BOULDER, Colo. – Tom Begich has been appointed by Gov. Mike Dunleavy to the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE), representing Alaska.
Begich is the executive director of the Nick Begich Scholarship Intern Fund, a position he has held since 2002. A public charity, the Fund was created in honor of Begich’s father, the late Congressman Nicholas J. “Nick” Begich, who came to Alaska in 1956 as a teacher and later became engaged in state politics, according to its website. The Fund, which supports students pursuing careers in education and public service, has provided over $630,000 in scholarships to students since its inception, with over $530,000 of that under Begich’s tenure.
“Tom Begich’s dedication to student access, behavioral health care, and educational policy is evident, and his vast experience is unparalleled. I am confident that he will contribute greatly to the Commission,” said WICHE President Demarée Michelau.
Celebrating its 70th anniversary this year, WICHE is one of four higher education interstate compacts in the United States and aims to strengthen higher education, workforce development, and behavioral health throughout the West, specifically 15 Western states and the U.S. Pacific Territories and Freely Associated States.
Having served on WICHE’s Legislative Advisory Committee for the past two years, Begich joins fellow Alaska Commissioners Pearl Brower and Sean Parnell as part of the 48-member WICHE Commission. The Commission serves to guide WICHE’s direction and assures the Western Regional Education Compact is carried out for the benefit of the West as it has done since 1953.
Begich is the owner/operator of CW Communications, a firm devoted to strategic planning, facilitation, and communications. He specializes in the areas of juvenile justice, education, substance abuse, and government relations. He has served as the government affairs director for the Coalition for Education Equity and currently serves as a faculty member and coach with Reclaiming Futures, a national juvenile justice/substance use/mental health initiative. Begich is a nationally recognized trainer/facilitator in the fields of justice, youth, substance abuse, mental health, and education, working extensively in Alaska and throughout the nation.
“I am honored to continue serving students in Alaska and across the West in this capacity,” Begich said. “I look forward to collaborating with my peers on the WICHE Commission to improve educational and workforce opportunities for students both in my state and beyond.”
Begich is the former Alaska state senator for District J. First elected in 2016, he was selected as Senate minority leader by his colleagues from 2018 to 2023. In the state Senate, he served on the Education, Health and Social Services, Rules, World Trade, and Ethics committees and helped found the Innovation Caucus. Begich has served 20 years and three terms as chair on the Alaska Juvenile Justice Advisory Committee and served in leadership positions for the Coalition for Juvenile Justice from 1995 to 2008, including national chair in 1997. He is a 2023 recipient of the John Dewey Award for Distinguished Public Service from his alma mater, Bard College in upstate New York. He is a published poet and professional musician with seven CDs and one book of poetry, and he continues to perform and write throughout the country.