Notes from the President
I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season and a happy new year! As you might imagine, these last few weeks have been a whirlwind as I’ve been settling into my new role as WICHE’s president. It’s truly an exciting time, so I wanted to take this opportunity to share with you what I’ve been doing these past several weeks and how I’ll be spending my time in the coming months.
First and foremost, I’m shaping a vision to guide WICHE for the years to come. WICHE is a leader in higher education and a key partner in the West working to serve our students, but we can’t rest on our laurels. We have a tremendous opportunity to build on WICHE’s successful history and find new ways to support the organizational mission. Because I can’t do this in a vacuum, I’ve set a goal to visit all WICHE members in my first six months as president; I want to listen and learn directly from you and from partners throughout the region.
I had a great start in December when I participated in the Organizational Session for North Dakota's 66th Legislative Assembly. There, I had the pleasure of meeting with Sen. Ray Holmberg, chair of the WICHE Commission, WICHE Commissioner Nick Hacker, and Legislative Advisory Committee members Rep. Bob Martinson and Rep. Mark Sanford, as well as Governor’s staff, legislative staff members, and colleagues at the North Dakota University System. Unfortunately, Commissioner Mark Hagerott and I missed each other during this visit, but our next Commission meeting is in Bismarck, so we’ll have plenty of time to connect then!
During the first week of February, I spent two productive days in New Mexico’s state capitol. The “Roundhouse,” as it’s known, was bustling with excitement and energy as WICHE Commissioners Barbara Damron and Patricia Sullivan introduced me to Dr. Kate O’Neill, New Mexico’s new state higher education executive officer, as well as state legislators and legislative staff, Governor’s office staff, higher education leaders, and other wonderful folks. And one of my favorite moments was meeting Stan Rounds, executive director of the New Mexico Coalition of Education Leaders who had been a proud WICHE intern in 1969!
My travels continue in the coming weeks to Arizona, California, Oregon, Wyoming, Idaho, and (in June) Hawaiʻi.
I’m also collaborating with national partners to continue WICHE’s role as a leader in higher education policy and practice. I’m excited to begin service on the NC-SARA board, and I’ll participate in my first meeting in May. I’ll also join regional and national higher education leaders on the national advisory council for the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities’ Powered by Publics: Scaling Student Success initiative. Launched in November, this initiative involves 128 institutions and two state systems, and is organized into 14 “clusters” around shared priorities related to undergraduate retention and degree completion.
Finally, I’m working with staff to find ways to better support their work to advance WICHE’s mission of increasing access to high-quality higher education for residents of the West by promoting successful student outcomes, vibrant economies, and strong leadership.
Things are moving fast, and there’s a lot to learn, but every day I am grateful for the opportunity to serve the region. I look forward to the action-packed months ahead, and in the meantime, please let us know how WICHE can be of help to you or your organization.