Contact & Staff

The Commission Office

8060 165th Avenue NE, Suite 200
Redmond, WA 98052

Phone: 425-558-4224
Fax: 205-525-9848

General Inquiries and Questions: info@nwccu.org

Commission Staff

Randy Aliment

Senior Vice President for Legal and Regulatory Affairs

Photo of Randy AlimentRandy Aliment supports the higher education and accreditation mission of NWCCU. He offers legal guidance to the NWCCU president, staff, and Commissioners as each carries forward NWCCU’s accreditation functions. Randy also supports the work of various Commission standing committees; participates in drafting and revising NWCCU policies; anticipates and assists the president with matters related to risk management, complaints against member institutions, and complaints against NWCCU; assists the president with compliance issues; negotiates, drafts, and reviews NWCCU contracts; helps to staff evaluation visits to member institutions; and supports NWCCU’s relationships with its member institutions and other external parties, including federal and state regulators, and sister accreditors. As a partner in the Seattle office of Lewis Brisbois, Randy’s practice is focused on the higher education and sports industries. Randy is a graduate of the University of Puget Sound and the Seattle University School of Law

Gita Bangera

Senior Vice President

Gita Bangera, PhD, mostly recently served as the first Dean of the Connected Learning Division at Bellevue College. She founded the RISE Learning Institute developing it from concept to successful implementation to bring high impact practices such as Research, Project, and Service based learning to students across all disciplines. She has also served as the Interim Vice President of Instruction and Acting Co-President. She has served as a working group co-lead for the Accelerating Systemic Change Network, an Aspen Institute Rising Presidents Fellow and Advisory Board Member for the State-wide Faculty of Color Mentoring program.

Dr. Bangera has raised more than $1M in grant funding from the National Science Foundation, and helped obtain state funding for almost $1M in state-of-the-art lab equipment. She is one of the original 39 PULSE leadership fellows impacting science education at the national level. She was the director of the ComGen project that has created a community of practice for Classroom based Undergraduate Research Experiences (CUREs) with faculty from 27 higher education institutions in Washington. She is the Principal Investigator on a NSF grant to create a state-wide undergraduate research consortium.

Dr. Bangera is also an inventor and technical consultant 46 issued patents and over 110 patent applications and a small business owner. 

Previously Dr. Bangera was a Senior Scientist at Combimatrix Corporation and conducted Post-doctoral Research at Harvard Medical School, University of Washington Medical School, and University of Copenhagen. She received her doctorate in Microbiology at Washington State University, Master’s in Biology from Carnegie Mellon University and a Master’s in Microbiology from University of Mumbai.

Joe Calise

Director of Operations

Joe Calise is a New York native, where he earned his BS and MA degrees in Education, who decided to uproot in 2015 and relocate to the Pacific Northwest. Since moving to Seattle he has also earned his Project Management Professional certification and led a variety of projects at the organizations that he worked at. He has spent his career helping public and private sector organizations improve their operations, streamline technology and increase efficiency in their systems. For the six years prior to joining NWCCU, Joe worked in K-12 Education, specifically helping to launch and manage a number of charter schools across the nation that specialized in serving marginalized populations. Joe is a lifelong technophile, proud dog parent, avid baker and board gamer.

Selena Grace

Senior Vice President

Photo of Selena GraceSelena M. Grace, PhD, Senior Vice President, recently served as Vice Provost for Academic Strategy & Institutional Effectiveness at Idaho State University. Dr. Grace brings significant experience leading transformational change in education policy and practices, as well as bringing diverse constituents together. She was a member of the inaugural cohort of the WICHE Western Academic Leadership Academy, and her previous experience includes Chief Academic Officer at the Idaho State Board of Education where she was the primary author and manager of the Complete College Idaho Plan. Dr. Grace has supported NWCCU as an Evaluator, Evaluation Team Chair, and Accreditation Liaison Officer, and has deep knowledge of accreditation and higher education regulations.

Dr. Grace is a first generation college graduate. She has a B.A. in English with a writing emphasis and a minor in Native American Studies from Boise State University, an M.F.A. in creative writing, non-fiction from George Mason University, and a Ph.D. in public policy and administration from Boise State University. Her research focused on representation of American Indian teachers in public K-12 education and how that impacted access and performance of American Indian students.

Jordan Kamai

Educational Programming Coordinator

Jordan Kamai is a Michigan native, where she earned her B.S. in Education from Central Michigan University’s Honors College (fire up!). Prior to joining NWCCU, Jordan taught seventh and eighth grade language arts, serving as a teacher leader for five years in the district she attended. While there, Jordan served on several committees, focusing on diversity and equity, curriculum development, and virtual learning. Jordan understands the challenges that students of all ages face, and she is passionate about helping others achieve their goals. Jordan believes that good teaching is based on relationships first, and she prides herself on centering this belief in whatever she does. Jordan is a Detroit sports fanatic and office supply enthusiast. She enjoys spending time with her family and exploring the Pacific Northwest.

Ron Larsen

Senior Vice President

Ron Larsen, PhD, Senior Vice President, has served in several administrative roles at Montana State University Bozeman, including Department Head (Chemical and Biological Engineering), Associate Provost, and Vice Provost. He also served as Interim Chancellor at Montana State University Billings. He has worked to improve student outcomes (e.g., graduation rates, retention rates) and assist campus and system initiatives (e.g., Common Course Numbering, Course Information Management, Prior Learning Assessment). A common feature of his work is the use of technology to promote student success.

He has applied mathematical models to various systems including pulmonary gas mixing, biofilm accumulation, and heat transfer in underground storage bins. These modeling efforts brought modern software tools into the classroom, and eventually led to the publication of several texts introducing students to the use of modern software for solving engineering problems.

Kayli Martin

Director of Finance and Human Resources

Kayli MartinKayli Martin, M.A. is an east coast transplant who has lived in the Seattle area since 1993. She holds a bachelors’ degree in philosophy, graduating summa cum laude from the University of North Carolina Asheville. After earning a masters’ degree in philosophy at the University of Washington, Kayli worked in management. In 2003, she left management to start her own accounting/bookkeeping company and started working with NWCCU in 2006 as an independent contractor. In 2019, she became an employee of the Commission. Kayli enjoys reading, playing with her dog, and visits from her granddaughter.

Mac Powell

Senior Vice President
Curriculum Vitae

Photo of Mac PowellMac Powell, MBA, PhD joined the Commission Staff in 2017 after serving as president of three universities, including John F. Kennedy University, where he led the institution in its transformation to become a federally recognized and funded Hispanic Serving Institution. He has contributed to the strategic direction of higher education through his service as Chair of the American Council of Education’s Commission on Educational Attainment and Innovation, Commissioner on the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Commission, graduate of the WASC Assessment Leadership Academy, and Chair of the Council of Applied Master’s Programs in Psychology. Dr. Powell’s enthusiasm for continuous improvement and innovation fuels his passion for working with institutions as they embrace the ever-changing landscape of higher education.

Sonny Ramaswamy

President
Curriculum Vitae

Photo of Sonny RamaswamySonny Ramaswamy is president of Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (http://www.nwccu.org) in Redmond, WA. The Commission’s mission is to accredit institutions of higher education in Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and British Columbia by applying evidence-informed standards and processes to support continuous improvements and promote student achievement and success.

Sonny served for six years as President Barack Obama’s appointee as the Director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (https://nifa.usda.gov/) in Washington, DC. NIFA catalyzes transformative discoveries, education, and engagement to solve societal and agricultural challenges.

Previously, Ramaswamy served as dean of Oregon State University’s College of Agricultural Sciences, director of Purdue’s Agricultural Research Programs, university distinguished professor and head of the entomology department at Kansas State University, and professor of entomology at Mississippi State University.

As a faculty member, Sonny’s research was funded with grants from federal agencies, including NIFA, NSF, NIH, EPA, and USAID, and from state agencies, commodity groups, and industry. He has published over 150 journal articles, book chapters, and a book, and has a patent. Sonny is the recipient of several awards and honors, including Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Fellow of the Entomological Society of America, Food Systems Leadership Award for Extraordinary Impacts on Food Systems, the Ellen Swallow Richards Public Service Award for Visionary Leadership and Exceptional Contributions to Advance the Human Sciences, and Hutchinson Medal from the Chicago Botanic Garden.

Sonny’s BSc (Ag) in agriculture and MSc (Ag) in entomology are from the University of Agricultural Sciences, Bangalore, India. Following his doctorate in entomology from Rutgers University, Ramaswamy undertook postdoctoral research at Michigan State University. He is also a graduate of the Management Development Program from Harvard University.

Stacy Rosenbach-Duex

Administrative Assistant

Stacy Rosenbach-Duex is a native Washingtonian who joined NWCCU in 2021. Stacy brings experience as an executive assistant with a Seattle-based architectural firm specializing in design of primary and secondary education schools, universities, and student housing. With prior expertise as a client services specialist at an advertising and public relations agency, her background also includes work in news reporting and production at local market radio and television outlets. Stacy holds a degree in Communications from the University of Washington. She is a lifelong equine enthusiast who enjoys the beauty of nature and of her horse, the wisdom of elders, reading, antiques and her vintage clothing collection.

Jess Stahl

Vice President of Data Science & Analytics

Jess Stahl, Doctor of Behavioral Health, served as the Assistant Dean for Strategic Initiatives and Quality Advancement & Clinical Assistant Professor, Biobehavioral Health Sciences at the University of Arizona where she focused on commercializing academic research and led a prominent public-private collaboration to establish an innovative community health clinic.  Dr. Stahl holds an M.Sc. in Health Economics, Policy, and Management from the London School of Economics and was a frequent lecturer on the “Future of Healthcare” and co-led annual interprofessional training events for graduate medical, nursing, and pharmacy students including pandemic response simulation.  Dr. Stahl also has experience with community colleges, including serving as Dean for Academic Effectiveness and Accreditation Liaison Officer.  As an Assistant Dean at Southern New Hampshire University, she directed exponential online enrollment growth driven by innovative technology and effective data science.  Early in her career, she received a Fulbright award, worked for the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland, and was a Duke University Global Health Fellow.  Her passion is leading data and AI initiatives to enable academic institutions to benefit from innovations in technology, data science, and artificial intelligence (AI).

Deb Tarbutton

Office Assistant

Deb Tarbutton is a Minnesota native who relocated to Seattle in 1992 and has spent the last 28 years supporting C-suite executives, Boards of Directors and other senior level management throughout the Seattle area. Having worked at T-Mobile, Univar, Expedia, SumTotal Systems and Vulcan has provided an extensive amount of experience in various industries. Deb joined NWCCU in June 2020. She received her bachelor’s degree in Business Education from the University of Minnesota, Duluth. She enjoys spending time with her family, friends and is an avid sports fan. She is looking forward to cheering on the Seahawks, Mariners, the University of Washington Huskies and the Seattle Kraken.

Mellissa Thoreson

Director of Institutional Evaluation

Mellissa ThoresonMellissa Thoreson joined NWCCU in 2016; For eleven years prior to joining NWCCU, Mellissa worked in the Northwest Region in Clinical Higher Education, managing clinical internship rotations for the institution’s Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) Program and managing the DPT programs continuing education training workshops. Mellissa transitioned to higher education from Human Resource Management working for over a decade in all aspects of the discipline (campus recruiting, recruitment and selections, organization and employee development, benefits, and leave management). Early on in her career, Mellissa worked in the Hospitality Industry for a large regional hotel chain managing three departments. Mellissa has found that the business of working towards the goal of continuous improvement and refining best practices in Higher Education to be a motivating aspiration. Mellissa is an avid reader, music fan, enjoys spending time in Hawaii, loves sailing, and being in the company of her family and friends.

Shanna Toth

Chief of Staff & Director of Strategic Initiatives

Shanna Toth joined NWCCU in November 2020 as the Data and Project Manager and in June 2022 because the Chief of Staff & Director of Strategic Initiatives . Shanna works to support the accreditation process, including efforts to promote student success and reduce equity gaps at member institutions. Shanna grew up in Seattle and obtained her Bachelor of Arts from the University of Washington, and her PMP certification through the Project Management Institute. Shanna has over 10 years of experience managing projects in IT, government, non-profit, and manufacturing. To promote project success, Shanna believes in developing strong client relationships and fostering them through careful data analysis, excellent planning, and communication. In her free time, Shanna enjoys hiking, a good long book at the end of the day, and skiing trips with her family.