Skip to Content

The Center for Minority Serving Institutions Announces the Second Cohort of MSI Aspiring Leaders and their MSI Presidential Mentors

June 05, 2019

By the Penn Center for MSIs

Philadelphia, Pa., June 5, 2019— The Center for Minority Serving Institutions (CMSI) will be hosting our second MSI Aspiring Leaders Forum from Friday, November 1, 2019 to Sunday, November 3, 2019. MSI Aspiring Leaders is a three-day forum and two-year mentoring program that connects prominent Minority Serving Institutions' (MSI) leaders with mid-career aspiring leaders from the education, non-profit, and business sectors in an effort to prepare the next generation of MSI presidents.
We are pleased to announce this year's cohort of MSI Aspiring Leaders:

  • Marcus Burgess, Claflin University
  • Dara N. Byrne, John Jay College of Criminal Justice (CUNY)
  • Honora Chapman, California State University, Fresno
  • Toya Corbett, North Carolina Central University
  • Steven Delgado, Whittier College
  • Christopher Dowdy, Paul Quinn College
  • Billie Gastic Rosado, New York University
  • Kevin James, Morris Brown College
  • Jason Johnson, Langston University  
  • Mautra Jones, Langston University
  • Venessa Martin Funches, Auburn University, Montgomery
  • Crystal Moore, White House, Domestic Policy Council
  • Pamela Payne Foster, University of Alabama
  • Tonia Perry Conley, Mercer County Community College
  • Curtis Proctor, University of Central Florida
  • Monte Randall, College of the Muscogee Nation
  • Rocio Rivadeneyra, Illinois State University
  • Louie Rodriguez, University of California, Riverside
  • Timothy Sams, Prairie View A&M University
  • Kenneth Saunders, Kenneth Saunders Educational Consultancy
  • Christine Thorpe, Kean University
  • Julian Vasquez Heilig, University of Kentucky
  • Mary Ann Villarreal, California State University, Fullerton  
  • Kimberly White-Smith, University of La Verne
  • Damon Lewis Williams Jr., Northwestern University

Read more about the selected Aspiring Leaders here

The program will also feature the following MSI presidential mentors:

  • Roslyn Artis, President, Benedict College
  • John Bassett, former President, Heritage University
  • Colette Pierce Burnette, President, Huston Tillotson University
  • Joseph Castro, President, California State University, Fresno
  • Mildred García, President, American Association of State Colleges and Universities
  • Timothy Hall, President, Mercy College
  • Sharon Herzberger, President Emerita, Whittier College
  • Harold Martin, Chancellor, North Carolina A&T University
  • Charlie Nelms, former Chancellor, Indiana University East, University of Michigan-Flint, and North Carolina Central University
  • Patricia McGuire, President, Trinity College
  • Alvin Schexnider, President, Schexnider & Associates, LLC
  • William Serrata, President, El Paso County Community College
  • Vinton Thompson, President Emeritus, Metropolitan College of New York
  • Rowena Tomaneng, President, Berkeley City College
  • David Wilson, President, Morgan State University 

Marybeth Gasman, Director of CMSI, shared, “Ultimately, this program seeks to equip individuals, often on the periphery of discussions on leadership, with the skills, knowledge, and network to lead institutions that serve students that are the most in need. Because this program aims to alter what leadership looks like across the landscape of higher education, the forum acts as a hub for innovation and each Aspiring Leader and mentor were hand-selected for their eagerness to become trailblazers.”
Supported by $825,000 from the ECMC FoundationThe Kresge Foundation, Apple, Samsung, HP, Intel, Pinterest and the Penn Executive Doctorate in Higher Education program, MSI Aspiring Leaders includes both a leadership forum and a mentorship program. The forum includes a variety of sessions on topics such as the presidential nominating process, presidential fit, fiscal management, strategic fundraising, trustee relationship management, and crisis communication. Following the forum, MSI Aspiring Leaders and their presidential mentors will participate in a one-on-one relationship over two years, managed by CMSI. CMSI will provide benchmarks to be completed at various points throughout the two years, with the hope that these relationships may be part of a future longitudinal study to measure the influence of such mentorship on mentees’ career trajectories.
“Each Aspiring Leader is pivotal to the success of the program. By matching mentors and Aspiring Leaders based on their goals and creating a cohort of leaders with similar aspirations, the program is intentional with providing layers of support that contribute to the overall success of those aspiring to be MSI presidents. We are not only preparing leaders with the skills to be adept in managing the challenges of the 21st-century college or university president but also we are spurring dialogue on the value of leadership that embraces authenticity,” says Paola “Lola” Esmieu, the Associate Director for Programs at CMSI.  
In our effort to encourage attendance and minimize financial burden, MSI Aspiring Leaders will be hosted without program fees to all invited participants. In addition, all meals and materials will be provided by CMSI. Participants will only have to cover the cost of their personal travel and lodging.
About the Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions
The Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions brings together researchers and practitioners from Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Tribal Colleges and Universities, Hispanic Serving Institutions, and Asian American, Native American, and Pacific Islander Serving Institutions. CMSI’s goals include: elevating the educational contributions of MSIs; ensuring that they are a part of national conversations; bringing awareness to the vital role MSIs play in the nation’s economic development; increasing the rigorous scholarship of MSIs; connecting MSIs’ academic and administrative leadership to promote reform initiatives; and strengthening efforts to close educational achievement gaps among disadvantaged communities. The Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions is part of the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania. For further information about CMSI, please visit

Back to News