AEC FELLOWS PROGRAM
Since 1965, nearly 2,000 vice presidents, deans, department chairs, faculty, and other emerging leaders have participated in the AEC Fellows Program, a customized learning experience that enables participants to immerse themselves in the study and practice of leadership and experience the culture, policies, and decision-making processes of another institution.
The AEC Fellows Program helps ensure that higher education’s future leaders are ready to take on real-world challenges and serve the capacity-building needs of their institutions.
- Observe and participate in key meetings and events, and take on special projects and assignments while under the mentorship of a team of experienced campus or system leaders.
- Participate in three multi-day seminars, engage in team-based project and case studies, visit other campuses, and attend national meetings.
- Develop a network of higher education leaders across the U.S. and abroad.
This unique program condenses years of on-the-job experience and skills development into a single year. As a result, the AEC Fellows Program is the most effective, comprehensive leadership development program in American higher education today. Of the nearly 2,000 Fellows to date, more than 80 percent have served as chief executive officers, chief academic officers, other cabinet-level positions, and deans.
An applicant’s institution must be or become an AEC member and remain in good standing throughout the duration of the Fellowship year.
Individuals and institutions can participate in the AEC Fellows Program in three ways: as a Fellow, as a nominator, and as a mentor. Each option affords valuable opportunities for professional and institutional development.
Participate as an AEC Fellow
In seeking a broad representation from across the higher education community, AEC encourages candidates from diverse personal and professional backgrounds, functional areas, and institutional sectors to apply. Nominees must demonstrate a record of leadership in an institution-wide context. Successful candidates have held positions such as vice president, dean, department chair, or program director; others have served as unit leaders in student affairs, advancement, or admissions. Senior faculty who have successfully chaired a major committee or faculty senate are also eligible to apply.
Benefits to the Fellow
The Fellows Program provides participants with the opportunity to:
- Develop the expertise to serve the institution’s agenda and to see the institution as a whole.
- Observe how other campuses address challenges and solve problems.
- Develop a broader understanding of higher education through seminars with other leaders and experts in the field.
- Participate with knowledgeable mentors in structured, off-campus experiences.
- Observe college and university presidents and other senior-level administrators to learn about their leadership styles.
- Learn about national and international issues and how they affect individual campuses.
- Become a member of a national network of more than 1,800 current and former Fellows who serve as resources during the fellowship year and beyond.
Mentoring and Experiential Learning
The Fellowship year is uniquely structured to allow Fellows to spend an extended period of time on another campus, working with the president and senior leadership team. This extended learning experience enables Fellows to observe firsthand how another institution and its senior administrators lead the institution and deal with change. Fellows are mentored by a team of experienced institutional leaders, usually the president and vice presidents. The AEC Fellows Program is the only national, individualized, long-term professional development program in higher education to provide on-the job learning. Institutions must be AEC member institutions to serve as host institutions.
The placement at a host institution can take three forms:
Academic year placement – This placement options enables Fellows to immerse themselves in the events and culture of a host institution for the full arc of the academic year.
Semester placement – This option enables Fellows to immerse themselves completely for one semester in the host institution. During the semester at the home institution, in addition to participating in the Fellows retreats, campus visits, and other Fellowship learning activities, Fellows also undertake Fellowship-related learning through specially designed opportunities.
Flexible schedule of periodic visits (totaling at least 12 weeks) – The flexible schedule enables Fellows to spend brief but intense periods at the host institution, while enabling the Fellow to remain on the home campus for most of the year. The schedule of visits to the host campus is designed in consultation with the nominator and the mentor, and may range from a week or two per month to a full month three times over the course of the year. In all cases, Fellows on periodic visits should seek to immerse themselves on the host campus for key events and the activities that surround them. As with the semester placement, while Fellows are on the home campus, they are expected to make room in their schedules to engage in learning opportunities that are consistent with the goals of the Fellows Program.
Fellows Program Retreats
The Fellows Program retreats are designed to broaden and deepen the Fellows’ knowledge of leadership, strategy and the world of higher education. These face-to-face gatherings of several days each also afford Fellows to develop collegial and working relationships.
These retreats, which take place at various locations throughout the United States, incorporate active learning (case studies, simulations, problem-solving workshops, small group discussions, et al) and pre-seminar readings and multimedia resources. Free-flowing dialogues among Fellows, national leaders, former college and university presidents, and other experts enrich the unique learning experiences at the retreats. Specific dates will be determined prior to the initial orientation in June but the approximate schedule is:
- Opening Retreat: Early August
- Mid-year Retreat: Early January
- Closing Retreat: Early June
Participate as a Nominator
The president or chief academic officer from any AEC member institution may submit nomination forms for up to two candidates annually for the AEC Fellows Program. Nominations are also accepted from nonmember institutions; however, upon the candidate’s acceptance into the Program, the institution must become a member of AEC . Institutions must be AEC member institutions to nominate a Fellow.
Benefits to the Nominating Institution
The AEC Fellows Program provides the nominating institution with numerous immediate and long-term benefits, including:
- The opportunity to identify an important issue that will be the focus of the Fellow’s learning experience.
- The opportunity to enhance the leadership and management skills of a faculty or staff member who returns to the home campus with new ideas, perspectives, knowledge, and skills in critical areas.
- The development of campus leaders who can implement special initiatives or critical projects and are better prepared to assume a variety of positions.
- Access to a national network of other institutions and to seasoned colleagues who are willing to share their best practices and approaches to institutional challenges.
Every Fellow is expected to:
- Engage in a Mentor/Fellow relationship with a college or university president and/or other senior administrators.
- Participate in senior-level decision-making meetings at the host institution.
- Take part in three Fellows Program retreats.
- Attend national conferences and workshops, and visit other campuses.
- Focus on the strategic issue jointly defined as the Fellowship Project by the nominating institution and the Fellow.
- Respect the confidentiality of all information learned at the host institution, at other institutions visited, at the Fellows Program retreats, and in all Fellowship-related activities.
- Study organizational structure and governance patterns.
- Observe how decisions are made, who makes them, and how leaders communicate their decisions.
- The focus is on the decision-making process, rather than the content under consideration.
- Observe the leadership styles of the individuals in each major administrative division, their effectiveness, and how they interact with one another.
- Schedule regular meetings with the mentor to discuss specific questions, issues, or concerns.
- Fellows who provide their mentors with an agenda in advance of a meeting help make effective use of valuable time.
- Complete individual and team assignments and projects in a timely manner.
- Return to the nominating institution for at least one year following completion of the Fellowship year.
Through this program, Fellows experience a unique opportunity to immerse themselves in the day-to-day activities of their host institutions, develop sustained relationships with Mentor(s) and other administrators and faculty, and maximize learning opportunities.
Learning Contract Fellows design an individualized Learning Contract that articulates their plans for the year. This Contract identifies issues jointly highlighted by the nominating institution and the Fellow.
Some of the issues that Fellows have addressed in recent years include:
- Internationalizing the campus
- Recruitment and retention of faculty of color
- Establishing and improving teaching and learning centers
- Establishing policy and procedures for post-tenure review
In addition to working on the issue(s) identified with the nominating institution, the plan includes immersing oneself in the opportunities available at the host institution, reading professional literature, visiting colleges and universities throughout the country and abroad, attending national meetings, and other activities that provide learning opportunities to further the Fellowship goals.
The contract includes immersing oneself in the off-campus experience, working on the issue(s) identified with the nominating institution, reading professional literature, visiting colleges and universities throughout the country and abroad, attending national meetings, and other activities.
The AEC Fellows Program staff organizes three retreats to address critical leadership issues in higher education; to inform and draw on the experiential learning from the Fellows’ placements, campus visits and other fellowship experiences; and to foster collegial exchange and shared learning opportunities among the Fellows.
The Opening Retreat, which prepares the Fellows for their placements, takes place in August; the Mid-Year Retreat, addressing diversity, leadership and change, takes place in January, and the Closing Retreat, looking at higher education beyond our campuses, takes place in June.
To broaden and deepen the Fellows’ perspectives on higher education, the retreats include topics such as:
- Leadership and institutional change
- Planning processes
- Financial management and resource allocation
- Academic programs and policies, including faculty, curricular, and student issues
- Diversity on campus
- Technology issues
- Personal and interpersonal dimensions of leadership
- Higher education policy
These week-long sessions, which take place at various locations throughout the United States, incorporate active-learning opportunities (e.g., case studies, simulations, problem-solving workshops, role-playing, lectures/small-group discussions) and pre-seminar readings and multimedia resources. Free-flowing dialogues among Fellows, national leaders, former college and university presidents, and other experts enrich the unique learning experiences at the seminars.
The Off-Campus Learning Experience
Fellows work with their nominating institutions to design an off-campus learning experience built upon a placement of up to a year at a host institution(s). This aspect of the program is intentionally designed to help the Fellow enhance concrete skills and acquire information that they can then take back to their nominating institution upon completion of the Fellowship.
This extended learning experience enables Fellows to observe firsthand how another institution and its senior administrators lead the institution and deal with change. The Fellows are mentored by a team of experienced administrators—usually the president and vice presidents. The AEC Fellows Program is the only national, individualized, long-term professional development program in higher education to provide on-the-job learning.
Academic Year Placement: This component requires one academic year of off-campus placement at another institution.
Semester Placement: This component requires one semester of off-campus placement at another institution. During the semester at the home institution, Fellows also engage in fellowship-related learning through specially designed opportunities at the home institution, in addition to participation in the Fellows’ Retreats, campus visits, and other fellowship learning experiences.
Flexible Schedule of Periodic Visits to Another Institution: These brief but intense visits enable the Fellow to remain on the nominating campus for most of the year. Ideally, visits to the host campus last for one month, three times per year. As with the semester placements, while on the home campus, Fellows are expected to engage in learning opportunities that are consistent with the goals of the Fellowship.
Council of Fellows: The Alumni of the AEC Fellows Program
AEC Fellows become part of a prestigious network of highly talented and motivated individuals working in senior positions at public and private institutions across the country and internationally. This network gives the Fellows access to professional colleagues—presidents, provosts, vice presidents, and academic deans—who are willing to share their best ideas and perspectives, and to help former Fellows seek new career opportunities and challenges. Most importantly, the network enables Fellows to advance their leadership objectives in higher education.
National association meetings: Based on the belief that effective local leadership depends on knowledge of the national and international environments, AEC urges Fellows to attend national meetings, particularly the AEC Annual Meeting. At this meeting, Fellows learn how federal policy affects day-to-day campus life, and they gather information that helps their institutions strengthen campus policies and practices.
Other visits: AEC encourages Fellows to visit other campuses to enhance their learning about particular strategic issues of interest and to broaden their perspectives. AEC also encourages Fellows to spend time in a corporate setting and/or a university abroad. These experiences offer unparalleled opportunities for Fellows to learn about different models of leadership and decision-making, and to explore potential partnerships for the nominating institution.
Costs and Placement Options
In addition to covering the salary and benefits of the AEC Fellow throughout the AEC Fellowship year, the nominating (Home) institution is responsible for costs associated with the application/interview process and the placement selection process.
Fees associated with participation in the AEC Fellows Program consists of two parts:
$16,000 program fee paid to AEC. This covers fixed costs including curriculum delivery, distance learning support, program retreat expenses, and instructional support materials. Nominating and host institutions must be AEC members. The membership fee is not included in the program fee paid to AEC. Please contact EMAIL for additional information.
Professional Development Budget
$10,000 minimum professional development budget, made available to the AEC Fellow. This supports travel, lodging, and other related costs for the three required program retreats and the AEC Annual Meeting. The professional development budget can also be used to support institutional visits and attendance at higher education conferences.
Depending upon the placement option selected by the AEC Fellow and his/her Nominator, these fees are paid in combination by the Home and Host institutions. While the application asks for a preliminary indication of placement option, the final decision is typically made by AEC Fellow and Nominator after AEC Fellowship selection.
Placement is nine to 11 months, typically mid-August through mid-June, spent in learning through a placement at another institution. The Nominator is responsible for overall guidance of the learning experience with a Mentor at the host institution guiding learning during the placement period.
If this option is selected, the host institution pays all fees ($16,000 Program Fee to AEC and a $10,000 minimum professional development budget made available to the AEC Fellow).
Placement is a minimum of 12 weeks spent in learning through the guidance of a Mentor during placement at another institution. The Nominator is responsible for overall guidance of the learning experience and serves in the Mentor role when the AEC Fellow is at the home institution in the non-placement semester.
The home and host institutions split the fees. Each pays half ($8,000) of the Program Fee to ACE and allocates a $5,000 minimum professional development budget made available to the ACE Fellow.
Flexible Schedule of Periodic Visits
Nominating institutions may apply for grants intended to help defray costs for nominating an AEC Fellow. A request for grant support should be made by the president or chief academic officer through the Nomination of Candidate form.
Applications for the 2020-21 cohort of AEC Fellows are now closed.
A complete application packet for the AEC Fellows Program includes the nomination, three confidential references, and a transcript.
The Nominator must either be the president/chancellor/CEO of the nominating institution or organization, OR the cabinet-level senior officer relating to the candidate’s function area. If the Nominator is not the organization/institution’s president/chancellor/CEO, a signature from that person is required to indicate institutional commitment. The Nominator’s institution must currently be an AEC member and remain in good standing throughout the duration of the fellowship year.
The nomination form is a web-based form that is initiated by the applicant from within his/her applicant account. The nomination must be completed through the web portal. No external letters of support will be accepted.
Confidential References (Three per candidate)
Applicants should identify three individuals who can attest to their leadership skills and abilities. At least two of the references should be from present or former supervisors. The Nominator cannot be included as one of the confidential referees.
The confidential reference forms are web-based forms initiated to the referees by the applicant from within his/her applicant account. The confidential references must be completed through the web portal. No external letters of support will be accepted.
Transcripts should be emailed directly to EMAIL from the institution where the highest terminal degree was acquired. If electronic transcripts are not available from that institution, have a paper transcript sent to address:
Applications include a professional resume or curriculum vitae (CV) of no more than five pages and answers to essay questions.
CVs of no more than five pages should include the following information:
- Education: degrees, granting institutions, discipline, year; Include any important education that did not lead to a degree.
- Academic positions: Titles (please provide in full), institutions, years of service, date of tenure (where applicable), professional status. For your current position, note the range of responsibilities and leadership accomplishments.
- Administrative positions: Titles, institutions, years of service, date of tenure. For your current position, note the range of responsibilities and leadership accomplishments.
- Summary of scholarship, including publications, presentations, creative works, etc.
- Summary of teaching.
- Service to the college/university, profession, or community:
- Summary of international visibility and service
- Summary of leadership development (programs attended, experiences created by/for you)
- Summary of honors and awards received
Why did you choose to apply to the AEC Fellows Program? Why did you choose it at this point in your career? What do you hope to learn from the experience as an AEC Fellow? Limit response to no more than 500 words.
Summarize briefly a situation in which you provided leadership. Reflecting on this situation: (a) Which of your own leadership efforts contributed to any degree of success? (b) In what ways could you have improved your leadership efforts? (c) What lessons did you derive from this leadership experience and how have you tapped those lessons for subsequent leadership efforts? Limit response to no more than 500 words.
Fellows are expected to share their learning and expertise with their home institution after the fellowship. How could your home campus benefit from your fellowship learning and experience(s) to fulfill important priorities/initiatives/activities? Limit response to no more than 500 words.
Provide a brief sketch of what you see yourself doing within higher education in the next five to 10 years. What kinds of roles and leadership contributions would you like to be making (a) to an institution and (b) to higher education as a whole? Limit response to no more than 500 words.
What high-level skill or expertise could you bring to bear to serve the needs of a potential host institution?