Andres Alcantar, Principal at Alcantar PPC, provides a full range of public affairs, management, and consulting services.
Andres Alcantar served with great distinction as a public servant building a career that allowed him to be at the forefront of public policy development and implementation in Texas for over two decades. During his career, he was honored to work on issues impacting every function of state government.
Andres recently served as Executive Vice President and Chief Operations Officer at the Texas Association of Business (TAB), the state chamber of commerce, working to advance policies to support a strong business climate and job creation.
Alcantar previously served as Chairman and Commissioner Representing the Public at the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC). He was appointed by Governor Rick Perry in 2008 and designated Chairman May 2012. At TWC, Andres helped build and lead the premier workforce development system in the country for a decade. Alcantar worked with leaders across the state to implement customized solutions to meet the needs of Texas’ vast array of industries, strengthen regional public-private partnerships, and build education partnerships to advance the development of a skilled, strong, and competitive workforce.
Prior to this appointment, he served as Deputy Director of Governor Rick Perry’s Budget, Planning, and Policy Division, advising the governor on federal, state, and local issues, and providing executive oversight to state boards and commissions. His focus included appropriations, health care, workforce, business, economic development, education, and competitiveness issues. Alcantar also served as an advisor to former Governor George W. Bush in the Office of Budget and Planning working with state boards, commissions, and the Texas Legislature. He advised on business regulation, health and human services, child welfare, workforce, and economic development issues.
Alcantar previously served as a Director for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission where he worked with the Commissioner and other agency heads on strategy development and enterprise reforms.
In his various roles, he worked with education leaders, state agencies, local boards, industry associations, chambers of commerce and EDCs, advocacy groups, non-profits, Texas elected officials, and key stakeholders across the state to build a stronger Texas.
Alcantar has strong, lasting partnerships with leaders across the state and has worked to solve complex issues through his focus on innovation and competitiveness. Alcantar has served on several state and national advisory councils, boards, and commissions.
Alcantar received a bachelor’s degree and a Master of Public Administration from Texas Tech University.
Eileen Baccus serves as a consultant to institutions of higher education and continues coaching a significant number of Achieving the Dream colleges in their efforts to improve the retention and graduation rates of low-income students and students of color since the initiative’s inception.
Previously, Eileen was the president of Northwestern Connecticut Community College and the former Thames Valley State Technical College. She also held administrative positions at the University of Connecticut. Having served on numerous Boards, Commissions, and Advisory Committees for AACC, ACE, and the College Board, she is currently in her second term on the Board of the National Student Clearinghouse and NSC’s Research Center Board of Directors.
First graduating from Fisk University with a degree in mathematics, she then earned both the MBA (Industrial Administration) and the Ph.D. (Higher Education Administration) from the University of Connecticut.
Ed Bowling is the executive director for completion and performance at Guilford Technical Community College in North Carolina, and served as the managing partner director for Completion by Design in North Carolina from 2011-2018. Before joining GTCC as a developmental education adjunct instructor in 2006, Ed held a senior management position at a large bank. In 2010, he became the Developmental Education Initiative grant director, overseeing the scaling of three core programs and two smaller projects under the DEI grant.
Ed has engaged in state and national guided pathways work since 2011. In addition to his leadership with Completion by Design, an initiative of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Ed has provided coaching and consulting to institutions in seven states through the North Carolina Student Success Learning Institute, AACC Pathways Project and Pathways 2.0, Texas Pathways, and the National Center for Inquiry and Improvement. Furthermore, he shares the work and outcomes of Completion by Design and guided pathways at state and national conferences. Ed received the BB&T Staff of the Year Award for the North Carolina Community College System in 2014. Ed earned a Master of Arts in Liberal Studies from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
Dr. Tamara Thornton Clunis is Vice President of Academic Affairs at Amarillo College in Amarillo, Texas. She served as dean of academic success for six years prior to her current role and has lead numerous initiatives related to developmental education reform and adult education integration in community colleges. Her model for developmental and adult education integration was recognized by the US Department of Education in 2016. She shares her deep knowledge of effective developmental education reform strategies by serving on statewide and national committees and leads a career pathways peer mentor network for Texas community colleges. Prior to joining Amarillo College, Tamara worked as Director of Developmental and Adult Education at the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. In that position, she was responsible for developing a statewide plan for developmental education, with an emphasis on improving student outcomes and increasing alignment between adult basic education and postsecondary education. She has 17 years experience teaching developmental education and learning framework courses in two-year and four-year institutions. She earned a Master’s Degree in Developmental and Adult Education and a Ph.D. in Adult, Professional, and Community Education from Texas State University-San Marcos.
As interim managing director at the Charles A. Dana Center at the University of Texas at Austin, Martha Ellis leads the day-to-day mobilization of the center's personnel and programs to achieve its strategic priorities working with K-12, higher education, literary first, operations, communications, and research teams. A former college president and leadership coach for Achieving the Dream, Martha works to advance the DCMP mission and vision in collaboration with higher education, governmental, and philanthropic partners.
Previously, Martha served as associate vice chancellor for community college partnerships for the University of Texas System, where she addressed state policy issues related to transfer and developed and implemented new models for student completion. Martha also served as president of Lee College (Baytown, Texas) and Texas State Technical College (Waco, Texas).
She earned a Ph.D. in Higher Education Administration and Research from the University of North Texas.
Jo-Carol Fabianke recently retired from Alamo Colleges after five years as vice chancellor for academic success. In this role, she led district-wide academic and instructional efforts and provided leadership in implementing board policy and cross-college operational procedures for academic success. Additionally, Jo-Carol guided the development and implementation of cross-college programs and services to accomplish the district’s strategic goals, and led efforts to achieve academic targets, benchmarks, and outcomes. Previously, Jo-Carol served as executive assistant to the chancellor, vice president of academics at Northwest Vista College, associate vice chancellor for academic partnerships and initiatives, and professor at San Antonio College, all in the Alamo Colleges district.
Jo-Carol has contributed to local, state, and national guided pathways reform strategies as the Alamo Colleges district's lead for Texas Completes and the American Association of Community Colleges Pathways Project. A coach for AACC Pathways 2.0, Jo-Carol supports colleges that are committed to transformational work at scale to improve college completion and equity in student outcomes. Furthermore, Jo-Carol works with the Charles A. Dana Center at the University of Texas at Austin as a regional coordinator.
Jo-Carol earned an Ed.D. in Higher Education Administration from Baylor University.
As executive director at the Center for Community College Student Engagement, Linda oversees the Center's research and outreach.
Linda previously served as the assistant director of college relations at CCCSE and the vice president of community college relations at the Roueche Graduate Center at National American University. She has also worked at Lone Star College, Maricopa Community Colleges, Texas Southmost College, and the University of Texas at Brownsville. Linda’s experience includes student development, instructional support, and teaching. As coach for the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) Pathways 2.0, Linda supports colleges that are committed to transformational work at scale to improve college completion and equity in student outcomes. She serves on the board of the National Council on Student Development, an affiliate council of AACC.
Linda earned a Ph.D. in Higher Education Administration with a specialization in Community College Leadership from the University of Texas at Austin.
Maria Harper-Marinick served the Maricopa Community College District in Arizona for almost 30 years in a variety of leadership roles, including nearly four years as chancellor. Maria has served on the boards of the American Council of Education, American Association of Community Colleges, Excelencia in Education, Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, and many other organizations. She chaired the Federal Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance and is an Aspen Institute Ascend fellow and a distinguished fellow of the Arizona State University Morrison Institute for Public Policy.
Diverse: Issues in Higher Education named Maria one of 25 exceptional women leaders who have made a difference in higher education.
Maria is originally from the Dominican Republic and came to the U.S. as a Fulbright Scholar. She holds masters and Ph.D. degrees in educational technology from ASU.
Tina Hart is vice president of enrollment and student services at Indian River State College in Florida. Since 1981 she has served in numerous roles in student activities/development, athletics, employee development, and institutional effectiveness, and is currently the lead administrator in the division of enrollment and student services and the branch campuses.
In her previous role as vice president of institutional effectiveness, Tina was responsible for leading federal and state grants and contracts, accreditation, planning and assessment, institutional research, and employee development and served as the federal liaison for legislative/funding issues and opportunities. As the SACSCOC accreditation liaison, Tina led the Indian River State College through its 2014 decennial accreditation with zero findings and was awarded the 2014 IRSC President’s Cup—the highest award possible at IRSC. In 2016, Tina was awarded the Administration Commission of the Association of Florida Colleges Leadership Award, and in 2016-17 led the institution’s Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence Award process, resulting in IRSC receiving “Finalist with Distinction” honors.
Tina holds a Ph.D. in Higher Education Leadership from Florida Atlantic University.
Byron McClenney has served 57 years in higher education, with nearly 33 years as a community college CEO, including 14 years at the Community College of Denver. During his 10-year tenure as director of Student Success Initiatives at the University of Texas at Austin, he acted as national director of leadership coaching for Achieving the Dream and founded the Texas Board of Trustees Institute in 2007. In 49 years as a consultant, Byron has advised institutions, state higher education systems, state governments, and professional associations in 47 states and internationally.
Among numerous honors received throughout his career, Byron was awarded the 2011 AACC Leadership Award, the 2002 PBS O'Banion Prize, the 2000 TIAA-CREF Hesburgh Award, and the 1996 NISOD International Leadership Award.
Byron’s publications and presentations have focused on student success, institutional effectiveness, leadership, strategic planning, and organizational transformation. In partnership with the Association of Community College Trustees, he developed the Governance Institute for Student Success. Currently chair of the Colorado State Board for Community Colleges and Occupational Education and member of the Colorado Opportunity Scholarship Initiative, Byron remains active in higher education.
Byron received an Ed.D. from the University of Texas at Austin and was awarded the College of Education Distinguished Graduate Award in 1983.
Special advisor to the president of the American Association of Community Colleges, Kay McClenney also serves as senior associate for the Center for Community College Student Engagement (CCCSE) at the University of Texas at Austin. Founding director of CCCSE, Kay also taught in the program in Higher Education Leadership and served as senior consultant on the national Achieving the Dream initiative. Kay co-directed Student Success BY THE NUMBERS, the California Leadership Alliance for Student Success, and the national Bridges to Opportunity initiative.
For over 10 years, she served as vice president and chief operating officer of the Education Commission of the States. She has consulted with education institutions, state higher education systems, state government, and professional associations in 47 states and internationally. Furthermore, she served as a community college faculty member, program director, system administrator, and interim CEO. A frequent keynote speaker, Kay has authored numerous publications on education issues, strategic planning, accountability, student success, and leadership, and has been recognized with numerous honors, including the 2011 National Leadership Award from the American Association of Community Colleges.
She earned a Ph.D. in Educational Administration from the Community College Leadership Program at The University of Texas at Austin.
President and CEO of The McPhail Group LLC, a higher education consulting firm, Christine McPhail is a certified trainer with Emergenetics International, an organizational development consulting company. Founder of the Community College Leadership doctoral program at Morgan State University in Maryland, Christine also served as president and chief instructional officer at Cypress College in southern California.
Christine contributes her expertise to national strategies by serving on boards and task forces coordinated by organizations including the American Association of Community Colleges, American Education Research Association, Community College Research Center, Community College Survey of Student Engagement, and Council for the Study of Community Colleges.
The author of numerous books and articles, Christine was recognized with the 2000 Research Award from the Maryland Association for Adult, Community and Continuing Education for Transforming Classroom Practice for African-American Learners: Implications for the Learning Paradigm, co-authored with her husband, Irving McPhail. Christine has also been honored with the 2010 American Association of Community Colleges National Leadership Award and the 2008 League for Innovation in the Community College Terry O’Banion Leadership Award.
Christine earned an Ed.D. in Higher Education Administration at the University of Southern California.
Krista O'Neill recently retired as the coordinator of advising and counseling services at Lorain County Community College (LCCC), a position she held since 2010. In addition to managing enrollment services and advising, Krista advised students for 32 years, working primarily with dismissal students returning to LCCC.
In 1995, Krista was nominated by LCCC and honored by the National Academic Advising Association as one of thirteen Outstanding Advisors nationally. A certified college alliance Bridges Out of Poverty trainer, Krista was a key contributor to LCCC's Completion by Design and Achieving the Dream initiatives. Krista provided leadership for LCCC’s redesign effort whereby all students are assigned to an advisor and advisors work in specialty advising teams. Using a case management model infused with predictive analytics and early identification of students at risk, the advising redesign has contributed to the 79% increase in LCCC’s graduation rate since 2011. Krista currently serves as an advising redesign coach for the Ohio Association of Community Colleges.
Krista graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Hiram College in 1985 and is a member of Phi Beta Kappa honor society.
Mary Rittling served as president of Davidson County Community College (DCCC) from 2003 to 2018, and was named North Carolina Community College President of the Year in 2012. During her tenure, DCCC was recognized as a leader in the guided pathways movement through its work with Completion by Design and Achieving the Dream.
Prior to joining DCCC, Mary served four years as regional vice president of West Virginia University, where she also was president of Potomac State College of West Virginia University. In addition, Mary spent seven years as a senior administrator at the State University of New York at Delhi, where she served as interim president of the College of Technology and vice president for academic programs and services, among other roles. Mary’s teaching experience includes eight years as a professor and associate professor of nursing at the State University of New York College of Technology at Delhi.
Mary completed the Harvard University Institute for New Presidents in 1999 and earned a Doctor of Education degree in Higher and Adult Education from Columbia University.
Laura Rittner serves as executive director of the Ohio Association of Community Colleges’ Student Success Center in Columbus, Ohio. In this role she oversees the OACC’s student success initiatives including Ohio’s guided pathways project for community colleges, the Student Success Leadership Institute, Completion by Design statewide policy and scaling work, and the AmeriCorps College Completion Coaches program. The Student Success Center’s portfolio of grants has grown to include over $8 million in state, federal and private foundation investments under Laura’s leadership. She has engaged many national partners in the OACC’s student success efforts and served as an inaugural coach for the American Association of Community College’s Pathways Project from 2016-2017.
Laura has 13 years of experience in community college leadership. After serving as as Director for Institutional Research for 7 years at Lakeland Community College in Kirtland, OH, Laura joined the OACC in 2013 as Director of Research and Data Analysis. Laura holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Psychology from Miami University in Oxford, OH, and a Master of Public Policy from The George Washington University in Washington, DC.
Dr. Gretchen Schmidt led national and state-based higher education reform efforts for over a decade, most recently leading all guided pathways support work at the American Association of Community Colleges. Based on the learnings from the first cohort of AACC Pathways Project colleges, she evolved the original model and the supporting resources for a second cohort of institutions in the Pathways 2.0 Project.
She has contributed her expertise to the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, the California Guided Pathways Initiative, Jobs for the Future’s Student Success Centers, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Completion by Design, Lumina's Beyond Financial Aid, a variety of state-level and local college projects.
Previously, Gretchen served as a program director for Jobs for the Future’s Postsecondary State Policy team and she was instrumental in creating the Student Success Center network. Before JFF, she spent five years in the Virginia Community College System—first as educational policy director, then as assistant vice chancellor for academic and student services.
A retired campus president from the San Jacinto College District, Linda Watkins is an educational consultant and leadership coach for Achieving the Dream. A former faculty member, Linda has taught in community colleges, universities, and high schools. After beginning her community college career as a sociology instructor, Linda served as a dean at Tyler Junior College and then as vice president of instruction and student services at San Jacinto College before serving as campus president. After retiring, Linda joined the Company of Experts in Palm Springs, California, as a consultant.
Linda earned an Ed.D. in Higher Education from Texas A&M University-Commerce.
With 35 years of experience in higher education, Ted Wright currently serves as a data coach for multiple colleges and universities participating in the Achieving the Dream National Reform Network. As a data coach, Ted guides colleges in the development, analysis, and use of student outcomes data to inform improvement efforts. In over a decade of coaching Achieving the Dream institutions, Ted has helped community colleges in Texas, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Louisiana, Kansas, and Florida build capacity to incorporate evidence in planning, implementing, and evaluating reform initiatives. Prior to his data coaching role, Ted served as director of research and planning at Broward Community College in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida for over 20 years, followed by a tenure as special assistant to the president of Broward. Previously, Ted served as a senior research associate at Miami-Dade Community College, now known as Miami Dade College. Ted also taught educational research methods in the College of Education at Florida International University in Miami. Ted earned an Ed.D. in higher education leadership from Florida International University.