Dr. Claude O. Pressnell Jr., Chair (Senate Republican)
Dr. Claude Pressnell, Jr., President, Tennessee Independent Colleges and Universities Association, is a native of Kansas, has spent nearly 30 years in higher education administration. He began his career at Southwest Baptist University in Missouri as an admission recruiter; within a year advanced to the position of Senior Director of Admissions and Student Development. He holds a doctorate in higher education administration/educational leadership from Vanderbilt University. While attending Vanderbilt he served as the Director of Financial Assistance and Assistant Professor of Religion at Belmont University. In 1995 he served as the Founding Executive Director of the Institute for Family Studies in Colorado. Pressnell soon returned to Tennessee to become the Executive Director of the Tennessee Foundation for Independent Colleges and since 2000 has served as President of the Tennessee Independent Colleges and Universities Association. In 2003 the United States Senate appointed Pressnell to the Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance where he served as Vice Chair from 2007 until his second and final term expired in 2008. In 2007, he testified before Congress on higher education policy issues. The Committee serves as an independent source of advice and counsel to the United States Congress and the Secretary of Education on student aid issues and higher education policy. In June of 2011, Pressnell was selected for a Fulbright Senior Specialist grant to develop the student financing policy for the Government of the Maldives. The policy and funding mechanisms were adopted by the Maldivian Parliament in 2012. In August of 2013, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam appointed Pressnell as a Commissioner representing the state’s interests on the Education Commission of the States. In 2014 Pressnell was appointed by four US Senators to serve on a committee to recommend a pathway to reduce the federal regulatory burden on higher education in the United States. Pressnell serves on numerous international, national, and state level boards. He also has served as an international advisor on higher education reform in the Middle East, the Balkan region of Europe and South America.
Zakiya Smith Ellis, Ph.D., Vice-Chair (Senate Democrat)
Dr. Zakiya Smith Ellis is a Principal at Education Counsel, where she helps clients navigate the current education policy climate to develop solutions that improve equity and outcomes for students. Before joining Education Counsel, Zakiya held the role of chief policy advisor to Governor Phil Murphy (D-NJ) and previously served as New Jersey’s Secretary of Higher Education. Twice named one of Forbes’ top 30 under 30 in education earlier in her career, Dr. Ellis is a respected public policy leader with deep expertise in federal and state higher education policy. Dr. Ellis has demonstrated success in leading diverse teams to achieve dynamic results leading to tangible improvements in college affordability, enhanced institutional capacity, and more equitable student outcomes. She has led federal policy development and program implementation at the White House, the U.S. Department of Education, the Lumina Foundation, in addition to her most recent work developing and implementing state policy.
Dr. Smith Ellis holds a bachelor’s degree in political science and secondary education from Vanderbilt University, a master’s degree in education policy and management from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and a doctorate in higher education management from the University of Pennsylvania, where she earned distinction for both the written dissertation and oral defense.
Kathleen Sullivan Alioto, Ed.D. (House Democrat)
Kathleen Sullivan Alioto is a Consultant who enables philanthropic, corporate, political, and educational leaders to make a genuine impact on students’ lives. She brings a depth and scope of knowledge, critical understanding, and vision that only experience with education’s myriad challenges can provide. In 1967 she began teaching at an innovative public school in Harlem, continuing her career in Boston where in addition to her success working with emotionally disturbed students and their parents she took on a school system desperately in need of reform. This led to her election as a member and, ultimately, as President of the School Board during Boston’s Desegregation Crisis. She earned a Doctorate in Education from Harvard and has since persisted in fighting for diverse, low-income families; prioritizing needs, strategically identifying opportunities to meet those needs, and finding essential support to improve school systems and community colleges.
Dr. Roslyn Clark Artis (House Democrat)
Dr. Roslyn Clark Artis was unanimously appointed by the Board of Trustees as the 14th President of Benedict College. She is the first female President in the 147-year history of the College. Dr. Artis served as the 13th and first female President of Florida Memorial University in Miami Gardens, Florida.
In 2019, Dr. Artis was named Diverse: Issues in Higher Education’s Top 35 Leading Women in Higher Education, and the 2019 Educator of the Year by the 100 Black Men of America, Inc. In 2020, Dr. Artis was named President of the Year by Higher Ed Dive for her leadership in navigating the unprecedented challenges of 2020.
Dr. Artis is a graduate of Vanderbilt University, where she earned a Doctorate in Higher Education Leadership and Policy. She also holds a Juris Doctorate from West Virginia University College of Law, and her Bachelor of Arts degree in Political science from sister HBCU, West Virginia State University. The consummate professional, Dr. Artis also holds a Certificate of fundraising Management from Indiana University and a Certificate of Mastery in Prior Learning Assessment from DePaul University.
Dr. Artis is a member of the Presidents’ Advisory Board for Title III Administrators, the Educational Testing Service Presidents’ Advisory Council, and is a Member of the Board of Directors for the American Council on Education (ACE) and the Board of Directors for the Council of Independent Colleges (CIC). She also serves as a Board Member for Forum on Education Abroad and the Yes, We Must Coalition. Dr. Artis is a member of the National Black MBA Advisory Council and has been named an “Equity in Energy Ambassador” for the United States Department of Energy.
Jennifer L. Blum, Esq. (House Republican)
Jennifer Blum is an attorney with her own recently established law and policy firm focused on higher education, Blum Higher Education Advising, PLLC. Previously, Ms. Blum was the senior vice president of Government Relations at Laureate Education, Inc., a global higher education company. Prior to joining Laureate, Ms. Blum spent 11 years at the law firm of Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP (now Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP), where she was vice-chair of the government and regulatory affairs group and a member of the firm’s higher education practice.
In higher education policy, her responsibilities have included the development of policy positions for her employers and clients, with representations before U.S. Government and states, as well as before other interested parties on both domestic and international education matters. She has particularly focused on understanding the Higher Education Act’s impact on accreditation, institutional accountability and outcomes. Ms. Blum has also developed significant experience on U.S. and state legislative and regulatory matters affecting distance education, student financial aid and state authorization.
Ms. Blum served as a negotiator during the U.S. Department of Education’s most recent negotiated rulemaking on gainful employment and has previously supported clients during other education regulatory processes. She has also served as a presenter and guest panelist at various conferences and forums held by accrediting agencies, education-related think tanks, and trade associations.
Ms. Blum earned a JD from the Columbus School of Law at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., and a BA in political science from Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut.
Dr. Wallace E. Boston (Education Department)
Dr. Wallace E. Boston is President of the American Public University System (APUS). He joined APUS in 2002. During his tenure, APUS grew from 3,000 students to more than 80,000, increasing to over 200 degree and certificate programs, and approximately 100,000 alumni. Dr. Boston guided APUS through its successful initial accreditation with the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association in 2006 and ten-year reaccreditation in 2011. In November 2007, he led APEI, the parent company of APUS, to an initial public offering on the NASDAQ Exchange.
In addition to his service as a board member of APUS, Dr. Boston is a member of the Board of Advisors of the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA), a member of the Board of Overseers of the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education, and a board member of Fidelis, Inc. He has authored and co-authored papers on the topic of online post-secondary student retention, and is a frequent speaker on the impact of technology on higher education.
Dr. Boston is a Certified Public Accountant, Certified Management Accountant, and Chartered Global Management Accountant. He earned an A.B. degree in History from Duke University, an MBA in Marketing and Accounting from Tulane University’s Freeman School of Business Administration, and a Doctorate in Higher Education Management from the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education. Dr. Boston will retire in 2020 from APUS and in recognition of his years of accomplishments, the Board of Trustees have bestowed him with the title of President Emeritus.
Debbie Cochrane (Senate Democrat)
Debbie Cochrane is the Bureau Chief of California’s Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education, which authorizes 1,800 private institutions and associated locations in California and is home to the state Office of Student Assistance and Relief. Prior to her appointment, Cochrane was the executive vice president of The Institute for College Access & Success, a nonprofit organization focused on pursuing student-centered public policies that promote affordability, accountability, and equity in higher education.
Cochrane is an inaugural Governing Board member of California’s Cradle-to-Career system, a statewide data system to help students reach their goals and deliver information on education and workforce outcomes, and a member of the National Association of State Administrators and Supervisors of Private Schools. Her career includes service in research, direct service, and management roles within a variety of nonprofit settings. Cochrane holds an MSW with a focus on social policy from San Francisco State University and a BA from the University of Michigan.
José Luis Cruz Rivera, Ph.D. (Senate Democrat)
José Luis Cruz Rivera began his tenure as the 17th President of Northern Arizona University (NAU) on June 14, 2021.
During his first year as president, he has worked with university stakeholders to articulate a bold vision for a New NAU focused on the delivery of equitable postsecondary value to the students and communities of Arizona and beyond, as articulated in the university’s strategic roadmap, NAU 2025 – Elevating Excellence. Furthermore, several bold initiatives in support of Elevating Excellence have already launched, including Access2Excellence, New NAU Workplace, Faculty Senate Constitution, Commitment to Sustainability, Becoming the Leading Engine of Opportunity, the Seven Generations Signature Initiatives.
Prior to joining NAU, Dr. Cruz Rivera served as President of The City University of New York’s (CUNY) Herbert H. Lehman College (Bronx, NY) and as Executive Vice Chancellor and University Provost of the 25-campus, 500,000-student CUNY system—the world’s largest urban university.
A leading national advocate for policies to broaden participation and deliver equitable educational value for all students, Cruz Rivera is a frequent keynote speaker and writer on higher education issues. He has testified several times before the US Congress, and his work has been funded by federal, state, and philanthropic organizations including the National Science Foundation, Lumina Foundation, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the US Department of Education, among others. Furthermore, his work in higher ed has been covered by many media outlets, including The Chronicle of Higher Education, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and Univision.
Previously, Cruz Rivera served as provost of California State University, Fullerton. He is a former vice president of Higher Education Policy and Practice at The Education Trust in Washington, DC and a former Chief Student Affairs Officer for the University of Puerto Rico system. He began his career as a faculty member in engineering at the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez, rising through the ranks and serving as chair of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department and dean of Academic Affairs.
Cruz Rivera chairs the board of directors of The Education Trust and serves on the board of the Data Quality Campaign, the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU), the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE), the Arizona Commerce Authority, and the steering committee of the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration. In the past, he has served on the board of directors of the New York Botanical Garden, the Institute for Higher Education Policy, and as a member of the Community Advisory Group of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, and as a commissioner on the Postsecondary Value Commission, among others.
Cruz Rivera is a Senior Member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, a patented inventor, published scholar, and a National Science Foundation Career Award recipient. He earned his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering (magna cum laude) from the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez, and his master’s and doctorate degrees from the Georgia Institute of Technology, specializing in optical interconnections for ultracompact massively parallel processing systems. He is an alumnus of the Harvard Institute of Educational Management.
Keith Curry, Ph.D. (Education Department)
Dr. Keith Curry is the President of the Compton College and CEO of the Compton Community College District. Compton College is the 114th California Community College, achieving initial accreditation status on June 7, 2017. Dr. Curry is responsible for overseeing all departments and functions of Compton College and the District and serves as secretary for the CCCD Board of Trustees. He brings an abundance of energy and innovative ideas to Compton College, along with a wealth of experience as a postsecondary education administrator.
Dr. Curry is an active member of the Foundation for Compton Community College District, the Association of California Community College Administrators, the California Community College Athletic Association, the Statewide Association of Community Colleges (SWACC), the Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice Advisory Board, and the President’s Roundtable. He has participated on Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) Visiting Teams, most recently for San Quentin University Prison Project.
In 2018, Dr. Curry received the Harry Buttimer Distinguished Administrator Award. The Association of California Community College Administrators bestows the award to administrators who demonstrate integrity, principle, compassion, strength in leadership, and who have made significant contributions to the college district and community.
At the 2019 Community College League of California Annual Conference, Dr. Curry was honored as one of three 2019 Champions of Equity by the Campaign for College Opportunity and the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational fund. The award honors those who prioritize student-centered policies that produce equitable outcomes and expand opportunities for Californians.
In June 2020, Dr. Curry was invited by Governor Newsom’s Senior Policy Advisor for Higher Education Lande Ajose to serve on the California Higher Education Recovery with Equity Task Force.
Dr. Curry earned his doctorate in educational leadership from the University of California, Irvine, and a bachelor’s degree in American studies from the University of California, Santa Cruz. Dr. Curry is an adjunct faculty member for the Charter College of Education at California State University, Los Angeles.
David A. Eubanks, Ph.D. (Education Department)
David A. Eubanks is the Assistant Vice President for Assessment and Institutional Effectiveness at Furman University. He has served at several private colleges or universities over a nearly thirty-year career in higher education in faculty and administrative roles. During that time he developed software for student engagement and success, served on numerous regional accreditation committees, served on various organizational boards related to education, and co-founded a journal on analyzing writing assessment data. He researches and publishes on student success in higher education, and the methodologies involved.
He holds a Doctorate degree in Mathematics from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale.
Arthur E. Keiser, Ph.D. (House Republican)
Arthur Keiser is Chancellor of Keiser University and Chairman of the Board of Southeastern College. Dr. Keiser has served the higher education industry in various capacities for nearly 40 years. He served as Chairperson of the Board of Directors of the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities (APSCU). Dr. Keiser is a former member of the Jacob K. Javits Fellows Program Fellowship Board. He served as elected Chairperson and Board Member of the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges of Technology (ACCSCT). He was appointed by the Governor of Florida to the State Board of Independent Colleges and Universities and the State Board of Independent Postsecondary, Vocational, Technical, Trade and Business Schools. Dr. Keiser has also served as President of the Florida Association of Postsecondary Schools and Colleges (FAPSC). Dr. Keiser earned his doctorate in Higher Education Administration at the Union Institute and University in Cincinnati, Ohio.
D. Michael Lindsay, Ph.D. (Education Department)
D. Michael Lindsay serves as the eighth president of Gordon College. His tenure at Gordon has coincided with record years of opportunity and growth for the campus. Since his appointment in 2011, Gordon has experienced banner years in terms of fundraising, campus diversity, sponsored research, athletic success and faith expression on campus. In 2019 Gordon College received an anonymous gift of $75.5 million directed to the school’s endowment and to fund student scholarships. The gift is the largest in Gordon’s history and the largest donation given to a Christian liberal arts college. President Lindsay is gratified to be working alongside talented colleagues and regards the College’s gains during his tenure as evidence of a winning team.
Prior to arriving at Gordon, President Lindsay was a member of the sociology faculty at Rice University, where he won multiple awards both for his teaching and his scholarly research. The author of two dozen scholarly publications, Dr. Lindsay’s Faith in the Halls of Power was nominated for the nonfiction Pulitzer Prize in 2007. His most recent book, View from the Top, won two awards and has been translated into Chinese and Japanese. As a scholar and educational leader, President Lindsay has lectured on six continents and works tirelessly to create opportunities worldwide for Gordon students, faculty, and staff. He earned his Ph.D. in sociology from Princeton University and graduate theological degrees from Wycliffe Hall at Oxford University and Princeton Theological Seminary. He is a summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Baylor University where he has been named Outstanding Young Alumnus. He has been married for twenty-five years to Rebecca, a writer and speaker who serves as Gordon’s Ambassador for the College. They are the proud parents of three daughters: Elizabeth (16), Caroline (10) and Emily (10). The Lindsays live on the Gordon campus, which allows them to regularly cheer on the Fighting Scots.
Molly E. Hall Martin, Ph.D. (Education Department)
Molly E. Hall-Martin, Ph.D. (Kul Wicasa Oyate/Ihanktonwan Dakota Oyate) serves as Director for the WICHE State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (W-SARA) where she manages the implementation, administration, and oversight of W-SARA. Prior to joining WICHE, Molly served as the Director of Student Preparation & Success for the South Dakota Board of Regents, as a staff member at Lower Brule Community College, and as an intern at the Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP) and the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association (SHEEO). Molly holds a B.A. in American Indian Studies from the University of North Carolina, an M.Ed. in Adult and Higher Education from the University of Oklahoma, and a Ph.D. in Higher Education and Student Affairs from the University of Iowa.
Robert Mayes (House Republican)
Mr. Robert Mayes serves as Chief Executive Officer of Columbia Southern Education Group, the parent company of Columbia Southern University (CSU) and Waldorf University. He has more than 25 years of experience in distance education and holds an MBA from Capella University.
He assisted his family in the founding of Columbia Southern University, an online university headquartered in Orange Beach, Alabama, in 1993. He transitioned to the role of president of CSU in 2005 and served until May 2018. During this time, the University grew from 7000 students to 30,000. He was awarded the title president emeritus on May 1, 2018 for his contributions and impact on the University. Mayes also led the acquisition of Waldorf University (previously Waldorf College) in Forest City, Iowa in 2010, a task that included achieving approvals from the U.S. Department of Education and the Higher Learning Commission.
He is chairman of the board of directors for South Baldwin Christian Academy. He serves as a board member of the Board of Certified Safety Professionals Foundation, the Business Council of Alabama, Columbia Southern University Board of Trustees, and Waldorf University Board of Trustees. He is a member of the Coalition for Student Opportunity and Success. He served eight years on the board of the Distance Education Accrediting Commission board of directors and served on its executive, finance and nominating committees. In 2017, he was awarded the Distance Education Accrediting Commission’s Distinguished Service Award and was a Boy Scouts of America Golden Eagle Honoree. In 2019, he was named the Distance Education Accrediting Commission’s Person of the Year.
Mary Ellen Petrisko, Ph.D. (Education Department)
Mary Ellen Petrisko served most recently as the fifth President of the WASC Senior College and University Commission. Prior to that position, she was Vice President of Institutional Field Relations at the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. Other positions held include Deputy Secretary of Higher Education, Maryland Higher Education Commission; Vice President Academic Affairs University of Maryland University College (now University of Maryland Global Campus); and Vice President Academic Affairs, Tai Sophia Institute (now Maryland University of Integrative Health). She has held teaching positions in philosophy at the University of Nijmegen in the Netherlands (tenured) and the University of Maryland University College (adjunct). She has also served as a higher education and accreditation consultant to a number of institutions and organizations nationally and internationally.
Dr. Petrisko currently chairs the board of the Academy for the Love of Learning in Santa Fe, NM. She is a member of the National Advisory Panel of the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment and of the Quality Assurance Advisory Group of Credential Engine. She holds a PhD in Philosophy from Boston University and BA and MA degrees in Philosophy from Duquesne University.
Dr. Michael Poliakoff (Senate Republican)
Michael Poliakoff is the president of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA). Dr. Poliakoff served previously as Pennsylvania Deputy Secretary for Postsecondary and Higher Education during the administration of Governor Tom Ridge; Director of Education Programs at the National Endowment for the Humanities; and Vice President for Academic Affairs and Research at the University of Colorado. He has taught classical studies at Georgetown University, George Washington University, George Mason University, Hillsdale College, the University of Illinois at Chicago, and Wellesley College. He received his B.A. magna cum laude from Yale University and went on to study at Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar, where he earned Class I Honours in Literae Humaniores. He received his Ph.D. in classical studies at the University of Michigan. He has been a junior fellow at the Center for Hellenic Studies, and his research has been supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst, and the Alexander Von Humboldt Stiftung. His publications include Combat Sports in the Ancient World: Competition, Violence, and Culture, published by Yale University Press, and articles in professional journals of classical studies, as well as numerous higher education reports and policy papers. Dr. Poliakoff received the American Philological Association’s Excellence in Teaching Award and the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s Distinguished Service to Education Award.
Robert Shireman (House Democrat)
Robert Shireman is director of higher education excellence and senior fellow at The Century Foundation working on education policy with a focus on affordability, quality assurance, and consumer protections. He served in the Clinton White House as a senior policy advisor to the National Economic Council, and in the Obama administration as deputy undersecretary of education. In 2004 he founded The Institute for College Access & Success, and in 2011 launched the policy organization California Competes.
In his various roles since 1989 Shireman has led successful efforts to reform student loans, streamline the financial aid process, promote campus diversity, and protect consumers from predatory colleges. He has shepherded the evolution of the nation’s income-based student loan repayment system from its initial adoption in 1992 to its expansion and improvement by President Barack Obama. He organized the federal response to emerging signs of predatory for-profit career training in 2009, leading to a widely discussed set of regulatory reforms and enforcement actions. Shireman’s analysis of local needs in California prompted changes in the funding formula for that state’s community colleges, following on his earlier work to improve the ethnic and economic diversity of California’s private colleges. He led an effort that significantly simplified the process of applying for federal college aid, and pressed for and ultimately won the elimination of costly middlemen from the federal loan programs so that more grant aid could be made available to low-income students.
Under Shireman’s leadership, in 2018 The Century Foundation won a contract with the State of California to develop recommendations for reforming the state’s approach to college affordability. In addition to his role at Century, Shireman serves on the board of uAspire, a national nonprofit that helps low-income students find quality, affordable college options, and The Opportunity Institute, an education policy think tank.
Shireman holds a Bachelor’s degree in Economics from the University of California at Berkeley, a Master’s in Education from Harvard, and a Master’s in Public Administration from the University of San Francisco.