Clark Atlanta University (CAU) has announced a new groundbreaking initiative to set the nation’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) up for future success.

A press release reports that the university has launched the HBCU Executive Leadership Institute (ELI) — an incubator that works to recruit and develop future presidents to run America’s 100-plus HBCUs. The first-of-its-kind program aims to preserve the legacy of HBCUs in this country and strengthen them as hubs for education, opportunity and upliftment in the Black community.

“HBCUs have a clear value proposition and continue to be the standard-bearers of Black excellence across every sector of business and society. Through ELI, we are committed to identifying dynamic leaders who can advance the growth and sustainability of our institutions of higher learning,” Clark Atlanta University President, Dr. George T. French Jr. shared in a statement. “We invite leaders of industry – from Silicon Valley and Wall Street to non-profits, government, higher education and the creative class – to submit their applications and be a part of history.”

The ambitious effort is backed by major companies and organizations such as The Rich Foundation, Inc., Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, Microsoft Corporation, Toyota and Educational Credit Management Corporation (ECMC), as well as a “distinguished group of business leaders, educators and philanthropists,” a press release shares.

Prior to the Civil Rights movement, HBCUs were outlets that offered Black Americans one of their only opportunities to obtain college degrees. As a result, these institutions have grown to be integral in helping students establish professional careers, advance their education and pursue higher learning through master’s and doctorate degrees.

Now with incubator programs like ELI, HBCUs can continue building a pipeline of leaders to effectively govern the HBCU ecosystem. The virtual program will select qualified candidates and train them in several areas to help them understand what it takes to lead an HBCU — this includes educating them in operations, budgeting, alumni relations, fundraising, development, board governance and human resource management.

The end goal of the program is to usher these candidates into vacant HBCU presidencies and other executive leadership positions.

According to Dr. Phyllis Worthy Dawkins — former President of Bennett College and Project Director of the HBCU ELI at CAU — she describes ELI as “a true game-changer.”

“By filling the pipeline with qualified candidates, we can accelerate development and improve student outcomes, while also preserving the rich heritage that makes HBCUs so special,” she adds.

The ELI is slated to kick off this spring. Interested participants are encouraged to apply for the program online.

For more information about the Executive Leadership Institute, click here.