CMSI Hosts Inaugural MSI Aspiring Leaders Forum

Philadelphia, Pa., November 14, 2017— This week, the Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions (CMSI) will host our inaugural MSI Aspiring Leaders Forum. The three-day forum will take place from Friday, November 17 to Sunday, November 19 and will include more than 12 sessions designed to address a myriad of issues, scenarios, and events that may arise during the college presidency.

The program will feature the following MSI presidential mentors:

  • John Bassett, former President, Heritage University
  • Joseph Castro, President, California State University, Fresno
  • Soraya Coley, President, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona
  • Mildred García, President, California State University, Fullerton
  • Sharon Herzberger, President, Whittier College
  • Walter Kimbrough, President, Dillard University
  • Elmira Mangum, former President, Florida A & M University
  • Ann McElaney-Johnson, President, Mount Saint Mary’s University
  • Collette Pierce Burnette, President, Huston-Tillotson University
  • Alvin Schexnider, former Interim President, Norfolk State University
  • William Serrata, President, El Paso County Community College
  • Michael Sorrell, President, Paul Quinn College
  • Vinton Thompson, President, Metropolitan College of New York
  • Rowena Tomaneng, President, Berkeley City College
  • David Wilson, President, Morgan State University

For information on the 21 selected Aspiring Leaders, please visit

In an effort to prepare the next generation of MSI presidents, the forum will allow for authentic and candid conversations between mentors and aspiring leaders. With a series of interactive sessions such as, “Developing Relationships between Administration and Faculty,” “Working with Boards of Trustees,” “Budgeting and Finance for Presidents,” “Successful Communication Strategies for Presidents,” as well as “The Role of President in Ensuring Student Success and Gainful Employment,” the forum will provide aspiring leaders with vital information on the positions they plan to hold in the future. 

Many of the sessions and panel discussions will be moderated by the fifteen mentors who have years of experiential knowledge and reputable insight. There will also be guest speakers who will lend their professional acumen to the discussions, including Scott Jaschik of Inside Higher Ed, Ericka Miller, and Lionel Anderson of Isaacson Miller Search Firm, and representatives from the Association of Governing Boards and the American Association of University Professors. Keynote speaker, Mildred García, President of California State University, Fullerton, will share her journey as she navigated three presidencies in an address titled, “How Diverse Champions and Passion for Equity Led Me to the Right Institutions at the Right Time for the Right Reasons: A Journey of Three Presidencies.” 

To complement the sessions, CMSI has developed case studies that simulate actual institutional challenges; these challenges range from budgetary dilemmas to enrollment declines to leadership turnover. Each mentor and aspiring leader pair will address their designated institutional challenge and present a solution at the end of the forum. These case studies, along with three books, have been given to each mentor and aspiring leaders prior to the weekend to prepare for a rich discussion. The three books include, Presidencies Derailed: Why University Leaders Fail and How to Prevent It by Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, Gerald D Kauvar and E. Grady Bogue, Educating a Diverse Nation: Lessons from Minority Serving Institutions by Clifton M. Conrad and Marybeth Gasman and On Being Presidential by Susan R.  Pierce.

Marybeth Gasman, Director of CMSI, shared, “This forum will provide an extraordinary experience for all those who attend. It will ignite conversations and we hope it will be transformative to the career trajectories of all of the aspiring leaders.”

Supported by $765,000 in grants from the ECMC Foundation, The Kresge Foundation, and the Penn Executive Doctorate in Higher Education program, MSI Aspiring Leaders includes both a leadership forum and a mentorship program.                             

Following the forum, mentors and their mentees will participate in a one-on-one relationship over two years. CMSI will facilitate these relationships and provide benchmarks to be completed at various points throughout the two years, with the hope that these relationships may be part of a future longitudinal study to measure the influence of such mentorship on mentees’ aspiring leaders’ career trajectories. The structure of the MSI Aspiring Leaders program aims to cultivate future MSI presidents by strengthening pathways to leadership and building connections between peers with similar aspirations and abilities.

 In an effort to encourage attendance and minimize financial burden, MSI Aspiring Leaders is free of program fees to all invited participants. Participants also receive travel stipends to offset the cost of their travel and lodging.

About the Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions 

The Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions brings together researchers and practitioners from Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Tribal Colleges and Universities, Hispanic Serving Institutions, and Asian American, Native American, and Pacific Islander Serving Institutions. CMSI’s goals include: elevating the educational contributions of MSIs; ensuring that they are a part of national conversations; bringing awareness to the vital role MSIs play in the nation’s economic development; increasing the rigorous scholarship of MSIs; connecting MSIs’ academic and administrative leadership to promote reform initiatives; and strengthening efforts to close educational achievement gaps among disadvantaged communities. The Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions is part of the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania. For further information about CMSI, please visit

Tuesday, November 14, 2017