Improving Lives in the West
The Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE) is a regional interstate compact and 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based in Boulder, Colorado. It is one of four regional interstate higher education compacts in the United States. WICHE (pronounced “wit-chee”) was established in 1953 in the wake of the ratification by U.S. Congress of the Western Regional Education Compact. Its charge is to help the residents of the West address higher education and workforce issues distinct to the region.
WICHE’s 48 commissioners are appointed by the governors of the 15 Western states and the U.S. Pacific Territories and Freely Associated States. The WICHE region includes Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawai’i, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, the U.S. Pacific Territories and Freely Associated States, Utah, Washington, Wyoming. Commission activities are funded in part through annual dues paid by region members and in part through grants and sponsorships.
WICHE’s Senior Leadership Team
Demarée K. Michelau is the president of the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE). Located in Boulder, CO, WICHE was established through the Western Regional Education Compact and works to share knowledge, create resources, and develop innovative solutions that address some of society’s most pressing needs. From promoting high-quality, affordable postsecondary education to helping states leverage their technology investments and addressing behavioral health challenges, WICHE improves lives across the West through innovation, cooperation, resource sharing, and sound public policy. As WICHE’s president, Dr. Michelau serves as the chief executive officer of the organization and at the pleasure of the 48-member, gubernatorially-appointed WICHE commission. Prior to serving as WICHE’s president, Dr. Michelau was WICHE’s vice president of policy analysis and research, a role in which she managed WICHE’s Policy Analysis and Research unit and oversaw externally-funded projects. The author of numerous reports and policy briefs, she has experience in a variety of higher education policy issues, including those related to equity and attainment, governance, strategic planning, adult learners, transfer, accelerated learning options, affordability, and workforce. She currently serves on the board of directors for the Consortium for North American Higher Education Collaboration (CONAHEC) and the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA). Previously, she held positions with the National Conference of State Legislatures and with former Colorado Congressman David Skaggs. Michelau received her bachelor’s degree in public law from Northern Illinois University and her master’s degree and Ph.D. in political science from the University of Colorado at Boulder.
Raymonda Burgman Gallegos
Vice President, Programs and Services
Ray Burgman Gallegos began serving as the Vice President, Programs and Services in October 2021. In this role, she increases student access to high-quality postsecondary education and fosters collaborations between institutions. The Programs and Services unit has four regional student access programs, which include the Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE), the Western Regional Graduate Program (WRGP), the Professional Student Exchange Program (PSEP), and the Online Course Exchange (OCE). It also manages the Western Alliance of Community College Academic Leaders, the Western Academic Leadership Forum, and Interstate Passport ®. The unit also partners with Midwestern Higher Education Compact (MHEC) to provide institutions cost savings through four programs—the Master Property Program, MHECare Student Insurance Solutions, MHECtech, and Cyber Insurance. Previously, Burgman Gallegos served as director of programs and research at HERS (Higher Education Resource Services), a non-profit leadership development organization focused on women who work in postsecondary settings, for eight years. She also served as an administrator at DePauw University, located in Greencastle, IN, in Academic Affairs and the Office of the President and at New College of Florida, located in Sarasota, FL. Burgman Gallegos was also a tenured professor in economics and management at DePauw University. She also taught at two other institutions in Florida, Santa Fe College and the University of South Florida-St. Peterburg. She received a B.A. in Economics from New College of Florida and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Economics from the University of Florida, located in Gainesville, FL.
Vice President, Policy Analysis and Research
Patrick Lane is the vice president of WICHE’s Policy Analysis and Research unit. He previously was its director of data initiatives, a role that has included managing the Multistate Longitudinal Data Exchange, which seeks to improve linkages between state data systems to provide better information to students and their families while also improving education, workforce, and economic development policy. He previously coordinated WICHE’s Adult College Completion Network and has worked extensively on the Non-Traditional No More: Policy Solutions for Adult Learners project. Both projects focused on identifying policy and practice solutions to help adults with prior college credit return to postsecondary education to complete their degrees. Lane also coordinated WICHE’s College Access Regional Network, which focused on increasing the number of low-income students prepared to enter and succeed in post secondary education. He came to WICHE having spent several years working in education policy in the Republic of the Marshall Islands. Lane received a master’s degree from the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University in 2007 and completed a Ph.D. in public administration at the University of Colorado Denver in 2015.
Vice President, Behavioral Health & Co-Director, Mental Health Technology Transfer Center
Dennis Mohatt is vice president for behavioral health at WICHE, leading since 2001 its behavioral health program and its Center for Rural Mental Health Research. He has over 30 years of public mental health service. His work has included direct clinical care, clinical supervision, and CEO tenure in a rural CMHC serving Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Additionally, he led a HRSA-funded effort in the early 1990s to successfully integrate mental health and primary care in multiple rural family practice settings. During the late 1990s, he was deputy director for the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, also serving as the state’s commissioner of mental health. He has served as a member of the National Rural Health Advisory Committee, and led national efforts relating to rural mental health including a role as chief consultant to the president’s New Freedom Commission on Mental Health. He is actively engaged in efforts focused on improving services to Veterans, Guard, and Reserve and their families; rural mental health policy; workforce development, and increasing adoption of integrated approaches to behavioral and primary care practice. His graduate training, supported by a NIMH Fellowship, focused on rural community-clinical psychology.
Executive Director, WCET & Vice President for Technology-Enhanced Education
As the executive director of WCET, Russell Poulin leads an organization focusing on the practice, policy, and advocacy of technology-enhanced learning in higher education. WCET member institutions and organizations hail from all fifty states and Canada. As WICHE’s vice president for technology-enhanced education, Poulin advises on policies and projects. Poulin served on federal negotiated rulemaking panels and received recognition for national policy contributions. Poulin previously lead distance education collaboration for the North Dakota University System and earned a bachelors from the University of Colorado Denver and masters from the University of Northern Colorado. Poulin is partial to movies, cats, and his wife.