The Aspen Institute College Excellence Program has announced that Leah Barrett, president of Northeast Community College, is one of 25 leaders selected for the 2021-22 class of the Aspen New Presidents Fellowship.

The program supports community college presidents in the early years of their tenure as they aim to achieve higher and more equitable levels of student success. The Fellowship’s philanthropic partner is JPMorgan Chase.

The 25 Aspen Fellows, who lead colleges that collectively serve more than 260,000 students, were selected through a highly competitive process. Beginning later this year, the fellows will engage over nine months in residential sessions and virtual learning to develop strategies to meet their goals for student success and equity with data to assess challenges and progress.

“We continue to learn how the best community colleges improve outcomes for students and close persistent race and income-based equity gaps,” said Josh Wyner, executive director of the College Excellence Program, in a media release. “This year’s fellows have demonstrated their commitment to achieving excellent and equitable student outcomes, and we are eager to work with them as they join Aspen’s network of more than 100 fellows who serve as community college presidents.”

Barrett became Northeast’s ninth president in January 2020 and said she is looking forward to learning with her colleagues from across the nation.

“I’m honored to be joining the next class of the Aspen Institute’s New Presidents Fellowship for Community College Excellence,” Barrett said. “Over the next year, my colleagues and I will engage with community college thought-leaders to explore student success strategies and develop institution-specific plans to make transformational changes that support our students and the region that we serve.”

As community colleges grapple with the impact of COVID-19 and enrollment declines, turnover among presidents remains high. Aspen is committed to helping prepare the next generation of exceptionally capable and highly diverse leaders through its fellowship programs for new and rising presidents.

The new class of Aspen Presidential Fellows is 56% female, and 60% are people of color. Located in 18 states, their institutions, too, are diverse, from a tribal college with fewer than 500 students to an urban college that educates more than 35,000 each year.

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