Coleman-Ferrell selected for the Aspen Institute’s Rising Presidents Fellowship

The Aspen Institute College Excellence Program announced Aug. 22 that Tunjarnika L. Coleman-Ferrell, Ed.D., vice president of academic affairs at Palm Beach State College, is one of 31 leaders selected for the 2022-23 class of the Aspen Rising Presidents Fellowship. This program, delivered in collaboration with the Stanford Educational Leadership Initiative, prepares the next generation of community college presidents to transform institutions to achieve higher and more equitable levels of student success.

Many sitting community college presidents plan to retire in the next decade, creating vacancies and an opportunity to diversify college leadership. Aspen Presidential Fellows represent the next generation of college leadership: this incoming class of Aspen Rising Presidents Fellows is 70 percent female, and 54 percent are people of color. The institutions they represent are also diverse, located in 16 states, from small rural colleges to large urban campuses. The fellows, selected through a competitive process, will work closely with highly accomplished community college presidents, Aspen leaders, and Stanford University faculty over ten months to learn from field-leading research, define and assess student success at their colleges, and clarify their visions for excellent and equitable outcomes for students while in college and after they graduate.

“The leaders that come through the Rising Presidents Fellowship continually inspire us,” said Josh Wyner, executive director of the College Excellence Program. “We are motivated by the dedication and expertise that our fellows bring to advancing excellence and equity on their campuses, and we look forward to supporting their work.”

Ava L. Parker, J.D., PBSC president, said she is pleased that Coleman-Ferrell was selected among a distinguished group of leaders.

“This is an incredible opportunity for Nika to continue to grow as a higher education leader. Her energy and commitment to student success is evident on campus and among her peers. She has over 30 years of higher education experience and this program will enhance her amazing foundation. I’m confident that she will continue to excel and make us all proud.”

Rising Presidents Fellows aspire to enter a college presidency within five years of completing the fellowship. As fellows, they join a network of over 300 forward-thinking peers—122 of whom are sitting college presidents—who are applying grounded and innovative strategies to meet student success challenges in their colleges.

The Aspen Rising Presidents Fellowship is made possible by the generous support of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation College Futures Foundation, Joyce Foundation, and JPMorgan Chase.

A transformational leader, Coleman-Ferrell is a champion for students of diverse backgrounds. Growing up in Riviera Beach, Fla., Coleman-Ferrell was inspired by her mother, a U.S. Army veteran and licensed practical nurse, who taught her to never shy away from challenges. These lessons, along with her passion to help students reach their full potential, shaped Coleman-Ferrell into a well-respected and visionary leader. Affectionately known as “Nika,” her daily mantra is #MakeItHappen.

Coleman-Ferrell has 30 years of academic, student services and administrative experience in higher education centered on improving educational quality and access for all students. Her K-12, community college and university positions include professor, chair, associate dean, dean of academic affairs, dean of student services, provost and Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) visiting team member. She holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology, a master’s degree in public administration, an educational specialist postgraduate degree and a doctorate in education, all from Florida Atlantic University. Her expertise spans strategic planning, curriculum programming, resource development, fiscal management, grants oversight and team building.

Coleman-Ferrell initiates community partnerships between Palm Beach State College, The School District, businesses and municipalities statewide that advance student outcomes. She prides herself on being committed to her community as a champion of equal access to education and a change agent for underrepresented students. Her board memberships include the Palm Beach North Chamber of Commerce, YWCA of Palm Beach County, Max Fisher Boys and Girls Club and the Palm Beach County School District Advisory Board. She has been recognized for her achievements by Leadership Palm Beach County and the State of Florida Chancellor’s Leadership Council programs. Coleman-Ferrell previously served as statewide president for the Association of Florida Colleges, representing 28 institutions, and is the recipient of several awards, including the Woman of Excellence, Leadership Excellence and Legacy awards.

For bios and photos of all 31 leaders, visit

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2 comments on “Coleman-Ferrell selected for the Aspen Institute’s Rising Presidents Fellowship”

  1. Nika, you have worked so hard to achieve this success. Keep up the motivation and may your accomplishments reach greater heights in the future! Congratulations!

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