Skip to content

V3I2: Welcome New Presidents

Join us in welcoming the new presidents in the Northwest:

Sean Chandler, President of Aaniiih Nakoda College

President Chandler’s selection was based upon his strong background in education, American Indian education, Indigenous Lifeways, knowledge and history of Aaniinen and Nakoda, and knowledge of the post-secondary accreditation process. Dr. S. Chandler was appointed by Governor Steve Bullock to be a member of the Montana Arts Council, he is also the chair of the ANC Institutional Review Board, and as the new President he will become a member of national and state-wide associations, consortiums, and trustee boards.

President Chandler’s honors and awards include: Montana Indian Education Association, Indian Educator of the Year (2018), ANC’s American Indian College Fund (AICF) Faculty Member of the Year (2012), AICF Mellon Foundation Faculty Career Advancement Fellowship (Doctoral, 2011), American Indian Higher Education Consortium Fellow for the Kellogg Minority Leadership Fellowship (2005-2006), MSU-Bozeman Bronze Pencil Award for Best Painter (1998).


Karin Edwards, President of Clark College

President Edwards has served as president of Portland Community College’s Cascade Campus since July 2014. For the previous 14 years, she was Dean of Student Development and Services at Three Rivers Community College in Norwich, Connecticut. Before that, she served for eight years in leadership positions – from Student Development Counselor to Director of College Extension Centers – at Orange County Community College in Middletown, New York. Earlier in her career, she was Higher Education Opportunity Program Counselor at Skidmore College, in Saratoga Springs, New York and Admissions Counselor at Rensselear Polytechnic Institute, Troy, New York.

She has been actively engaged with the American Association of Community Colleges, attending its Presidents Academy Summer Institute and serving on its Commission on College Readiness and Marketing/Public Relations. Additionally, she has been an active participant in the American Association of Community College Trustees Governance Conference; National Council on Black American Affairs, Western Region Conference; and Creating Inclusive, Socially Just Campus Environments. Edwards earned her bachelor’s degree in Psychology and her master’s degree in Higher Education Administration at State University of New York at Albany; and her doctorate degree in Educational Leadership at Johnson and Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island.


Dean Fisher, President of the College of Southern Idaho

President Fisher previously served as the Provost for SUNY Corning Community College, a mid-sized institution with multiple campuses in Corning, New York. Prior to his work at SUNY Corning Community College, Dr. Fisher served as Chief of Staff and Senior Policy Advisor for a Member of Congress where he provided oversight for the Congressman’s Oklahoma district operations and Washington, DC staff.

Prior to his work for the US House of Representatives, Fisher worked at Rose State College in Oklahoma City where he served a variety of roles from faculty member to Vice President for Student Affairs. He regularly taught undergraduate and graduate courses in history, humanities, leadership and student development.


Melanie Henriksen, Interim President of National University of Natural Medicine

President Henriksen’s appointment is a return to her alma mater after previously serving as residency director, associate dean of naturopathic medicine, attending physician, dean of naturopathic medicine, and most recently, chief medical officer.

After graduating in 2005 from NUNM’ s naturopathic and Chinese medicine programs, and natural childbirth/midwifery program, Dr. Henriksen completed her residency at NUNM and then established her private practice as a licensed primary care physician and acupuncturist. In 2009, she received a Master of Nursing degree from Oregon Health & Science University and became certified as a nurse midwife. Along with her significant experience at NUNM as a clinician and administrator, Dr. Henriksen has worked in the conventional medical model where she is currently employed as a nurse midwife at Kaiser Permanente.

Dr. Henriksen is a former president and treasurer of the Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges (AANMC). She is currently a board member of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP) and continues to participate in numerous health advocacy groups.


Stefani Hicswa, Chancellor of Montana State University, Billings

Stefani Hicswa has been selected as the new chancellor for Montana State University Billings. She previously served as president of Northwest College in Powell, Wyoming; a position she has held since 2013. Prior to Northwest College, Hicswa served for seven years as president of Miles Community College in Miles City. When she assumes the chancellorship of MSU Billings, she will be the first woman to hold the position since the university’s founding in 1927.

Hicswa holds a doctorate in educational administration from the University of Texas at Austin; a Master of Education in adult, community and higher education from Montana State University; and a bachelor’s in organizational communication from the University of Montana.


Joy Johnson, President of Simon Fraser University

President Johnson is Simon Fraser University’s 10th president and steps into the role of president after six years of achievement as SFU’s vice-president, research and international; and a long career in academia, research and innovation. Before joining SFU, she had a distinguished career in academics and research, completing her PhD in nursing at the University of Alberta before joining the University of British Columbia as a professor in the School of Nursing. Her commitment to research led her to take on the role of scientific director with the Canadian Institutes of Health Research Institute of Gender and Health, setting the institute’s strategy and building opportunities for researchers.

As vice-president, research and international at SFU, Johnson enhanced supports and services for SFU’s research community, secured two Canada 150 Chairs, hosted Canada’s most powerful academic supercomputer, launched the cross-cutting big data initiative, and established a unifying innovation strategy. President Johnson is an elected Fellow of the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.


Eduardo M. Peñalver, President of Seattle University

President Peñalver, previously the dean of Cornell University’s Law School, a Rhodes Scholar and a professor of law who clerked for former U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, has been named the next president of Seattle University. He will become the university’s 22nd president, its first Latino president and the first layperson to take the helm since Seattle U was founded in 1891.

Peñalver’s seven years as a law school dean has prepared him well for this next step into university leadership. The interdisciplinary nature of most legal research means that successful law schools’ function as intellectual crossroads for their universities, with faculty in a range of academic disciplines and joint appointments. Under Peñalver’s leadership, Cornell Law School faculty have been principal investigators on federal grants and have secured millions of dollars in grants from private foundations. President Peñalver grew up in Puyallup.


Brian Edward Sandoval, President of University of Nevada, Reno

President Sandoval becomes the first person of Hispanic descent to be appointed president at University of Nevada, Reno. He previously served as the 29th Governor of Nevada from 2011 to 2019 and is currently a Distinguished Fellow of Law and Leadership at UNLV’s William S. Boyd School of Law. Prior to becoming governor, Sandoval served as U.S. District Court judge for the District of Nevada, being appointed the state’s first Hispanic federal judge. He also served as Nevada’s attorney general, was a member and chairman of the Nevada Gaming Commission, and he served two terms as an assemblyman in the state Legislature.

Most recently Sandoval was the president of global gaming development for MGM Resorts International, a member of the board of directors for Coeur Mining, and a senior fellow at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership and Policy. He has also served on several state boards and commissions, including the Nevada Boards of Pardons, Prisons, Transportation, and Examiners, the Council for the Prevention of Domestic Violence, and was Nevada’s at-large member of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency Governing Board.


Justina Wilhelm, President of Iligsavik College

President Wilhelm, a lifelong resident Utqiagvik, is the product of the North Slope Borough School District. After graduating from Barrow High School, Wilhelm obtained a Bachelor’s of Sociology from the University of Hawaii at Hilo, followed by a Master’s in Social Work in 2018 from the University of New England. Wilhelm has worked the entirety of her career on the North Slope, including 14 years with the North Slope Borough Health Department working in various capacities, including with direct service delivery and compliance, followed by seven years as the Deputy Director of Behavioral Health. In 2017, Wilhelm joined Iligsavik College as Executive Director of Institutional Advancement, before being promoted to Dean of Institutional Advancement, and most recently, Vice President of Administration.

A community leader since her high school days, Wilhelm continues to be actively engaged in the region. This includes service on various boards such as the North Slope Borough School District School Advisory Council, North Slope Borough Personnel Hearing Board, Arctic Women in Crisis Board, Eben Hopson Memorial Scholarship Committee, and her service on the Utqiagvik City Council.


Sign up for our Newsletter

Explore the latest issue of NWCCU’s quarterly newsletter, The Beacon, and discover educational resources, innovations, and events happening in the Northwest.