Aspen Institute Names Presidential Fellows for Community College Excellence

April 26, 2018

Forty Exceptional Leaders Tapped to Participate in Highly Selective Program Expanding Talent Pipeline Amid Looming Shortage of Community College Presidents

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Contact: Caroline Broder

Washington, D.C., April 26, 2018 – The Aspen Institute’s College Excellence Program today announced the 2018-2019 class of the Aspen Presidential Fellowship for Community College Excellence, a leadership program aimed at preparing the next generation of community college presidents to transform institutions to achieve high and equitable levels of student success both in college and in the labor market. 

The select group of 40 Aspen Presidential Fellows will embark on a 10-month fellowship beginning in July 2018. Delivered in collaboration with the Stanford Educational Leadership Initiative, the Fellows will work with mentors – current and former community college presidents – who have achieved exceptional outcomes for students throughout their careers. Fellows will also learn from national experts about ways to harness data to assess student success outcomes, strategies for internal change leadership and how to create strong external partnerships with K-12 schools, four-year colleges, and employers.

“Exceptional presidential leadership will be essential if more community colleges are to deliver the talent sought by employers, to enable the social mobility needed by individuals, and to ensure the levels of citizen engagement critical to our democracy,” said Josh Wyner, Executive Director of the Aspen Institute’s College Excellence Program.  “This diverse fellowship class was chosen because they have the stuff to deliver against that promise – to be exceptional community college presidents.”

The Aspen Fellowship responds to a specific and growing need for a new generation of leaders who are well-equipped to meet the challenges of the future. Nationally, nearly 80 percent of sitting presidents plan to retire in the next decade. The traditional pathway to the presidency has excluded women and people of color: Currently, 71 percent of sitting community college presidents are white and 64 percent are male. The incoming class of Aspen Presidential Fellows is composed of 65 percent women, 43 percent people of color and represents institutions of varying size and geographical spread.

With the average community college enrolling about 14,000 students, each Fellow who becomes a president has an opportunity to improve outcomes for hundreds of thousands of students over his or her career. To date, 22 Aspen Presidential Fellows are now sitting community college presidents at institutions that collectively serve more than 300,000 students nationwide.

The 2018-2019 Aspen Presidential Fellows and Their Institutions 

  • Catharine Almquist, Trident Tech (SC)
  • John Bonner, Everett Community College (WA)
  • Amy Bosley, Valencia College (FL)
  • Susan Burleson, Davidson County Community College (NC)
  • Stephen Cain, Montgomery College (MD)
  • Tim Casper, Madison Area Technical College (WI)
  • Lisa Cooper Wilkins, San Joaquin Delta College (CA)
  • Ryan Cornner, Los Angeles Community College District (CA)
  • Sue Cui, Great Lakes Higher Education Guaranty Corporation (CA)
  • Dolores Duran-Cerda, Pima Community College (AZ)
  • Rebecca Estrada, Santa Fe Community College (NM)
  • Virginia Fraire, Austin Community College (TX)
  • Sean Hancock, Palo Verde College (CA)
  • Mary Harris, Austin Community College District (TX)
  • Eric Heiser, Salt Lake City Community College (UT)
  • Shanna Jackson, Columbia State Community College (TN)
  • Beatriz Joseph, Palo Alto College (TX)
  • Ryan Kelsey, Achieving the Dream (NY)
  • Brian Knetl, William Rainey Harper College (IL)
  • Teresa Leyba Ruiz, Glendale Community College (AZ)
  • Christine Mangino, Hostos Community College (NY)
  • Yash Morimoto, Santa Fe Community College (NM)
  • Charles Morris, El Centro College (TX)
  • Patrick Murphy, Arlington Public Schools (VA)
  • Dana Nichols, Chattanooga State Community College (TN)
  • Catherine O’Brien, Houston Community College (TX)
  • Monique Perry, York Technical College (SC)
  • Landon Pirius, Colorado Community College System (CO)
  • Towuanna Porter Brannon, Mitchell Community College (NC)
  • Avis Proctor, Broward Community College (FL)
  • Kathryn Regjo, Colorado Mountain College (CO)
  • Michelle Saboo, Leech Lake Tribal College (MN)
  • Marissa Schlesinger, Gutmann Community College (NY)
  • Michelé Smith, William Rainey Harper College (IL)
  • Janet Spriggs, Rowan-Cabarrus Community College (NC)
  • Lisa Stich, Iowa Lakes Community College (IA)
  • James Todd, Modesto Junior College (CA)
  • Julie White, Onondaga Community College (NY)
  • Jermaine Williams, North Shore Community College (MA)
  • Rebecca Williamson, Green River College (WA)

For bios and photos of all 40 extraordinary leaders, visit:

The Aspen Presidential Fellowship for Community College Excellence is supported by the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, College Futures Foundation, ECMC Foundation, Greater Texas Foundation, the Joyce Foundation, the Kresge Foundation, and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

The Aspen College Excellence Program aims to advance higher education practices and leadership strategies that significantly improve student outcomes. Through the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, the Siemens Technical Scholars program, the Aspen Presidential Fellowship for Community College Excellence, and other initiatives, the College Excellence Program works to improve colleges’ understanding and capacity to teach and graduate students, especially the growing population of low-income and minority students on American campuses. For more information, visit

Stanford Educational Leadership Initiative (SELI) strives to help education leaders further develop their ability to transform education systems and drive meaningful change. SELI programs bring together the strengths of Stanford Graduate School of Education and Stanford Graduate School of Business, as well as additional Stanford faculty and resources, to offer multidimensional and immediately impactful professional development programming for practicing leaders in PreK-12, higher education, and policy. By fostering collaboration and building relationships between existing colleagues and among new peers, SELI programs create networks supporting participants’ continued learning and organizational improvement. For more information, visit

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, DC. Its mission is to foster leadership based on enduring values and to provide a nonpartisan venue for dealing with critical issues. The Institute is based in Washington, DC; Aspen, Colorado; and on the Wye River on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. It also has offices in New York City and an international network of partners. For more information, visit

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