Grinnell College's Shanna Benjamin selected for national leadership program

She is one of 45 administrators in higher education joining the Senior Leadership Academy

Grinnell College Associate Dean Shanna G. Benjamin is one of 45 mid-level administrators in higher education nationwide selected by the Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) to participate in the 2017-18 Senior Leadership Academy.

Individuals chosen for the yearlong program are administrators in higher education who have been identified by their institutions as having the potential for senior leadership positions in independent colleges or universities.

Benjamin, who is also an associate professor of English, will participate in an opening seminar from Nov. 3-5 in San Antonio, Texas, and a closing seminar in Washington, D.C., from June 21-23, 2018. In addition, she will undertake a mentoring program, work with experts, participate in webinars and engage in a series of readings and case studies during the academic year.

The Senior Leadership Academy is designed to prepare prospective leaders to assume positions as the chief officers in any division — including academic affairs, student affairs, finance, enrollment management and advancement — in independent higher education.

"The need to prepare future leaders of colleges and universities has never been greater because the generation of people now in senior leadership positions on campus is rapidly approaching retirement," said CIC President Richard Ekman. "Competition for the available places in the program was intense, and the review committee found the nomination materials to be most impressive. They (and I) believe Shanna has the potential for highly effective leadership in a position of senior responsibility on campus."

Professor Benjamin is excited about the opportunity and looks forward to merging her theoretical work in the Senior Leadership Academy with her practical work in the Dean's Office. "I am honored to be part of such an energetic and diverse group of up-and-coming leaders," she said. "I look forward to using all I will learn as a CIC Senior Leadership Academy participant in my administrative work at Grinnell College."

She is a literary critic and biographer who studies the literature and lives of black women. Her term as associate dean at Grinnell College began January 2017. During the 2015-2016 academic year, she participated in HERS: an institute offered by the Higher Education Resource Service that prepares women faculty and administrators for higher education leadership. She serves as the faculty representative on the Board of Trustees Advancement Committee at Grinnell and coordinates the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship program for students from underrepresented minority groups who plan to pursue doctoral degrees. She also is a member of the United Negro College Fund/Mellon Advisory Board.

She graduated from Johnson C. Smith University, a historically black college in Charlotte, North Carolina, and received her M.A. in Afro-American Studies and Ph.D. in English from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She has published on African American literature and black women's literary history in MELUS, African American Review, Studies in American Fiction, a/b: Auto/Biography Studies, CLA Journal and PMLA, the journal of the Modern Language Association of America.

"Professor Benjamin’s breadth of experience, including work in inclusive teaching and learning, mentoring and development, make her especially well-suited for this opportunity," said Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the College Michael Latham. "I am very confident that the program will help her prepare for future positions of increasing responsibility and leadership in higher education."

Approximately 60 percent of participants in the first Senior Leadership Academy cohort (2010–11) have advanced in their careers, and 25 percent of participants in the recently completed 2014–15 cohort already have earned more advanced positions.

The academy is co-sponsored by CIC, the American Academic Leadership Institute and Academic Search Inc. AALI President Linda M. Bleicken will direct the program.

Grinnell College, founded in 1846, has become one of the nation's premier liberal arts colleges, enrolling 1,600 students from all 50 states and from as many countries. Grinnell's rigorous academic program emphasizes excellence in education for students in the liberal arts; the college offers the B.A. degree in a range of departments across the humanities, arts and sciences. Grinnell has a strong tradition of social responsibility and action, and self-governance and personal responsibility are key components of campus life. More information about Grinnell College is available at

Council of Independent Colleges (CIC), based in Washington, D.C., is an association of 768 nonprofit independent colleges and universities and higher education affiliates and organizations that has worked since 1956 to support college and university leadership, advance institutional excellence and enhance public understanding of private higher education's contributions to society.

American Academic Leadership Institute (AALI), headquartered in Washington, D.C., is committed to the broad development and support of leadership in higher education. AALI creates and implements programs and other forms of assistance that enable academic leaders in various administrative positions to be successful in their roles and to advance to higher positions of responsibility.