Who Should Apply?

Are you a passionate and visionary professional driven to shape the future of higher education? Do you possess a deep commitment to cross-cultural understanding and collaboration, and a desire to lead with purpose in a dynamic and complex global landscape? If so, then the Experiential Collaborative Engagement Leadership (ExCEL) Program is for you!

We welcome applications from:

  • Mid-career professionals: Current administrators, faculty members, and staff seeking to advance their careers in various education leadership roles at universities, colleges, or related organizations.

  • Emerging leaders: Individuals with strong potential and a demonstrated track record of success in their respective fields, ready to take the next step in their leadership journey.

  • Changemakers: Individuals with innovative ideas and a commitment to addressing critical challenges facing education in their community, such as access, equity, inclusion, and sustainability.

  • Globally-minded individuals: Professionals with experience or interest in working across diverse cultures and fostering international partnerships.

  • Lifelong learners: Individuals with a passion for continuous learning, intellectual curiosity, and a desire to engage in collaborative dialogue and exchange with colleagues from around the world.

Walking down stairs

If you possess the following qualities, we encourage you to apply:

  • Strong leadership potential and a demonstrated commitment to excellence.

  • At least three years of professional experience.

  • A collaborative spirit and the ability to work effectively in diverse teams.

  • Self-driven and goal-oriented.

  • A passion for improving education and a desire to make a positive impact on the field.

  • Proficiency in English reading, writing, and speaking.

Whether you are an established leader, an emerging talent, or a forward-thinking visionary, our program provides the knowledge, skills, and network you need to thrive in the dynamic and rewarding world of higher education administration.

Key Components

Tailored for both ExCEL participants and Hubert Humphrey fellows, this intensive leadership seminar equips you with the skills and strategies needed to return home as a powerful agent of change. Throughout the year, you'll gain practical insights through engaging guest speakers, interactive workshops, and immersive professional site visits.



The completion of your leadership journey won't end with your return home. To ensure lasting impact, this seminar culminates in a personalized capstone project. This project allows you to apply your newfound knowledge and skills to a real-world challenge within your own community.

With guidance from experienced mentors and a network of supportive peers, you'll develop a targeted project that addresses a specific need in your area. This could involve:

  • Launching an initiative: Identify a pressing issue and design a program or intervention to address it.

  • Building collaboration: Facilitate dialogue and partnerships between diverse stakeholders to tackle complex challenges.

  • Empowering others: Develop training programs or mentorship initiatives to cultivate future leaders in your community.

  • Conducting research: Investigate pressing issues in your community, analyze data, and present findings to inform policy or program development.

Through this project, you'll gain invaluable hands-on experience, refine your leadership style, and make a tangible difference in your hometown. The capstone project serves as a springboard for your continued leadership journey, ensuring you return home not just equipped, but empowered to enact positive change.

Delivering a poster

Participants will be actively matched with faculty/staff mentors who share their passions and expertise. Collaborate on cutting-edge research with leading faculty, or team up with higher education administrators to bring your ideas to life. This is your chance to gain valuable insights, contribute your unique perspective, and make a real impact on the university community.


ExCEL participants will forge valuable connections and partnerships through:

  • Mentorship from renowned Penn State faculty who will provide personalized guidance.

  • Collaborative projects with international peers from diverse backgrounds.

  • Networking events with education leaders, offering opportunities to exchange ideas and build lasting relationships.


Additionally, attending a national conference in your field is highly encouraged. This allows you to:

  • Present your research or work to a wider audience, gaining valuable feedback and recognition from your peers.

  • Learn from leading experts through keynote speeches, panel discussions, and workshops, staying current on trends and best practices.

  • Connect with potential collaborators, expanding your professional network and opening doors to exciting opportunities.

CHEA Conference

Dive into the heart of American identity with enriching cultural visits throughout your academic year.

  • Niagara FallsWitness the awe-inspiring power of Niagara Falls: Embark on a day trip to Niagara Falls State Park, marveling at the natural wonder and exploring its surrounding beauty.



  • Washington, DCDelve into the nation's capital: Journey to Washington, DC, for an overnight visit, immersing yourself in iconic landmarks, museums, and cultural institutions.


  • Discover hidden gems together: Collaborate with your cohort to choose a unique day trip that sparks your collective interest.

  • Reflect and celebrate: Conclude your year with a transformative overnight retreat, reflecting on your experiences and forging lasting bonds.

Standing by Cannon

Beyond these key excursions, expect a vibrant calendar of local cultural adventures throughout the year. These bite-sized explorations will further broaden your horizons and deepen your connection to the community.

Make a difference in the community and connect with local change-makers through group service activities!

Join us for diverse events hosted by Penn State clubs and organizations, and find others who share your passions with the help of our coordinators. It's a great way to:

  • Give back: Contribute to meaningful projects that benefit your community.

  • Connect: Meet like-minded individuals and local change-makers.

  • Explore: Participate in a variety of events hosted by Penn State groups.

  • Share: Showcase your unique cultural background and experiences throughout the year.



Don't miss out on this exciting opportunity to make a positive impact and build lasting connections!

Volunteering at lake.

As a member of the Penn State community, you'll unlock a world of resources to fuel your success:

  • Dive into millions of books, articles, and online databases through our world-class libraries.

  • Get tech support 24/7 to keep your devices running smoothly.

  • Stay active and connected with diverse recreational facilities (for a small fee).

  • Seek expert medical care at the Student Health Center, conveniently located on campus.

  • Master English for professional settings with our dedicated language program.

  • Get personalized guidance on DS 2019 and visa processing.

  • And much more! From career services and media creation services to health and wellness support and cultural diversity centers, Penn State has the resources to make your program a success.

2024-25 Program Schedule Overview

January-April Applications Accepted
Early May ExCEL Participants Announced
August 17-18 Participants Arrive at Penn State
August 19-25 ExCEL Orientation
August 26-December 13        Fall Programming
December 14-January 12 Winter Break
January 13-May 2 Spring Programming
Mid-May Return to Home Country