Elise Awwad is president and CEO of DeVry University and considered one of the most innovative leaders in higher education. Known for breaking down barriers and leading cultural transformations, Awwad is passionate about the role education plays in supporting the career advancement of all learner populations.
At DeVry, Awwad is committed to fulfilling the University’s mission, vision and values with internal and external stakeholders, as well as supporting and enhancing the institution’s academic mission and overall operations. As president and CEO, Awwad drives DeVry’s innovation, academic integrity and student success by helping DeVry’s current and future students realize their career ambitions through in-demand degree programs; by enabling employers to bring their strategies to life through partnerships that meet their needs for in-demand skills; and by helping society meet the urgent need to reskill the workforce that is being reshaped by technology and automation. Building upon the existing strengths of the University, Awwad advances DeVry as a high-quality institution providing career-oriented education, with unique, inclusive and innovative degrees and non-degree programs that integrate technology, business, science and the arts.
Previously, Awwad was DeVry’s chief operating officer and redefined student support with a focus on academic success that extends to intensive career preparedness, lifelong professional development and integration of the student’s whole person. She has re-envisioned how technology and process excellence can support and extend the work of top-flight faculty and advisors, earning wide recognition from industry observers. Through her leadership, DeVry has consistently improved key measures of student success while reducing the real-dollar cost of education through a multi-year tuition freeze and substantial investments in grants and scholarships.
Since joining DeVry as an admissions advisor in 2004, Awwad’s leadership has spanned multiple departments, experiencing first-hand what students need, enabling her to become DeVry’s first female president and CEO in 2023. Inspired by the students’ stories, she has committed her career to developing personalized journeys that ensure their education leads to graduation and success beyond.
Her belief that diversity and inclusiveness is an essential part of productivity, creativity and innovation drove her desire to support and build a diverse network of women scholars. In 2019, Awwad founded DeVry’s first women’s affinity and business resource group, EDGE (Empowerment, Diversity, Growth, and Excellence), which promotes the enhanced career experience and advancement of women in leadership roles within the University and broader community. EDGE was recognized in 2023 as a Top 25 ERG in the Diversity Impact Awards. In 2021, Awwad sponsored the establishment of DeVry’s Women+Tech Scholars program, helping to close the opportunity gap for women in this field and equipping them with the skills and networking connections needed to pursue careers in technology related fields.
Awwad is a founding member of Chief, a private network designed specifically for women in leadership roles from rising level VPs to CEOs. Chief has a network of 5,000+ of the most influential senior leaders in the United States, representing more than 2,500 companies working to cross-pollinate power across industries and effect change from the top down. Awwad is also a board member and student journey chair for Zollege, a family of schools in healthcare fields, is on the GetSet Learning board of advisors and is a member of the League of Women Voters.
Awwad has a bachelor’s degree in business, concentrating on small business management and entrepreneurship from Southern Illinois University. She also earned an MBA from DeVry University’s Keller Graduate School of Management, an Executive MBA from the University of Notre Dame, and a certificate in public policy from the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy at the University of Virginia.