Postsecondary, legislative, and other leaders attend the Western Interstate Commission’s semi-annual meeting in Bismarck

  • Year Published : 2019
  • Month Published : May

North Dakota State Sen. Ray Holmberg, chair of the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE), convened the interstate agency’s semi-annual meeting on May 20-21 at Bismarck State College. One of four regional higher education compacts in the U.S., the WICHE membership includes 15 states and the U.S. Pacific Territories and freely associated states, with a mission focused on expanding educational access and excellence for all citizens of the West.

“In addition to fulfilling the Commission’s accountability roles of approving the interstate agency’s fiscal year 2020 budget and workplan, we gained valuable insights from speakers addressing a range of circumstances and emerging trends affecting students and higher education institutions throughout the WICHE region and nation,” Holmberg said.

Lt. Gov. Brent Sanford welcomed the Commissioners, staff, and guests during a reception and dinner on May 20 at the North Dakota Heritage Center and State Museum. WICHE’s governing body includes 48 commissioners (three per state and the territories and freely associated states, currently represented by the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and Guam). Other meeting attendees included four North Dakota legislators (three of whom serve on WICHE’s Legislative Advisory Committee), two members of the North Dakota State Board of Education, and six presidents of North Dakota colleges and universities, including Larry Skogen whose BSC campus hosted the meeting.

“Our commissioners and Legislative Advisory Committee members hold key postsecondary and legislative leadership positions. Their engagement ensures that WICHE provides the impetus and platforms to deal with higher education’s and the workforce’s changing needs and sustains opportunities for collaboration and resource sharing,” said WICHE President Demarée Michelau. She noted that eight new commissioners were welcomed at the meeting: John Arnold, executive director of the Arizona Board of Regents; Colorado’s Jim Chavez, executive director of the Latin American Educational Foundation; Frankie Eliptico, interim president of Northern Marianas College; Idaho State Senator Dave Lent; and Utah State Senator F. Ann Millner. Paul Beran, executive director and CEO of the South Dakota Board of Regents, Angie Paccione, executive director of the Colorado Department of Higher Education, and Thom Reilly, chancellor of the Nevada System of Higher Education were unable to attend.

The meeting’s speakers included: futurist Bryan Alexander, a highly-regarded writer and thinker who shared prospective scenarios affecting higher education based on emerging technological and societal trends; North Dakota University System Chancellor and WICHE Commissioner Mark Hagerott who proposes the creation of a Digital-Cyber Land Grant university network to offer an advanced technology and digital science curriculum in underserved areas; and Peter Smith, Orkand Endowed Chair and Professor of Innovative Practices in Higher Education at the University Maryland’s University College whose award winning book Free-Range Learning in the Digital Age: Your Path to Success in Life, Career, and College illuminates new learning opportunities brought on by our dynamic information and technology-rich age.

An overview of the Pacific Islands region that comprises WICHE’s 16th and newest member, the U.S. Pacific Territories and Freely Associated States, was provided by James Perez Viernes, a faculty member and outreach director of the Center for Pacific Island Studies at the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa. The future of accreditation, higher education’s system of quality assurance and institutional accountability, was also addressed by speakers Sonny Ramaswamy, president of the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, Jamienne Studley, president, WASC Senior College and University Commission, and Richard Winn, president, The Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges.

About WICHE: Established by the Western Governors and ratified 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

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