Montana Commissioner of Higher Education Clayton Christian was elected Nov. 10 as new chair of the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE)—the interstate agency for public higher education in the Western United States—at WICHE’s fall Commission meeting in Denver.
As chair through November 2018, Christian will lead WICHE’s 48-member commission of higher education executives and influencers. This commission governs a robust slate of program, research, and policy work—executed by WICHE’s staff of 60 based in Boulder, Colo.—that increases public higher education affordability, access, and resource-sharing in WICHE’s 16 member states and territories serving a western U.S. population of over 75 million.
His election was unanimous, as was the vice chair election of North Dakota state senator Ray Holmberg of Grand Forks, a WICHE commissioner since 2013.
Christian served as chairman of Montana’s Board of Regents before being appointed in 2012 as the state’s Commissioner of Higher Education. He was first appointed to the WICHE commission in 2010 by former Governor Brian Schweitzer. For the past year, Christian has served as vice chair in partnership with outgoing WICHE chair and New Mexico commissioner Patricia Sullivan.
WICHE President Joe Garcia described Christian’s characteristics as ideal for a WICHE leader. “Commissioner Christian’s record of higher education leadership and innovation in Montana, his collegial and collaborative mindset, and his genuine passion for education are of great benefit to WICHE states and their postsecondary institutions,” Garcia said. “I look forward to Clay’s partnership and guidance in the year ahead as we serve people and communities throughout and beyond the West.”
Christian said he feels honored to help WICHE commissioners and staff work toward their goals of strengthening educational opportunities for students throughout the West. “WICHE blends our resources and influences together to help develop a highly skilled population across the West,” Christian said. “Together, we are building better educational opportunities to strengthen families, communities, economies, and culture across and beyond our wide region.
A University of Montana alumnus, Christian had private industry success as a Stewart Title executive before his appointment to the chief executive post of the Montana University System.
Established by Congress in 1953, WICHE is one of four regional interstate compacts in the U.S. WICHE’s programs include the Western Undergraduate Exchange, which saves more than 40,000 students more than $375 million annually in tuition; a report, Knocking at the College Door, that’s the nation’s preeminent resource for college-demography projections; and the WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies, the leading U.S. convener for innovation in educational technology.