Portrait of 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 first African American leader in the institution’s 184-year history. She was appointed to the post in May 2017. Prior to Oberlin, Ambar served nine years as the 13th president of Cedar Crest College in Allentown, Pennsylvania.

During President Ambar’s tenure, Cedar Crest College thrived under her leadership. Her successes include multiple years of multimillion dollar budget surpluses, a 35 percent growth in net assets that allowed the college to make significant investments in the campus without borrowing, and a 92 percent growth in the college’s endowment. President Ambar presided over the launch of 18 new academic programs, enrollment growth in six of her last seven years in leadership with the largest first-year class in 11 years at the end of her tenure.

Under Ambar’s leadership, Cedar Crest launched the new School of Adult and Graduate Education (SAGE), which built on the college’s efforts to educate adults. At Cedar Crest, she led initiatives to expand the access of high-impact practices for all students including the Sophomore Expedition, a shared short-term study abroad experience funded entirely by the college for all sophomores; campus vibrancy initiatives; a robust First Year Experience that increased retention by 11 percent; the Four-Year Guarantee, which provided a clear path to graduation; dual degree programs; and living learning communities. During her tenure as president, the diversity of the student body increased from 16 percent in fall 2008 to 37 percent in fall 2016, with the highest increases in Latino and African American populations.

Prior to her time at Cedar Crest, Ambar had a highly 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, Ambar served as assistant dean of graduate education at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University.

As an attorney, she previously worked in the New York City Law Department as an assistant corporation counsel.

She is married to Saladin Malik Ambar, PhD, an associate professor in the Department of Political Science and Senior Scholar at the Center on the American Governor at the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University. A native of Little Rock, Arkansas, Ambar and her husband are the parents of triplets, Gabrielle, Luke, and Daniel.

Awards and Recognition

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.