Western Academic Leadership Forum logoLooking to the Future:
New Directions in Higher Education

Slides are included under each session


Location: Embassy Suites by Hilton Portland Downtown

8:00 – 6:00 pm


8:30- 11:45 am

Closing Seminar—2021 Academy Cohort (Academy cohort and faculty only)

11:45 am – 1:00 pm

Lunch—2021 Academy Cohort and Executive Committee

1:00 – 4:30 pm

Executive Committee Meeting
(executive committee members only)

5:30 – 6:30 pm

Welcome Reception
Join us for a lovely evening reception where you can meet up with old friends and make new ones!

6:30 – 8:30 pm

Opening Dinner and Keynote: The Future of Higher Education
The demographics of the student population in higher education are shifting. How can institutions prepare for these changes and thrive while creating the conditions in which students of the future will also thrive? What do academic leaders need to know and consider about these shifts that will prepare us to lead our institutions’ academic missions effectively?

Moderator: Veronica Dujon, Oregon Higher Education Coordinating Commission (HECC)

Speaker: Mary Ann Villarreal, University of Utah



7:00 – 5:00 pm


7:30 – 8:15 am


8:15 – 8:30 am

Welcome and Meeting Overview
Veronica Dujon, HECC and Forum Chair

8:30 – 10:00 am

Addressing Faculty Recruiting & Retention Challenges
This session looks to address the numerous challenges institutions face in recruiting (and retaining) top-quality faculty, including how best to demonstrate support for diverse faculty and unique challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Moderators: Mary Beth Walker, California State University, Northridge

Speakers: Ansley Abraham, Southern Regional Education Board; Jerry McMurtry, University of Idaho

10:00 – 10:15 am


10:15- 11:45 am

Universities as Changemakers: Innovation in Research & Economic Development
This interactive 3-part session engages participants to consider the modern university as an engine for research and economic development.  Participants will experience a master class by Dr. Chaouki Abdallah, Executive Vice President for Research at the Georgia Institute of Technology, then collaborate on a case study with Dr. Joseph Wright, Associate Vice President for Research and Economic Development at the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology.   Last, participants will have the opportunity to engage Dr. Abdallah and Dr. Wright in a wide-ranging Q&A session focused on academic leadership that facilitates research, innovation, and economic development.

Moderator: Eric Link, University of North Dakota; Rebecca Hoey, South Dakota Board of Regents

Speaker: Chaouki Abdallah, Georgia Tech; Joseph Wright, South Dakota School of Mines and Technology

11:45 am – 1:00 pm


1:00 – 2:30 pm

Post-COVID: How Do We Improve Retention, Persistence and Completion?
The panel will address the following questions: What were some of the challenges that students faced with persisting or returning to campus during the pandemic? What are strategies and innovations that universities are putting into place to increase the retention, persistence, and completion rates for our current student demographic and population? What innovations coming out of the pandemic might be adopted going forward?

Moderator: Renny Christopher, Washington State University Vancouver

Panelists: Veronica Dujon, Oregon Higher Education Coordinating Commission; Claudia Lampman, University of Alaska Anchorage

2:30 – 2:45 pm


2:45 – 4:15 pm

Facilitated Discussions

Tensions Across Differences: Leading in Times of Crisis
The COVID-19 pandemic has shone a light on many systemic issues in American society, and universities are experiencing rising levels of friction across faculty, administrators, and student bodies alike. this session will discuss how best to engage the campus community in difficult discussions and navigate issues across conflicting stakeholders.

Discussion Leaders: David Connelly, Utah Valley University; Veronica Dujon, Oregon Higher Education Coordinating Commission

Speaker: Lynn Vidler, University of Colorado, Colorado Springs


Improving Financial Stability During Unstable Times
How can leaders ensure their institutions are financially sound despite declining state support, shifting or declining enrollment, rising costs, and concerns for equity and access for students? Listen to panelists share a variety of strategies and discuss options that work for a variety of institution types.

  1. How might a more holistic approach, one that integrates instructional costs, space allocation, student support structures, and other associated costs, be used to ensure a balanced portfolio for fiscal sustainability for the institution?
  2. Which strategies for engaging stakeholders in resource allocation decisions provide the best outcomes over the longer term?
  3. In what ways does an equity lens change the institution’s decisions around resource allocation? Can institutions be more intentional about supporting all students through focused efforts on underserved or marginalized ones?

Discussion Leaders: Denise Runge, University of Alaska Anchorage; Elizabeth Chilton, Washington State University; David Vuletich, EAB


Disciplinary Equity in Higher Education
This session will focus on combatting erasure or the near absence of Black faculty and students across a high percentage of academic disciplines in higher education. The session is designed to frame a platform to move beyond equity broadly defined to disciplinary equity.

Discussion Leader: Alfred Tatum, Metropolitan State University of Denver


Indigenous-Serving Institutions in Western Higher Education
An initial inquiry into what it means to be an indigenous serving institution and how best to live up to this title.

  1. How do we work to integrate indigenous knowledge into the existing curriculum in a manner that is meaningful.
  2. How do we negotiate who can teach such indigenous knowledge once (or if) it is worked into courses? What type of training should they have?

Discussion Leader: Debora Halbert, University of Hawai’i System

4:15 – 5:00 pm


Dinner on your own.


7:30 – 8:30 am

Breakfast and Membership Meeting

8:30 – 8:45 am


8:45 – 10:15 am

Changing Demographics, COVID-19 and Enrollment: Knocking at the College Door
Universities are facing a “perfect storm” of challenges impacting current and future enrollments. Not only will we soon be entering a period when the number of age-eligible college recruits is likely to decrease, but we are also experiencing the backlash from the pandemic that has altered the way students perceive and how universities execute the college experience. The recently published WICHE report, “Knocking at the College Door,” discusses the impact of these and other challenges on institutions of higher education. In this session, the authors of this report will summarize and reflect on the findings of this report.

Moderator: David Shintani, University of Nevada, Reno

Speakers: Patrick Lane, WICHE; Representative (invited), EAB

10:15 – 10:30 am


10:30 – 11:45 am

Beyond Tradition(al): Marketing Higher Education to All
Most institutions in the West share the same mission of further expanding access to postsecondary education. At the same time, most institutions in the West face a looming “demographic cliff” in terms of annual high school graduates. Combined, these factors make it more important than ever for Western institutions to market the value of higher education to adult learners, students with some college credit but no credential, Veterans, and candidates for early college credit. Effectively engaging these populations will require new approaches to outreach, admissions, and enrollment management. In this panel, you will hear from both campus-level and system-level administrators about innovative strategies they have employed in this important area.

Moderator: Brock Tessman, Montana University System

Panelists: Tom Gallagher, Missoula College; Scott Lemmon, Montana University System; Neil Woolf, Southern Oregon University

11:45 – Noon

Wrap Up/Adjournment