WICHE 2016 Annual Report cover
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A Message from WICHE Chair Jeanne Kohl-Welles

Fiscal year 2016 caps a period of significant accomplishments and notable transitions for WICHE.

Fiscal year 2016 caps a period of significant accomplishments and notable transitions for WICHE. As chair of the organization’s 48-member Commission, I am pleased to report that WICHE is well positioned this year to build on its past successes in pursuit of new avenues of collaboration and support as members continue to foster strong partnerships among our states and institutions.

In 2016, we celebrated 17 years of accomplished and dedicated leadership by David Longanecker as WICHE’s president. During his tenure, which came to an end in early June, Dave consistently elevated the reputation and effectiveness of our regional compact both in the West and nationally.

When it came time to select a new leader, we had a strong response from a number of highly qualified applicants. Following an extensive selection process led by WICHE Chair Mike Rush, my Commission colleagues and I were delighted to appoint Joseph A. Garcia as WICHE’s seventh president. Joe’s intellect, professional experience, and higher education and legal credentials are impressive. Likewise, his steadfast dedication to broadening educational accessibility is inspiring. Throughout his career, Joe has demonstrated an enduring commitment to growing enrollments and to building stronger linkages for higher education with legislative and executive branch leaders. Civic leaders and minority advocacy groups alike have lauded his efforts to improve the success rates of low-income, minority, and nontraditional students and to bring greater racial and ethnic diversity to the ranks of faculty and staff.

Joe graduated from Harvard Law School in 1983 before working as the first Hispanic partner at the firm Holme Roberts & Owen in Denver. Joe then served as president of Pikes Peak Community College and Colorado State University-Pueblo until he was elected lieutenant governor of Colorado in 2010. Following his election, the legislature confirmed Joe as the executive director of the Colorado Department of Higher Education.

As a Westerner with deep roots in New Mexico, Colorado, and Alaska, Joe possesses a strong understanding of the challenges facing our region and our states. This includes the knowledge that by better serving the needs of the growing numbers of minority, adult, and academically underprepared students, we in turn diversify the workforce and strengthen the economic health of the West. To accomplish this, institutions of higher education must foster inclusive and safe campuses, focus on affordability, and help and streamline transitions from secondary to postsecondary education.

There is much we can learn by facilitating shared solutions among members and that, of course, is the purpose and essence of WICHE. With Joe in the lead directing the efforts of his talented staff and with the support of those education, government, and nonprofit sector leaders who serve on the Commission, WICHE is more than up to the task. I look forward to what we will accomplish in the upcoming year.

Jeanne Kohl-Welles
Chair Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education