Magazine article The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education

ACE Launches Effort to Diversify Higher Education Leadership

Magazine article The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education

ACE Launches Effort to Diversify Higher Education Leadership

Article excerpt

Research from the American Council on Education (ACE) shows lhat while 57 percent of those enrolled in higher education are women, they 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 minorities.

Despite histórica gains and many efforts to broaden representation in the presidency, progress has slowed and even declined over (he past few years. Minorities accounted for 14 percent of presidents in 2006, a share that actually dropped one percentage point in the 2012 ACE survey on the college presidency. Hispanic women represented 6.7 percent six years ago. Currently, that number has fallen to 5.6 percent.

But a new program from ACE, the Spectrum Executive Leadership Program, shows promise for making higher education's top leadership more representative of the people it serves.

"Higher education faces a unique period of transition as scores of presidents, including minorities and women, are retiring," said Kim Bobby, director of ACE's Inclusive Excellence Group. 'This presents us with a special opportunity to furtner diversify the ranks of the presidency,''

The Spectrum Executive Leadership Program is an eight-month series of activities featuring intensive study and guidance for senior-level administrators who are seeking to become college presidents in the near future, Bobby says the program is the latest effort in 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.

"This program is designed specifically to help members of these underrepresented groups examine and build upon their skills, share their experiences and understand die nuances of the search process," she said.

Bobby and her colleagues have been sifting through applicants to select the first cohort for the program. They will choose up to 35 individuals who will engage in candid conversations on race and gender issues relevant to the presidential search process and participate in webinars on a variety of topics.

"We think it is important to have a program that allows a specific focus on these issues and gives participants strategies for dealing with them," said Bobby.

According to ACE research, many presidential candidates from underrepresented groups, including women, minorities and gay applicants, are often subjected to "hyperscrutiny," even when boards of trustees and search committees have expressed a sincere interest in diversity Bobby says that as a result, there might be a subtle bias that candidates must work to overcome.

"I lend to believe that everyone in the search process is coming to the table with good will," she said, 'But we need to keep having Uns discourse and talk about diese issues so we can move forward."

During the Spectrum Leadership sessions, 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 to a presidency.

This is an opportunity for them to map out how they can strengthen their skills," said Bobby, "The whole process becomes a kind of scaffold on which they can build."

Planned sessions include:

* Answering the call to lead

* Mock interviews and contract negotiations

* Media relations and developing effective communications strategies

* Managing the transition into a presidency

* Assessing campus diluire and implementing change

* Advancement and fundraising

* Working effectively with boards

At one point, there will be a chance to meet with search consultants and go through exercises on how to deal with tough interview questions and other challenging situations that occur during the search process. Last year, search consultants were used to recruit nearly 60 percent of recendy hired presidents, up from 49 percent in 2006,

"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," said Bobby. …

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