Meet our Executive Committee
The Western Alliance of Community College Academic Leaders is governed by an executive committee comprised of 16 individuals, with one selected from the members’ official representatives in each WICHE state and territory. This group has oversight responsibility for all of the activities of the Alliance. It meets face-to-face twice per year and otherwise by conference call as needed.
Alliance Executive Committee, University of Alaska Fairbanks
Evon Peter was appointed vice chancellor for rural, community and Native education at the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) in July 2014. A UAF alumnus, Peter is Neetsaii Gwich’in and Koyukon from Vashrąįį K’ǫǫ (Arctic Village), Alaska where he served three years as the tribal Chief. He currently serves as a board member to the Gwich’in Council International, which represents Gwich’in nation interests in the Arctic Council forum, and on the Board of Governors to the University of the Arctic (UArctic). Peter manages six community campuses and 73 workforce development, bridging, academic, and student services programs that serve 160 communities across Alaska. He holds a B.A. degree in Alaska Native studies and a M.A. degree in rural development.
Alliance Executive Committee, Maricopa Community Colleges
Eric Leshinskie serves as the vice president of academic affairs at Paradise Valley Community College in Phoenix, AZ. He has worked in various administrative leadership roles with the Maricopa Community Colleges for 15 years. Leshinskie earned his Doctorate in Education in leadership and innovation from Arizona State University (ASU). He is also an academic associate in the Mary Lou Fulton Teacher’s College at ASU. Leshinskie is a graduate of the League for Innovation’s Executive Leadership Institute (ELI), and he was recently selected as a member of the fourth class of the Aspen Presidential Fellowship for Community College Excellence.
Alliance Executive Committee, California Community Colleges Chancellor's Office
Jose Fierro was appointed the president/superintendent of the Cerritos Community College District in July 2015. Under Fierro’s leadership, the College launched Cerritos Complete, the College’s official California College Promise program. Previously, he served as the vice president of academic affairs and chief academic officer at Laramie County Community College (LCCC). Prior to joining LCCC, Fierro served as an academic dean, associate dean of liberal arts and sciences, and professor of biological sciences at Florida State College. Fierro earned his D.V.M. from the University of Applied Sciences in Bogotá, Colombia; his M.S. in leadership and management of educational programs from Nova Southeastern University in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida; and his Ph.D. in higher education leadership from Northcentral University in Prescott, Arizona.
Alliance Executive Committee, Colorado Community College System
Landon K. Pirius is the vice president for academic and student affairs for the Colorado Community College System (CCCS). At CCCS, Pirius provides strategic leadership for all aspects of academic affairs, student affairs, and institutional research. Prior to his current position, he was the vice president for academic and student affairs at North Hennepin Community College. Pirius also served in a variety of leadership roles at Inver Hills Community College, Minnesota State University, Mankato, and Walden University, and as an adjunct faculty member. He completed his B.A. in Russian studies and environmental studies from Gustavus Adolphus College, and his M.A. and Ph.D. in educational policy and administration from the University of Minnesota.
Alliance Executive Committee, University of Hawaiʻi System
Erika Lacro is the vice president for community colleges for the University of Hawaiʻi System. Lacro, the first woman to hold the chief executive position, served as Honolulu Community College chancellor starting in July 2012. Prior, she served as vice chancellor of academic affairs at the college and held several executive and management positions at the University of Hawaiʻi Mānoa. Lacro serves as commissioner for the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges of the Western Association and is a former commissioner for the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. Lacro earned a master’s and bachelor’s degree in travel industry management, and a Ph.D. in communication and information sciences from the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa.
Alliance Executive Committee, North Idaho College
Manuelita (Lita) Burns, a Wyoming native, currently serves as the vice president for instruction at North Idaho College in Coeur d’Alene, ID. Burns has worked in higher education for 28 years; initially serving as faculty at Central Wyoming College. She moved to north Idaho in 2001 after accepting the position as director of health professions and Nursing. She was later promoted to a dean’s position and in 2012 became the vice president for instruction. Burns earned her B.S. degree in nursing from the University of Wyoming, a M.S. degree in nursing from the University of Colorado, and a Ph.D. in leadership studies from Gonzaga University.
Forum/Alliance Executive Committee, Montana University System
Brock Tessman serves as the deputy commissioner of academic, research, and student affairs for the Montana University System. Prior to his current position, Tessman served as a professor of political science and dean of the Davidson Honors College at the University of Montana in Missoula. Tessman began his academic career at the University of Georgia, where he earned tenure in the School of Public and International Affairs (SPIA). Tessman graduated with an honors degree in international relations from Brown University and received both his M.A. and Ph.D. in political science from the University of Colorado at Boulder.
Alliance Executive Committee, Truckee Meadows Community College
Marie Murgolo joined Truckee Meadows Community College (TMCC) in 2007 as the business department director and has progressed through the ranks of associate dean, interim dean, dean, and interim vice president, to her current role as vice president. Prior to TMCC, she was a tenured academic at Curtin University in Perth, Australia. Murgolo has a Ph.D. in marketing, a Master of Commerce & Postgraduate Diploma, and a B.A. in communications. She has taught in the U.S.A., Australia, the West Indies, Hong Kong, London, Shanghai, and Singapore. Prior to entering the academic realm, Murgolo spent 18 years in corporate marketing communications.
Alliance Executive Committee, New Mexico Military Institute
Brigadier General Douglas J. Murray, United States Air Force (Retired) is the chief academic officer for New Mexico Military Institute. Murray’s 42-year Air Force career included numerous positions in education, administration, leadership, strategic planning, and management. A 1965 Georgetown University School of Foreign Service graduate, he holds an M.A. from the Institute of Latin American Studies, University of Texas, and a Ph.D. in government and defense policy from the University of Texas at Austin. Murray’s assignments included the US Air Force Academy, Deputy Chief – Secretary of the Air Force/Staff Group, and Division Chief – US European Command.
Alliance Executive Committee, Bismarck State College
Kaylyn Bondy serves as the vice president for student affairs at Bismarck State College (BSC) in Bismarck, North Dakota. She oversees student success and development, strategic enrollment planning, policy formation, and state/federal regulation implementation. Prior to her work at BSC, she led student affairs for nine years at Williston State College and worked prior to that in international education. Bondy received her B.A. in French from the University of North Dakota, a Master’s in French-American international business from l’Université de Caen Basse-Normadie, an M.B.A. from the University of St. Thomas and will soon complete a Ph.D. in higher education from the University of North Dakota.
Alliance Executive Committee, Oregon Higher Education Coordinating Commission
Patrick Crane serves as director of the Office of Community Colleges and Workforce Development for the Oregon Higher Education Coordinating Commission where he directs and supervises all activities and staff of the department. Previously, Crane served as the project manager for the West Virginia Bridging the Gap Consortium for the Technical College System of West Virginia. In this role, he was responsible for the overall project management of a four-year, $25 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor designed to promote sector-based workforce development in the areas of energy, advanced manufacturing, information technology and construction trade programs in West Virginia. He coordinates with institutional and cross-institutional work teams to oversee the development of career pathways, wrap-around student support services, and course redesign efforts that support Trade Adjustment Assistance workers, veterans and others to complete technical career programs.
Alliance Executive Committee, Lake Area Technical Institute
Colonel Mike Cartney (USAF, retired) is president of Lake Area Technical Institute, Watertown SD, recipient of the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence. Cartney serves as an MHEC Commissioner, a participant on the HLC “Defining Student Success” project, and a founding member of the Education Counsel’s Institutional Leadership group. Cartney testified to the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee, on education’s role in addressing the skilled workforce gap and making the country more competitive. He holds a B.S. in computer science from the U.S. Air Force Academy, a M.Sc. in numerical analysis for Automated Data Processing (ADP) from Purdue University, attended numerous national and international military schools, and was a National Fellow to Harvard University’s Program on Information Resources Policy.
Alliance Executive Committee, Alliance Chair, Salt Lake Community College
Clifton Sanders has served Salt Lake Community College(SLCC) as provost for academic affairs since 2015. He is chief academic officer at SLCC, overseeing instruction and training for more than 61,000 students annually. Previously, he served in several roles at SLCC, including assistant professor of chemistry, division chair for natural sciences and communication, and dean of science, mathematics and engineering. Prior to his tenure at SLCC Sanders was a senior research scientist and co-inventor on six patents in biomaterials technology. He received his B.A. in chemistry from Hamline University and a Ph.D. in organic chemistry from the University of Utah.
Alliance Executive Committee, Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges
Carli Schiffner serves as the deputy executive director of education at the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges. She is a dedicated leader in higher education, with over fifteen years of progressive senior leadership experience in positions including interim university president, university provost, vice president for instruction, and dean of arts and sciences. Schiffner values servant leadership, collaboration, quality improvement, focusing on the whole student, an entrepreneurial spirit, equity, hard work, and a sense of humor. She has a B.A. in history and political science from Gonzaga University; a M.A. in cultural and intellectual history from Drew University; and a Ph.D. in American women’s history from Washington State University.
Alliance Executive Committee, Laramie County Community College
Kari Brown-Herbst is the interim vice president, academic affairs at Laramie County Community College (LCCC) in Cheyenne, Wyoming. As the college’s chief academic officer, Brown-Herbst provides executive oversight and strategic guidance in the planning, development, and implementation of all aspects of academic programming as well as instructional support services. Brown-Herbst also serves as a representative to the LCCC Foundation Board, is the Wyoming Passport State Facilitator, and is also a member of the Peer Review Corps of the Higher Learning Commission. She received an Ed.D. in instructional technology from the University of Wyoming, her master’s in education technology from Marian University (Wisconsin) and her bachelor’s in sociology with an education endorsement from Kalamazoo College (Michigan).