The CAEL team draws great strength from its varied set of backgrounds and skills. But we hold one very important quality in common: dedicated expertise in forging the connections between learning and work that adult learners—and their communities—depend on for social mobility and economic equity.
William J. McKinney, Ph.D.
Senior Director, Higher Education Initiatives
Dr. William J. McKinney currently serves as senior director of higher education initiatives at CAEL, joining the organization in 2023 and directing projects that directly enhance the lives of all adult learners. He most recently served as a senior fellow in the Office of the President of the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U). Before joining AAC&U, McKinney served as senior advisor for regional campus affairs at Indiana University (2015-2023), the ninth president of Valdosta State University (2012-2015), vice chancellor for academic affairs at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne (2008-2012), founding dean of the college of humanities, fine, and performing arts at Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania (2001-2008), professor and chairperson of philosophy and religion at Southeast Missouri State University (1997-2001), assistant and associate professor of philosophy at Southeast Missouri State University (1993-1998), and visiting assistant professor of philosophy at the University of Kentucky (1992-1993).
For more than 30 years, McKinney has been committed to civic learning, democratic engagement, and the value of a liberal education. Much of his current work is informed by his belief that higher education institutions exist to preserve and proliferate democratic values and economic opportunities and that, consequently, they are also responsible for imparting the intellectual skills required to protect those values and provide those opportunities. With a deep commitment to these values for all students, he has served on CAEL’s Advisory Council since 2012.
McKinney has also served as a senior fellow for diversity, equity, and student success at the AAC&U and chaired the steering committee of the American Association of State Colleges and University’s American Democracy Project (ADP). A native of Pittsburgh, he received his Ph.D. in philosophy of science and his M.A. in history and philosophy of science from IU-Bloomington. He earned his bachelor’s in chemical engineering and his bachelor’s in history from Bucknell University.
Links to Related Work :
Keynote Address: Restoring General Education’s Civic Purpose
Areas of Expertise : A nationally recognized teacher, scholar, and academic leader, McKinney has extensive experience in strategic enrollment management, student success, community and civic engagement, strategic planning, curriculum development and assessment, alumni relations, and fundraising. In all of his leadership positions, he has prioritized the public purpose of higher education by building strong relationships between educators, elected officials, business leaders, and employers. He has published or presented well over 100 papers, book chapters, or reviews on such diverse topics as the philosophical nature of scientific experiments, environmental ethics, liberal education, and civic engagement.