Wednesday, October 26th
Opening General Session
5:00 p.m. - 6:30 p.m.
Higher Education Accreditation Panel Discussion
HEATHER F. PERFETTI, J.D., Ed.D.
President, Middle States Commission on Higher Education
An experienced, high-level executive with a demonstrated and diverse history of working in complex educational environments, Heather F. Perfetti, Ed.D., J.D., became President of the Middle States Commission on Higher Education on July 1, 2020.
Over the course of her career, she has made an impact in numerous areas of higher education, including academic and student affairs, faculty affairs, legal and regulatory affairs, strategic planning, policy development, and innovative, organizational change management. She joined the Commission as a Vice President liaison to institutions in January 2015, served as Vice President for Legal Affairs and Chief of Staff in July 2017, and was then elevated to Senior Vice President in July 2018.
On June 26, 2019, Dr. Perfetti was named President-Elect to begin her transition to President. Dr. Perfetti earned her Doctor of Education degree with specialization in Higher Education Leadership from Northcentral University (CA), the Juris Doctor degree from the University of Mississippi School of Law, the Master of Science degree in Criminal Justice from Troy University (AL), and a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Frostburg State University (MD).
JO ALICE BLONDIN, Ph.D.
President, Clark State Community College
Chair, Higher Learning Commission
Jo Alice Blondin, Ph.D., became the fifth president of Clark State Community College on July 1, 2013. Prior to Clark State, Dr. Blondin served as Chancellor of Arkansas Tech University – Ozark Campus and Professor of English for seven years, as well as Chief Academic Officer, Chief Student Officer, Department Chair of English, Communication, and Social Sciences and Instructor of English. She holds a Ph.D. in English from Arizona State University; Master of Arts in English from Arizona State University; and Bachelor of Arts from Purdue University majoring in English with a minor in Spanish.
Dr. Blondin focuses all of her efforts on realizing the mission of the institutions she has served, and is known for both her student-centered approach and her emphasis on workforce development.
Dr. Blondin’s national, regional, and local service strengthens Clark State’s responsiveness to workforce and community needs. Dr. Blondin is board chair of the Higher Learning Commission, and serves on the boards of the National Council for Workforce Education, the American Health Association COVID Vaccine Task Force, and Association of Community College Trustees Advisory Committee. Additionally, she serves on the boards of the Dayton Development Coalition, Dayton Chamber of Commerce, and the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce.
SONNY RAMASWAMY, PhD
President, Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
Sonny Ramaswamy currently serves as president of the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities in Redmond, WA, which accredits institutions in Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and British Columbia. NWCCU focuses on supporting institutions to improve their student outcomes, while offering free space for innovations and experimentation on educational approaches.
Previously, President Barack Obama appointed Sonny to serve as director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture. He has provided the vision for and has been an effective proponent for innovations in food and farming systems. Dr. Ramaswamy has been and continues to be actively engaged in helping Congress and the Administration understand and support innovations needed for the future of food and agricultural systems.
He served as dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences at Oregon State University, director of Purdue’s Agricultural Research Programs, university distinguished professor and head of Entomology at Kansas State University, and professor of entomology at Mississippi State University. Sonny’s BSc (Agriculture) and MSc (Entomology) are from University of Agricultural Sciences, Bangalore, India; his PhD (Entomology) is from Rutgers
LAWRENCE SCHALL, J.D., Ed.D.
President, New England Commission of Higher Education
Dr. Lawrence Schall joined the Commission staff as President in 2020. Previously, he served as President of Oglethorpe University in Atlanta, Georgia for 15 years. During his tenure, Dr. Schall led the transformation of Oglethorpe from an at-risk institution to a university boasting a doubled class size and rigorous spending safeguards, raised over one hundred million dollars, and secured a solid financial outlook for the institution. Schall currently serves on the Board of Spelman College, the highly-ranked historically Black women's college also in Atlanta.
President Schall received his undergraduate degree from Swarthmore College and his J.D. and Ed.D from the University of Pennsylvania. After practicing law as a civil rights attorney in Philadelphia for a decade, he served as Vice President of Administration at Swarthmore for 15 years before assuming the Presidency of Oglethorpe.
BELLE S. WHEELAN, Ph.D.
President, Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Dr. Belle Wheelan currently serves as President of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges and is the first African American and the first woman to serve in this capacity.
Her career spans over 40 years and includes the roles of faculty member, chief student services officer, campus provost, college president and Secretary of Education. In several of those roles she was the first African American and/or woman to serve in those capacities.
Dr. Wheelan received her Bachelor’s degree from Trinity University in Texas (1972) with a double major in Psychology and Sociology; her Master’s from Louisiana State University (1974) in Developmental Educational Psychology; and her Doctorate from the University of Texas at Austin (1984) in Educational Administration with a special concentration in community college leadership.
DAISY GONZALES, Ph.D.
Interim Chancellor, California Community Colleges
Commissioner, Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (AACJC)
Daisy Gonzales, Ph.D., serves as the interim chancellor of the California Community Colleges, the largest system of public higher education in the United States. She leads the 116-community college system, which serves over 1.8 million students with a student-centered mindset and a goal of creating equitable and supportive ecosystems where students thrive.
She is an experienced and unapologetic advocate for student success. Born into an immigrant family in Southern California and raised as a former foster youth, Gonzales was among the first in her family to attend college. She credits her time in the Los Angeles foster care system and schools as having shaped her views of the integral role public institutions play in the lives of students and the economic development in a community.
Gonzales was appointed interim chancellor in August 2022 by the California Community Colleges Board of Governors. As the CEO of the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office, her primary duties involve implementing the Vision for Success, a bold systemwide plan that seeks to reduce time to completion, increase degree and credential attainment, boost transfer to the University of California and California State University campuses, and provide Californians with the necessary job skills to find good-paying careers.
Thursday, October 27th
Membership Celebration Luncheon
12:00 p.m. - 1:45 p.m.
AYSHA E. SCHOMBURG, J.D.
Associate Commissioner, Children's Bureau (CB) | Administration on Children, Youth and Families
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Aysha E. Schomburg, J.D., is the associate commissioner in the Children’s Bureau in the Administration on Children, Youth and Families, located within the Administration for Children and Families at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. As associate commissioner she heads the Children’s Bureau.
Schomburg joined the Biden Administration in March 2021 after serving as the senior administrator for program oversight for New York City’s Administration for Children’s Services (ACS). There she worked collaboratively with agency leaders to develop and implement plans for the operational infrastructure of ACS, while also developing and coordinating comprehensive organizational capacity-building strategies across programs. In addition, during the COVID-19 public health crisis, she worked closely with New York City’s Department of Education and Department of Homeless Services to create and coordinate guidance for frontline staff. She also worked with the New York City mayor’s office to coordinate a platform for listening to nonprofits and social services agencies regarding COVID-19 challenges and proposed solutions. She provided counsel to New York City’s Office of Equity Strategies regarding implementation of the ACS race equity plan, and has provided recommendations to the agency on how to tackle inequities and racism in child welfare. In 2019, she was awarded the ACS Distinguished Service Award for “Assisting Children Separated from their Families at the Border.”
Prior to joining ACS, Schomburg held a number of key leadership positions with the New York City Council, including assistant deputy director. Under this title, she managed legislative activities of 13 committees in the human services division and provided legal counsel to the speaker and council members. Prior to that she served as senior counsel, and counsel to the Committee on Education.
Schomburg began her career at ACS as the director of parent recruitment where she focused on supporting foster and prospective adoptive parents. She also served as the director of youth development initiatives for the agency, where she developed a number of critical programs including pioneering the implementation of the nurse family partnership program for parenting youth, and the preparing youth for adulthood plan.
Associate Commissioner Schomburg, who has bar admissions in both the states of New York and New Jersey, received her B.A. from the University of Virginia, her M.A. from New York University and her J.D. from New York Law School.
Friday, October 28th
Regional Awards Luncheon
12:00 p.m. - 2:00 p.m.
Distinguished Scholar of Higher Education; New York University
Author of The Great Upheaval: Higher Education’s Past, Present, and Uncertain Future
Arthur Levine is Distinguished Scholar of Higher Education at New York University. He is also President Emeritus of Teachers College, Columbia University and president Emeritus of the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation (now Institute on Citizens and Scholars).
Levine has been a faculty member and chair of the Institute for Educational Management at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, president of Bradford College and senior Fellow at the Carnegie Foundation. He was also the founder and first president of the the Woodrow Wilson (now High Meadows) Graduate School of Teaching and Learning.
Levine has authored 13 books, including The Great Upheaval: Higher Education’s Past, Present, and Uncertain Future (9/21), and published scores of articles in venues such as the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Politico, the Chronicle of Higher Education, Education Week and Inside Higher Education. He has appeared on shows such as 60 Minutes, The Today Show, All Things Considered, Morning Edition, Open Mind and Fox News. Levine has received a number of awards including 26 honorary degrees and Carnegie, Fulbright, Guggenheim and Rockefeller Foundation Fellowships. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Saturday, October 29th
Closing General Session Breakfast
9:30am - 11:30am
Alumna, Oakland Community College
2021-2022 Phi Theta Kappa International President
Tala Alahmar is an alumna from Oakland Community College. She graduated with her associates degree in May of 2021 after serving Phi Theta Kappa as the 2021-22 International President. During her time at OCC, Tala was involved with different student organizations such as UptoUs, the International Student Club and Student Government. In 2021, Tala was awarded the Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship worth up to $40,000 a year as she completes her bachelor’s degree at the University of Michigan.
Born and raised in Syria, Tala would have never imagined that in 2018, she would be pursuing her higher education in the USA. However, the Syrian civil war changed her reality and inspired her to pursue a degree in International Studies hoping to become an ambassador for the United Nations to advocate for childhood education in countries experiencing war and conflict.