UNCF, Higher Education Leadership Foundation Selects Inaugural Class of Presidential Leadership Institute

UNCF and the Higher Education Leadership Foundation (H.E.L.F.) announce their inaugural Presidential Leadership Institute cohort (PLI) made possible by the Kresge Foundation. Developed through a partnership with UNCF’s Executive Leadership Institute, PLI will intentionally engage presidents at historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and predominantly Black institutions (PBIs) as they navigate their first two years of leadership.

This year’s cohort includes:

  • Thomas K. Hudson, J.D., Jackson State University
  • Vernell Bennett-Fairs, Ed.D, LeMoyne-Owen College
  • Bobbie Knight, J.D., Miles College
  • Kevin James, Ed.D., Morris Brown College
  • Cheryl Evans Jones, Ph.D., Paine College
  • Ivy R. Taylor, Ed.D., Rust College
  • Nicole Pride, Ed.D., West Virginia State University
  • Ronnie Hopkins, Ph.D., Voorhees College

UNCF and H.E.L.F. will work with a cohort of eight presidents to deepen relationships and share best practices among current and former HBCU leaders. Through their engagement, the cohort will deepen their ability to balance internal and external leadership roles, articulate their vision and enlist others to support visionary institutional change. The cohort will receive training and mentorship by H.E.L.F. senior fellows who are current or former HBCU presidents. The group will meet in June and December of 2021. Board members at each participating institution will be invited to join UNCF’s Executive Leadership Series, offering professional development and networking for board members at HBCUs and PBIs.

“The curriculum assists presidents during their first year of leading HBCUs,” said Herman Felton, J.D., Ph.D., principal of H.E.L.F. and president of Wiley University. “Our research-based program utilizes best practices that complement and enhance the skills these presidents have developed throughout their leadership career. H.E.L.F.’s dynamic faculty and senior fellows have a wide variety of backgrounds and are from higher education institutions across our nation. They have completed successful tenures as presidents, and some have served multiple presidencies at public and private institutions.”

“HBCUs are hubs of thought leadership and produce the best and the brightest Black leaders,” said Dr. Michael Lomax, president and CEO of UNCF. “This leadership starts at the top with executive officers who are dedicated to continuing the legacy of HBCUs as spaces of transformation and innovation. This is why the work to build capacity and leadership within our HBCU presidents is so important; we will continue to afford them with opportunities that illustrate their diverse skillsets while preparing them for leading their respective campuses.”

During the summer, H.E.L.F. will host the inaugural PLI cohort for a series of trainings that will focus on the academic enterprise with intentional focus on finances, brand management and value proposition, accreditation, institutional effectiveness and the nuances of situational leadership. The convening will take place at Florida Memorial University in Miami Gardens, FL.


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About UNCF
UNCF (United Negro College Fund) is the nation’s largest and most effective minority education organization. To serve youth, the community and the nation, UNCF supports students’ education and development through scholarships and other programs, supports and strengthens its 37 member colleges and universities, and advocates for the importance of minority education and college readiness. UNCF institutions and other historically Black colleges and universities are highly effective, awarding nearly 20% of African American baccalaureate degrees. UNCF administers more than 400 programs, including scholarship, internship and fellowship, mentoring, summer enrichment, and curriculum and faculty development programs. Today, UNCF supports more than 60,000 students at over 1,100 colleges and universities across the country. Its logo features the UNCF torch of leadership in education and its widely recognized trademark, ‟A mind is a terrible thing to waste.”® Learn more at UNCF.org or for continuous updates and news, follow UNCF on Twitter at @UNCF.

About H.E.L.F.

Founded in 2015, H.E.L.F.’s  (Higher Education Leadership Foundation)mission is to develop leaders by exposing them to innovative ideas, scholars, successful practitioners, and expert administrators from across the country.  Through this work, the Foundation seeks to reframe the narrative around leadership at HBCUs which will enable these historic institutions to continue their growth and sustainability while advancing their missions while also advancing the Foundations mission to Lead, Inspire, and Lift.  Please visit us at www.heleaders.org, and @heleaders on Twitter to learn more.