Western Academic Leadership Forum Sidebar
2024 Forum Speakers and Sponsors
Chancellor, University of Hawaiʻi West Oʻahu
Maenette Kapeʻahiokalani Padeken Ah Nee–Benham, a kānaka maoli scholar and teacher, currently serves as chancellor, University of Hawaiʻi West Oʻahu, and previously served as the inaugural dean of the Hawaiʻinuiākea School of Hawaiian Knowledge at University of Hawai’i Mānoa. While on faculty in the College of Education at Michigan State University she strengthened her commitment to the praxis of social justice through engaged scholarship and the theme of “school/university in community and community in school/university.” Her work on alternative cultural frames of educational leadership is nationally and internationally respected. She is author, co-author, editor of 5 books and numerous published articles, book chapters, monographs and technical reports.
Interim Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, Idaho State University
Adam Bradford is interim provost and vice president for academic affairs at Idaho State University. Prior to his current role, he served as dean of the Graduate School, overseeing the expansion of the institution’s portfolio of graduate programming, double digit enrollment growth, and significant increases in graduate student funding support. Prior to joining ISU, Bradford served as associate dean of graduate studies in the Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters at Florida Atlantic University, as well as the founding director of the School of Interdisciplinary Studies, department head for the Department of Philosophy, director of the Ph.D. program in comparative studies and associate chair of the Department of English. Bradford researches and teaches 19th-century American literature and culture. He won the 2018 Gargano Award for work on Edgar Allan Poe.
Assistant Professor, Nevada State University
Laura Decker, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of English at Nevada State University, where she teaches writing and literacy courses. She also serves the coordinator of first year composition at Nevada State and helped lead the implementation of a statewide corequisite English effort. Previously, she worked for a TRIO Student Support Services Program at the College of Southern Nevada. Decker is part of the inaugural WICHE Humanities Leadership Fellow cohort. She holds a B.A. in English, an M.F.A. in creative writing, and a Ph.D. in literacy education from University of Nevada-Las Vegas.
Special Assistant to the Vice President for Advancement, Central Washington University
Michelle DenBeste, Ph.D., served as provost at Central Washington University and previously served as dean and department chair at California State University, Fresno. Currently, she is working on a research project on women’s leadership as well as serving as a special assistant to the vice president for advancement. She received her Ph.D in history from Southern Illinois University, Carbondale with a focus on Russian women’s history. In her administrative work, DenBeste has focused on faculty development, high impact practices, student and faculty success and creating bureaucratic practices which consider equity, diversity, and inclusion as guiding practices.
Elizabeth (Liz) Dennison
Associate Dean, University of Alaska Anchorage
Elizabeth (Liz) Dennison, Ph.D., has served in University of Alaska Anchorage’s College of Arts and Sciences dean’s office as an associate dean since 2019. She heads the college’s efforts in student recruitment and retention through scholarship campaigns. Career readiness initiatives, especially promoting internships, is a top priority. Dennison spearheads the CAS Summer Camps. As a professor of history, she teaches a wide range of courses, specializing in Russian culture and society. Dennison received her B.A. and M.A. in history at the University of Colorado Boulder and a Ph.D. in history at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. She has been at UAA since 1992.
Assistant Professor, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Kiana Frank serves as an assistant professor at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa and studies how microorganisms (the smallest forms of life that live on land and in water) shape the land for productivity and health by weaving contemporary western techniques with Native Hawaiian Science. Her work evaluates overall ecosystem health and informs current monitoring, restoration, cultivation, and management of Hawaiian resources to sustainably support the people of Hawaii. She has strong relationships working within communities using scientific hands-on experiences in native ecosystems, our natural laboratories, to inspire the younger Hawaiian generations to cultivate a connection to science through their culture.
Forum Executive Committee, University of Hawai‘i System
Debora Halbert is the associate vice president for academic programs and policy at the University of Hawai‘i System where she works on student success and transfer related issues. Prior to her current position, she was the associate vice chancellor for academic affairs at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. She received her B.A. and M.A. from Western Washington University and her Ph.D. in political science from the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. Prior to returning to Hawai‘i where she was a professor in the political science department teaching law, policy and also futures studies, she taught for 12 years at Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio.
Chancellor, University of Hawai‘i at Hilo
Bonnie Irwin has served as chancellor at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo since 2019. Chancellor Irwin previously served as provost and vice president for academic affairs at California State University (CSU) Monterey Bay and served as dean of Arts & Humanities and Honors at Eastern Illinois University. She holds A.B., M.A., and Ph.D. degrees in comparative literature from the University of California at Berkeley, where she specialized in medieval literature and folklore. Irwin serves on the boards of the Hawai‘i Island Chamber of Commerce and the ʻIole Stewardship Center and is a fellow of the National Collegiate Honors Council.
Vice Provost for Strategic Enrollment Management, University of North Dakota
Janelle Kilgore has served as a financial aid advisor, Memorial Union business manager, director of financial aid, and in her current role as vice provost for strategic enrollment management at the University of North Dakota. As a first-generation student-athlete, she had to quickly adapt to life as a college student without family guidance. Kilgore values giving back to her professional communities where she has presented at state, regional and national conferences. Kilgore received a B.S. in sports management at the University of Minnesota, Crookston, and an M.S. in educational leadership at the University of North Dakota.
Interim Vice Provost for Academic Excellence, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Laura Lyons serves as the interim vice provost of academic excellence at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. Lyons has also held the positions of professor of English, interim associate vice chancellor for academic affairs, and interim dean, College of Languages, Linguistics& Literature. Lyons has taught courses on colonialism and islands since she started as an English faculty in 1993. Her scholarly work is broadly in life writing, globalization and land and cultural theory.
Professor, Central Washington University
Pamela McMullin-Messier, Ph.D., has served as professor of sociology at Central Washington University since 2009; she is also currently serving as department chair, co-chair of the Academic Department Chair Organization, and provost fellow with a focus on high impact practices and student success. McMullin-Messier received her B.A. in sociology from Central Connecticut State University, an M.A. in sociology from the University of Connecticut, and Ph.D. in sociology and graduate certificate in gender studies from the University of Southern California.
Open Educational Resources (OER) Technologist , University of Hawai’i at Mānoa
Billy Meinke, M.Ed., has served as the open educational resources (OER) technologist for the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa since 2016. He leads online course and program development for the UH Mānoa Outreach College, supporting faculty adoption, adaptation, and publishing of OER textbooks alongside traditional curricular materials. Previously, he worked on education, data, and science policy at Creative Commons from 2012-2015. Billy is currently a doctoral student of political science at UH Mānoa, after receiving a B.A. in sociology from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 2008, and an M.Ed. in educational technology from UH Mānoa in 2012.
Vice Provost for Institutional Effectiveness, University of Guam
Marlena Pangelinan is vice provost for institutional effectiveness at the University of Guam providing support to all programs and the institution in the areas of assessment, planning, data analysis, and reporting. Pangelinan served in a similar capacity at the Guam Community College prior to joining the University, including the role of assistant accreditation liaison officer and serving on several Accreditation Peer Review teams for colleges in the region. Pangelinan received an M.S. in computer information systems from the University of Phoenix in 2006 and a B.S. in business administration, MIS specialty, from California State University Long Beach in 1993.
Vice Provost for Undergraduate Studies and Student Success, University of North Dakota
Karyn Plumm, Ph.D., has served as vice provost for undergraduate studies and student success at the University of North Dakota since 2018. She oversees academic advising, tutoring & learning services, the Essential Studies (general education) Program, the Honors Program, undergraduate curriculum processes, the Experiential Learning Center, and Institutional Effectiveness & Accreditation. Previously, she served as associate dean in the College of Arts & Sciences and director of undergraduate programs in the Department of Psychology. Plumm received her B.A. in psychology, M.A. in general psychology, and Ph.D. in experimental psychology from the University of North Dakota.
Randi Lynn Tanglen
Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs, University of North Dakota
Randi Lynn Tanglen, Ph.D. became vice provost for faculty affairs at the University of North Dakota in January 2023. She has degrees from Rocky Mountain College (B.A., English Education), the University of Montana (M.A., English), and the University of Arizona (Ph.D., English). Previously Tanglen was a full professor of English at Austin College in Sherman, Texas and has served as the executive director of Humanities Montana. In her current role she provides leadership for all aspects of the faculty experience in order to create a culture of faculty excellence and opportunity at the institution.
President/CEO, National Student Clearinghouse
Rick Torres has served as president/CEO of the National Student Clearinghouse since 2008. Under his leadership, the Clearinghouse extended its mission through accessible, innovative technology-based services and data exchange solutions that enable institutions and organizations to focus on maximizing human potential and is a thought and action-oriented leader in helping to evolve the nation to an edu-workforce data-driven ecosystem. Torres serves on the boards of the Brightpoint Community College Foundation, Achieving the Dream and ACT and was a founding member of the Groningen Declaration Network Group, an international consortia dedicated to developing a trusted international data exchange ecosystem. He holds an M.B.A. in international finance from Georgetown University and undergraduate degrees from Manhattan College.