Named one of the country's Notable Education Leaders of 2017 by Diverse: Issues in Higher Education, Michael Baston serves as the seventh president of Rockland Community College. A leader who helps develop comprehensive supports that foster college completion, Michael is a contributing author to the books Race, Education, and Reintegrating Formerly Incarcerated Citizens, and The Handbook for Student Affairs in Community Colleges. Michael is a pathways coach for the American Association of Community Colleges and consults with college leadership teams around the nation, helping them integrate student success initiatives to advance college completion.
Prior to serving as president of Rockland Community College, Michael was vice president of academic and student affairs at LaGuardia Community College in Long Island City, NY. He was also part of the Aspen Institute's inaugural class of Fellows for Community College Excellence, where he explored systemic issues affecting the educational access pipeline and student success. Michael previously served as a public interest lawyer representing educational institutions and social justice organizations as well as a professor of business and legal studies.
Michael earned a J.D. from Brooklyn Law School and an Ed.D. from St. John Fisher College.
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.
An Achieving the Dream data coach since 2009, Luzelma Canales is senior associate vice president for student success at The University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley. She served as executive director of RGV FOCUS, a collective impact initiative designed to transform college readiness, access, and success across the four county Rio Grande Valley region, from 2013 to 2018. Prior to facilitating systemic improvements in educational and career attainment through RGV FOCUS, Luzelma consulted on Student Success by the NUMBERS, a University of Texas initiative designed to build the data capacity of community and technical colleges. Additionally, Luzelma served as executive director of resource development and administration at Lone Star College, and for 15 years served as interim associate dean of community engagement and workforce development at South Texas College.
Luzelma's experience includes building sophisticated models to leverage existing funding streams to build sustainability for innovative, effective programs and services. She served as the college liaison on national initiatives for improving Latino student success and completion including Achieving the Dream and Excelencia in Education's Accelerating Latino Student Success (ALASS) at Texas Border Institutions.
Luzelma earned a Ph.D. in Human Resource Development from Texas A&M University.
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.
Mike Flores is the incoming chancellor of the Alamo Colleges district, which he joined in 1999. From 2012 to 2018, Mike served as president of Palo Alto college. His previous roles included three vice president positions at Palo Alto College in academic success, college services, and student success. During his tenure as president at Palo Alto College, Mike created new programs in high-growth, high-wage fields including advanced manufacturing, energy, and health care; established the Center of Mexican-American Studies; and initiated nine early college high school/pre-college partnerships. Palo Alto College is one of 10 finalists for the 2019 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, the signature recognition of high achievement and performance in America’s community colleges.
A former Achieving the Dream coach, Mike has completed fellowships with the American Council on Education and the Hispanic Association of Colleges & Universities. He serves on the boards of Communities in Schools in San Antonio, Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, Hot Wells Park Conservancy, San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, San Antonio Tricentennial Commission, and San Antonio Youth Yes (SAY Sí) Leadership Council.
Mike earned a Ph.D. in Educational Administration from the University of Texas at Austin.
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.
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.
Founding partner of Sova Solutions, Alison Kadlec specializes in building cultures and climates for innovation in higher education and workforce development. Animated by a core commitment to advancing genuine socioeconomic mobility for more Americans, Sova pursues its mission through distinctive approaches to coalition-building, strategic planning, and change management.
Previously, Alison served as senior vice president of Public Agenda and worked with colleges and universities across 38 states to support the capacity of institutional leaders and faculty at every level to effectively engage members of their communities as constructive partners in the hard work of change on behalf of student success.
Alison earned a Ph.D. in Democratic Theory from the University of Minnesota.
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.
Irving McPhail founded the McPhail Group LLC, a consulting firm, after recognizing higher education’s need for reliable and multimodal leadership and resource development training. After joining National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering, Inc. in 2007 as executive vice president and chief operating officer, he served as president and CEO of NACME from 2009 to 2018. For 15 years, Irving served as college president or chancellor at the Community College of Baltimore County, St. Louis Community College at Florissant Valley, and LeMoyne-Owen College.
A lifelong educator, Irving has held tenured full professorships at three institutions and has served as an affiliate or visiting professor at the University of Maryland at College Park, the University of Pennsylvania, and Morgan State University. The author of more than 50 journal articles, chapters, monographs, and technical reports, Irving is co-editor of Teaching African-American Learners to Read: Perspectives and Practices, published by the International Reading Association.
Irving earned an Ed.D. in Reading and Language Arts at the University of Pennsylvania. He was awarded honorary doctorates from the New Jersey Institute of Technology and Polytechnic Institute of New York University.
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.
A governing board member at Santa Fe Community College, Martha Romero founded the Community College Leadership Development Initiatives at Claremont Graduate University in California. A leadership coach with Achieving the Dream, Martha has authored numerous journal articles and book chapters, and has trained members of boards of trustees through the University of Texas at Austin, Claremont Graduate University, and the Association of Governing Boards.
As a faculty member, Martha taught graduate seminars in organizational development at the University of Colorado, University of New Mexico, and Claremont Graduate University. Furthermore, she developed and leads an ethics residency for students in the doctoral program in community college leadership at the University of Maryland-University Park.
Former president of the Siskiyous Joint Community College District in northern California, Martha also served as vice president for instruction at Pikes Peak Community College. She served as a policy analyst on a senior management team for organizations including the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education and the Colorado Commission for Higher Education.
Martha earned a Ph.D. in Educational Psychological Studies at the University of Colorado.
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.
President of St. Petersburg College in Florida since 2017, Tonjua Williams joined the college in 1986 and previously served as adjunct faculty, senior accounting clerk, recruiter, academic advisor, program coordinator, director of special programs, associate provost, provost, and senior vice president for student services.
At St. Petersburg College, Tonjua provided oversight and support for the development of a new academic advising model that improved student retention, enhanced career development, instituted intuitive case management for all first time in college students and those needing intervention, and expanded the advisor role to include teaching student success as a non-credit course during the first four weeks of the term. Advisors are college administrators who facilitate student success for completion and graduation.
In 2016, Tonjua joined the inaugural class of Aspen Presidential Fellows, and she serves on the Achieving the Dream Advisory Network Committee and the American Association of Community Colleges’ Presidents Round Table. Additionally, Tonjua has served as a consultant for Noel Levitz and a resident faculty for the Center for Community College Student Engagement high impact practices and men of color institutes.
Tonjua earned a Ph.D. in Higher Education Administration from Barry University.
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.