Skip to Main Content

After 40 years in college presidents’ offices—and 23 years as a president himself—Chuck supports educational institutions and their leaders with a student-centered focus, helping them access and utilize new tools to build a sustainable future for higher ed.

Chuck would be the first to tell you that his undergraduate experience changed his life, thanks in part to the personal interest his college’s president took in his life and his potential. He graduated knowing the positive impact higher education and its leadership could have on young people, and he chose to dedicate his career to the field. Chuck devoted the next four decades to a variety of colleges and universities, experiencing both public and private institutions of all sizes. His higher ed career culminated in a stint as president of the University of Central Missouri, where he earned the Governor’s Economic Development Award for the creation of the Missouri Innovation campus, and then as chancellor of Henderson State University, where he arrived during a severe financial crisis and achieved the largest cost containment in the shortest amount of time for a four-year public university.

Excited about the opportunity to share strategies and offer tangible support to other college and university leaders, Chuck joined Husch Blackwell in 2023. He works with the firm’s higher education clients as a consultant, with a focus on policy, strategy, and enhancing institutional performance and outcomes. The author of Colleges on the Brink: The Case for Financial Exigency, Chuck knows that the paradigm for higher ed has permanently shifted in recent years and that schools and their leaders are searching for new skills and new tools as they look to build a sustainable, data-driven model for the future.

In Chuck, clients find an active listener who deeply understands their world and empathizes with their challenges. His goal is to support institutions not just in fulfilling their missions but in achieving their performance aspirations, and he partners with schools in asking what’s possible…then ensuring they have the support they need to accomplish it.




  • Commander’s Service Medal, Commander of U.S. Global Strike Command, U.S. Air Force, 2018
  • 2018 Honor Flight in the B-2 Bomber – Whiteman Air Force Base and Global Strike Command, the 690th individual to fly in a B-2 Bomber (Spirit # 690), U.S. Air Force
  • Governor’s Economic Development Advancement Award for Missouri, 2013


  • Ed.D., University of Georgia
    • Higher Education Administration
  • M.A., University of Louisville
    • Higher Education Administration
  • B.A., Furman University
    • Sociology

Professional Memberships and Certifications

  • Innovative Higher Education, Journal Editorial Review Board, 2017–present
  • USTA and ITA Joint Task Force to “Re-Imagine College Tennis,” Executive Committee, 2021 
  • NCAA, Search Committee for the VP of Diversity and Inclusion, 2020 
  • NCAA Gender Equity Task Force, 2014-present 
  • Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) Board of Directors, 2016-2019 
  • NCAA, Membership Fund Selection Committee Chair, 2016-2018
  • Department of Justice and National Center for Campus Safety Clery Act Task Force, 2015-2016
  • MIAA Athletic Conference, Chair of President’s Council, 2013-2015  
  • With the Association of Governing Boards, developed the Strategic Governance Model for Student Success. The model was highlighted as a case study in the March/April 2013 issue of Trusteeship.
  • With rpk Group and Rick Staisloff, developed the Strategic Resource Allocation Model at the University of Central Missouri. The SRAM model produced significant results including a major administrative review process yielding significant costs savings, new budget process, and academic performance portfolio that identified signature programs; eliminated duplication of programs, courses; and sections; flattened administrative overhead; and provided data to restructure the academic administration.
  • With Complete College America, Lumina, Strada, and the Governor of Missouri, developed a student success model at the University of Central Missouri. Was a team member of Missouri's first college completion team at the national convening/innovation lab for Complete College. Served as a resource to the Strada Foundation's Completion with a Purpose providing technical assistance to MSI institutions. These student success initiatives moved the University of Central Missouri's completion rates to the highest for any public four-year institution in the state.
  • With the support from the Lumina and Kauffman Foundations, created the Missouri Innovation Campus. Driven by a complex set of partnerships with K-12 schools districts, a community college system, a four-year university, and business/industry, students were able to graduate with less costs, half the time, no skills gap, and without student loan debt. This set of partnerships also provided a new $40 million shared facility in Lees Summit, Missouri. The Governor of Missouri and President Obama called it "a model for the nation."
  • Implemented a financial exigency at Henderson State University (as a tool for transformation) and a cost containment initiative representing the largest reduction in spending (as a percentage of operating funds) in the shortest amount of time for a public four-year university. The initiative is the focus of a Chronicle of Higher Education NewsroomReport "Restructuring a University: How One Institution is Staying Viable."
  • With the NCAA, designed and implemented a strategic positioning platform for Division II in 2006 that is still in use by the association today. Served as Chair of the Division II President's Council and member of the Executive Committee and Administrative Council, and currently as a member of the Gender Equity Task Force.
  • With the Education Advisory Board, was an earlier adopter, thought partner, and beta for both the Student Success Collaborative and Academic Performance Solutions. These tools utilized our institutional initiatives to build models that evolved into their current products Navigate and Edify.
  • With the U.S. Air Force, created a model military/university partnership (the Whiteman Advantage) that was utilized by bases, communities, and institutions across the Air Force's Global Strike Command.
  • Partnered with BlueKC to build a new healthcare model that utilizes a data informed and outcome driven series of partnerships between payer, participant, and providers. This model shared data across from BlueKC to a provider network, changed the overall benefit structure for employees, reduced their healthcare costs, and created institutional savings that totaled $5 million a year or one third of the university's total costs.
  • As CEO of Knowledgeworks, utilized two merger/acquisition processes to acquire the Students at the Center Research Collaborative from Jobs for the Future and to transfer the StrivePartnership 501(c)(3) organization to a new Cradle to Career organization in partnership with YMCA of Greater Cincinnati.
Outside the Office

Chuck and his wife value staying active and spending time outdoors: they both enjoy golfing, skiing, hiking, and mountain biking, and they once organized and completed a charity ride 1,000 miles from North Carolina to New Hampshire to raise money for breast cancer research.

Currently in South Carolina, the couple make frequent trips to Colorado. Lenexa, Kansas, where their grandchildren reside, is another favorite destination.

Community Leadership
  • Cradle to Career Cincinnati, Board of Directors, 2020-2021
  • Furman University Board of Trustees, 2021-present
  • Warrensburg Chamber of Commerce, 2010-2018
  • Air Force Global Strike Command Civic Leaders, Emerti Member
  • Whiteman Air Force Base Community Council, 2010-2018
  • Kansas City Area Development Council, Board Member, 2012-2016
Colleges on the Brink

Along with Michael Nietzel (former president of Missouri State University), Chuck is a co-author of Colleges on the Brink: The Case for Financial Exigency, due out from Rowman & Littlefield Publishers on December 15, 2023.

The book discusses the financial crises many schools are facing in the post-pandemic world, offering suggestions on potential resolutions—and the tools needed for these resolutions, which will require a shift in university spending. Chuck and his co-author outline how schools can regain their financial health, coming back from the brink as better, more stable institutions ready to meet student needs.

Colleges on the Brink provides a hopeful vision, accompanied by data-driven tools, for the future of American universities. Chuck acknowledges that schools will need to make hard choices, but he firmly believes today’s struggles can be overcome and that our colleges and universities will remain one of America’s greatest assets.

What others are saying about Colleges on the Brink:

“American colleges and universities face a veritable tsunami of challenges when it comes to their near-term and long-term success. But two of the nation’s most foresighted higher education leaders offer hope and a plan, providing strategic, practical advice for how to navigate these choppy waters. This book will be required reading for those taking on the important task of making needed structural changes to allow institutions to thrive in the future and better serve today’s students.”  — Jamie Merisotis, President/CEO, Lumina Foundation

"This is the right book at the right time to provide a planning guide for academic leaders at colleges facing financial uncertainty. Authors Nietzel and Ambrose combine experience as university presidents with a clear logic to considering sound data and values to make good decisions about mission and resources in the post-covid college era. Their engaging writing style and institutional analyses create a gyroscope for colleges whose presidents and professionals are navigating the adversities colleges face in the 21st century."  — John Thelin, American Historian of Higher Education

“As college leaders look to the post-pandemic future, they are confronting a confluence of daunting economic, political, and demographic changes that post an existential threat to the future of many campuses. Chuck Ambrose and Mike Nietzel—two college presidents with decades of diverse experiences in higher education—provide a clear-eyed, timely, and well-researched assessment of the challenges ahead, with a bold roadmap to financial sustainability through restructuring and reform. Their book is sure to generate discussion on the future of higher education as campus leaders navigate the turbulent 2020s. It should be required reading for college executives and those ascending to college leadership roles in the years ahead.”  — Tom Harnisch, Vice President, State Higher Education Executive Officers

"Whether leaders find themselves at a relatively well resourced institution or one that has always struggled, this book is illuminating in its approach to understanding what has happened, what is happening, and what will likely happen across American higher education without bold vision and action. Ambrose and Nietzel, with plenty of experience behind them, provide perspective and foundation to encourage leaders to take the necessary steps to steer their institutions through the troubled times ahead. Senior leadership teams, whether they are serving public or private institutions, would be well advised to read this book before the organization experiences the likely challenges of the next 10 years.”  — J. Carey Thompson, Vice President for Enrollment and Educational Services, Gettysburg College

"‘Financial Exigency’ is one of the scariest terms in the academic vocabulary. It is also the timely and important subject of this book by Chuck Ambrose and Mike Nietzel. Drawing from their own first-hand experience and extensive research, the authors of Colleges on the Brink offer a comprehensive overview as well as detailed guidance on the origins, processes. and potentially positive outcomes of declaring financial exigency at a college in financial trouble. Colleges on the Brink is a must read for trustees, administrators, faculty, and students of higher education who need to be better informed on the option of declaring exigency in order to save their challenged institutions."  — Terry MacTaggart; Senior Consultant and Senior Fellow, AGB Consulting; former Chancellor, Minnesota State University System and University of Maine System