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How rising higher education leaders are tackling their pressing campus challenges

May 10, 2021, By Daniel Himmelfarb, Associate Director, Account Management

EAB’s Rising Higher Education Leaders Fellowship is a nine-month, cohort-based experience that aims to build community, develop a depth of expertise in the topics and issues that matter most to institutional strategy, and provide focused professional skills development from EAB industry experts. Our inaugural cohort kicked-off in August 2020 and concluded in March 2021 with the presentation of the fellows’ capstone projects.

In each of the monthly sessions the fellows gained depth in new topics or terrains, developed leadership skills, and built a network with peers from institutions across the country. The topics covered included student success, budget models, change management, and more. The culminating experience for the EAB Rising Higher Education Leaders Fellowship was the capstone project that substantively contributes to the fellows’ professional advancement and helps solve a pressing challenge facing their home institutions. In addition to the content from the monthly subject-matter expertise and professional skills development sessions, the fellows also had access to EAB’s research library and experts and were paired with a “buddy” to help develop ideas and get feedback along the way.

The 18 fellows in the 2020 cohort tackled a wide range of issues in their capstone projects, reflecting the diversity of institutions and professional experiences of the participants. Several fellows deeply examined student success at their institutions, specifically focusing on equity issues. Others made recommendations for improving campus sustainability, building stronger online programs, and adjusting graduate tuition rates.

Below are a few of the key themes that appeared in multiple capstone projects. Scroll down to read about each of the capstone projects in the fellows’ own words

Office Hours with EAB

Hear two fellows talk about their experience as part of the inaugural class of EAB’s new Rising Higher Education Leaders Fellowship.

Listen now

Improve student persistence toward college and toward graduation by:

  • Incentivizing faculty to engage in student advising and mentoring
  • Encouraging students to develop a college-going mindset
  • Offering completion and retention grants
  • Making sure the right students and mentors are getting into peer mentoring programs

Encourage lifelong learning through:

  • Innovative educational offerings and delivery methods
  • Applying an equity lens to recruitment, programming, support, and partnerships
  • Strong retention for online undergraduate programs

Embrace transformational change for the institution by:

  • Becoming carbon neutral in the next two decades
  • Reviewing and updating the institution’s core curriculum
  • Moving the institution’s strategic goals from promise to reality
  • Linking the institution’s strategic plan to academic change and the institution’s mission


2020 EAB Rising Higher Education Leaders Fellowship capstone project summaries

The blog posts below are written by the participants to showcase their project and early outcomes.

Academic Program Planning

Going beyond COVID improvements to bolster the university’s online programs

Eric Brooks, Analyst; University of Wisconsin, Madison

Moving the University’s Transformational Plan into Action

Brent Fountain, Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs; Mississippi State University

Strategic Academic Change: Planning with Purpose

Lila McDowell Carlsen, Associate Provost; Pepperdine University

Adult Learners

Considering the Impacts of COVID-19 on our Lifelong Learning Model

Maya Evans, Director Growth Strategies; University of Wisconsin, Madison

Serving Adults Through their Lifetime Learning Journey

Jennifer Palilonis, Director, Center for Emerging Media Design and Development; Ball State University

Business Affairs

Aligning graduate tuition structure with strategic goals

Kevin Gravina, Executive Director of Treasury, Investment, and Business Strategy; Colorado School of Mines

Why the right time is now to invest in renewable energy production on my campus

Les Potts, Associate VP for Administration; Mississippi State University


Creating an internal DEI scorecard for best practices

Kendra Killpatrick, Senior Associate Dean of Seaver College; Pepperdine University

Building a university-wide Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion scorecard

Misty Benett, Assistant Dean; Central Michigan University

Lessons learned from changes to disability-related accommodations during the pandemic

Amy Capolupo, Director of Disability Student Services; University of Montana

Yielding the partnership pipeline

Renard Harris, Chief Diversity Officer; College of Charleston

Faculty Role in Student Success

Faculty’s role in student success: Reducing courses with high DFW rates

Yojanna Cuenca-Carlino, Assistant Vice President for Academic Administration; Illinois State University

Moving the needle on student success metrics by changing faculty incentives: Rewarding advising and student mentoring

Lynne Ford, Associate Vice President Academic Experience; College of Charleston

Student Success

Closing the equity gap in retention and persistence rates

Jonathon Russell, Associate Dean; Central Michigan University

Improving student retention through need-based scholarships

Mindy Markham, Associate Professor, Faculty Senate President; Kansas State University

Building a student success report from publicly available data: Making IPEDS data useful

Ben Brandon, Sr. Director of Student Success Analytics; Georgia State University

Daniel Himmelfarb

Daniel Himmelfarb

Associate Director, Account Management

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