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ACE Launches Effort to Diversify U.S. Higher Education

October 15, 2012


Recent ACE research shows that while 57 percent of those enrolled in higher education are women, women constitute only 26 percent of college presidents. And while members of racial and ethnic minority groups make up 30 percent of college classrooms, only 13 percent of presidencies are held by these individuals.

Despite historical gains, progress has slowed over the past few years. Today, ACE is announcing the Spectrum Executive Leadership Program, a new effort to make higher education's top leadership more representative of the people it serves.

The Spectrum Executive Leadership Program is an eight-month series of intensive study and guidance for senior level administrators who are seeking to become college presidents in the near future. The program is the latest representation of ACE's continuing commitment to access, equity and diversity in higher education. It is designed for, but not exclusive to, women and members of underrepresented groups.

The initiative is generously supported by American Express, which has funded ACE efforts on inclusion in the past.

"Higher education faces a unique period of transition as scores of presidents, including minorities and women, are retiring. This presents us with a special opportunity to further diversify the ranks of the presidency," said Kim Bobby, director of ACE's Inclusive Excellence Group. "This program is designed specifically to help members of these underrepresented groups examine and build upon their skills, share their experiences and understand the nuances of the search process. We're especially pleased that members of boards of trustees and search consultants, who serve such a vital role in this process, will work with participants to develop mutually beneficial strategies that address issues of diversity and inclusion in the presidency."

"American Express recognizes the benefits diversity can bring to an organization," said Tim McClimon, president of the American Express Foundation. "We're proud to support the Spectrum Executive Leadership Program, which will capitalize on the depth of talent in the pipeline and prepare participants with the leadership skills to reach the top levels of the collegiate arena."

"The Spectrum Executive Leadership Program will add to our already robust suite of learning opportunities for aspiring administrators to advance in higher education," said Gretchen M. Bataille, ACE senior vice president for Leadership and Lifelong Learning. "By reaching out to historically underrepresented groups, we hope to build future leaders who will bring new and exciting approaches to the colleges and universities they one day will oversee."

Applications are open for the first cohort of the program. Up to 35 individuals seeking presidencies in the near future will be selected. Beginning in March 2013, the participants will have the opportunity for candid conversations in face-to-face convenings, as well as access to two webinars. They also will be matched with a college president who will serve as their advisor throughout the program.

During the program, participants will assess their own strengths and weaknesses, work on professional development plans, develop search strategies, hone their leadership skills and prepare for the transition into a presidency.

Planned sessions include:

•    Answering the call to lead

•    Mock interviews and contract negotiation

•    Media relations and developing effective communications strategies

•    Managing the transition into a presidency

•    Assessing campus culture and implementing change

•    Advancement and fundraising

•    Working effectively with boards

For more information on the application process or the Institute, email

One of American Express' three platforms for its philanthropy is Developing New Leaders for Tomorrow. Under this giving initiative, which recognizes the significance of strong leadership in the nonprofit sector, American Express is making grants focused on training high potential emerging leaders to tackle important issues in the 21st century.

American Express is a global services company, providing customers with access to products, insights and experiences that enrich lives and build business success. Learn more at and connect with us on,,,, and

MEDIA CONTACT: Ginnie Titterton ​▪ 202-939-9368 ▪

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