About the Next Leaders Fellowship

The Idea

Next Leaders Fellowship (NLF) is building a framework to identify, develop, and advocate for information and technology professionals in higher education, with a special emphasis on those who identify as Black, Indigenous, people of color (BIPOC). NLF will recruit participants into a one-year cohort experience where they will be mentored by accomplished senior leaders committed to supporting their professional growth. This effort is not seeking to replace existing leadership development programs, but instead will complement them by explicitly recruiting a cohort of diverse candidates, creating a community among and around them, and providing mentorship and coaching throughout the program year.


The composition of higher education senior information and technology leaders continues to be overwhelmingly white and male. This demographic make up no longer reflects the realities of the institutions we serve or our communities. As recently as 2018, the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources (CUPA-HR) reported that 3% of higher education IT Administrators are Black/African American and 3% Hispanic/Latino, and experience suggests these data are worse for the senior-most roles such as Chief Information Officer (CIO) and Chief Information Security Officer (CISO). A growing community of professional organizations and educational institutions are increasing efforts to use their platforms and networks to address these issues. Yet, the reality remains that far too few information and technology professionals who identify as BIPOC have access to the networks, professional development, and stretch experiences that are often required to attain these senior roles.

The Fellowship

NLF will work to address these gaps by building a supporting framework to identify, develop, and advocate for talented BIPOC information and technology professionals in higher education. NLF will recruit participants who will spend a year in a cohort experience to support their professional growth. Through the program year NLF will provide professional development experiences covering topics that include emotional intelligence, organizational behavior, budgets and financial planning, and design thinking. Mentored by a group of accomplished senior information and technology leaders, the cohort will have a space to explore how their identities as BIPOC professionals may influence and shape how they navigate their careers.

Notably, NLF will include conversations with higher education leaders across varied institutional roles and institution types. These sessions will explore insights from the experiences and perspectives of these leaders, while creating opportunities for the NLF cohort to engage with them. Woven through the NLF year will be ongoing experiences focused on career development—preparing for senior roles, the application process and making a case for yourself, negotiation, starting new roles well, etc. Additionally, NLF will engage participants in conversations with search consultants and firms to broaden the portfolio of candidates the firms are considering, and develop relationships participants can turn to as they progress through their careers.

Importantly, NLF is not seeking to compete with or replace existing management and leadership development programs. Instead, the NLF will serve as an interconnecting resource—explicitly recruiting a cohort of diverse candidates, creating a community among and around them, and providing mentorship and coaching throughout the program year. Additionally, NLF will support and advocate for their participation in one existing senior-level leadership development program, including covering the cost of registration, and providing $1,000 towards travel costs for that program experience.

In parallel, NLF will host experiences to engage with institutional leaders, human resources professionals, search consulting firms, and other interested parties on how together we can update recruiting practices that too often result in BIPOC candidates not successfully advancing. These efforts will also help inform and refine NLF content and structure.


Held in conjunction with the 2023 NERCOMP annual conference, the NLF Kickoff Experience will engage Fellows, Mentors, and Sponsors in a series of conversations and exercises to identify areas of focus and develop individualized plans of action for the program year. Examples include:

  • NLF Program introduction
  • Community building with participants and mentors
  • Personal and group assessment (e.g. Belbin, Birkman Assessment, StrengthsFinder)
  • Designing Your Life (DYL) workshop
  • Mindful self-compassion and approaches to self-care
  • Creating participant-specific personal development plans
  • Example topics include:
    • Recruiting, hiring, and team development
    • How our identities shape our experiences and leadership
    • Considerations of intersectionality
    • Relationships and communications
    • Leadership (e.g. styles, approaches, frameworks)
    • The diversity bonus
  • Guest panelists and speakers
    • Presidents and institutional leaders
    • Association leaders (e.g. CUPA-HR, NACUBO)
  • Career development
    • NLF search firm partners and HR professionals
  • Closer engagement between participants and mentors
  • Reflection on and reinforcement of the monthly sessions
    • More space to continue the dialogue
    • Perhaps useful to schedule a week after the monthly group conversation

Each NLF participant will be sponsored to participate in one professional development experience such as the EDUCAUSE Institutes, Leading Change Institute, MOR Leaders program, or ITSMF Academies.

Sponsorship will include advocacy through NLF in support of their application to the program, covering the costs of registration, and providing $1,000 towards travel and lodging costs.

In conjunction with the 2023 EDUCAUSE Annual Conference, the Fellowship will hold a retreat to bring the cohort together and build on their experiences thus far in the program. Registration and travel costs will be sponsored by NLF.

The retreat will include:

  • Community building with participants and mentors
  • Engagement with the broader higher education IT community
  • Fellowship sessions with constituent groups such as the Diversity in IT, Women in IT, and LGBTQIA
  • Small group conversations with senior IT leaders across the community

In conjunction with the 2024 NERCOMP Annual Conference, NLF will invite participants to a celebration of the completion of their cohort year, as well as to engage with the incoming NLF cohort which will begin their experience at that time.

  • Capstone celebration of completing the program
  • Participant reflections from their learning
  • Participant feedback to enhance NLF
  • Launching of a NLF alumni network

Costs and Sponsorship

Program expenses for each NLF participant are budgeted at $10,000. Thanks to the generous support of Bowdoin College and the NLF sponsors and partners, the cost to each NLF participant will be $1,000.

Additionally, to prevent cost from being a barrier a limited number of scholarships are available to participants to further reduce the cost of the program. Applicants are encouraged to indicate if scholarship support will be required as part of their application for the program.

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