Leaders in Enrollment Advancing Diversity (LEAD)

ASCEND Leadership Development Program

Launched in 2019 as a part of the LEAD initiative, ASCEND is a unique and affordable leadership development program for mid-level managers in admissions, advising, financial aid, records and academic services. The program aims to diversify the leadership in the enrollment management profession by recruiting and developing a diverse cohort of mid-level professionals and preparing them to take on roles in enrollment management in North America and around the globe.


Our institutions are facing challenges ahead: negative public perceptions of higher education, ongoing budget shortfalls, free speech and race relations crises, spiraling student debt, increasing regulatory restrictions, and the approaching student enrollment cliff in 2025. Recruiting and retaining talented and diverse campus leaders will be a crucial factor in institutional success.

Why Now?

Recent data from the 2019 CUPA-HR association survey on Administrators in Higher Education give us troubling benchmarks. Results indicate 85% of those who hold the role of Senior Enrollment Management Officer and 89% of those who hold the role of Director of Admissions are white. We know that 22% of the non-white population in the US holds a bachelor degree or better. If the most traditional and obvious path to Senior Enrollment Officer is through the admissions office, the fact that Directors of Admission are currently less diverse than the qualified field means we must act now to ensure our institutions have a strong set of professionals to fill the roles of enrollment leaders in the future.

Infographic for 2023 ASCEND
2023-2024 Cohort Program Cost - $1100

SEM 2023 Conference$1450
Online Course: Essentials of SEM$495
Books and Materials$200
Personal Program Coach$1200
Monthly Virtual Education Sessions$1200
SEM 2024 Conference (est)$1500
Total Value     $6045


    Faculty will lead the cohort through a year-long curriculum that incorporates the essential competencies required to take the next step in enrollment management leadership. The curriculum design will incorporate the AACRAO Professional Competencies and Proficiencies and leverage existing professional development opportunities offered by AACRAO.


    Coaches will be assigned to each participant as additional support and guide customized to the individual needs and goals of the participant. Those admitted to the program will participate in monthly cohort meetings plus no less than one hour meeting with their coach.

We invite you to learn more about the ASCEND Leadership Development Program.



Illustration of the changing face of leadership.

Nurturing Diverse Leadership

Aug 4, 2023

Cultivating a focus on community building, coaching, and competency development amongst young diverse leaders.

Red room with round red table surrounded by red office chairs.

To Ascend or not to Ascend

Jan 23, 2023

Learn about one AACRAO member's journey to joining and participating in the AACRAO ASCEND program.

Silhouettes of hikers working together to get to the summit of a hill while the sun rises

ASCEND program announced: Standing by our commitment to nurturers of diversity

Apr 29, 2019

AACRAO seeks faculty and mentors for diverse midlevel enrollment managers.

Important Dates

August 8 - September 14, 2023
Application window

September 22, 2023
Notification of Cohort Acceptance

October 23, 2023
Acceptance Letter & Program Fees Due

November 5, 2023
ASCEND Program Begins at the 2023 SEM Conference in Seattle, Washington

November 2024

ASCEND Program Concludes at the 2024 SEM Conference in Boston, Massachusetts


Give to the LEAD Fund

Blue and White Spelman Johnson Logo.

The ASCEND program is sponsored by Spelman Johnson.

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