2023 Academy Cohort
The 2023 cohort is comprised of 18 individuals representing 10 states. The positions held by the cohort include associate dean, associate vice provost or higher.
University of Wyoming
Jim Ahern, Ph.D., serves as the vice provost & dean of the University of Wyoming graduate school and has led U.W.’s graduate education since 2017. Ahern oversees all U.W. graduate programs, allocation of graduate assistantship funding, graduate education policies and procedures, graduate marketing and recruitment, and advocacy and support for graduate students. Previously, Ahern led U.W.’s anthropology department. Before coming to U.W. in 2000, he taught at the University of North Dakota. Ahern received a B.A. from Beloit College, a M.A. from Northern Illinois University, and a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, all in anthropology.
Universty of Montana Western
Estee Aiken, Ed.D., has served as the division chair of education at the University of Montana Western for four years. She oversees a nationally accredited education program that provides both undergraduate and graduate programs in 18 licensure areas. She has been a faculty member in Education at UMW since 2011. Prior to coming to UMW, she received her Ed.D. from and taught at the University of Northern Colorado. Before transitioning to higher education, Aiken spent a decade as an elementary school teacher after receiving her M.A.T. from Colorado College. She earned her B.A. in music from Macalester College.
Idaho State University
Gerald (Jerry) Anhorn is currently dean of workforce transfer and trades at Walla Walla Community College (WWCC), where he previously served as director of the water and environmental center and instructor of water management. He earned his M.S. in agriculture science and B.S. in agricultural mechanization from Washington State University, and an AAS in irrigation technology from WWCC. Prior to being an instructor, Anhorn was owner/operator of a design/build construction firm. He is a native of the Walla Walla valley, has been actively engaged in the agriculture industry focusing mainly on soil and water conservation projects.
University of Montana, Missoula
Laurie Baefsky joined the University of Montana College of the Arts and Media as dean in 2021. Previously, she served as associate dean of research and strategic partnerships at CU Denver’s College of Arts & Media, and the University of Michigan as executive director of a2ru and ArtsEngine. Her research area is arts integration with a commitment to the role of arts and media in creating healthy, resilient communities, towards an equitable society. Baefsky holds degrees in flute performance from Stony Brook University, University of Michigan, and Cal State U, Fullerton. She’s appeared with multiple orchestras and performed internationally.
South Dakota School of Mines & Technology
Darcy Briggs, Ph.D., serves as the associate vice president for academic affairs at South Dakota Mines. She strives to improve the student and faculty experience through her work with co-curricular programming, accreditation, assessment, faculty development, non-credit professional education, and institutional research. Over the last 25 years, Briggs has worked at two-year and four-year, public and private institutions in Nevada, Colorado, and South Dakota. Briggs earned her bachelor’s degree in management from Northern State University, a master of public administration from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, a master of education from Regis University, and a Ph.D. in leadership from University of the Cumberlands.
Red Rocks Community College
Russell G. Brodie, Ed.D., has served as associate vice president of Red Rocks Community College since 2022. He oversees assessment and high impact practices while partnering across the institution and within the community to increase student success. Previously, he served as senior international officer and director of quality enhancement development for academic and student affairs in North Carolina. Brodie received his B.A. in journalism and communication studies from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, his M.A. from Duke University in liberal studies, and his Ed.D. in global education from the University of Southern California.
Boise State University
Leslie Durham, Ph.D., has served as dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Boise State since January 2022. She leads Boise State’s largest and most diverse academic college, and she has started innovative initiatives including Bronco Gap Year, the COAS Innovation Lab, and the School of the Environment. Prior to being appointed as dean, she served as interim dean, associate dean, and founding director of the school of the arts at Boise State. Leslie received her B.A. in English and drama from the University of Virginia and an M.A. and Ph.D. in theatre from the University of Kansas.
Black Hills State University
Amy Fuqua, Ph.D. is the dean of the College of Liberal Arts at Black Hills State University. During the 2022-2023 academic year, she served last year as interim associate provost to head BHSU’s 10-year accreditation review with the Higher Learning Commission. She has also served at BHSU as the chair of the school of arts and humanities, the director of the honors program, and as a professor of English. Fuqua received her B.S. from Vanderbilt University in English and secondary education, M.A. in English at James Madison University, and Ph.D. in American literature from the University of South Carolina
Idaho State University
Cynthia D. Hill, Ph.D., has served as vice provost for institutional effectiveness and initiatives at Idaho State University. She provides leadership to the institution for curriculum development, regional and specialized accreditation, student success efforts, and state-level priorities. Over the past 15 years Hill has undertaken many administrative roles, which focused on student success, faculty development, and educational advancement. These positions included the director of the University Honors Program, director of the Center for Teaching and Learning, executive director of the Student Success Center, and assistant and associate vice president for academic affairs. Hill earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Montana and her Ph.D. from Washington State University, both in economics.
University of Alaska Anchorage
Melanie Hulbert is a higher education professional with over 20 years of experience at both public and private universities. She currently serves as the vice provost for student success and dean of the Honors College at the University of Alaska Anchorage. Prior to this she served as the vice president for student affairs at Lees-McRae College and before that as an associate vice president for academic affairs at Western Colorado University. She received a combined B.A. in sociology and psychology from Western Washington University and a M.A. in gender studies and a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Albany (SUNY).
University of Idaho
Diane Kelly-Riley, Ph.D., has served as vice provost for faculty at the University of Idaho since 2020. She provides leadership, support and mentoring for faculty processes. She is professor of English. Previously, she served as associate dean in the College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences. Prior to this, she directed the nationally recognized Washington State University Writing Program and led a US Department of Education FIPSE grant integrating critical thinking expectations across the K-20 curriculum. Kelly-Riley received her B.A. in English from Luther College, an M.A. in English literature, and Ph.D. in educational psychology from Washington State University.
Northern State University
Alyssa Kiesow, Ph.D., serves as the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and director of sponsored projects at Northern State University. As dean, her work is centered on the liberal arts mission. Previously, she was the chair of the science and mathematics department. Kiesow remains a tenured professor with research in genetics and STEM equity. She promotes research through her role as director of sponsored projects. Kiesow received her A.A. in liberal arts from Winona State University, B.S. and M.S. in biology from South Dakota State University, and Ph.D. in biology from the University of South Dakota.
California State University, Fullerton
Dave Mickey, MFA, has served as the associate dean for the College of the Arts at Cal State University Fullerton since 2021. In this role Mickey oversees student success, the visual arts complex, performing arts center, and the staff. He also works closely with the College of the Arts full-time and part-time faculty. Previously, he served as the chair for the Department of Theatre and Dance for four years before he was asked to serve as the associate dean. Mickey was the professor of sound design for the department. Mickey holds an M.F.A. from the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts).
Portland State University
Dawn Richardson serves as the associate dean for social justice and the associate dean for academic affairs at OHSU-PSU School of Public Health. Her current research focuses on addressing structural inequity through upstream interventions. Her most recent research efforts include: an NIH-funded study on documentation status and immigrant women’s health; an evaluation of paid leave policies and barriers to access; and a study aimed at supporting women of color in STEM-focused public health. Richardson received her B.S. in psychology from the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga, her M.P.H. from Tulane University, and her Dr.P.H. from the University of California, Berkeley.
Montana State University
Molly Secor, PhD, RN, FSAHM, has served as the associate dean for research and professor in the Mark and Robyn Jones College of Nursing at Montana State University since 2021. In addition to supporting faculty research, she maintains a program of research focused on adolescent sexual and reproductive health. Previously, she was a professor in the College of Nursing and Department of Public Health at North Dakota State University. Secor received her B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. in nursing from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, where she also completed a post-doctoral adolescent health research training fellowship.
Bismarck State College
Kim Weismann, Ed.D., recently accepted an assistant dean position of fine arts, humanities, and communication at Bismarck State College (May 2023). Previously, she served in the department chair role for ten years and was professor of communication at Williston State College. She is the editor for the Journal of Communication, Speech, and Theatre Association of North Dakota. Weismann received her A.A. in liberal arts and B.A. in communication from Dickinson State University, an M.A. in speech communication from North Dakota State University, and an Ed.D. in curriculum and instruction from the University of South Dakota.
Lake Area Technical College
Nicki Yackley-Franken, M.A., has served as the assistant dean of academics at Lake Area Technical College since July 2022. Her duties include supervising curriculum development, design, and improvement. In addition, she leads the research and development for new academic programs. Yackley-Franken has been employed at LATC since 2006 where she has held a number of positions focused primarily on academic success and remedial education. She has a B.A. in English and writing from Briar Cliff University and an M.A. in English from Minnesota State University, Mankato.
University of North Dakota
Ryan Zerr, Ph.D., has served as associate dean of arts & sciences at the University of North Dakota (UND) since 2019, with a portfolio focused on curricular oversight and planning. He has previously served as chair of theatre arts, director of general education, and chair of the University Senate. He is currently a professor of mathematics and, as of July 1, 2023, will assume the position of associate vice president with responsibilities related to strategic plan implementation. Zerr received his B.S. in meteorological studies and M.S. in mathematics from the UND, and his Ph.D. in mathematics from Iowa State University.