Western Academic Leadership Forum logo

The New World of Higher Education:
Challenges and Opportunities of COVID-19

As COVID-19 continues to impact campuses and states, the Forum and Alliance have decided, in the best interest of its members, to offer a virtual meeting series during the 20-21 academic year in lieu of hosting the Joint Annual Meeting face-to-face in New Mexico. With the theme of The New World of Higher Education: Challenges and Opportunities of COVID-19, the six-part series will kick off on Friday, October 2nd with presentations and discussions offered by higher education experts, community members, and practitioners. Several of the webinars will include additional breakout sessions for members to convene and share best practices as it relates to the identified topics.


Focusing on Racial Justice to Close Equity Gaps in Oregon
November 13, 2020
12:00 p.m. MTN

Nationwide the pandemic has exacerbated persistent equity gaps in social infrastructure. The intersection with the current upheaval following the killing of George Floyd has exposed the fundamental role that racism plays in sustaining these inequities in all social systems including education.  Oregon’s Governor has established a Racial Justice Council to guide foundational policy reform to dismantle the structures of racism that sustain these disparities. In light of these events, panelists will engage in a discussion of the Oregon experience that spans state, higher education agency and institutional perspectives.

Moderators: Patrick Crane, Director, Office of Community Colleges & Workforce Development, Oregon Higher Education Coordinating Commission; Veronica Dujon, Director, Academic Planning and Policy, Oregon Higher Education Coordinating Commission

Panelists: Mark Mitsui, President, Portland Community College; Rudyane Rivera-Linstrom, Director for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Oregon Higher Education Coordinating Commission; Larry Roper, Professor Emeritus, Oregon State University

Mark Mitsui

Portland Community College

Rudyane Rivera-Lindstrom

Oregon Higher Education Coordinating Commission

Larry Roper

Oregon State University

Keeping an Eye on the Prize: Equity and Inclusion During COVID
November 6, 2020
12:00 p.m. MTN

Diversity, inclusion, and equity is a goal for leaders across higher education. This session explores how COVID-19 has created additional challenges for leaders as they strive to create more inclusive campuses.  Panelists will discuss how COVID-19 has impacted different groups with a focus on our indigenous communities. Breakout sessions will offer participants opportunities to share ideas for recruiting and retaining faculty of color and supporting their pathways to promotion, the use of institutional data in making decisions regarding equity and inclusion on campuses, and supporting faculty free speech in a time of social and political unrest and racial violence. This is an opportunity to learn from one another and our indigenous leaders in higher education.

Moderator: Debbie Storrs, Interim Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, University of North Dakota

Panelists: Cynthia Lindquist, President, Cankdeska Cikana Community College; Donald Warne, Associate Dean of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and Director of the Indians Into Medicine (INMED), University of North Dakota; Sweeney Windchief, Associate Professor, Montana State University

Breakout Session Topics:

  • Looking at Equity in the Tenure Process – Speaker: Chalane Lechuga, Metropolitan State University of Denver; Moderator: Elizabeth Parmelee, Metropolitan State University of Denver
  • Examining Equity on Campus Through the Use of Data – Speaker: Angela Baldasare, Civitas Learning, Former Assistant Provost for Institutional Research at University of Arizona; Moderator: Gail Burd (invited), University of Arizona
  • Faculty Free Speech – Speaker: Jean Bannon, German, Burnette and Associates; Moderator: Landon Pirius, Colorado Community College System

Cynthia Lindquist

Cankdeska Cikana (Little Hoop) Community College

Donald Warne

University of North Dakota

Sweeney Windchief

Montana State University

Campus and Community Collaborating on COVID-19
October 2, 2020
12:00 p.m. MTN

The impact of COVID on higher education and the surrounding communities has yet to be fully realized. The speakers on this panel will discuss the challenges of navigating the intersection of science and policy during a pandemic and provide insights on moving forward in the COVID era.

Moderator: Brock Tessman, Deputy Commissioner, Academic, Research & Student Affairs, Montana University System

Panelists: Hilary Godwin, Dean of the University of Washington School of Public Health, University of Washington; Kathryn Hanley, Regents Professor, New Mexico State University; Joshua Wynne, Chief Health Strategist, State of North Dakota; Vice President for Health Affairs and Dean, University of North Dakota

Breakout Session Topics:

  • Faculty Engagement and Shared Governance within COVID – Moderator: Debbie Storrs, University of North Dakota
  • Mitigating COVID on Campuses – Moderator: Carli Schiffner, Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges
  • Contact Tracing to Monitor Community Spread on College Campuses – Speaker: Trudy Larson, University of Nevada, Reno; Moderator: David Shintani, University of Nevada, Reno

Hilary Godwin

University of Washington

Kathryn Hanley

New Mexico State University

Joshua Wynne

University of North Dakota

Upcoming Virtual Meetings

  • December 4, 2020 – Weathering the COVID-19 Economic Superstorm
  • February 5, 2021 – Preserving Campus Wellness in the COVID Era
  • March 5, 2021 – Supporting Rural Colleges through Collaborations
  • April 9, 2021 – Smoothing the Bumps in the Road: How to Better Articulate Articulation

Who May Participate?

Member representatives and select staff from the Western Academic Leadership Forum and Western Alliance of Community College Academic Leaders are invited to attend.

Questions? Contact Us!

Anna Galas

Director of Academic Leadership Initiatives, Programs and Services



Kay Hulstrom

Manager, Institution Services, Programs and Services



Virtual Meeting Series Sponsors

College Board logo