Leaders from Achieving the Dream and its Network Selected as 2018 Aspen Presidential Fellows

Fellows will Expand and Diversify the Talent Pipeline to the Community College Presidency

Silver Spring, MD (April 26, 2018) – The 2018 class of 40 Aspen Presidential Fellows, announced today by The Aspen Institute’s College Excellence Program, includes 20 leaders from colleges in the Achieving the Dream (ATD) Network who will participate in a 10-month leadership program designed to prepare the next generation of community college presidents.

“Our nation’s capacity to drive a robust economy, create vibrant communities, and make higher education a transformative experience depends on how well community colleges can lead all of their students to success in college and work,” said Karen A. Stout, ATD president and CEO. “I’m proud that this diverse group of Fellows from ATD and other institutions is ready to dedicate themselves to becoming the extraordinary presidents the times require.”

The Fellows begin the program, delivered in collaboration with the Stanford Educational Leadership Initiative, in July 2018.  They will work with mentors, current and former community college presidents who have led their colleges to achieving exceptional student outcomes, and participate in meetings with national experts on using data in assessing student outcomes, leading change within the college, and creating partnerships with K-12 systems, four-year institutions, and employers.

Over the next decade, four in five current community college presidents are expected to retire, creating opportunities to recruit and train leaders, especially women and people of color. The Aspen Fellows program intentionally seeks a diverse cohort. This year’s class is 65 percent women and 43 percent people of color.

2018 Fellows from ATD institutions include:

  • 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)
  • Ryan Cornner, Los Angeles Community College District (CA)
  • Rebecca Estrada, Santa Fe Community College (NM)
  • Virginia Fraire, Austin Community College (TX)
  • Mary Harris, Austin Community College District (TX)
  • Ryan Kelsey, Achieving the Dream (NY)
  • Brian Knetl, William Rainey Harper College (IL)
  • Yash Morimoto, Santa Fe Community College (NM)
  • Charles Morris, El Centro College (TX)
  • Dana Nichols, Chattanooga State Community College (TN)
  • Catherine O'Brien, Houston Community College (TX)
  • Avis Proctor, Broward Community College (FL)
  • Michelle Saboo, Leech Lake Tribal College (MN)
  • Michelé Smith, William Rainey Harper College (IL)
  • James Todd, Modesto Junior College (CA)
  • Julie White, Onondaga Community College (NY)
  • Rebecca Williamson, Green River College (WA)

Another of the 2018 Fellows is ATD’s Ryan Kelsey, chief advisor to ATD’s President and CEO. He said, "I'm thrilled to have the chance to spend the next year learning with an amazing cohort of community college leaders, many of whom come from outstanding Achieving the Dream colleges. It is rare to have dedicated time to think strategically and reflect on how I can make the most impact as a leader, so I am really looking forward to the experience."

Ryan previously worked at the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust where he developed and managed a $45 million portfolio of grants focused on U.S. higher education, STEM learning, K-12 teacher preparation, and educational technology. Before that, Dr. Kelsey spent more than a decade at the Columbia University Center for New Media Teaching and Learning, serving as Director of Projects and Associate Director of Education & Research. He earned the Ed.D. and M.A. in Communication and Education from Teachers College, Columbia University, and the B.S. in Biology from Santa Clara University.


Achieving the Dream (ATD) leads a growing network of more than 277 community colleges committed to helping their students, particularly low-income students and students of color, achieve their goals for academic success, personal growth, and economic opportunity. ATD is making progress in closing equity gaps and accelerating student success through a unique change process that builds each college’s institutional capacities in seven essential areas. ATD, along with nearly 75 experienced coaches and advisors, works closely with Network colleges in 44 states and the District of Columbia to reach more than 4 million community college students. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

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