Five new commissioners appointed to WICHE

  • Year Published : 2019
  • Month Published : January

Five new commissioners were recently appointed to the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE), a federal interstate compact of 16 Western states and territories that work collaboratively to expand educational access and excellence for all citizens of the West.  

Appointed to four-year terms by the governors of each of their respective states, commissioners serve on a 48-member commission that provides strategic direction for WICHE and oversees its robust and diverse portfolio of higher education programs, research, and policy work.

These are WICHE’s five new commission appointees:

  • Rita Hartung Cheng (Arizona) serves as the 16th president of Northern Arizona University, which enrolls more than 31,000 students. Under her leadership, research and public service expenditures have grown by 45 percent, and undergraduate and graduate enrollment has grown by 12 percent. Previously, she was chancellor at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, and she spent more than 20 years on the faculty of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, serving in various administrative roles including provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs.
  • Kathleen H. Goeppinger (Arizona) has served as president and chief executive officer of Midwestern University since 1995,specializing in graduate-level health professions with two campuses (in Downers Grove, Ill. and Glendale, Ariz.) enrolling 7,200 students. Previously, Goeppinger had been a tenured professor and director at Loyola University Chicago for the Institute of Industrial Relations and Center for Organizational Development. She has served Midwestern University since 1985, initially as one of its trustees and later as chair of the board.
  • State Rep. Laurie Bishop (Montana) resides in Livingston, Mont., where she is in her second term representing her community in the Montana State House of Representatives and is the House Minority Caucus Chair. When not working as a legislator, Laurie is the director of the Montana Afterschool Alliance. Her previous work has included improving statewide high school graduation rates with the Montana Office of Public Instruction and serving as the executive director of a youth development nonprofit.
  • Sheila M. Stearns (Montana) has served in senior administrative positions in higher education, including president of the University of Montana (UM), vice president of UM, chancellor of UM-Western, president of Wayne State College in Nebraska, and commissioner of higher education in Montana. Early in her career she was a school librarian and taught middle school classes in Department of Defense schools in Wiesbaden, Germany. Since 2012, Stearns has served as a senior fellow for the Association of Governing Boards of Colleges and Universities.
  • Paul B. Beran (South Dakota) leads South Dakota’s six public universities and two special schools as the Board of Regents’ executive director and chief executive officer. His higher education career includes service in six states, first as a faculty member and administrator, and for 17 years as a university CEO in Arkansas and Oklahoma public university systems. Before joining the University of Arkansas System in 2006 as chancellor of the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith, Beran was president of Northwestern Oklahoma State University, with campuses in Alva, Enid, and Woodward, Okla. 

“All five of these individuals bring a wealth of experience and knowledge to our board that will be valuable as we build upon and advance the many ways in which WICHE serves students in the region,” said Dr. Demaree Michelau, WICHE president. “I look forward to working closely with each of them to promote successful student outcomes, vibrant economies, and strong leadership throughout the West.”

About WICHE: Established by Congress in 1953, WICHE is one of four U.S. higher education regional compacts. WICHE’s programs and efforts help students pursue higher education affordably and conveniently, accelerate regionwide sharing of ideas and resources, provide expert research and policy guidance, and help higher education stakeholders thrive amidst rapid change. WICHE is funded by its members—who reap strong returns on investment from WICHE programs—and by grantmakers and others who share our desire to overcome the education and workforce challenges of tomorrow. Learn more at

For media inquiries and photo requests, please contact: