John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education


Dr. Gail O. Mellow is President of LaGuardia Community College in Long Island City, Queens, arguably, one of the most ethnically diverse campuses in the United States. LaGuardia is a two-year, public, open access college, serving students from over 160 different countries and speaking 110 different native languages.  Over 41,000 students attend the college on a full-time or part-time basis.

During her tenure at LaGuardia, the college has won numerous awards and achievements.  It was named one of the top two community colleges in the country for serving underserved students by the MetLife Foundation, one of the top three large community colleges by the National Survey of Student Engagement, an Institution of Excellence by the National Policy Center for the First Year of College, the Hesburgh Certificate of Excellence in Undergraduate Education by TIAA-CREF and Best Practice College by the MetLife Foundation.

Dr. Mellow has spearheaded economic development, resulting in such achievements as the establishment of the LaGuardia Small Business Development Center (SBDC), which provides business counseling in four languages. The SBDC has packaged over $27 million in loans for small businesses since its inception just after September 11, 2001, and provided service to over 1,000 businesses through customized training and other workforce activities. Under Dr. Mellow’s leadership, over $15 million in external funding through grants and contracts is secured each year for workforce development, initiatives that support at-risk students, and initiatives to help low income individuals transition to work and to education.  The College has received over $6 million to begin NY Designs, a business incubator that nurtures businesses in the design industries.

Dr. Mellow has served in various capacities at the national level, including serving on the boards of the American Association for Higher Education, the National Commission for Cooperative Education, the Community College
Research Center at Columbia  University, the Council for the Advancement Of Adult Literacy, the National Workforce Strategies Board and the National Resource  Center for The First-Year Experience. She has also served as a Commissioner and Chair of various commissions for the American Council on Education, and Presidential Ambassador Phi Theta Kappa for the Southern District of New York.

Active in community affairs, Dr. Mellow has also served on a variety of community boards, including the New York Industrial Retention Network, as a gubernatorial appointee to the New Jersey State Employment and Training Commission, and on the New Jersey Workforce Investment Board, the Board of the United Way of Gloucester County, Co-chair of the American Heart Association Walk, and the Woodbury Chamber of Commerce.

Dr. Mellow founded and chaired the Northeast Connecticut Economic Alliance, a non-profit economic development agency, and was a member of the Human Resource Development Board of the Connecticut Employment & Training Commission and the Connecticut Private Industry Council, the National Women’s Studies Association Women’s Center Caucus, the Northeast Domestic Violence Program, and the Connecticut Women’s Network.

Active as a keynote speaker across the country, Dr. Mellow represented the United States at the first-ever US-China Community College Conference in Beijing in 2004, and was the keynote speaker at “Reviving the Delphic Ideal” in Delphi, Greece in 2006. Dr. Mellow is the co-author of two books and more than thirty articles on community colleges, economic development, diversity, faculty development, job training, and pedagogical innovation. She is a consulting editor for Change Magazine, the national magazine for higher education.

She received an A. A. from Jamestown Community College, a B.A. from SUNY Albany, where she graduated Phi Beta Kappa, and her M.A. and Ph.D. from The George Washington University.

LaGuardia Community College is a leader in e-portfolio assessment and use of technology in the classroom, aided by over $1.3 million in grants. LaGuardia Community College students go on to baccalaureate education at over twice the national average, and the college supports such activity through its innovative joint programs with Vassar College and Barnard College in Exploring Transfer. The college hosts two public high schools, and  The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation recently provided over $40 million to a national project, coordinated by the Consortium of Middle College High Schools, to adapt the high school/college collaborative begun at LaGuardia Community College at over 20 sites across the nation.