Joe Wyatt
Published May 6, 2020

The Aspen Institute College Excellence Program has announced that Dr. Tamara Clunis, vice president of academic affairs at Amarillo College, is one of 40 leaders selected for the prestigious 2020-21 Aspen Rising Presidents Fellowship program.

TamaraClunisInWhile the program is designed to prepare the next generation of community college presidents to transform institutions and achieve more equitable levels of student success, Clunis, applied to the program to strengthen her leadership skillset and sharpen her focus as AC implements its 2020-2025 Strategic Plan.


“I’m excited by this opportunity because it is my job to acquire all the professional learning I possibly can to become a more effective leader for Amarillo College,” Clunis said. “I plan to bring back all that I learn to help support our Strategic Plan.


“I love my job and I love Amarillo College, and this fellowship, with its focus on transformational strategies and achieving increased student equity, aligns with our objectives and should prove invaluable as we move forward as an institution.”


The Rising Presidents Fellows will embark on a 10-month fellowship beginning in July 2020. Delivered in collaboration with the Stanford Educational Leadership Initiative, the fellows will be mentored by esteemed current and former community college presidents who have achieved exceptional outcomes for students throughout their careers. Fellows will learn strategies to improve student outcomes in and after college, lead internal change, and create strong external partnerships with K-12 schools, four-year colleges, employers, and partners.


“Dr. Clunis has an outstanding record of leadership and collaboration in higher education, so it is no wonder she was chosen to be a part of this highly selective Aspen fellowship,” Dr. Russell Lowery-Hart, AC president, said.


“She is an innovative leader, one who advocates for faculty and empowers those around her. The knowledge she acquires over the next year will certainly benefit our College, and I applaud both the commitment she has chosen to make on our behalf, and her willingness to step up and accept this challenge.”


Clunis is responsible for all aspects of teaching and learning, curriculum, and academic support at AC, where the No Excuses 2020 plan is driving transformational change through a Culture of Caring, Learning and Innovation.


AC’s commitment to student success has led to increased graduation, retention, and transfer rates.

Clunis joined Amarillo College in 2011 as the inaugural dean of academic success. She was recognized in 2013 as the national outstanding first-year student advocate by the National Resource Center for the First-Year Experience and Students in Transition.


Prior to joining Amarillo College, she served as state director for developmental and adult education at the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board in Austin. She taught in two year and four-year institutions, including Austin Community Collge, Texas State University, and the United States Military Academy Preparatory School. She earned her doctoral degree from Texas State University in 2010.


Together, the 2020-21 fellows are leaders at colleges that collectively serve more than 500,000 students. As well, 42 Rising Presidents Fellowship alumni have become presidents of community colleges that collectively serve an additional 500,000 students nationwide.


2020-21 Aspen Rising Presidents Fellows

Margaret Annunziata, Davidson County Community College (NC)

Gita Bangera, Bellevue College (WA)

Kaylyn Bondy, Williston State College (ND)

Naima Brown, Santa Fe College (FL)

Monica Brown, Montgomery College (MD)

DeAnna Burt, South Central College (MN)

Monica Castaneda, Glendale Community College (AZ)

Tamara Clunis, Amarillo College (TX)

Mildred Coyne, Broward College (FL)

Renee Craig-Marius, Reedley College (CA)

Mark Curtis-Chávez, College of DuPage (IL)

Chrissy Davis, Spokane Falls Community College (WA)

Tawny Dotson, Clover Park Technical College (WA)

Kurt Ewen, Houston Community College (TX)

Mary Gutierrez, Diablo Valley College (CA)

Susan Guzman-Trevino, Temple College (TX)

Paul Hernandez, Mount Wachusett Community College (MA)

Lloyd Holmes, Monroe Community College (NY)

Jennifer Kent, Ranger College (TX)

Kimberly Lowry, Lone Star College – Houston North (TX)

Ali Mageehon, Southwestern Oregon Community College (OR)

Corey McCray, Tidewater Community College (VA)

Donna McDaniel, Texarkana College (TX)

Brian Merritt, Central Carolina Community College (NC)

Scott Newman, Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology (OK)

Mayra Olivares-Urueta, Tarrant County College (TX)

Tammi Oyadomari-Chun, University of Hawaii (HI)

Julie Penley, El Paso Community College (TX)

Dilcie Perez, Cerritos College (CA)

Nicole Reaves, Northern Virginia Community College (VA)

Star Rivera Lacey, San Diego Continuing Education (CA)

Irene Robles-Lopez, Pima Community College (AZ)

Vince Rodriguez, Coastline Community College (CA)

Kate Smith, Rio Salado Community College (AZ)

Jackie Thomas, Lone Star College-Tomball (TX)

Lena Tran, San Jose City College (CA)

Joel Welch, Western Piedmont Community College (NC)

Kristina Whalen, Las Positas College (CA)

Jermaine Whirl, Greenville Technical College (SC)

Jonathan Woodward, Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College (MS)