Our History



The concept of the Leadership and Mentoring Institute was initiated in the fall of 1996 by members of the Black Caucus of the former American Association of Higher Education (AAHE). Concerned with the decline in professional development workshops, the Caucus sought a way to address this issue. However, what became apparent while the idea was in its infancy was a need for more intensive, sustained, and coherent professional development opportunities for African Americans desiring to advance through the academy’s administrative and professional ranks. The Caucus wanted to provide an experience to mitigate the effect of the glass ceiling in higher education for African Americans, who would cite isolation and a lack of support needed to be successful. To this end, the Board requested that members of the AAHE Executive Board develop a program that would identify and encourage professionals to engage in professional development experiences in higher education. Discussions at two “Summits on Blacks in Higher Education” focused on gathering data and sharing ideas for how to address the problem. One concrete solution that surfaced was to sponsor a Leadership and Mentoring Institute for Caucus members and other African Americans to help them acquire information and skills to prepare for senior administrative positions and senior academic rank. The inaugural Leadership and Mentoring Institute, held in 2003 on the campus of Savannah State University under the leadership of Dr. Joseph H. Silver, Sr., instituted two tracks for participants. One track was for those seeking to move into senior administrative positions and the other track was for junior faculty hoping to move into the tenured senior academic ranks. 

The Leadership and Mentoring Institute (LMI) was designed to help African Americans become acquainted with the issues and challenges they must be aware of so they can overcome them in order to be considered for senior administrative positions or gain tenure and progress through the academic ranks. LMI assists participants in: 

  • Addressing the unique and often difficult challenges they my encounter as faculty or administrators of color.
  • Acquiring the skills necessary to help move their institutions forward.
  • Developing capacity to think through complex issues in a changing educational context and engaging in collaborative leadership.

Participants are exposed to leaders from various disciplines and functional areas, who have successfully navigated the higher education maze. A network of mentors to guide participants in moving to the next phase of academic leadership is offered through LMI alumni and members of the American Association of Blacks in Higher Education (AABHE). 

LMI Host Sites 

LMI was hosted on the campus of Savannah State University for four years (2003 – 2006). In 2007, in lieu of the traditional LMI, a strategic planning session was held at Johnson C. Smith University for charter members of the American Association of Blacks in Higher Education to focus on formulating the foundation of the association. The subsequent year, Jackson State University hosted the LMI with Dr. Karen Eley Sanders as the director. In 2009, Dr. Barbara J. Johnson began service as the LMI Director with Miles College hosting the Institute from 2009 – 2017. Texas Southern University served as the host site for LMI in 2018 and 2019.  Due to the pandemic in 2020 and 2021, LMI hosted strategic planning and alumni workshops virtually. Cal Poly Pomona hosted the 2022 and 2023 LMI. 

Rising Leaders Institute 

The concept of professional development for early-career leaders was discussed at a strategic planning retreat for the Leadership and Mentoring Institute (LMI) in summer 2016. LMI leadership believed programming for individuals early in their career could increase the number of African Americans in the pipeline poised to assume mid-level and senior-level leadership positions in academe. During spring 2021, planning commenced in earnest for a virtual initiative of LMI, referred to as the Rising Leaders Institute (RLI). The inaugural RLI occurred virtually on June 15-16, 2021 under the leadership of Dr. Barbara Johnson and Dr. Mordecai Brownlee. The RLI is held annually in a virtual format.

The Rising Leaders Institute (RLI) is an intensive, synchronous cohort-based professional development program designed to expand the leadership acumen of highly motivated early-career African American professionals. RLI assists participants in: 

  • Strategically navigating career pathways.
  • Identifying how to make an institutional impact.
  • Developing a network of African American colleagues.