Five Colleges hosts national consortium leadership institute

Visionary leadership, measurable outcomes and strategic planning will be the stuff of the second annual Association for Consortium Leadership Summer Institute, hosted by Five Colleges, Inc., in Amherst, Massachusetts from June 24 to 27.

Participants and faculty members from 15 higher education consortia from around the country will participate in professional development sessions ranging from developing financial strategies to navigating campus politics. The idea is to cultivate future generations of leaders from within the ranks of consortia by providing promising staff members with the tools to run a higher education collaboration.

It is a response in part to the fact that few leaders in this emerging field have actual consortium experience. And with dozens of consortia already in existence and more forming each year, the need is apparent. "It's rare to see a consortium hire its leadership from within its own ranks,” said Neal Abraham, executive director of Five Colleges and a faculty member at the Institute. “This means people are taking leadership roles in consortia with an increasing pressure to succeed while lacking any direct experience in how a consortium actually operates."

While professional development conferences and seminars abound for college and university professionals, the institute is the first of its kind aimed at building leadership skills among consortia administrators.

“Different as they may be from each other, higher education consortia inhabit an institutional niche all their own,” said Abraham. “It’s a niche with demands and priorities that are often very different from those of the colleges and universities they serve. The institute recognizes these differences with learning opportunities tailored specifically to consortia.”

Led by a faculty of current consortium leaders, the Association of Consortium Leadership (ACL) Institute will use mini lectures, case studies, group work and pre-institute homework assignments to build a common understanding of managing and leading higher education collaborations. When not teaching classes, institute faculty members will attend program events as mentors and facilitators.

Professional development opportunities won’t end on the last day of the institute, according to Abraham. Institute faculty and facilitators will identify a mentor from their membership for each participant who requests one and will provide free telephone or on-line consultations, as well as an on-site mentoring visit for the cost of only the mentor’s travel and lodging expenses.

In addition, the Association for Consortium Leadership offers a variety of services for its membership, according to Lawrence Dotolo, executive director of the ACL. “ACL offers a listserv so that members can interact, ask questions and seek advice on everyday issues they may encounter in their positions,” he said. “The ACL Annual Conference offers the opportunity to meet with colleagues to learn and discuss current and future developments in collaboration; and webinars are presented throughout the year on topics of interest to the membership. As well, ACL offers a regular webinar series on topics of current interest to consortium leaders.  The many resources ACL makes available to its members will be complemented by the intensive experience of the ACL Summer Institute."

The Association for Consortium Leadership is an educational, research, and professional association dedicated to advancing the leadership of higher education consortia throughout the United States and internationally  (

Based in Amherst, Massachusetts, Five Colleges, Inc., is a nonprofit educational consortium created in 1965 to advance the extensive educational and cultural objectives of its member institutions—Amherst, Hampshire, Mount Holyoke and Smith colleges and the University of Massachusetts Amherst.