Western Academic Leadership Forum



Location: Hotel Albuquerque

1:00-4:30 pm

Forum Executive Committee Meeting
(executive committee members only)

5:30-6:30 PM


6:30-8:30 pm

Dinner, Welcome and Keynote--
How Will We Prepare Our Students to Thrive in the 21st Century?

This session will explore three key questions that can inform and support the discussion of “Mainstreaming Innovation.” (1) How do you recognize a well-educated person when you meet them or see them in action? (2) Are we using our resources wisely as Peter Ewell asks “to help students develop the knowledge, skills, competencies and dispositions required to function effectively in the 21st century?” What experiences and expectations will help prepare our graduates for the 21st century and how will we know if our students are well-prepared? (3) What are the most common public criticisms and concerns about higher education today and how can we respond effectively to these criticisms? Where is the grain of truth in public opinion about us and how can we add the meaning of an education (“quality”) to the public agenda?

Introducer: Roberta Derlin, New Mexico State University
Speaker: Judith Ramaley, Portland State University




8:00-8:45 am


8:45-9:00 am

Welcome & Meeting Overview
Roberta Derlin, Forum Chair; Associate Provost, New Mexico State University


Focused Discussion
Our meeting’s theme and the keynote provide some interesting ideas for further consideration. Join this lively discussion to share your opinions on some key questions identified by our thoughtful discussion leader.

Discussion Leader: Jane Sherman, Washington State University

Table Hosts:

Chaouki Abdallah, University of New Mexico
Diane Barrans, Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education
Perry Brown, University of Montana
Joe Cline, University of Nevada, Reno
Ian Macgillivray, Colorado Department of Education
Tom Miller, University of Arizona

9:45-10:45 am

Competency Based Programs:  First Class Degrees or Second Class Options?
As institutions strive to increase the quality and reach of their academic programs while cutting costs and time to completion, promising new models have begun to emerge.  Both Northern Arizona University and the University of Wisconsin are paving new inroads with innovative programs that eschew traditional semesters in favor of self-paced, competency-based learning.  Presenters will discuss the inner workings of these programs and address such topics as quality assurance, the challenges encountered and successes achieved.

Moderator: Erika Beck, Nevada State College

Panelists: Aaron Brower, University of Wisconsin-Extension; Alison Brown Northern Arizona University

10:45-11:00 am



Innovation: Faculty Style
Faculty members are playing an active role in innovation at some institutions with new competency-based models.  What are some of these novel ideas and approaches they have put in place? What are some of the lessons learned from leading these efforts?

Moderator: Neil Moisey, Montana University System

Panelists: Cori Gordon, Northern Arizona University; Claudia Neuhauser, University of Minnesota-Rochester; Robert Seidman, Southern New Hampshire University

NOON-1:15 pm

Awards Luncheon: Academic Leaders Tool of the Year
The Academic Leaders Toolkit—a joint project of the Forum and the Western Alliance of Community College Academic Leaders—will announce the winner of this year’s competition. 

Presenter: Sona Andrews, Chair, Academic Leaders Toolkit


In the Know: Federal and Regional Update
What’s up at the U.S. Department of Education and other federal agencies?  What’s new in the WICHE region?

Speaker:  David Longanecker, WICHE

1:15-1:30 pM


1:30-2:45 pm

Are Competency-Centered Curricula Hastening the Irrelevance of the Credit Hour?
This session will argue how competency-centered curricula in higher education are changing the discussion on the relevance of the Carnegie Unit, otherwise known as the ‘credit hour.’ Prior Learning Assessment, the Degree Qualifications Profile, Tuning, and the Interstate Passport, all have the potential to demonstrate quality in our teaching/learning enterprise while the credit hour remains a proxy. The panel will provoke audience discussion on both the benefits and potential demise of the credit hour and what might take its place, if anything.

Moderator: Sam Gingerich, South Dakota Board of Regents

Panelists: Jeffrey Rosen, Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association; Teddi Safman, Utah Board of Regents; Ralph Wolff, formerly with Western Association of Schools and Colleges

2:45-3:00 pm


3:00-3:45 pm

Focused Discussion
As academic leaders in some very different environments, we have a range of perspectives on some of the ideas and questions arising from the most recent sessions.  Don’t be shy sharing your opinions with colleagues around a new set of challenging questions.

Discussion Leader: Jane Sherman, Washington State University

Table Hosts:

Thomas DiLorenzo, University of North Dakota
Karen Marrongelle, Oregon University System
Rodney Custer, Black Hills State University|
William Christensen, Dixie State University
Michael Zimmerman, The Evergreen State College
Susan Frye, University of Wyoming

3:45-5:00 pm

Innovation in the Completion Arena: What’s Making a Difference?
Institutions across the United States have accepted the President’s challenge to increase the number of college completers.The ways to that goal are many and some innovative leaders have been more successful than others.  Find out what’s working and why in a cross-country overview. Then learn how trends and projections in Oregon helped to inform innovative plans resulting in legislative support and progress toward their ambitious goals.

Moderator: Laura Woodward-Ney, Idaho State University

Panelists: Dennis Jones, National Center for Higher Education Management Systems; Travis Reindl, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

5:00 pm

Dinner on your own.



7:30-9:15 am

Breakfast, Forum Update and Point/Counterpoint
The competency-based approach to bachelor’s degree attainment has now been approved by the Department of Education for financial aid. Supporters argue the approach lowers costs while ensuring that graduates are coherently and effectively prepared for the work place. Yet, many argue passionately that its adoption would lead to a hollowing out of the essential values of American higher education. Is this a false dichotomy and if so what are the lessons to be learned from these new approaches? Is there a balance to be struck with competency-based vs. traditional approaches?  What should be learned in this rapidly changing higher education environment about one approach that we can apply to the other?

Moderator: Peter Smith, Kaplan Higher Education

Panelists: Richard Caulfield, University of Alaska Southeast; Samuel Gingerich, South Dakota Board of Regents; Maggi Murdock, University of Wyoming; Martha Potvin, Montana State University

9:15-9:30 am


9:30-10:30 am

From Side Stream to Mainstream: Learning from Innovative Structures
Disruptive innovations often start in a corner of the institution and some make their way into the mainstream over time. What can we learn from the structures of some of these innovative programs? Are some destined to lead the way into the future?

Moderator: Sona Andrews, Portland State University

Panelists: David King, Oregon State University; Ruth Claire Black, CAL State Online; Mark Wheeler, Boise State University

10:30-10:45 AM


10:45-11:45 am

Leading Innovation into the Mainstream: Reflections and New Thoughts
Join our keynote speaker as she reflects on some of the innovative ideas and topics of the last three days and their response to the question: How will we prepare our students to thrive in the 21st century? But she won’t stop there.  She’ll pose some new ideas and questions that promise to challenge and excite your thinking as you return to your leadership posts in these most interesting of times!

Speaker: Judith Ramaley, Portland State University


Meeting Wrap-up and Adjournment