Marjorie Hass to Assume CIC Presidency in July

​In March, the CIC Board of Directors announced the selection of Marjorie Hass, president of Rhodes College (TN) and former president of Austin College (TX), as the next president of CIC. She will succeed Richard Ekman, who has led CIC for 21 years, on July 12, 2021.

In announcing the appointment, Katherine Bergeron, chair of the CIC Board of Directors and president of Connecticut College, said “I am delighted to welcome President-elect Hass as the first female president in the 65-year history of CIC. She is a visionary, dynamic, and entrepreneurial leader whose rich experience in financial management, program building, and leadership development will mark a new era at the Council.”

Ekman also emphasized that Hass is a superb choice to lead CIC. “President-elect Hass has both the experience and the vision to advance CIC’s support of member institutions during this time of challenge, transformation, and opportunity in independent higher education.”

Hass said she is eager to build on CIC’s strengths and Ekman’s legacy. “This is a moment for bold action and meaningful leadership on behalf of independent higher education. It is not hyperbole to say our country’s future as a global educational leader and democratic standard bearer is at stake. CIC’s role is unique in its focus on building capacity at every level and within every sphere of independent colleges and universities. Areas of particular urgency include building the leadership pipeline, strengthening financial models, education for democratic citizenship, and transformative action for equity, access, and inclusion,” Hass said.

Hass began her tenure as president of Rhodes College in 2017. Previously, she was president of Austin College for eight years and provost of Muhlenberg College (PA), where she spent more than 16 years as a member of the philosophy faculty. She is the author of A Leadership Guide for Women in Higher Education (to be released in July 2021). Hass serves as a board member of the Association of American Colleges & Universities, is former chair of the board of directors of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, and is a former member of the CIC Board of Directors where she also served on the Board’s Executive Committee. She also has been a frequent presenter at CIC’s annual Presidents Institute and has served as a faculty member for CIC’s New Presidents Program. Hass earned bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in philosophy from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

The fall 2021 Independent will feature a special report on Marjorie Hass and her goals as CIC president.


In April, CIC and nearly 50 other higher education organizations signed onto a statement opposing efforts across the nation to suppress voting by qualified voters, including college students. Among other key points, the statement read, “Exercising the right to vote should not be controversial or challenging. The right to vote defines us as a nation. We call on lawmakers to take action to ensure that civic participation in America continues to move forward, not backward, and that the United States has the most inclusive and equitable democracy in the world.” Read the full statement.


With the pandemic’s effect on college enrollment and finance remaining a major concern, several publications recently interviewed CIC President Richard Ekman about trends in college finance and campus closures. For example, the Forbes article “College Financial Grades 2021: Will Your Alma Mater Survive COVID?” quoted Ekman on the resiliency of small and mid-sized private colleges in the face of hardships (February 22, 2021). And the EdSource story, “Mills College [CA] Announces Plan to Close, Triggering Debate about Other Schools’ Futures” quoted Ekman on trends in the small number of colleges that typically close in a year, issues exacerbated by the pandemic, and why “an epidemic” of college closures is unlikely (March 17).

The March 22 Inside Higher Ed story “Pandemic-Fueled Confidence for College Presidents” explored the new Inside Higher Ed-Hanover Research report, Survey of College and University Presidents, and quoted several CIC leaders on the survey results: Marjorie Hass, president-elect of CIC and president of Rhodes College (TN); Mary Dana Hinton, president of Hollins University (VA) and former CIC Board member; and Susan Campbell Baldridge, provost and professor of psychology at Middlebury College (VT).
CIC’s Legacies of American Slavery: Reckoning with the Past initiative was featured in the North Texas e-News article “Austin College [TX] Selected as Regional Partner in National Council of Independent Colleges ‘Legacies of American Slavery’ Network” (February 13). Austin College is one of seven colleges and universities selected to serve as Regional Collaboration Partners for the multiyear project (see the February 2021 issue of the Independent).

Strengthening the STEM Pipeline Part II, a 2019 report published by CIC and written by NORC at the University of Chicago, was referenced in the April 13 Delaware Gazette story “OWU Providing STEM Scholarships.” The article discussed Ohio Wesleyan University’s recent receipt of Choose Ohio First grants.

Local media recently featured several CIC Network for Vocation in Undergraduate Education (NetVUE) grants. The Essex News Daily article “Bloomfield College [NJ] Receives $50,000 NetVUE Program Development Grant” discussed how the new grant will supplement Bloomfield College’s initiatives toward deepening vocational exploration and discernment among undergraduate students (April 14). Published by the Baltimore citybizlist on March 9, the story “Loyola Receives Grant to Enhance Vocational Discernment in Messina” discussed how Loyola University Maryland’s first-year living and learning program, Messina, received a Program Development Grant. Twenty institutions nationwide were selected to receive one of these grant in February 2021. Washington-state based ThurstonTalk released the story “Saint Martin’s Record-Breaking Day of Giving Raises Over $142,000 for Student Success” on April 6. The article discussed Saint Martin’s University’s (WA) recent fundraising campaigns  and sponsorships as well as a NetVUE Vocation across the Academy grant for the university’s “Saints Promise” initiative.

Several publications recently highlighted the CIC/UPS Scholarship program, which provided 531 member institutions of State Councils with $3,000 scholarships to support low- income, first-generation, minority, or new American students during the 2020–2021 academic year. A March 11 Salisbury Post education brief “Salisbury Student Awarded CIC/UPS Scholarship,” discussed the 36 students at North Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities who received the scholarships. A similar brief ran in a March 7 Winston-Salem Journal “community milestone.” The Newberry Observer story “SCICU Distributes $60,000 in CIC/UPS scholarships,” also featured on Yahoo News, discussed how South Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities (SCICU) distributed $60,000 in CIC/UPS Scholarships to assist 20 students at private institutions in the state (February 23).

News of Marjorie Hass’s future transition from Rhodes College to the presidency of CIC was featured heavily in the press. Memphis magazine published an extensive interview on March 4, “Marjorie Hass to Leave Rhodes in August”; the article followed up on the magazine’s October 5, 2020, cover story on Hass. The AP story “Rhodes College President Leaving School in August” was widely distributed, appearing in publications such as U.S. News & World Report, San Antonio Express-News, Houston Chronicle, and Washington Times on March 5 and in the Paris Post-Intelligencer on March 8. The higher ed press also announced the appointment, with the Chronicle of Higher Education releasing the news on March 11 and Inside Higher Ed disseminating it on March 5; Diverse: Issues in Higher Education featured the article “Dr. Marjorie Hass Appointed First Female President of the Council of Independent Colleges” on March 4. Also on March 4, Tennessee-based television stations WPTY-TV (“Rhodes College President to Leave in August for National Council”), WMC-TV (“Rhodes College President Stepping Down, Obtains New Leadership Role”), and (“Rhodes College President Announces Departure from University”) reported the news, as did local papers such as the Daily Memphian “Rhodes College President Marjorie Hass Leaving to Take National Role.”

Business Insider published an op-ed by S. Georgia Nugent, Illinois Wesleyan University president and CIC senior fellow, on February 6: “Drive-thru college admissions isn’t healthy. College should be a transformational process, not a fast food order.”

Various publications reported on presidents’ current or past service on CIC’s Board of Directors. For example, Yahoo Finance, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and numerous local papers published the PRNewswire release “American Public University System Appoints Dr. Mary B. Marcy, President of Dominican University of California, to Board of Trustees,” which referenced Marcy’s past service on the CIC Board of Directors (March 11). The Arkansas-based Herald Leader article, “JBU President Named to Board of Council of Independent Colleges” discussed John Brown University (AR) President Charles Pollard’s election to the CIC Board of Directors (February 28). And the South Carolina-based Upstate Business Journal article “On the Move: Elizabeth Davis” discussed Furman University (SC) President Elizabeth Davis’s new position on the United Way of Greenville County’s board of directors as well as her position on the CIC Board (February 3).


CIC President Richard Ekman was the inaugural speaker at the first Swedish Academic Integrity Program roundtable. Co-hosted by the Embassy of Sweden and the Meridian Institute on March 16, the virtual program was designed to provide a group of Swedish university representatives with a foundational understanding of the higher education system in the United States. During hour-long remarks and a Q&A segment, Ekman shared an overview of higher education in the U.S. and answered numerous insightful questions from participants.

Virginia Wesleyan University awarded Richard Ekman with an honorary doctor of humane letters degree during its 2021 commencement ceremonies held in May. The degree, conferred by President Scott Miller, recognized Ekman’s many contributions to American higher education.

Several CIC staff members received promotions or title changes in February. Alana K. Cassidy, who joined CIC as development manager in February 2017, was promoted to director of sponsorships. She focuses on enhancing CIC’s relationships with corporations, foundations, and sponsors as well as managing aspects of CIC’s leadership development programs, including the Executive Leadership Academy and
the Senior Leadership Academy. Heather M. Cox, who joined CIC as publications manager/designer in August 2019, was promoted to director of publications and design. She leads the design and production of CIC’s print and digital materials. Christopher Dodds’s title is now senior director of digital communications and strategy. Having previously served as director of digital communications and strategy and, earlier, director of web communications and manager of state fund programs, his responsibilities include CIC’s website, listservs, email communications, and overall digital strategy. Michelle Friedman’s title has changed from director of programs to senior director of programs. A staff member since 2007, her primary responsibilities include the management of aspects of the CIC Visiting Fellows program as well as CIC meetings and events such as the Presidents Institute and the Presidential Vocation and Institutional Mission seminar. Formerly executive assistant to the president and assistant secretary of the Board of Directors, Kelsey A. Sherman Creech now serves as operations director, president’s office, and assistant secretary, Board of Directors. She joined CIC in August 2014 as staff assistant to the president and the senior vice president. Kate Webber’s title has changed from director of membership services to senior director of membership services. She joined CIC as membership manager in August 2008 and focuses on recruiting and retaining members, managing CIC’s Tuition Exchange Program, and maintaining CIC’s database.

Sherita C. Ashmon, CIC conference manager, completed a master of science degree in management from Wilmington University (DE) in December 2020. The degree’s concentration in organizational leadership focused on developing and improving skills to manage organizations in a rapidly changing global environment.


The Board of Directors and staff of CIC have welcomed the following new members since September 2020:

New Institutional Members

Allen University (SC)
Asbury University (KY)
Clarkson University (NY)
Elon University (NC)
Hannibal-Lagrange University (MO)
Kettering College (OH)
Xavier University of Louisiana

New International Member

Burman University (Canada)