President & CEO
Location: DuPage County
Year Founded: 1931
Industry Group Specific: Higher Education
Throughout her career, Elise Awwad has shattered glass ceilings. In addition to her recent appointment as DeVry University’s first female president and CEO in its 92-year history, she has also championed the cause of gender equality, blazing trails for aspiring women in Chicago and across the country.
“As a visionary leader, Elise believes in breaking down barriers and creating equal opportunities which is the driving force behind why she founded DeVry’s Pioneering Women affinity group, signaling a commitment to fostering the enhanced career experience and empowering of the advancement of women into influential leadership roles within the university and broader community,” said her colleagues.
DeVry University strives to close society’s opportunity gap by preparing learners to thrive in careers shaped by continuous technological change. Through innovative programs, relevant partnerships and exceptional care, the university empowers students to meaningfully improve their lives, communities and workplaces.
Awwad’s journey at DeVry began as an admissions advisor in 2004, leading to appointments in multiple departments, experiencing first-hand what students in underrepresented communities needed and how to best support them as they work to achieve their academic goals.
Her commitment to higher education has earned her multiple speaking opportunities, including an opportunity to speak at the National Diversity Congress for Women in Leadership. She has also published articles in higher education magazines and Women in Tech Incorporated and she is the founding member of Chief, a private network designed specifically for women in leadership roles.
“In my role as president and CEO, it is so important to understand the diverse needs and motivations of the university’s stakeholders, which includes students, faculty, administrative staff and external partners,” said Awwad. “As an empathetic leader, I strive to foster an inclusive environment, where decisions are made with a deep understanding of their impact on all parts of the university community.”
Awwad said, in her role, the university is looking at the world of work and the rapid changes that require employees in all fields to upskill and reskill to remain relevant and competitive. “Our commitment is to stay ahead of these changes, ensuring our workforce and those we educate for the world of work are not only prepared but are leading the charge into the future,” she said.
Under her leadership, DeVry has invested in cutting-edge educational technology and partnered with businesses and communities to design experiential learning opportunities that provide real-life problem-solving experiences.
For her unending commitment to education and empowerment of others, Awwad has been named a titan.
If I am picking one, it would be empathetic leadership.
As an empathetic leader, I strive to foster an inclusive environment, where decisions are made with a deep understanding of their impact on all parts of the university community. Empathetic leadership requires high EQ to adeptly navigate complex interpersonal dynamics, thereby cultivating a culture of trust and open communication.