Carmen Twillie Ambar

  • Oberlin College President
  • Trustee, ex officio

Education

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

Biography

Carmen Twillie Ambar is the 15th president of Oberlin College and the first African American leader in the institution’s 188-year history. Ambar came to Oberlin in 2017, after serving nine years as president of Cedar Crest College in Allentown, Pennsylvania.

At Oberlin, President Ambar has successfully implemented a number of transformative initiatives that promote a culture of academic innovation, environmental sustainability, a renewed commitment to social engagement, and fiscal responsibility, all while guiding the campus community safely through the pandemic.

To begin this work, Ambar initiated an Academic and Administrative Program Review process, a data-driven, top-to-bottom examination of the institution. The process resulted in the adoption of One Oberlin, which established an innovative academic and fiscally disciplined vision that triggered nine new integrated concentrations and six inter-divisional minors. Faculty and administrators also established a new Center for Engaged Liberal Arts offering a range of student services including study abroad, entrepreneurial thinking, community-based learning and more.

Other innovations include the framing for a new conservatory curriculum, an emphasis on career communities and Winter Term, and long-term strategies for the reallocation of resources and growth for the College of Arts and Sciences and Conservatory of Music.

As part of Oberlin’s commitment to fight global warming, Ambar implemented a four-year, more than $140 million geothermal sustainable infrastructure project that will allow the institution to become one of the first carbon neutral campuses in the nation when the project is completed in 2024.

In August 2020, Ambar announced her Presidential Initiative on Racial Equity and Diversity, a comprehensive, yearlong examination of Oberlin’s campus that led to a renewed commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion and the launch of the Center for Racial Equity, focused on research and the academic experience.

In an effort to bridge the differences that divide us, Ambar strengthened Sustained Dialogue, which teaches students to talk about difficult topics with people with whom they disagree.

Oberlin’s new Internship Plus program guarantees funding for every Oberlin student to pursue an internship or musical appointment during the summer. Similarly, Ambar began a $10,000 Oberlin Commitment Scholarship for all new students, and a student success coaching program for students who need assistance.

To supplement the college’s bonds with its community, Ambar conceived the Connect Cleveland initiative which sends all first-year students to Cleveland for a day of service and experiential learning, and Community 101, a program prominent at freshman orientation each fall that connects Oberlin’s government and business leaders with students.

Prior to her nine years as president of Cedar Crest College, Ambar served as vice president and dean at Douglass College at Rutgers University. Before Rutgers, Ambar served as 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.

Ambar holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Foreign Service from the Edmund A. Walsh School at Georgetown University, a master’s degree in Public Affairs from The Princeton School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University, and a law degree from Columbia School of Law.

President Ambar is a native of Little Rock, Arkansas, and is the mother of 15-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.

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