HERS Awarded $1.1 Million from the Luce Foundation and the Mellon Foundation, Supporting Access to Higher Education Leadership Development


Contact Information:
Gloria D. Thomas, Ph.D., President
(303) 871-6866

Mellon and Luce Foundations Grant $1.1 Million to HERS, Supporting Access to Higher Education Leadership Development

DENVER,  COLORADO, May 23, 2024  – HERS (Higher Education Resource Services) has received two multi-year grants totaling more than $1.1 million to expand participation of leaders from institutions and disciplines often underrepresented at its leadership programs. The Mellon Foundation has awarded HERS $864,000 to support rising academic and administrative leaders from humanities disciplines. The Henry Luce Foundation will fund leaders from STEM disciplines and will support the creation of a STEM Leader Community through a grant of $300,000.

These two grants have been awarded at a pivotal point in HERS’ 52-year history. HERS will become a fully independent national nonprofit organization as of July 1, 2024. In its first five decades, HERS was based in university settings – first Bryn Mawr College and more recently the University of Denver – while cultivating higher education leaders across the country.

President Gloria Thomas, Ph.D. shares that “HERS remains more committed than ever to create and sustain a diverse community of women and gender-diverse leaders in higher education. The Mellon and Luce Foundations share our commitment to preparing and supporting a range of academic leaders who reflects today’s student population.”

The grants advance HERS’ goal to remove financial barriers to participation from leaders on campuses without adequate professional development funds.

The HERS-Mellon Leadership Fellows program will develop an inclusive network of leaders with expertise and/or academic leadership positions within humanities disciplines. Each year a diverse group of these leaders will be recruited to the summer HERS Leadership Institutes (HLIs) as HERS-Mellon Leadership Fellows, comprising about 15 to 20 percent of each cohort. The HLI features a nine-day intensive experience during the summer in which participants study and reside together as a supportive community addressing building leadership capacity, understanding self, working with others, navigating systems, and leading change and transformation. Participants culminate their HERS experience in self-designed multi-year leadership projects involving their own institutions. Ongoing growth and support are provided through sustained mentoring, specialized “micro-communities,” and mutual friendship and support in the HERS Alum Network.

This project enables HERS to assist the Mellon Foundation in addressing the decline in the study of disciplines within the humanities resulting from a negative national perception and portrayal of the humanities as inadequate preparation for the workplace.

The three-year Luce Foundation grant will help establish a HERS-LUCE STEM Leader Community through a progressive program culminating in a STEM Leader Community Summit. This extends the work of a previous award from the Luce Foundation that supported STEM leaders to attend the HLI. Through a “train the trainer” model, cohorts of six STEM leaders each year will serve in the roles of initiators, accelerators and sustainers, established in successive years, to bring together dynamic STEM leaders and administrators. HERS will establish peer coaching circles with STEM leaders; recruit new, emerging STEM leaders to attend the HERS Leadership Institute (HLI); and provide support for the cohorts to engage with and be a part of launching a dynamic and sustainable HERS-LUCE STEM Leader Community within the HERS Network of alums and allies.

In addition to targeting specific academic disciplines, both the Mellon and Luce Foundations share the HERS mission to include those who have social and demographic identities underrepresented in academic leadership. HERS contends that truly diverse leadership represents those with marginalized identities reflecting race/ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, and intersections of these identities. Additionally, programs increasingly recruit leaders from community colleges, HBCUs, Hispanic-Serving Institutions, and tribal colleges, among others.

Both foundations require that additional funding is sought to support and sustain these initiatives. As part of its strategic plan, HERS launched its largest-ever comprehensive campaign titled The Next 50 Years: HERS Campaign for Excellence, Access and Equity with a goal of $2 million in scholarship support for HLI by 2028. “The momentum created by these grants and personal investments by HERS alums in developing the next generation of academic leaders sets the stage for a stronger future for HERS and higher education,” said Thomas.


Higher Education Resource Services (HERS) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to creating and sustaining a diverse network of higher education leaders through transformative programming, coaching and peer support. Since its founding in 1972, HERS has been a force for change, guiding leaders and strengthening institutions of higher education; HERS has been integral to the career advancement of more than 6,000 alums from over 1,400 institutions around the world, thereby promoting equity, inclusivity, and excellence across all institutional types.

Learn more at HERSnetwork.org.


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