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

Noon – 5:30 pm


1:00 – 4:30 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

Networking Dinners
Join your colleagues for some lively conversation about a topic that concerns you. We will reserve tables for dinner at several nearby restaurants to be hosted by members of the Alliance Executive Committee. You can sign up for your preference when you register. Attendees are responsible for the cost of their dinner.

Table Hosts:

  • Kaylyn Bondy, Bismarck State College
  • Mike Cartney, Lake Area Technical College
  • Eric Leshinskie, Maricopa Community Colleges
  • Landon Pirius, Colorado Community College System
  • Carli Schiffner, Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges


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.

Moderator: Eric Leshinskie, Maricopa 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 Bransburger, 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

Student Panel: Why Community College Was a Good Choice
Students from the Colorado Community College System will share their reasons for attending community colleges, how community college has helped them and their communities, and why community colleges are important to the future of higher education.

Moderator: Landon Pirius, Colorado Community College System

Panelists: TBD

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.

Panelists: Jeffrey Alexander, Truckee Meadows Community College; Carli Schiffner, Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges; Laura Schueller, Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges


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.

Panelists: Agustin Bautista Silva, Salt Lake Community College (SLCC); Richard Diaz, SLCC; Penina Fitiao, SLCC; Kino Hurtado, SLCC; Clifton Sanders, 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: Eric Leshinskie, Maricopa Community Colleges

Panelists: Stephanie Fujii, Arapahoe Community College; Tammy Robinson, Cañada 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
The Director of Aspen Prize Community College Excellence Prize, an Aspen Prize Winner (LATC), and the largest Community College in Oregon (PCC) discuss their insights on how colleges can retain students at rates several times higher than the national average.

Moderator: Donna Lewelling, Oregon Higher Education Coordinating Commission

Panelists: Mike Cartney, Lake Area Technical College; Laura Ramirez, Pasadena City 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: Brock Tessman, Montana University System

Panelists: Marty Alvarado, California Community Colleges; Scott Eychner, Montana Department of Labor & Industry; Michele Johnson, Pierce College

12:00 – 12:15 pm

Wrap Up/Adjournment