Carmen Twillie Ambar

  • Oberlin College President
  • Trustee, ex officio


  • JD, Columbia Law School
  • MA, Public Affairs, Princeton University
  • BA, Foreign Service, Georgetown University


Carmen Twillie Ambar is the 15th president of Oberlin College and the first African American leader in its 184-year history. She was appointed to the post in May 2017 after serving for nine years as president of Cedar Crest College in Allentown, Pennsylvania. 

Early on at Oberlin, President Ambar emphasized engaging Oberlin’s distinctive liberal arts education with the wider world. Early initiatives have included enhancing winter term, promoting internships and study abroad, building career communities, and creating hands-on opportunities for students. To ensure Oberlin’s future as a leading liberal arts college and conservatory, President Ambar and the Board of Trustees began a full-spectrum examination of the institution. Rooted in Oberlin’s values and led by some of the wisest and most committed faculty, staff, alumni, trustees, and students, the process aims to offer long-term strategies for reallocation and growth.

Notable achievements in President Ambar’s first year included a six-year high in student enrollment and the launch of Connect Cleveland, in which all 839 first-year students traveled to Cleveland for a day of service, experiential learning, and connecting with alumni. Working to strengthen ties between the college and the city of Oberlin, President Ambar promoted orientation programs that gave first-year students an in-depth introduction to the city, encouraged them to shop locally, and offered advice about being a good neighbor.

At Cedar Crest College, President Ambar’s leadership substantially strengthened and reshaped the college. Her successes included multiple years of multimillion-dollar budget surpluses, a 35 percent growth in assets that allowed for significant investments in the campus without borrowing, and a 92 percent growth in the endowment. She presided over the launch of 18 new academic programs and an enrollment growth in six of her last seven years of leadership. President Ambar also led initiatives to expand access to high-impact practices for all students, including the Sophomore Expedition, campus vibrancy initiatives, a robust First Year Experience, the Four-Year Guarantee, and living learning communities. Student body diversity at Cedar Crest increased from 16 percent in 2008 to 37 percent in 2016, with the highest increases in Latino and African American populations.

Prior to Cedar Crest, President Ambar had a successful tenure as vice president and dean of Douglass College at Rutgers University, where she was the youngest dean in the university’s history. Before Rutgers, she was assistant dean of graduate education at the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs. As an attorney, she worked in the New York City Law Department as an assistant corporation counsel.

President Ambar is a native of Little Rock, Arkansas, and the mother of 11-year-old triplets: Gabrielle, Luke, and Daniel.

In 2014, Carmen Twillie Ambar was honored by the Pennsylvania governor’s office as a Distinguished Daughter of Pennsylvania. Additionally, she has earned several awards for her support of women including the 2012 Girl Scouts Take the Lead Award, the 2011 American Association of University Women (AAUW) Gateway to Equity Award from the organization’s Allentown branch, and the 2010 Athena Award from the Women’s Business Council (WBC) of the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce.


Carmen Twillie Ambar Featured on Women Leaders Podcast

May 2, 2018

Oberlin College President Carmen Twillie Ambar spoke about the importance of taking risks on a podcast featuring women leaders.


Inauguration Weekend

October 1, 2018

Oberlin College will install Carmen Twillie Ambar as its 15th president and first African American leader in the institution’s 184-year history at 4:30 p.m., October 5.