Sonya Malunda

Sonya Malunda, president emerita of the Associated Colleges of the Midwest (ACM), joined Peterson Rudgers Group as a senior advisor in February 2024.

As the ACM’s eighth president in its 65-year history, Malunda led the consortium of 14 private liberal arts colleges in five states to develop and launch a new strategic plan to propel the organization through a new era for higher education. She also advanced student learning and development by expanding the ACM’s strategic collaborations with external organizations, including the Big Ten Academic Alliance, the Great Lakes Colleges Association, and Common Purpose, a leadership development organization based in the United Kingdom. Additionally, she increased professional development programming for faculty and staff, supported by new, multi-year grants from major foundations. The new initiatives created under Malunda’s leadership included a Student Leadership Summit for ACM students, an Academic Leadership Fellows Program for budding faculty leaders, and significant programming and professional development in diversity, equity, and inclusion. During her tenure, Malunda also significantly reduced the consortium’s operating expenses and increased its endowment.

Before joining ACM in 2017, Malunda spent nearly 20 years leading community engagement initiatives at the University of Chicago. She played an instrumental role in the team that secured the Obama Presidential Center on Chicago’s South Side through her collaborative efforts to develop a community engagement campaign. As senior associate vice president for civic engagement, Malunda helped architect the University’s distinct model of civic engagement, which leveraged the institution as an anchor for local neighborhoods and a global center for education, research, and innovation. One of her specializations was developing pipeline programs to help more students access a four-year college degree. These included a range of counseling, education, and funding programs that empowered many minority and low-income students to become the first in their families to attend college and an initiative that helped Chicago high school students prepare for, access, and succeed in top-tier colleges and universities.

While at UChicago, Malunda spearheaded the creation of the University’s Civic Leadership Academy, a six-month leadership development program for emerging leaders in local government and nonprofit organizations, facilitated by UChicago faculty and civic practitioners. She also developed the Community Programs Accelerator, which pairs university students with nonprofits on concrete projects that advance their missions. As a key figure in creating America’s Urban Campus, a consortium of 21 Chicago-based higher education institutions, she played a pivotal role in elevating the city’s reputation as a hub for higher learning.

Before her roles in higher education, Malunda served as first deputy commissioner for the city of Chicago’s Department of Housing, helping to create the city’s first affordable housing plan, and held finance positions in the commercial real estate groups at First National Bank of Chicago (now JPMorgan Chase) and Continental Bank of Illinois (now Bank of America). She is a graduate of Spelman College and holds an M.B.A. degree in finance from Northwestern University’s Kellogg Graduate School of Management with a concentration in real estate and organizational behavior.