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 187-year history. Ambar came to Oberlin in 2017, after serving for nine years as president of Cedar Crest College in Allentown, Pennsylvania.

At Oberlin, President Ambar initiated an Academic and Administrative Review process, a data-driven, top-to-bottom examination of the institution. The process resulted in the adoption of One Oberlin, a set of recommendations that establishes a new vision for Oberlin. This vision includes new minors, integrated concentrations, 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.

During her tenure at Oberlin she conceived the Connect Cleveland initiative which sends all first-year students to Cleveland for a day of service and experiential learning. Additionally, she has promoted Sustained Dialogue, a project aimed at helping students learn to talk about difficult topics with people with whom they disagree.

Ambar has also worked to strengthen ties between the college and the city of Oberlin. Her efforts have included Orientation programs that give first-year students an in-depth introduction to Oberlin, offering guidance on how to be a good neighbor.

In August 2020, Ambar established the Presidential Initiative on Racial Equity and Diversity that launched a 21-person commission to help guide issues of violence, police-community relationships, and racial injustices.

Previously Ambar served nine years as president at Cedar Crest College. Ambar’s successes there included 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, a 92 percent growth in the endowment, and increased student body diversity from 16 percent to 37 percent in 2016.

Prior to Cedar Crest, 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.

President Ambar is a native of Little Rock, Arkansas, and is the mother of 14-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.

Notes

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.

News

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.