St. Olaf College | News

St. Olaf to host law school dean for yearlong ACE Fellows Program

David A. Brennen, dean and professor at the University of Kentucky College of Law, will spend the year at St. Olaf as part of the ACE Fellows Program. Photo courtesy of the University of Kentucky

This year St. Olaf College will host David A. Brennen, dean and professor at the University of Kentucky College of Law, as part of the American Council on Education (ACE) Fellows Program.

The prestigious ACE Fellows Program, the longest-running leadership development program in the United States, enables participants to experience the culture, policies, and decision-making processes of another institution. Brennen is one of 39 emerging college and university leaders chosen for the 2019-20 class of ACE Fellows.

Once selected, each fellow applies to a host institution where they feel they can learn from the president and their leadership team. Brennen has an interest in learning more about providing a high-quality liberal arts experience for undergraduate students, which made St. Olaf a perfect fit.

“As a scholar of nonprofit organizations, I have a long-standing interest in the inner workings of mission-driven organizations. After years of serving in leadership roles for such entities, including the privilege to serve 10 years as dean at UK College of Law, I look forward to participating in the ACE Fellows Program to learn more about improving institutional effectiveness as a leader,” he says. “I am particularly interested in focusing on leadership challenges in higher education so that I can better serve as a student-centered leader who contributes to maximizing opportunities for creativity, innovation, and access.”

Brennen joined the University of Kentucky faculty in 2009. Along with more than 20 years of experience in the classroom, he is regarded as an innovator in the field of nonprofit law as it relates to taxation. Brennen is a co-founder and co-editor of Nonprofit Law Prof Blog, founding editor of Nonprofit and Philanthropy Law Abstracts, co-founder of the Association of American Law Schools Section on Nonprofit and Philanthropy Law, and a co-author of one of the first law school casebooks on taxation of nonprofit organizations. Brennen says that his decanal experience, coupled with his knowledge of various aspects of nonprofit organizations, have positively informed his approach to academic leadership. He continues, “I want to thank Provost David Blackwell and President Eli Capilouto for supporting me in this fellowship, and President David Anderson for offering his mentorship over the coming year at St. Olaf.”

In 1988 ​Brennen earned his bachelor’s degree in finance from Florida Atlantic University, and in 1991 he earned his law degree from the University of Florida College of Law. In 2002 he was elected to the American Law Institute, where he is an adviser on the Restatement of the Law: Charitable Nonprofit Organizations. Brennen has also served in leadership roles with the Society of American Law Teachers, the American Bar Association’s Section of Legal Education, and the Association of American Law Schools.

“We eagerly look forward to having David Brennen on campus this year,” says St. Olaf President David R. Anderson ’74. “He is a distinguished scholar and leader, and I expect that we will learn much from him.”

ACE Fellows Program
Established in 1965, the ACE Fellows Program is designed to strengthen institutions and leadership in American higher education by identifying and preparing faculty and staff for senior positions in college and university administration through its distinctive and intensive nominator-driven, cohort-based mentorship model. More than 2,000 higher education leaders have participated in the ACE Fellows Program over the past five decades, with more than 80 percent of fellows having gone on to serve as senior leaders of colleges and universities.

The program combines retreats, interactive learning opportunities, visits to campuses and other higher education-related organizations, and placement at another higher education institution to condense years of on-the-job experience and skills development into a single year.

During the placement, fellows observe and work with the president and other senior officers at their host institution, attend decision-making meetings, and focus on issues of interest. Fellows also conduct projects of pressing concern for their home institution and seek to implement their findings upon completion of the fellowship placement.

At the conclusion of the fellowship year, fellows return to their home institution with new knowledge and skills that contribute to capacity-building efforts, along with a network of peers across the country and abroad.