UNCF Partners with Higher Education Leadership Foundation to Develop New Generation of Top HBCU Leaders

Partnership will strengthen leadership pipeline across the HBCU sector 

UNCF announced today a new strategic partnership with the Higher Education Leadership Foundation (H.E.L.F.). The historic three-year partnership is aimed at building a sustainable pipeline of qualified individuals who aspire to lead HBCUs (historically black colleges and universities) at the president, provost, and dean levels. In addition, the organizations will launch a Presidents and Board Chair Institute that will work with a cohort of newly minted HBCU presidents and board chairs to develop competencies necessary to ensure both successful and effective leadership and governance.

UNCF President and CEO Dr. Michael L. Lomax

Dr. Michael L. Lomax

As the preeminent leader in providing bold, engaging and innovative learning and mentoring opportunities for current and aspiring leaders at HBCUs, H.E.L.F.’s mission is to encourage leaders to “lift as they climb” in order to ensure HBCUs survive and thrive as national models of achievement. “Everything UNCF undertakes emphasizes student success and the strengthening of our nation’s HBCUs. In doing so, we want to ensure current, and future executives of these vital institutions are provided with comprehensive development that produces great and effective leaders who are innovative and creative and are positioned to have lasting impact on their respective institutions,” said Dr. Michael L. Lomax, president and CEO of UNCF. “We are excited to partner with H.E.L.F., so we can continue to demonstrate our commitment to the future of HBCUs. What is unique about this partnership is that this is the first time UNCF has undertaken to create a sustained pipeline of high-performing leaders.

herman felton headshot

Dr. Herman Felton, Jr.

“While grappling with the mounting void within HBCU leadership, we sought boldly to fill our beloved spaces with the innovation of our H.E.L.F. “Inspire Institute,” serving approximately 300 Fellows over the past five years,” stated H.E.L.F. co-founder and president of Wiley University, Dr. Herman Felton, Jr. “Our central focus is to strengthen the HBCU leadership pipeline. Partnering with UNCF’s iconic brand to create a leadership institute with a laser focus on presidential and board leadership aligns with our HBCU-centric mission and emphasis. This partnership signifies a seismic shift in HBCU leadership and governance preparedness. Utilizing scholars and practitioners who labor in this space lends an invaluable perspective to our work and will ultimately contribute industry practices and leadership skills for long and successful tenures to administrators overseeing our nation’s gems. Our HBCUs now have leadership and professional development programs intentionally created to address the entire pipeline. Like H.E.L.F., President Lomax and his entire UNCF team share the responsibility of ensuring our HBCUs continue to benefit from highly skilled, transformational and disciplined leadership and governance,” said Felton.

The partnership is made possible through a $2 million investment by the Kresge Foundation to increase the stability and effectiveness of leadership across the HBCU sector and will be administered through UNCF’s Career Pathways Initiative (CPI). The organizations will co-design and deliver leadership curricula tailored to the specific needs of both public and private HBCUs and predominantly black institutions. The curriculum will be delivered through intensive engagement, ensuring continuous touchpoints and training over a 12-18-month period.

Headshot of Samaad Wes-Keys

Samaad Wes Keys, Ph.D.

“At a time when the average tenure of a college president steadily decreases, partnerships like this are both timely and have the potential to have a lasting impact on the entire higher education community,” remarked Samaad Wes Keys, Ph.D., strategist for UNCF’s CPI. “I am thrilled about the opportunity to develop the next generation of HBCU leaders, while also strengthening current leaders to ensure continued success and viability of this sector of institutions. The best part about this partnership with H.E.L.F. is the opportunity we have to influence the world through curricula that are both designed by and reflective of the community and the challenges that are more relevant to HBCUs and institutions with similar missions.”




About The Higher Education Leadership Foundation (H.E.L.F.)
The Higher Education Leadership Foundation (H.E.L.F.) seeks to strengthen HBCUs in America by providing leadership development programming to HBCU advocates and administrators. The voice of H.E.L.F. can be heard through various modalities such as their podcast, Foundations of Our Fathers, and the Inspire Institute. H.E.L.F. also provides executive coaching, consulting services, presidential leadership training, soft skills training, mentoring and preceptorship guidance. Today, through the H.E.L.F. Inspire Institute, over 250 fellows have been trained serving at over 53 HBCUs, 19 governmental agencies, 17 PWIs, seven higher education systems and two K-12 systems all making an impact for the sustainability and continued improvement of HBCU leadership. Eleven percent of all H.E.L.F. Fellows (23) have ascended to the rank of President or Cabinet Level positions since inception of the Foundation. To learn more about H.E.L.F. or to apply for leadership training, visit heleaders.org. 

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, 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 percent of African American baccalaureate degrees. Today, UNCF supports more than 60,000 students at more than 1,100 colleges and universities across the country. Its logo features the UNCF torch of leadership in education and its widely recognized motto, “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.