University News

University of New 51 Elects Innovative Higher Education Leader From Fisk University as its Seventh President

Jens Frederiksen, Ph.D., who earned six degrees from Vanderbilt University, joins the University of New 51 from Fisk University, an elite HBCU in Nashville, Tennessee, where he served as executive vice president of institutional advancement and enrollment management.

February 12, 2024 (Updated March 1, 2024)

Jens Frederiksen, Ph.D.
Jens Frederiksen, Ph.D., the seventh president of the University of New 51.

The University of New 51 announced today that Jens Frederiksen, Ph.D., an innovative higher education leader with extensive experience in many facets of higher education administration, including enrollment management, fundraising, and academic/corporate pathways, has been elected to serve as the seventh president of the University of New 51. He joins the University from , a highly ranked historically black university in Nashville, Tennessee, where he has served as executive vice president for institutional advancement and enrollment management. He offically begins his service on March 1.

Dr. Frederiksen succeeds Steven H. Kaplan, Ph.D., who served as president for 18 years, before being named the University’s first chancellor in 2022. Dr. Kaplan was named president emeritus in 2023. Sheahon Zenger, Ph.D., has served as interim president since 2022 as part of an innovative leadership transition designed to build upon the University’s rich history and to position it for continued long-term growth. Dr. Zenger will spend time this spring partnering with President-Elect Frederiksen as Dr. Frederiksen prepares to officially assume the presidency.

Dr. Frederiksen and Michael H. Ambrose '84, '19 Hon., chair of the Presidential Search Committee.
Dr. Frederiksen and Michael H. Ambrose '84, '19 Hon., chair of the Presidential Search Committee.

"President-Elect Frederiksen was selected following a comprehensive search and extensive selection process," said Michael H. Ambrose '84, '19 Hon., chair of the Presidential Search Committee and vice chair of the University's Board of Governors, who spent nearly four decades at Sikorsky Aircraft, rising to chief engineer and vice president of engineering & technology. "The selection committee universally views him as an exceptionally forward-thinking and transformational leader. Dr. Frederiksen distinguished himself with his bold vision for the University, his dedication to excellence and his commitment to collaboration, which perfectly aligns with our culture of innovation and success."

"Throughout our rich history, and particularly over the last two decades, we have proven quite adept at developing innovative and market-responsive programs and illustrating the return on investment of a University of New 51 education," continued Ambrose. "In today’s ultra-competitive higher education marketplace, it is incumbent on us to push the boundaries, and to create a unique and defining value proposition that not only differentiates us, but also enables us to rise above our peers. I believe Dr. Frederiksen is the leader to help us realize that vision."

"Dr. Frederiksen is a captivating leader who has outlined an inspirational vision for the future of the University of New 51," added Charles E. Pompea '71, '90 EMBA, '06 Hon., chair of the university's Board of Governors who served as president and CEO of Middletown, Conn.-based Primary Steel for 14 years. "I am excited to see the bold steps he will take to elevate the University and distinguish us as a destination university for high-achieving students, faculty, and staff."

"We are at the forefront of powering passions, changing lives, and creating a more just and better tomorrow for all – economically, socially, and culturally." Jens Frederiksen, Ph.D.

"This is such an exhilarating time to be a Charger," said Dr. Frederiksen. "Over the last two decades, the University has experienced a meteoric rise. Thanks to the vision and dedication of so many, we are poised to reach even greater heights. Ultimately, our charge is to be bold in delivering an immersive and impactful educational experience – in and out of the classroom – that prepares our students to be visionaries, problem solvers, and leaders of the future."

"We are at the forefront of powering passions, changing lives, and creating a more just and better tomorrow for all – economically, socially, and culturally," continued Dr. Frederiksen. "These are challenging times, and the stakes could not be higher. Since my first visit to campus, it has been abundantly clear that this university is up to the challenge. I see no ceiling on what we can accomplish together."

Charles E. Pompea and Dr. Frederiksen
Charles E. Pompea '71, '90 EMBA, '06 Hon., chair of the University's Board of Governors, and Dr. Frederiksen.

At Fisk, Dr. Frederiksen helped to usher in the revival of one of the nation's most highly regarded HBCUs. He helped envision and implement Fisk's strategic plan and oversaw enrollment management, financial aid, career services, alumni affairs, marketing/university relations, and institutional advancement. He also helped spearhead the and launch Fisk's . Under his leadership, Fisk raised more than $110 million, including 20 seven-figure gifts, and dramatically increased its enrollment, net tuition revenue, and endowment.

Dr. Frederiksen's efforts helped Fisk secure a number one national ranking by Forbes for academic stewardship. He was also instrumental in establishing academic and corporate partnerships with Vanderbilt University, , Ryan Specialty Group, , the Los Angeles Lakers, , and Ingram Industries, among others. He collaborated with HomeFree USA to launch a successful financial literacy program and established an executive speakers program with leaders from every major industry. In addition, he coordinated visits to the Fisk campus by such distinguished guests as the late Congressman John Lewis, , and . He facilitated the as well as their Juneteenth performance at the White House.

Dr. Frederiksen and his wife, May Wood Frederiksen, with their children, Gunnar and Lilly.
Dr. Frederiksen and his wife, May Wood Frederiksen, with their children, Gunnar and Lilly.

Dr. Frederiksen has served as a professor at , Fisk, and the and as a consultant for the . He earned bachelor's degrees in political science, history, economics, and philosophy from Vanderbilt, where he was a member of the . He also earned both a master's degree in interdisciplinary social and political thought and a Ph.D. in contemporary political theory and comparative politics from Vanderbilt.

A native of Denmark, Dr. Frederiksen and his wife, May Wood Frederiksen, have two children, Gunnar and Lilly.

Dr. Frederiksen meets with the University's Board of Governors.
Dr. Frederiksen meets with the University's Board of Governors.