent contributions to their host institutions include: 

  • Coordinating a mid-term accreditation report.
  • Engage the Fellow in specific tasks that will benefit the college or university while providing meaningful learning to the Fellow, e.g., gathering information or data on strategic initiatives, researching and drafting policy updates.
  • Compiling multiple program reviews into a comprehensive report with recommendations.
  • Updating the sexual harassment policy.
  • Revising a faculty handbook.
Benefits  to the Host Institution 

The Fellows Program provides the host institution with the opportunity to: 

  • Benefit from the Fellow's "informed outsider's" perspective and expertise.
  • Engage the Fellow in undertaking specific tasks that will benefit the college or university.
  • Develop linkages with the Fellow's nominating institution and other institutions.
  • Participate in a network of institutions working on similar critical strategic issues.
  • Access the Fellows' network for sharing resources and information.
  • Contribute to the development of effective leadership for the future. ​

Expectations

Every Fellow is expected to:

  • Engage in a Mentor/Fellow relationship with a college or university president and/or other senior administrators.
  • Participate in senior-level decision-making meetings at the host institution
  • Take part in three Fellows Program retreats
  • Attend national conferences and workshops, and visit other campuses.
  • Focus on the strategic issue jointly defined as the Fellowship Project by the nominating institution and the Fellow.
  • Respect the confidentiality of all information learned at the host institution, at other institutions visited, at the Fellows Program retreats, and in all Fellowship related activities.
  • Study organizational structure and governance patterns.
  • Observe how decisions are made, who makes them, and how leaders communicate their decisions.
  • The focus is on the decision-making process, rather than the content under consideration.
  • Observe the leadership styles of the individuals in each major administrative division, their effectiveness, and how they interact with one another.
  • Schedule regular meetings with the mentor to discuss specific questions, issues, or concerns.
  • Fellows who provide their mentors with an agenda in advance of a meeting help make effective use of valuable time.
  • Complete individual and team assignments and projects in a timely manner.
  • Return to the nominating institution for at least one year following completion of the Fellowship year.

Through this program, Fellows experience a unique opportunity to immerse themselves in the day-to-day activities of their host institutions, develop sustained relationships with Mentor(s) and other administrators and faculty, and maximize learning opportunities.

Fellowship Components

Learning Contract Fellows design an individualized Learning Contract that articulates their plans for the year. This Contract identifies issues jointly highlighted by the nominating institution and the Fellow.

Some of the issues that Fellows have addressed in recent years include:

  • Internationalizing the campus
  • Recruitment and retention of faculty of color
  • Establishing and improving teaching and learning centers
  • Establishing policy and procedures for post-tenure review

In addition to working on the issue(s) identified with the nominating institution, the plan includes immersing oneself in the opportunities available at the host institution, reading professional literature, visiting colleges and universities throughout the country and abroad, attending national meetings, and other activities that provide learning opportunities to further the Fellowship goals.

The contract includes immersing oneself in the off-campus experience, working on the issue(s) identified with the nominating institution, reading professional literature, visiting colleges and universities throughout the country and abroad, attending national meetings, and other activities.

Program Retreats

The ACE Fellows Program staff organizes 3 retreats to address critical leadership issues in higher education; to inform and draw on the experiential learning from the Fellows' placements, campus visits and other Fellowship experiences; and to foster collegial exchange and shared learning opportunities among the Fellows.

The Opening Retreat, which prepares the Fellows for their placements, takes place in August; the Mid-Year Retreat, addressing diversity, leadership and change, takes place in January, and the Closing Retreat, looking at higher education beyond our campuses, takes place in June.

To broaden and deepen the Fellows' perspectives on higher education, the retreats include topics such as:

  • Leadership and institutional change.
  • Planning processes.
  • Financial management and resource allocation.
  • Academic programs and policies, including faculty, curricular, and student issues.
  • Diversity on campus.
  • Technology issues.
  • Personal and interpersonal dimensions of leadership. •Higher education policy.

These week-long sessions, which take place at various locations throughout the United States, incorporate active-learning opportunities (e.g.,case studies, simulations, problem-solving workshops, role-playing, lectures/small-group discussions) and pre-seminar readings and multimedia resources. Free-flowing dialogues among Fellows, national leaders, former college and university presidents, and other experts enrich the unique learning experiences at the seminars.

The Off-Campus Learning Experience

Fellows work with their nominating institutions to design an off-campus learning experience built upon a placement of up to a year at a host institution(s). This aspect of the program is intentionally designed to help the Fellow enhance concrete skills and acquire information that they can then take back to their nominating institution upon completion of the Fellowship.

This extended learning experience enables Fellows to observe firsthand how another institution and its senior administrators lead the institution and deal with change. The Fellows are mentored by a team of experienced administrators—usually the president and vice presidents. The ACE Fellows Program is the only national, individualized, long-term professional development program in higher education to provide on-the-job learning.

Year-Long Placement - This component requires one academic year of off-campus placement at another institution.

Semester-Long Placement - This component requires one semester of off-campus placement at another institution. During the semester at the home institution, Fellows also engage in Fellowship-related learning through specially designed opportunities at the home institution, in addition to participation in the Fellows’ Retreats, campus visits, and other Fellowship learning experiences.

Periodic Visits to Another Institution - These brief but intense visits enable the Fellow to remain on the nominating campus for most of the year. Ideally, visits to the host campus last for one month, three times per year. As with the semester placements, while on the home campus, Fellows are expected to engage in learning opportunities that are consistent with the goals of the Fellowship.

Council of Fellows: The Alumni of the ACE Fellows Program

ACE Fellows become part of a prestigious network of highly talented and motivated individuals working in senior positions at public and private institutions across the country and internationally. This network gives the Fellows access to professional colleagues—presidents, provosts, vice presidents, and academic deans—who are willing to share their best ideas and perspectives, and to help former Fellows seek new career opportunities and challenges. Most importantly, the network enables Fellows to advance their leadership objectives in higher education.

National Association Meetings Based on the belief that effective local leadership depends on knowledge of the national and international environments, ACE urges Fellows to attend national meetings, particularly the ACE Annual Meeting. At this meeting, Fellows learn how federal policy affects day-to-day campus life, and they gather information that helps their institutions strengthen campus policies and practices.

Other Visits ACE encourages Fellows to visit other campuses to enhance their learning about particular strategic issues of interest and to broaden their perspectives. ACE also encourages Fellows to spend time in a corporate setting and/or a university abroad. These experiences offer unparalleled opportunities for Fellows to learn about different models of leadership and decision making, and to explore potential partnerships for the nominating institution.

Costs

Program Costs and Placement Options for the Class of 2015–16 

In addition to covering the salary and benefits of the ACE Fellow throughout the ACE Fellowship year, the nominating (Home) institution is responsible for costs associated with the application/interview process and the placement selection process.

Fees associated with participation in the ACE Fellows Program consists of two parts:
  1. $18,000 program fee paid to ACE. This covers fixed costs including curriculum, distance learning support, lodging, and food at 3 required program retreats (lodging, food), and instructional support materials.
  2. $8,000 minimum professional development budget, made available to the ACE Fellow. This supports travel to and participation in learning activities during the Fellowship, such as travel to/from Retreats, national conferences, and visits to U.S. and international college and university campuses. 

Depending upon the placement option selected by the ACE Fellow and his/her Nominator, these fees are paid in combination by the Home and Host institutions. While the application asks for a preliminary indication of placement option, the final decision is typically made by ACE Fellow and Nominator after ACE Fellowship selection.

 
Placement Options: 

An academic-year placement at another institution

  • 9–11 months, typically mid-August through mid-June, spent in learning through a placement at another institution. The Nominator/Sponsor is responsible for overall guidance of the learning experience with a Mentor at the host institution guiding learning during the placement period.
  • If this option is selected, the host institution pays all fees ($18,000 Program Fee to ACE and a $8,000 minimum professional development budget made available to the ACE Fellow). 

A one-semester placement at another institution

  • A minimum of 12 weeks spent in learning through the guidance of a Mentor during placement at another institution. The Nominator/Sponsor is responsible for overall guidance of the learning experience and serves in the Mentor role when the ACE Fellow is at the home institution in the non-placement semester.
  • The home and host institutions split the fees. Each pays half ($9,000) of the Program Fee to ACE and allocates a $4,000 minimum professional development budget made available to the ACE Fellow. 

Flexible schedule of periodic visits to another institution

  • This is a combination of home/host institution placements, with at least 12 weeks on the host campus on a schedule to be determined in consultation with the home institution sponsor and host institution mentor.
  • The home institution covers all fees ($18,000 Program Fee to ACE and a $8,000 minimum professional development budget made available to the Fellow). 

Nominating institutions may apply for grants intended to help defray costs for nominating an ACE Fellow. A request for grant support should be made by the president or chief academic officer through the Nomination of Candidate form.

Alumni

Fellows Alumni/nae Activities

All ACE Fellows Program alumni/alumnae are members of the Council of Fellows (COF), an organization that provides Fellows ongoing professional development as well as an opportunity to continue their association with Fellows from all classes and with ACE.

About the Council of Fellows

The Council of Fellows (COF) meets regularly twice a year—at the ACE Annual Meeting in winter and at the Council of Fellows Weekend in June. These gatherings provide opportunities for continuing career-oriented education, Mentor and Fellow renewal, Fellows class reunions and cross-class networking, and COF governance.

ACE encourages alumni/alumnae to become involved with the COF and other ACE activities. ACE also often invites Fellows alumni/alumnae to serve on ACE commissions, committees, panels, and in other advisory capacities.

 
Council of Fellows Board and Committees:

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    Apply

    A complete application must include:
    Application

    Applications include a 5 page professional history (CV) and essay questions.  Also includes process for Nomination and Confidential Evaluations.

    CV's should include the following information:

    • Education: degrees, granting institutions, field, year; important non-degree education
    • Academic positions: Titles (please provide in full), institutions, years of service, date of tenure (where applicable), professional status.  For your current position, note the range of responsibilities and leadership accomplishments.
    • Administrative positions: Titles, institutions, years of service, date of tenure.  For your current position, note the range of responsibilities and leadership accomplishments.
    • Summary of scholarship, including publications, presentations, creative works, etc.
    • Summary of teaching
    • Summary of professional contributions (aside from regular position responsibilities) to the institution, and beyond the institution:
      •     Summary of grant activity
      •     Summary of international visibility and service
      •     Summary of leadership development (programs attended, experiences created by/for you)
      •     Summary of honors received
      •     Summary of other experiences of particular note
    Essay Questions:
     
    1. It is an expectation that Fellows will contribute back to their home institution in the year after the Fellowship. What would you see yourself doing at your home institution in the year following the ACE Fellowship that would contribute to the capacity of your institution? What leadership contributions could you see yourself making to your institution as a follow up and as a contribution back to your institution after completion of the Fellowship year? Limit response to no more than 500 words.   
    2. Provide a brief sketch of what you see yourself doing within higher education in the next five to ten years. What types of formal and informal roles or positions do you see yourself fulfilling? What kinds of leadership contributions would you like to be making (a) to an institution and (b) to higher education as a whole? Limit response to no more than 500 words.
    3. Summarize briefly a situation in which you provided leadership. Whether you were successful in reaching your leadership goal is less important to the question than your process toward the goal. Our interests in your answer have more to do with your reflections on and lessons from the leadership experience. Please provide some analysis: (a) Which of your own leadership efforts contributed to any degree of success? (b) In what ways could you have improved your leadership efforts? (c) What lessons did you derive from this leadership experience and how have you tapped those lessons for subsequent leadership efforts? Limit response to no more than 500 words.
    4. In 25 words or less, what is your personal definition of leadership in higher education?
    5. Why did you choose to apply to the ACE Fellows Program? Why did you choose it at this point in your career? What do you hope to learn from the experience as an ACE Fellow? Be specific. Limit response to no more than 500 words.
     
    Nomination Form

    To be completed by the CEO or CAO of the candidate's institution of employment. Form must be signed by the CEO of the nominating institution.

    Professional References

    To be completed by individuals who can attest to the candidates leadership skills and abilities. 

    Transcript

    To be sent electronically to fellows@acenet.edu from the institution where the highest terminal degree was acquired.  If electronic transcripts are not available from your institution, have a paper transcript sent c/o Brian Madden, Fellows Program, American Council on Education, One Dupont Circle NW, Washington, DC 20036.

     
    Visit the Program Costs page to find information about the price structure for the ACE Fellows Program.
     
     
    Please submit an information request if you would like to be added to the ACE Fellows Program mailing list.
     
     
    If you need further assistance, please call the ACE Fellows office at 202-939-9420 or email us at Fellows@acenet.edu.

    2015-16 ACE Fellows Program Application

    Applications for the 2015-16 ACE Fellows Program are now being accepted.

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    Contact us about this program.

     

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