Western Allianced of Community College Academic Leaders logoHow Will Higher Education & the
Purpose of Community Colleges
Change in the Next Decade?


Location: Renaissance Boulder Flatiron Hotel

10:00 am – 5:30 pm



Lunch for Executive Committee

1:00 – 4:00 pm

Executive Committee Meeting
(executive committee members only)

5:00 – 6:00 pm

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

6:30 pm

Dinner on your own


7:00 – 5:00 pm


7:30 – 8:30 am


8:30 – 8:45 am

Welcome and Meeting Overview

Landon Pirius, Colorado Community College System and Alliance Chair

8:45 – 9:45 am

Keynote: Changing Nature of Higher Education in the Next 10 Years
How new strategies and models have the potential to address the crises of college completion, affordability, and employability, and close America’s skills gap.

Introducer: Jeffery Alexander, Truckee Meadows Community Colleges

Speaker: Belinda Miles, Westchester Community College

9:45 – 10:00 am


10:00 – 11:30 am

Changing Demographics in Higher Education: Insights and Implications
This session will explore the challenges and opportunities regarding the changing demographics in higher education. The insights and implications regarding topics such as declining high school graduation, increased diversity, and returning adult learners will be discussed to leave sessions participants with practical approaches to consider.

Moderator: Kaylyn Bondy, Bismarck State College (ND)

Speaker: Peace Bransberger, Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE)

11:30 – 11:45 am


11:45 am – 1:45 pm

Awards Luncheon
Join us for some stimulating conversation and to congratulate this year’s winner of the Bernice Joseph Academic Leaders Award for 2022.

Host: Carli Schiffner, Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges

What is WICHE?
WICHE staff will provide updates on their department’s major initiatives with relevance for chief academic officers. there will be ample time for questions and collective brainstorming on how WICHE can best support your institutions and systems.

Moderator: Sarah Leibrandt, WICHE

Panelists: Kimberly Dale, Western Wyoming Community College; Liliana Diaz Solodukhin, WICHE; Todd Helvig, WICHE; Russ Poulin, WICHE


1:45 – 2:00 pm


2:00 – 3:30 pm

Innovation Circles

Strengthening Rural Community Colleges
Participants in this breakout group will discuss strategies for strengthening rural community colleges and ensuring their long-term viability.  Topics will include program development, workforce and community partnerships, student support services, and collaboration across community colleges.

Moderator: Kari Brown-Herbst, Laramie County Community College; Landon Pirius, Colorado Community College System

Panelists: Lynette Bates, Trinidad State College; Keith Peterson, Colorado Northwestern Community College; Kathy Wells, Central Wyoming College


Dismantling the Testing Industrial Complex: Stories from the West
Prior to the onset of COVID, many institutions of higher education were in the process of rethinking their placement testing processes and procedures. Many questioning the validity of such measures. Work with different movements like Guided Pathways, Achieving the Dream, etc., helped initiate this work, but the impact of COVID and the lack of physically being on campus accelerated the eradication of most placement test practices.  This session will highlight three western colleges and the work their colleges have done to move past this practice.

Moderator: Carli Schiffner, Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges

Panelists: Jeffrey Alexander, Truckee Meadows Community College; Danen Jobe, Colorado Community College System


Building a Sturdier Bridge: Leading Students to College Success
How do we ensure students not just enrolling in college, but thriving? Salt Lake Community College will showcase their summer bridge program and lead a discussion on the impact of college-bridge programs meant to provide support to students to ensure they are prepared for success in higher education, particularly in the age of COVID-19.

Moderator: Clifton Sanders, Salt Lake Community College (SLCC)

Panelists: Agustin Bautista Silva, SLCC; Richard Diaz, SLCC; Penina Fitiao, SLCC

3:30 – 3:45 pm


3:45-5:15 pm

Finding, Attracting & Keeping the Best Faculty
In a time of great challenges for higher education, the recruitment and retention of quality faculty has become one of the top concerns for administrators. Skyrocketing housing costs, pandemic and politically driven migration, particular challenges for urban and rural colleges alike have all contributed to a sometimes-dismal outlook and shallow candidate pools. But there are solutions, and this group of speakers will provide helpful guidance to assist in faculty recruiting, onboarding, and retention.

Moderator: Todd Schwarz, College of Southern Idaho

Panelists: Kari Brown-Herbst, Laramie County Community College; Stephanie Fujii, Arapahoe Community College

Dinner on your own


7:30 – 8:30 am

Breakfast and Membership Meeting

8:30 – 8:45 am


8:45 – 10:15 am

How Successful Colleges Retain Students
Recent research from the National Student Clearinghouse continues to indicate a decline in college enrollments; with community colleges hit the hardest. The total loss in community college enrollment since spring 2020 has now reached 827,000 students. Not all institutions have faced such steep declines. Join your colleagues to discuss the ways in which these institutions have actually retained students at rates several times higher than the national average. Following the panel, small group discussion will allow you to network with others to grapple with this topic and bring ideas back to campus.

Moderator: Jeff Alexander, Truckee Meadows Community College

Panelists: Mike Cartney, Lake Area Technical College; Jessica Clark, Walla Walla Community College

10:15 – 10:30 am


10:30 – Noon

The Case for College in a COVID-Adjacent World: State and Student Perspectives
Overnight in March 2020, higher education found itself going through one of the most radical shifts in its history. Traditional approaches to teaching, learning, and student success were all significantly disrupted with the onset of pandemic. Many questioned the purpose of higher education, the way content was delivered, and the relevance of postsecondary credentials for employment and career advancement. While we are still learning what the pandemic means for the future of higher education, there is no doubt that our institutions must lean more earnestly than ever on the perspectives of our students and our statewide partners in order to successfully navigate this challenging new era. . In this session, we will hear from the California CTC System Provost (Dr. Marty Alvarado), Montana’s Department of Labor Workforce Services Director (Scott Eychner), and Pierce College Chancellor (Michelle Johnson). Following the leadership remarks, a student panel will be convened to hear directly from students their advice and perspectives.

Moderator: Angela DeWolf-King, Montana University System

Panelists: Marty Alvarado, California Community Colleges; Scott Eychner, Montana Department of Labor & Industry; Satine Stone, student at Front Range Community College

12:00 – 12:15 pm

Wrap Up/Adjournment