Washington, D.C.—The American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) has named Mary Evans Sias director of the Millennium Leadership Initiative (MLI), one of AASCU’s premier professional development programs for senior leaders in higher education. Sias will begin her new role effective June 1, 2015. In addition to enriching preparation, MLI helps vice presidents and provosts become more competitive for placement as a president/chancellor at an institution of higher education. Additionally, the MLI experience helps senior administrators decide if ascending to the presidency/chancellorship is an appropriate career choice.
MLI was established in 1998 to assist individuals (largely African-Americans, women, and other minorities) from groups seriously underrepresented at these exclusive leadership levels. Due to rapidly shifting demographics in higher education, there was a clear need for diversity within these critical leadership roles to match the changing diversity of the student population. Today, MLI continues to maintain its historical preferences while accepting any qualified candidate.
Sias comes to MLI with more than two decades in higher education and 35 years of extensive experience in strategic planning, management, budgeting, fund development, communications, and community outreach. She has held several executive positions in higher education leadership, including a decade-long tenure as president of Kentucky State University (2004-2014), a historically black university. Before coming to Kentucky State, Sias served as senior vice president for student affairs and external relations at the University of Texas at Dallas (1997-2004), where she also served as associate provost (1995-96), and as chief executive officer of the YWCA of Metropolitan Dallas (1982-1995). In addition, Sias spent several years as assistant professor at Southern Methodist University (Texas), the University of Texas at Dallas, and Grambling State University (La.).
Over the course of her presidency, Sias has served AASCU in a host of key roles, including as chair of the AASCU Board of Directors; member of the Executive Steering Committee for the Millennium Leadership Initiative; as the Kentucky representative on AASCU’s Council of State Representatives; as chair of AASCU’s Professional Development Committee; and as an advisory board member to AASCU’s Grants Resource Center.
In addition to her service to AASCU, Sias has been engaged with a number of local, state and national civic and professional organizations, including service on the Board of Directors of: the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU); Leadership Women; the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education; Girls Scouts of Kentucky’s Wilderness Road Council; and the Frankfort Chamber of Commerce. She also served as an HBCU advisory board member to Educational Testing Services, and as an advisory board member to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 1890s Land Grant Universities.
Sias holds an M.B.A. with an emphasis in management from Abilene Christian College (Texas), a Ph.D. with an emphasis in sociology, research and demography from the University of Wisconsin; a M.S. in sociology from the University of Wisconsin; and a B.A. in sociology (graduated summa cum laude) from Tougaloo College (Miss.).
“AASCU is thrilled to have Mary Sias as the next leader of the Millennium Leadership Initiative,” says AASCU President Muriel Howard. “Mary’s dedication, vision and leadership has been exemplified over the years in her myriad service to AASCU and to public higher education, and I have no doubt that MLI will continue its success and growth under her direction."
Gladys Styles Johnston, chancellor emerita of the University of Nebraska at Kearney and one of the original founders of MLI, is retiring this summer after serving as MLI director since 2008. Since the first MLI class of 1999, nearly 500 individuals have graduated. Over a third have advanced significantly in their careers, and 85 graduates have become first-time presidents or chancellors. Some graduates have entered their second or third presidencies, bringing MLI’s influence to 102 presidencies. However, success is not measured in presidencies alone. Career advancements go well beyond those graduates, as the Millennium Leadership Initiative provides a broader pool of diverse, qualified candidates who can compete for senior executive level positions in higher education, government and other public or private agencies.
The American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) is a Washington, D.C.-based higher education association of more than 400 public colleges, universities, and systems whose members share a learning- and teaching-centered culture, a historic commitment to underserved student populations, and a dedication to research and creativity that advances their regions’ economic progress and cultural development.