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ACE Fellows Step Out of Their Comfort Zone During Opening Retreat

September 16, 2015

2015-16 ACE Fellows

Application Now Open for 2016-17 Class

For six days in late August, the ACE Fellows Program Class of 2015-16 gathered from dawn to dusk for an intense and collaborative retreat to mark the official kick-off to the Fellowship year.

The retreat balances a mix of self-assessment, team building, exploration of key topics in higher education, strategic planning exercises and intense networking. Fellows continued the annual Program rite of passage by working in teams on a case-study to address the troubled finances of the fictional “Pennyfield College.” This multifaceted experience is designed to help the Fellows step out of their routines and fully immerse themselves in the life-changing experience they are about to undertake.

The class was joined at the retreat by many former Fellows, who are now experts in their chosen fields and serve as instructors to the current cohort.

Also present were a diverse and distinguished group of former college and university presidents informally known as “the Sages,” who mentor, coordinate and convene small discussion groups throughout the Fellowship year. The active involvement of both the Sages and the former Fellows is an integral part of the Program, which allows current Fellows to gain expertise on nearly every aspect of higher education leadership.

During the retreat, Fellows spent a day on campus at Marygrove College, a small faith-based liberal arts institution in Detroit, MI, for the launch of a live case-study that will continue during the fall semester.

Fellows engaged in honest conversations with the school’s faculty and administration in order to explore the ways in which a small college can contribute to the renewal of an urban area, and adapt to changing circumstances, while staying true to its mission. Fellows were challenged to draw upon their own experiences as higher education practitioners and collaborate with colleagues from different backgrounds and varied skillsets.

Margarita Benitez, interim assistant vice president of the ACE Emerging Leaders Group, noted that the opening retreat is the most intense of the Program’s three retreats, but also the time when the bonding at the core of the Fellows program happens.

“At the Opening Retreat, the Fellows set a foundation for collaboration that will last them the entirety of their careers, full of shared connections, knowledge and fun. They arrive as a group of talented professionals, and emerge from the retreat as a cohort,” Benitez said.

The Fellows will meet again in the winter for their mid-year retreat. Before that meeting, they will work on the Marygrove case study in virtual teams, and begin their individual placements in a senior team at a host institution.

To apply for the 2016-17 Class, click here.

For more information on the ACE Fellows Program, click here. For information, please email

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