Randy Aliment is a partner in the Seattle office of Lewis Brisbois and serves as General Counsel for the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. Randy has a broad‐based practice focused on the higher education and sports industries. He regularly conducts internal investigations for universities in anticipation of potential government or other legal exposure including, most recently, a football student athlete death at an institution in Kansas. He has represented universities in arbitrations related to admissions, governance, and their relationships with teaching locations and partner institutions outside of the U.S. Randy has extensive experience representing foreign clients in US litigation and overseeing foreign litigation and commercial transactions for U.S. clients in China, Japan, Canada, Europe, and the Middle East. He is a Foreign Consultant to Duan & Duan, the first privately licensed Chinese law firm, with offices in several cities in China.
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.
Jess Delegencia, MA, MDiv, is the Consultant on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) for NWCCU and its member institutions. Jess has 20+ years of social impact and DE&I leadership in higher education, non-profit, federal, and international development sectors. Most recently, he was a Global Training Specialist and Leadership Consultant in ICDEI (Intercultural Competence, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) for Peace Corps’ global workforce, having facilitated in-country ICDEI training and program development for large teams in 33 countries. Some of Jess’s post-secondary experience includes being on the inaugural team for launching U.C. Berkeley’s Center for Intercultural Leadership (CIL), serving as the 1st Chief Diversity Officer for John F. Kennedy University (CA), and teaching courses in Organizational Leadership, Asian American Studies, and LGBTQ Studies at the Pacific School of Religion (CA). He is a PhD candidate at Eastern University (PA) in Organizational Leadership, with research interests in decolonization, Filipinx/Philippine studies, and global perspectives in DE&I.
Jess received his BA from the University of California at Berkeley (California) in International Development Studies and Ethnic Studies, his MA from Eastern University (residency in Cape Town, South Africa) in International Economic Development, and his Masters of Divinity from the Graduate Theological Union (Berkeley, CA). He is fluent in Tagalog, Spanish and English.
Executive Vice President
Pamela Goad joined NWCCU as Associate Vice President in 2009 and initially oversaw the processing and review of substantive change proposals and the NWCCU Annual Report. Dr. Goad has broadened her repertoire of responsibilities to include a variety of activities supporting the accreditation of member institutions such as engaging with the Washington State’s Student Achievement Council, Oregon State’s Higher Education Coordinating Committee, and National Association of Branch Campus Administrators, participating at the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity reaffirmation of NWCCU’s recognition as a NWCCU representative, assisting with training sessions and resources, partnering with other regional accrediting bodies to support national policy concerns in addition to supporting the revision and implementation of policies and standards of NWCCU. Dr. Goad has 36 years of experience in higher education. As a first-generation student whose parents and daughter followed her to degree completion, Dr. Goad is keenly aware of the challenges that students encounter in assimilating into and maneuvering through a higher education environment regardless of the age of the student and the knowledge the family brings to the institution.
Prior to joining NWCCU, Dr. Goad served as Vice President of Academic Affairs at The Art Institute of Seattle in addition to positions as a faculty member, Program Director, Associate Dean, and Dean. She has teaching experience at the undergraduate and graduate levels at other regional public institutions as well as an international institution. Dr. Goad holds a B.M.Ed. from Troy State University, an M.M. from University of Montevallo, and a Ph.D. in Systematic Musicology with an emphasis in Music Acoustics from the University of Washington. She also assumed a post-doctoral position furthering her research in psychoacoustics at the Université de Paris VI.
Senior Vice President
Selena 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.
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.
Chief of Staff and Director of External Relations
Amy Luke was born and raised in Portland, Oregon and has lived up and down the West coast before a return to the Seattle area to join NWCCU in 2020. As a manager of people and projects, she has experience engaging with Boards and stakeholders across various industries including higher education, quasi-governmental agencies, nonprofits, and corporate healthcare. As the Chief of Staff & Director of External Relations, Amy works closely with the President in managing the Board of Commissioners and personnel-related matters. She is responsible for the overall management, communication, and production of event operations associated with the Commission Meetings and NWCCU’s Educational Programming, including educational trainings and workshops, webinars, and the organization’s annual conference. She enjoys road trips, oil painting, being crafty, and antiquing.
Director of Finance and Human Resources
Kayli 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.
Senior Vice President
Mac Powell serves as Senior Vice President of the Commission on Colleges and Universities. Prior to joining the Commission, he served as president of three universities, including John F. Kennedy University, where he led the institution’s successful efforts to become a service-learning institution and a federally recognized and funded Hispanic Serving Institution. Dr. Powell has contributed to the strategic direction of higher education through his research and through 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 holds bachelor’s degrees in philosophy and sociology; master’s degrees in business, sociology and clinical psychology; and a PhD in sociology from the University of Missouri. As the author of over 50 articles, three books and two book chapters on the subjects of education, clinical psychology and performance psychology, his recent scholarship focuses on the role of accreditation in consumer protection, educational attainment, and the challenges of rising tuition costs for students.
Sonny Ramaswamy is president of Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities 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’s College of Agricultural Sciences, director of Purdue’s Agricultural Research Programs, university distinguished professor and head of Kansas State’s Entomology Department, and professor of entomology at Mississippi State.
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 a number of 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.
Ramaswamy’s BSc (Ag) in agriculture and MSc (Ag) in entomology are from the University of Agricultural Sciences, Bangalore, India. His doctorate is in entomology from Rutgers University.
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 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.
Director of Institutional Evaluation
Mellissa 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.
Data and Project Manager
Shanna Toth joined NWCCU in November 2020 as the Data and Project Manager. Shanna works to support the higher 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.