Joel Frater, assistant provost for diversity and associate professor at The College at Brockport, State University of New York, has considered himself a student of higher education since he entered college as a teenager. Which is why when the opportunity to be part of the American Council on Education Fellows Program presented itself, he simply couldn’t refuse.
The Fellows Program, established in 1965, aims to prepare higher education’s future leaders by allowing them to immerse themselves in the culture, policies and processes of a different institution. Fellows observe and participate in key meetings under the mentorship of experienced leaders, attend multi-day seminars and visit other campuses, all while developing a network of higher education leaders across the world.
Frater was inspired to enter the education field because he saw the benefits of the influence of great educators early on in his life and wanted to perpetuate that to future generations.
“The ACE Fellows Program really presented that unique opportunity for me to be involved in leadership development at the highest level in higher education,” said Frater, a native of Jamaica.
After being nominated by the president and provost of The College at Brockport, Frater completed the fellowship application and traveled to Washington, D.C., for a formal interview before being selected for the program. He joins 49 others in this year’s ACE Fellowship Class.
Before applying to possible placement institutions, he visited RIT to meet with senior leaders to discuss his goals for the fellowship program and to get a feel for some initiatives the university would be undertaking throughout the upcoming academic year.
“RIT impressed me as a potential placement site because I felt they really offered me a genuine opportunity to learn,” said Frater. “Plus, I was very impressed with the leadership I saw at RIT.”
The goals Frater had included broadening his horizons as a leader, learning more about the relationship between an institution and a board of trustees, the role of external relationships at a private university like RIT, and academic planning.
To accomplish these goals, Frater has been shadowing senior administrators at RIT and working with the administrative council led by President Bill Destler, academic council led by Provost Jeremy Haefner, the associate dean’s council led by Christine Licata, and other committees on campus.
For Haefner, there are a number of benefits to having Frater complete his yearlong fellowship at RIT.
“First, we get to draw a deeper connection to both the ACE program and SUNY Brockport, since Joel is from there,” said Haefner. “Second, we get to tap into his expertise and knowledge—he brings depth to our efforts in diversity and accreditation. Third, I think there is great satisfaction in knowing that we are providing him an experience that will deeply impact how he looks at the academy and his career in it. Fourth and finally, Joel is a great friend and colleague and we are blessed that he chose us.”
Frater hopes to walk away from this experience with not only extensive knowledge of higher education practices and leadership styles, but also with clarity in his own ambitions. He intends to return to his position at Brockport and to start using his newfound knowledge in a broader capacity.
“To be able to walk away with a much broader perspective on higher education is something that I will truly cherish,” said Frater. “And I couldn’t walk away from RIT without expressing my gratitude to the entire RIT community for truly embracing me as a fellow on campus this year.”