Executive Leadership Institute

The Vision: Developing the Next Generation of HBCU Legacy Leaders

The HBCU Executive Leadership Institute endeavors to bolster the readiness of future HBCU presidents and executive leaders. Through the development of a performance-based program, it seeks to actively involve aspiring leaders in authentic HBCU contexts, fostering a learning environment where proficiency can be honed and demonstrated in real-time scenarios.

Between 2010 and 2014, HBCU presidents’ tenures lasted for an average of 3.3 years (Kimbrough, 2017) while the average tenure of presidents across all 4-year higher education institutions in the same years was 7 years (Gagliardi, 2017).  Therefore. a central challenge for the future of these institutions is the need for outstanding leaders with skills that continue and expand upon that historic role.

There are inherent challenges facing HBCU leaders and Board of Trustees tied to accessibility of finance, human capital, and physical and technological infrastructure.  Attracting and retaining students who persevere through graduation takes money, especially when scholarship offers are not backed by funding from endowment income.  HBCU students come from families of little or modest means…not able to make endowment gifts.  Nonetheless, HBCU’s continued to attract and nurture thousands of students, still often first in their families to attend college, as their graduates enrich African-American communities and the nation.


  1. Focus on the preparation and development of HBCU presidents and executive leaders
  2. Increase the supply of qualified candidates to serve as HBCU presidents and other executive-level leaders.

The HBCU Executive Leadership Institute (ELI) at Clark Atlanta University is a groundbreaking initiative that serves as an incubator for recruiting and developing future presidents for over 100 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).


The first competency and performance-based program of its kind,  ELI will help preserve and strengthen HBCUs as a hub for education, opportunity and uplift in the community they serve.

The Executive Leadership Institute (ELI) at Clark Atlanta University (CAU) has developed a robust program for knowledge delivery, hands-on skills, and intuition based on know-how for Fellows who are aspiring executive leaders and change agents for the future of HBCUs and for chairs and members of these institutions.

The HBCU Executive Leadership Institute (ELI) at Clark Atlanta University (CAU) will provide a Certification program that trains future presidents for the nation’s HBCU’s.


As the HBCU ELI looks toward engaging the first few cohorts of Fellows over the next three years, the focus is on the implementation of a high-quality performance-based preparation program. Specifically, the outcomes are to:

  1. Recruit and select up to 30 HBCU ELI Fellows each year through the implementation of a rigorous, competency-based selection process.
  2. Increase the number of prospective HBCU Presidents and executive level leaders who demonstrate competence in the areas addressed through the HBCU ELI Competency Model.
  3. Create a series of competency-based credential courses to provide Fellows with a personalized leadership pathway based on their professional and career development goals.
  4. Establish a “Fellow Alumni Network” program framework to sustain engagement and support Fellows progress in their careers.

About Us

In 2018 the HBCU Council of Past Presidents approached Clark Atlanta University about the possibility of establishing a program to prepare future HBCU Presidents. The CAU School of Education in collaboration with the Online Learning and Continuing Education office wrote a planning grant to develop the HBCU Executive Leadership Institute. With the support of our distinguished Advisory Board and the HBCU ELI Team, the program is ready to welcome our Community of Fellows in January 2022.

The HBCU Executive Leadership Institute aims to establish a sustainable model for increasing the quality and supply of qualified candidates to serve as HBCU presidents and other executive level leaders. The Institute will support the design of a leadership development program that will focus on the preparation and development of HBCU presidents and executive leaders. The vision is to develop a performance-based leadership preparation program that will engage aspiring and new HBCU Presidents in an extended learning network that provides opportunities to practice and demonstrate proficiency in real time, in the real HBCU working environment.

The HBCU Executive Leadership Institute will address the following four components:

  1. Well-defined competency model (knowledge, skills, and dispositions) for effective HBCU leadership.
  2. A high-quality performance-based preparation program that engages participants in a combination of face-to-face and online learning experiences.
  3. A well-defined approach for recruitment of potential participants that includes selection criteria and protocols.
  4. A model for ongoing evaluation and support of aspiring and practicing HBCU leaders.

HBCU ELI Advisory Board

Executive Director

Dr. Phyllis Worthy Dawkins, Past President Bennett College and
Acting President Cheyney University

ELI Team

Dr. J. Fidel Turner, Jr., Dean, CAU School of Education
Dr. Cheryl Dozier Davenport, Program Coordinator & President Emerita, Savannah State University
Dr. Mary A. Hooper, Curriculum Designer, Associate Provost, CAU Online Learning & Continuing Education & Professor of Educational Leadership
Mr. Owen Walker, Program Manager & Educational Leadership Doctoral Student
Dr. Dorothy Cowser Yancy, President Emerita, Shaw University & Johnson C. Smith University, Member,
HBCU AB/C-HBCU-PP Curriculum Committee
HBCU AB/C-HBCU-Past Presidents Selection Committee (Lyons, Lomotey, Hatton, Dolinger)
TalentQuest, External Program Evaluator Consultants


HBCU AB/C-HBCU-PP Curriculum Committee
HBCU AB/C-HBCU-Past Presidents Selection Committee (Lyons, Lomotey, Hatton, Dolinger)
TalentQuest, External Program Evaluator Consultants

Dr. Richard Lucas, Vice President, Institutional Advancement, Resource Person
Ms. Quisa Foster, Assistant Vice President, Institutional Advancement 
Mrs. Kimberly Sellers-Bates, Prospect Research Manager, ELI Resource
HBCU AB Development Committee
Mr. Robert (Bob) Poole, Senior Philanthropic Advisor, Consultant
Mr. Mason Blacher, President, Mason Jay Blacher & Associates, Consultant

Marketing & Communication
Mr. Sam Burston, Vice President, University Relations & External Affairs, Resource Person
Ms. Jolene Butts Freeman, Director of News and Media Relations  
Ms. Mia Walker, Social Media Director
Cecintel PR, NCompass & Per Se, External Marketing & Communication Consultants, Glass Ladder

Curriculum & Micro-credentials

The ELI Competency Model includes core leadership competencies of relationship building and networking, communication for influence, emotional intelligence skills, decision making, strategic planning, finance, and operations. Executive-specific competencies for HBCUs include branding, funding, recruiting, academic management, team building, board relations; recruiting and developing the management team; leading through crisis and uncertainty; and advocating for racial and social justice.

These competencies provide the foundation needed for executives to ensure the success of students by equipping them with career enhancing tools (credentials, certificates, internships, etc.) to complement their subject matter training.

Download a pdf of The ELI Competency Model.

Apply for the HBCU ELI at CAU Community of Fellows

To learn how to be a part of next cohort, please send inquiries to



TalentQuest LLC
Ncompass International
Per Se Media Group
Mason Jay Blacher & Associates
CAU Office of the President
CAU Office of the Provost
CAU Office of Online Learning and Continuing Education (OLCE)
CAU Office of Institutional Advancement
CAU Office of University Relations