Debra Humphreys

Senior Vice President, Academic Planning and Public Engagement, AAC&U

Debra Humphreys received her BA from Williams College and her PhD in English from Rutgers University. Dr. Humphreys is currently the Senior Vice President for Academic Planning and Public Engagement at the Association of American Colleges and Universities—a position she assumed in early 2016 after serving for three years as VP of Communications, Policy, and Public Engagement, and eleven years as VP for Communications and Public Affairs. Prior to 2001, she served as Director of Programs in the Office of Diversity, Equity and Global Initiatives at AAC&U where she directed programs on diversity, equity, and women’s issues in higher education.

Humphreys currently oversees AAC&U’s projects and continuing programs that build capacity across higher education to provide engaged, public-spirited liberal education to all students.  She also leads AAC&U’s national and state-level advocacy and policy efforts related to issues of student success and the quality of student learning in higher education. As part of AAC&U's campaign, Liberal Education and America’s Promise (LEAP), she works to create opportunities for higher education institutions of all sorts to improve guided curricular pathways and educational environments through which all students gain the essential learning outcomes so important for long-term success and flourishing in a knowledge-economy and global society.  Humphreys also leads AAC&U’s work to advance communications capacity on the part of college and university leaders and faculty members and to educate various stakeholder groups about the imperative for increased college attainment and learning outcomes to prepare for the changing global economy. Dr. Humphreys speaks widely to educators, business leaders, and policymakers about quality issues in higher education and about the importance of higher education to the future of America's economic health and democratic vitality. She also serves often as a communications and educational consultant to colleges and universities with special expertise in faculty and curriculum development as well as board communications and internal campus communications. 

Humphreys also oversees AAC&U’s public and employer engagement and outreach, media relations and the development of all of AAC&U's publications, marketing efforts, and Web resources. Humphreys supervises the publication of many books, monographs, and quarterlies, and multiple Web sites. Humphreys also regularly serves as AAC&U's official spokesperson. In that role, she has appeared on Fox News, WAMU public radio, NBC Nightly News, the PBS program, To the Contrary, and has had op-eds published in USA Today and The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Prior to her current responsibilities, Dr. Humphreys worked extensively in a leadership role on AAC&U’s national initiative, Greater Expectations: The Commitment to Quality as a Nation Goes to College. Through AAC&U's current strategic planning initiatives, she is also leading efforts to increase AAC&U's public visibility and influence among a variety of constituents both within and outside of higher education, most directly through AAC&U’s LEAP initiative and its various projects and leadership groups, including the Presidents' Trust and the LEAP National Leadership Council.

Dr. Humphreys also served as Associate Director of AAC&U's influential national initiative, American Commitment: Diversity, Democracy and Liberal Learning which involved more than 100 institutions working to transform undergraduate curricular pathways to address issues of American diversity and democracy. She is the author of the project’s report, General Education and American Commitments: A National Report on Diversity Courses and Requirements. She also served as Project Director of two of AAC&U's national diversity initiatives, Racial Legacies and Learning: An American Dialogue and Diversity Works. Racial Legacies was a project designed to foster learning and dialogue about America's racial legacies and involved more than 80 colleges and universities all working to develop innovative campus diversity learning programs and campus-community partnerships.

Before coming to AAC&U in 1992, she taught Women's Studies and English at Rutgers University, Towson State University, and at the University of Maryland at Baltimore County. She also served as Program Associate at the National Women's Studies Association.

In her work with higher education institutions, Humphreys has conducted academic leadership and faculty workshops on teaching and learning issues and especially on the process of general education reform and developing diversity courses and requirements. She serves on the editorial advisory boards of University Business and Change Magazine, and serves on the board of the National Survey of Student Engagement. In addition to her expertise on academic planning, communications, general education and diversity in higher education, she has written, taught, and published on African American women's literature, immigrant women's literature, and women and American film history.

Selected recent publications include “Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Challenging Times: Examining Priorities and Proposed Reforms,” co-authored with Paul L. Gaston in Liberal Education (Winter 2016); "Deploying Collaborative Leadership to Reinvent Higher Education for the Twenty-First Century" in Peer Review (Winter 2013); "The Questions We Need to Ask First: Setting Priorities for Higher Education in Our Technology-Rich World" in Game Changers: Education and Information Technologies, edited by Diana G. Oblinger (Educause, 2012); “What’s Wrong with the Completion Agenda—and What We Can Do About It.” in Liberal Education (Winter, 2012); "Liberal Education and the Policy Landscape," co-authored with Carol Geary Schneider in Transforming Undergraduate Education, edited by Donald W. Harward and published by Rowman and Littlefield in 2011; "College Outcomes for Work, Life, and Citizenship: Can We Really Do It All?" in Liberal Education (Winter, 2009).

Areas of Expertise: 
General Higher Education Issues, Higher Education Research and Policy, Diversity in Higher Education, Women in Higher Education, Civic Engagement, Quality of Student Learning, Advocacy for Liberal Education