Michael R. Cunningham

Michael R. Cunningham

Chancellor & CEO

National University System

San Diego, CA USA

I never just accept rejection; I learn from it. It’s a badge of honor to get rejected because the hardest thing in the world is to put yourself out there.


By Roadtrip Nation

Michael R. Cunningham


My road in life has taken me all over.
Born and raised in New York City—my father, grandfather, and great-grandfather were all New York City firemen and I grew up assuming that would be my path, too.
Was a star wrestler in high school and won a scholarship to attend the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
While in college, I realized that being a fireman was not the right path for me and that I wanted to pursue business instead—earned a bachelor’s degree in marketing and business.
My first job out of college was as a salesman on Wall Street, working for a printing company that was owned by the father of one of my wrestling teammates.
Started my own printing business, but was struggling to keep up with the technological shifts in the industry, so I went to NYU to get my master’s degree in graphic communications management.
After selling my business and retiring at age 40, I made the decision to pursue a second career in education due to the impact it had on my life—received my Ph.D. from NYU and began teaching.
I've taught at NYU, Cal Poly, and San Diego State University—was named dean of San Diego State’s College of Business Administration and later became the president of National University.
I'm now the chancellor and CEO of the National University System, overseeing a network of educational institutions that employs more than 4,400 faculty and serves over 40,000 students.
Keep following my journey


Chancellor & CEO

I oversee a network of educational institutions serving over 40,000 students.

Career Roadmap

My work combines:
My work combines:
Accomplishing Goals

Day to Day

As Chancellor, I'm in charge of a network of educational institutions that connect a diverse population of students to innovative programs relevant to their lives, careers, and the marketplace. There are over 4,400 faculty and 40,000 students who I must look out for. This comes with A LOT of emails. I tend to get up pretty early to start getting through as many as I can. I go to A LOT of meetings mainly to go over skills data and ensure our students are getting what they need to succeed.

Advice for Getting Started

Here's the first step for everyone

Find a role model or mentor and learn as much as you can from them. Take cues from what the people around you identify as your strengths. Figure out what it is about those strengths that makes you special or makes you stand out from others. Be sure to volunteer as much as can! You meet great people and build a strong network that could work in your favor in the future.


The Noise I Shed

From Myself:

"I don't want to be a fireman."

Challenges I Overcame

Career Change
Work Stress