Dr. James L. Applegate currently serves as the Executive Director for the Illinois Board of Higher Education.
As the state higher education executive officer, Dr. Applegate leads efforts to dramatically expand college opportunity in Illinois, especially for low income, first generation, adult and students of color. He also works to increase higher education's contributions to Illinois' economic and civic health as part of advancing Illinois’ Public Agenda.
Prior to assuming this position Jim served as Vice President for the Lumina Foundation, the largest U.S. foundation solely focused on improving higher education. In this role, he led in increasing the effectiveness of the Foundation’s programs supporting achievement of “Goal 2025” to dramatically increase educational attainment in the U.S, especially for low income, first generation, minority, and adult students.
Jim led the entire program staff at Lumina developing new approaches to strategically invest Lumina’s $50 million grant budget. He also led Lumina's convening strategy designed to mobilize key constituencies across multiple sectors to support education improvement. Finally, he served as an advocate for improving higher education performance engaging in more than 40 keynotes and presentations annually before federal and state policy makers, higher education and business leaders, and philanthropic groups.
Prior to joining Lumina in 2008, he served as Senior Fellow and Vice President for Academic Affairs at the Kentucky state higher education system office from 1999 through 2008. As chief academic officer in Kentucky, he coordinated statewide initiatives over the decade that resulted in Kentucky leading the nation in increasing college attainment.
Jim was a Professor of Communication at the University of Kentucky. From 1984 until 1999 he was Chair of that Department. During that period he also served as University Senate Chair and an American Council on Education Fellow. He serves on various national advisory boards for organizations engaged in education improvement. He was elected President of the National Communication Association, the world’s largest association of communication scholars. His published research was recognized by various organizations for their contributions to his discipline. As a consultant, he has conducted over 250 seminars and workshops for corporate, academic and government organizations to improve communication policies and practices.
Jim earned his B.A from Georgetown College (KY) as well as an M.A. and Ph.D. as a University Fellow at the University of Illinois. His dissertation received the award given to the most outstanding dissertations completed in his field.