New CMSI Toolkit Aims to Help Current and Prospective HBCU Presidents Cultivate Strong Leadership Skills

Philadelphia, February 29, 2016—The Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions (CMSI) has published a new toolkit to help presidents of historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) strengthen their leadership skills. Titled Effective Leadership: A Toolkit for the 21st-Century Historically Black College and University President, the toolkit examines how HBCU presidents can engage with common educational leadership chal­lenges as well as challenges exclusive to HBCUs.

 “HBCUs serve an important role in American higher education and in order to maintain their viability, we need presidents who possess the skills and abilities that will allow them to lead effectively,” said Levon T. Esters, lead author of the toolkit and an Associate Professor of Education at Purdue University. “Our goal of this report is to highlight the leadership skills and expertise required of HBCU presidents to address the complexities facing their institutions in the 21st century.”

The toolkit methodically explores a wide-ranging list of skills that have become required for effective leadership, from policy-making expertise to stakeholder engagement to funding strategies. The toolkit explains why such skills are important in the 21st-century higher education landscape and offers in-depth suggestions about how HBCU presidents may develop them.

One particularly salient recommendation pertains to the advancement of social media and the increasingly important role it plays in communicating messages to students, alumni, and the general public. The toolkit notes that most HBCU presidents do not have an active social media presence, and their use falls well below the national average when compared to other college presidents. The toolkit suggests that HBCU presidents should become the “living logo” of their respective institutions and use social media to raise visibility, increase fundraising success, speak out on key higher education issues, and communicate the ethos of their HBCUs to the public.

“For better or worse, modern technology means that colleges and their actions have become much more visible to the discerning public. HBCU presidents should take advantage of this to help advocate for their institutions, especially at a time when HBCUs face more and more scrutiny,” said Amanda Washington, co-author of the toolkit, Spelman College graduate, and a Ph.D. research student at CMSI.

Published at a time when HBCUs constitute only 3% of the nation’s colleges and universities yet graduate over 20% of all African-American students in the U.S., the toolkit hopes to accelerate the cultivation of leadership at institutions that need it most. The toolkit joins other efforts of CMSI to promote equity in higher education.

Full copies of report are freely available at CMSI’s website.


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. The Center’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. For further information about the Center, please visit


About the Graduate School of Education (GSE) at the University of Pennsylvania 

Penn GSE is one of the nation’s premier research education schools. No other education school enjoys a university environment as supportive of practical knowledge building as the Ivy League’s University of Pennsylvania. The School is notably entrepreneurial, launching innovative degree programs for practicing professionals, unique partnerships with local educators, and the first-ever business plan competition devoted exclusively to educational products and programs. For further information about Penn GSE, please visit