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Higher Education Presidents to Follow

Leadership competencies on college campuses are changing.  Positions like University Presidents are being challenged to explore communication avenues in order to connect countless communities including current students, alumni, faculty, administrators, local community members, and more.

15216742_sPresidents no longer can only be charismatic in-person on campus, they also need to have digital communication skills and an authentic online presence as a chief campus leader.  This comes to a challenge to many, looking at generational gaps, lack of technology training and existing fears around professional boundaries.

But there are more and more presidents joining the conversation online through social media, especially on Twitter.

Formal research and agreed-upon best practices have yet to be published, so showcasing current accounts have been helpful.  Sometimes use of social media is ‘sticky’ with actions by leaders by questioned/challenged or celebrated. For example, the Kansas State University President recently was interviewed about why he uses Twitter, specifically to manage a Basketball Coach controversy.  Read more about this case (here).

On a persona note, I’m thrilled to announce that I have been approved by my institutional research review board (known as IRB) to study Higher Education Presidents (including community college and four-year institutions) use of social media in their leadership roles.  If you are a president reading this and are interested in being included, please click (here) and provide your contact information.  This will be a one year study, so stay tuned!!

In preparing for this study, I have found there have been a number of articles exploring this idea, with some very impressive College President Twitter accounts you should follow.  I include those articles at the very end of this post.

While I will be highlighting a few of those Presidents, who I am calling “Social Media Rockstars,” I also want to shine a light on two other groups: new(er) presidents to Twitter that will be worth watching and other high users called Digital Influencers.

For a curated list of all Presidents I have located on Twitter, please subscribe to this Twitter list.

While this post is long, I promise it is mostly twitter photos/posts!  I have chosen around six accounts under each category, each featured on separate pages of this post (see the bottom of the page, noted as page 1, 2 & 3).   When narrowing down these lists I looked at follower counts, amount of engagement, and types of posts.

  • Social Media Rockstars are presidents not only with an impressively high amount of Twitter followers, but are very actively and creatively engaged.
  • Established Campus Digital Influencers may have less followers than Rockstars are still engaged and producing quality content.
  • Rising Accounts have recently joined or have recently became more active on this platform.

Please consider subscribing to these engaged Digital Leaders!

Social Media Rockstars

1.  Santa J. Ono

University of Cincinnati President.  32.9k Followers, 28.7k tweets, of those 3.4k are photos and videos.  Line up for your autographs now.

2.  Angel Cabrera

George Mason University President.  11.5k Followers, 16,2k tweets and even has a Vine account!

3.  Walter M. Kimbrough

Dillard University President.  9.3k Followers, 11k Tweets and has an awesome username = @HipHopPrez

4.  Beverly Daniel Tatum

Spelman College President.  8.2k Followers, engaged on Twitter throughout the day.

5.  E. Gordon G.  
President of West Virginia University. 56.1K Followers, includes photos in nearly every post, is a proud grandfather.

Established Campus Digital Influencers 

1.  Renu Khator 

University of Houston President. 12.5k Followers, takes selfies and tweets to students.

2.  Eric W. Kaler

University of Minnesota President.  7k Followers, lots of campus updates and uses twitter to recognize campus achievements.


3.  Marcia G. Welsh

East Stroudsburg University President.  2.9K Followers, genriously re-tweets content and shares engaging photos

4.  Joseph I. Castro

California State University, Fresno.  2.9k Followers, follows nearly the same amount of accounts that follows him (which is awesome), consistently promotes campus, as well as local Fresno community.

5.  Bidy Martin

Amherst College President. 6.4k Followers, responds and retweets, catch her moose sightings (also the schools’ mascot).

6.  Paul LeBlanc

Southern New Hampshire University President.  3.5k followers, doesn’t need to state on his twitter profile bio that he’s a president, Twitter is part of his day… even on vacation.

Rising Accounts

From Twitter newbies to accounts on the rise, please consider subscribing to everyone on this list as their presence grows!

1.  Tom Jackson Jr.

Brand new Black Hills State University President.  Made significant shift to using social media in his new role.

2.  Alison Byerly

President of Lafayette College.  Only two years on Twitter, engaging campus photos, and re-tweeted newly admitted students photos.

3.  Dan Martin

Seattle Pacific University President.  Took selfies with seniors at graduation, used Twitter to engage with community through campus shooting tragedy.

4.  Laurie Joyner

Wittenberg University President.  Uses account to celebrate community with shout outs to others, highlighted her ‘pie the president’ event (below).

5.  David Armstrong

Broward College President.  It’s awesome he follows more accounts than he has followers, ongoing campus announcements.

6.  Ronnie Nettles

Copiah-Lincoln Community College President.  Tweets genuinely about family and his job.

These lists were just a few of the many Presidents on Twitter.  It was no easy task to narrow the hundreds of accounts.  Do you have others you’d suggest?  Please share them in the comments below!

For more on Higher Education Presidents on Twitter:

What College Presidents Can Gain From Tweeting

10 college presidents on Twitter who are doing it right

Do College Presidents have to be Active on Twitter?

Commit Connect Engage. College University Presidents Using Twitter

College Presidents Who Lead 140 Characters at a Time

Why More College Presidents Need To Be On Twitter

About Josie

I’m Dr. Josie Ahlquist—a digital engagement and leadership consultant, researcher, educator, and author. I’m passionate about helping people and organizations find purposeful ways to connect, engage, and tell their unique story. I provide consulting, executive coaching, and training for campuses, companies, and organizations that want to learn how to humanize technology tools and build effective and authentic online communities.

My blog and podcast have been recognized by EdTech Magazine, Inside Higher Ed and the Chronicle of Higher Education. My book, Digital Leadership in Higher Education, was published in 2020 and was listed as a #1 new release for college and university student life. I have been growing my consultancy since 2013 and am based in Los Angeles. When I’m not helping clients lead online, you might find me training for a triathlon, spoiling my nieces and nephews, or exploring with my husband and our rescue dogs in our new RV called Lady Hawk.

I’d love to connect! Find me on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

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Rebekah Tilley

Assistant Vice President, University of Iowa Center for Advancement

Rebekah Tilley is the assistant vice president of communication and marketing for the University of Iowa Center for Advancement (UICA). In that role she supports fundraising and alumni engagement efforts for the university, including its CASE Gold winning Iowa Magazine, and serves UICA in a variety of strategic communication efforts.

Previously she was the director of strategic communication for the University of Iowa Tippie College of Business, and the director of communication for the University of Kentucky College of Law. She is a Kentucky native and a proud alum of the University of Kentucky.

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