Dean and Distinguished Professor at the American University (AU) School of Education (SOE), Dr. Cheryl Holcomb-McCoy, was selected as an Aspen Institute Ascend Fellow, a national fellowship for diverse leaders who are working on innovative ideas to improve the well-being of families. Past awardees include Senator Raphael Warnock (GA), Governor Wes Moore of Maryland, and CEO of Springboard to Opportunities, Aisha Nyandoro.
Holcomb-McCoy joins 19 other leaders in the twelfth year of the fellowship. “I am thrilled to be selected as an Aspen Institute Ascend Fellow,” she said. “It speaks to my dedication and passion for ensuring that every child has an excellent foundation of early childhood education. The Ascend program does a phenomenal job of uplifting leaders who desire to work across systems and sectors to ensure prosperity and wellness of all families and children. Personally, this is a dream come true."
The Aspen Institute is a Washington, DC-based global nonprofit organization established in 1949 that operates with the objective to strengthen the lives of children and the family unit to create equitable and just societies and believes in collaborating with exceptional leaders to reach its goals. Ascend Fellows, according to the organization’s website, “carry out an action plan that amplifies their vision to enable children and families to reach their full potential.”
“We support and facilitate the leadership of those working to address our toughest challenges in communities across the globe,” said Dan Porterfield, President and CEO of the Aspen Institute. “Our 20 new Ascend Fellows are leaders who are doing just that—striving, in partnership with others, to drive change for children and families—and we could not be more excited to welcome them into our community.”
Holcomb-McCoy stated, “This opportunity will allow me to engage with other thought partners who are also dedicated to improving the conditions of children and families, and I anticipate that the new relationships I’ll develop during the Fellowship will be helpful in many aspects of my career and leadership of SOE.
A current American Counseling Association Fellow, she holds a PhD in counseling and educational development from the University of North Carolina, Greensboro and a master of education in school counseling and bachelor of science in early childhood education from the University of Virginia.
Before becoming Dean of SOE in 2016, she was Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs at Johns Hopkins University (JHU) and a Professor of Counseling and Human Development at JHU’s School of Education, where she had previously served as the Vice Dean of Academic Affairs and Chair of the Department of Counseling and Human Services. She is a former Associate Professor of Counselor Education at the University of Maryland, College Park, and Associate Professor and Director of the School Counseling Program at the City University of New York’s Brooklyn College.
At SOE, she ushered in several programs to help offset the nation’s shortage of teachers. Notably, she launched the AU Teacher Pipeline Project (in collaboration with DC Public Schools), which provides full scholarship opportunities for DC-area students who aspire to become teachers or obtain teaching credentials through its AU Teaching Fellows, Dual Enrollment, and Child Development Associate (CDA) programs. Additionally, she established a partnership with the national teaching residency program, City Teaching Alliance (formerly known as Urban Teachers). Her success in executing these programs and fostering partnerships contributed to her becoming an ideal candidate for the Aspen Fellowship.
Now, Holcomb-McCoy, who is on sabbatical leave, is ready to use the fellowship opportunity to grow her ambitions. “At SOE, we have worked tirelessly to grow our Teacher Pipeline Project,” she said. “The Ascend Fellowship opportunity will allow me to fully immerse myself in the conceptualization of a national teacher and educator pipeline project. I am excited and thankful for the opportunity to expand what we’ve started.”