Sherita C. Ashmon joined CIC in November 2010 as conference and program coordinator and was promoted to conference manager in June 2016. She is a graduate of Delaware State University from which she earned a BA in communications and has completed some graduate work in communications management at Towson University. She previously served as membership coordinator for the Community Technology Centers’ Network and as operations and membership manager for the Neighborhood Funders Group (NFG), both in Washington, DC. In her last position, Ashmon managed all aspects of conference registrations for NFG’s annual meeting and provided programmatic support for NFG’s work groups.
Director of Conferences
Allison Blackburn joined CIC in October 2005. As director of conferences, her responsibilities include contract negotiations and logistical management of CIC’s conferences. A native of Trinidad and Tobago, Blackburn brings with her a wealth of experience and training, including a master’s degree in Tourism and Travel Management from New York University, professional certification in meeting planning, and more than 15 years of experience in planning events. Prior to joining CIC, Blackburn served as manager of conferences and meetings for the International Life Sciences Institute where she worked for eight years with responsibility for managing multiple international conferences each year, both large and small.
Vice President for Development
David Brailow became CIC’s vice president for development in August 2016. He is responsible for the solicitation and management of corporate sponsorships and foundation grants and oversees selected CIC leadership and faculty-development programs. Previously, he served for 15 years as vice president for academic affairs and dean of the college at Franklin College (IN), and in 2016 he was awarded the rank of professor emeritus at Franklin. Brailow was professor of English and served in various administrative roles at McKendree College, now McKendree University (IL), from 1982 to 2001. In the last several years, he has been active in CIC initiatives, including the Workshop for Chief Academic Officers in Their Third or Fourth Year of Service, the Degree Qualifications Profile Consortium, and the CIC/Walmart College Success Awards program. Brailow has served on the boards of arts and education organizations and has published articles and book chapters on general education reform, faculty scholarship, and contemporary performances of Shakespeare. He received his BA in English from Amherst College and his PhD from the University of Oregon.
Director of Research Projects
Hollie Chessman joined CIC as director of research projects in May 2016. Her responsibilities include CIC’s benchmarking reports, the Key Indicators Tool (KIT) and Financial Indicators Tool (FIT), “Making the Case” resources, and various research reports and projects. Prior to CIC, she served in an academic year postdoctoral research position with the Center for Policy Research and Strategy at American Council on Education. Previously, she worked for 15 years in student affairs positions at a number of institutions, including CIC members Lake Erie College and Loyola University New Orleans. She earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education from Kent State University, and her PhD in education with an emphasis on higher education from George Mason University. Her research interests include the wellbeing of student affairs professionals and graduate student choice.
Sheila Cooper is administrative/membership assistant at CIC. She works with the president and executive vice president and with the membership director on the Tuition Exchange Program (TEP). She joined the Council in 2001 as administrative assistant and began assisting the membership director this spring. Sheila is responsible for preparing office correspondence and other written materials, maintaining files, scheduling appointments, and coordinating mailings. She also maintains TEP annual reports and registration forms. Prior to CIC, Sheila held numerous positions in human resources and sales in the hotel industry in the DC area.
Communications and Social Media Fellow
Sidney Davis joined CIC as communications and social media fellow in August 2016. His responsibilities include managing the Securing America’s Future social media platforms and contributing to other communications projects. Previously, Davis served as a web strategist, content manager, web producer, and digital media consultant for the National Association of Realtors. Earlier, he was a producer and digital media consultant for the Salem Media Group as well as a publicity and social media manager for the Rude Mechanicals Theatre Company. Davis graduated from Georgia Southwestern State University in 2011 with a BA in musical theatre, communication, and media arts. He also received an MA in speech and theatre from Louisiana Tech University.
Director of Digital Communications and Strategy
Christopher Dodds serves as director of digital communications and strategy after joining CIC through the merger with the Foundation for Independent Higher Education in 2010. His responsibilities include CIC's website, listservs, email communications, and overall digital strategy. Dodds previously held research positions for several policy and research organizations, including the Commonwealth Foundation, Americans for Tax Reform, and the U.S. Army War College. Dodds studied international business and political science at Messiah College (PA) and, upon completing his bachelor’s degree, moved to China where he studied economics at Xiamen University and taught English as a foreign language. Dodds also holds a master's degree in applied economics from Johns Hopkins University.
Richard Ekman has been president of the Council of Independent Colleges since 2000. During his tenure CIC has grown in membership, added many programs and services, and increased participation in CIC’s major programs. He previously served as vice president for programs of Atlantic Philanthropies and, from 1991 to 1999, as secretary and senior program officer of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. From 1982 until 1991, he was at the National Endowment for the Humanities, successively as director of the Division of Education Programs and the Division of Research Programs. His previous experience includes service as vice president and dean of Hiram College, where he was also a tenured member of the history faculty; and assistant to the provost at the University of Massachusetts at Boston. He currently serves as a member of many boards, including those that provide guidance to the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute, Harvard University’s Library and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, American Academic Leadership Institute, American Council on Education, the Hollings Center for International Dialogue, and the Dictionary of American Regional English. He has been awarded honorary degrees by Alvernia, Otterbein, and Marywood Universities, and Alderson-Broaddus, Bethany, Georgetown, Hastings, and Ursinus Colleges, and is a recipient of the W.E.B DuBois Medal of Harvard University. He is co-author, with Richard E. Quandt, of Technology and Scholarly Communication (University of California Press, 1999). His essays have appeared in the Chronicle of Higher Education, University Business, Inside Higher Ed, and Washington Post.
Director of Programs
Michelle Friedman serves as director of programs for CIC with primary responsibilities for the day-to-day management of the Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellows program and supporting roles within CIC meetings and events including the Presidents Institute and the Presidential Vocation and Institution Mission seminar. A staff member since 2007, her original duties focused on logistical administration of CIC meetings but have expanded. Previously, she served in positions related to membership and meetings at the International Real Estate Federation. Friedman graduated magna cum laude from The George Washington University (GWU) and majored in American studies with a minor in American art history. During her time at GWU, she held internships with The National Museum of Women in the Arts and The National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institute. She recently earned her MBA from University of St. Francis (IL).
Director of Programs
Stephen Gibson, CIC’s director of programs, oversees a wide range of projects, including the Davies-Jackson Scholarship, Art History Seminars, Ancient Greece Seminars, American History Seminars, and the Information Fluency Workshops. He began at CIC in 2001, serving as projects coordinator, and later as projects manager, for an array of CIC programs, including assisting with the Consortium for the Advancement of Private Higher Education. Before joining CIC, he served as editor and office assistant at Swobo Clothing in San Francisco, California, and earned an MFA in creative writing from the University of Washington, Seattle.
Senior Vice President
Hal Hartley is responsible for CIC’s Presidents Institute, the largest annual meeting of college and university presidents in the country, and other CIC initiatives for college presidents, including the annual Presidents Governance Academy and the Presidential Vocation and Institutional Mission program. He also provides leadership for CIC’s data and research activities, which include the annual Key Indicators Tool (KIT) and Financial Indicators Tool (FIT) benchmarking reports, CIC’s “Making the Case” website, and research reports supporting CIC’s campaign for independent higher education, Securing America’s Future. In addition, he oversees the Network for Vocation in Undergraduate Education (NetVUE), a membership organization of 219 colleges and universities committed to supporting the intellectual and theological exploration of vocation among college students. He is co-author of Rethinking College Student Retention (Jossey-Bass, 2014). Hartley joined CIC in 2005 as director of research. He earned a BA from Westminster College in Pennsylvania, where he serves as a trustee, and an EdD in higher education leadership and policy from the Peabody College of Education of Vanderbilt University.
Director of Projects
Philip M. Katz returned to CIC as director of projects in September 2013. Trained as an American historian, he has taught at Princeton and the University of Maryland University College, rose from program officer to acting executive director of the New York Council for the Humanities, and directed a national study of graduate education for the American Historical Association. He also helped develop the American Graduate Fellowships program as a CIC senior advisor. Most recently, he served six years as assistant director for research at the American Alliance of Museums, where he helped create the Center for the Future of Museums. Katz was educated at Harvard and Princeton Universities and is the author of the award-winning book, From Appomattox to Montmartre: Americans and the Paris Commune.
Senior Vice President and Chief of Staff
Christoph Kunkel is responsible for CIC’s administrative and financial operations, and he plays a key role in shaping CIC's technology and investment activities. He serves as the main liaison to the CIC Board of Directors. A native of Germany, Kunkel studied political science, economics, and history at Heidelberg and Hamburg Universities and the London School of Economics, was a Fulbright Fellow, and received a master’s degree from Cornell University (NY) in government. He occasionally teaches for Cornell’s Summer in Washington program. Kunkel joined CIC in February 2004 as assistant to the president and later also served as assistant director of research and director of operations.
Director of Print and Digital Publications
Lilia LaGesse joined the CIC staff as publications coordinator in March 2007 and was promoted to publications manager in June 2008. Previously, she was a designer for Miami University’s (OH) special collections library, as well as Northwestern University’s French and Italian departments and university relations department. She came to CIC from CoStar Group in Columbia, Maryland, where she served as research analyst/news editor. LaGesse completed a master’s degree in publications design at the University of Baltimore in December 2007. She received the Charles A. Buerger Award for the top thesis in her graduating class, yielding an exhibition at the University of Baltimore art show. She received her undergraduate degree with honors at Northwestern University in 2004 and had majors in art theory and practice and communication studies.
Manager of State Council Programs
Vanessa Long was promoted to manager of CIC’s State Council programs in June 2016 after serving as CIC’s conference and program coordinator since January 2015. In her new role she oversees the annual conference, grant initiatives, scholarship programs, and membership services for CIC’s State Council Members. After assisting with CIC’s NetVUE grant programs, Long brings a year and a half of grant program development and tracking experience to her new position. With over eight years of event planning and administrative experience, Vanessa previously served as office assistant for the American Association of Community Colleges, event and outreach coordinator for the DC Bar, and convention services coordinator for the Omni Shoreham Hotel. Long graduated summa cum laude from Delaware State University with a bachelor of science degree in general management and earned her master of tourism administration degree in event and meeting management from George Washington University.
Erin Mezgar joined CIC in August 2015 as the development manager. She collaborates with the CIC team to cultivate and steward relationships with corporations and foundations and maintains and processes all development records. She also works closely with CIC’s leadership development programs, including the Executive Leadership Academy and Senior Leadership Academy. Prior to her work with CIC, Mezgar was a major gift officer for member institution Catawba College and an associate director of annual giving for member institution Guilford College. In addition to her work in development, she brings years of sales and marketing experience to CIC. Mezgar earned a BA in political science at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. As a student she worked as an undergraduate research assistant conducting qualitative studies on North Carolina Latino-serving nonprofits and was elected student-faculty fundraising liaison.
Editorial and Communications Director
Paula M. Miller is CIC’s editorial and communications director. She has primary responsibility for editing CIC’s print and electronic publications. Previously, Miller worked at the U.S.-China Business Council (USCBC) as deputy director and editor of communications and publications. While at USCBC, she edited, managed, and wrote for the China Business Review magazine; edited newsletters, reports, testimonies, and press releases; and co-managed websites and social media platforms. Earlier, she was a China program officer for CET Academic Programs, a division of Academic Travel Abroad in Washington, DC. Miller holds a master’s degree in Asian studies from the University of Michigan and a graduate certificate in Chinese studies from the Johns Hopkins University-Nanjing University Center for Chinese and American Studies. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Chinese language and literature from Michigan State University.
Director of Finance
Cindy Page joined CIC in June 2008. She is responsible for financial statement preparation, institutional budgeting, and human resources oversight. Prior to joining CIC she was the director of finance and administration at The Harwood Institute for Public Innovation, a nonprofit, non-partisan organization dedicated to providing pathways of change in communities. Page has also served for the past 20 years as the treasurer for the Bradley Hills Presbyterian Church Nursery School. She is a Certified Public Accountant and earned her bachelors of science in business administration from the University of South Carolina.
Leslie A. Rogers-Brown is CIC's conference manager. She joined the Council in June 2001 as administrative assistant to CIC's Consortium for the Advancement of Private Higher Education (CAPHE), and she was promoted to conference coordinator in fall 2004. Soon after, she was promoted to conference manager and is responsible for maintaining registration databases, arranging the myriad logistical details involved in each event, and staffing workshops and conferences on-site. A native of Washington, DC, Leslie attended the University of the District of Columbia for two years before entering the work force. Prior to coming to CIC, Leslie was a secretary at the U.S. Department of Justice, and she worked briefly for the GED Testing Service of the American Council on Education.
Vice President for State Council Programs
Carol Schuler became CIC’s vice president for State Council Programs in June 2016. Previously, she served as vice president for development at Davis & Elkins College (WV), where she secured gifts for the college’s endowment, capital projects, and operations, and oversaw the launch of the college’s $100 million Secure the Future campaign. Schuler designed and led fundraising campaigns, organized major special events, and was the college’s principal liaison to Congressional offices. Earlier, she led the college’s communications and marketing, media relations, publications, and website initiatives. Schuler served as a member of the CIC Task Force that planned the 2015 Institute for Chief Academic and Chief Advancement Officers and previously served on the CASE District II board of directors. She earned an MS in advertising from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, a BA in journalism and mass communication from Purdue University, and began her studies at DePauw University (IN).
Assistant to the President and Liaison to the Board of Directors
Kelsey Sherman joined CIC in August 2014 as staff assistant to the president and the senior vice president. Previously, she was project consultant for the Capacity Group and served as a teaching assistant at Brown University. Earlier, Sherman worked at the Rhode Island Campus Compact as a project manager, meeting and event organizer, researcher, and report author. In addition, she served as an AmeriCorps VISTA for South Carolina Campus Compact at Converse College. Sherman graduated from Oberlin College in 2011 with a bachelor of arts degree in politics and French; she recently completed a master of public policy degree at Brown University.
Conference and Program Coordinator
Tabitha Truscott was appointed conference and program coordinator in May. She is the lead conference team member for the Institute for Chief Academic Officers and the NetVUE Conference, and she handles registrations, evaluations, and reimbursements for several other CIC workshops. Previously, Truscott served at the Airports Council International-North America as sponsorship and partnerships manager and was responsible for planning and executing events with up to several thousand participants. Earlier, she worked at the American Public Transportation Association as the conference and education department coordinator.
Director of Administration
Keith Wallace has been director of administration at CIC since 2001. He assists with staff hiring, acts as liaison with the building manager and engineers, and oversees office management, administrative, and technical issues for CIC. Prior to joining CIC, Wallace was office manager for the American MidEast Education and Training Services (AMIDEAST) and Phillips Publishing Inc. He earned his bachelor’s degree in business management from the University of the District of Columbia.
Director of Membership Services
Kate Webber joined CIC in August 2008 as membership manager. She is responsible for working with the staff and Board of Directors to recruit and retain members, managing CIC’s Tuition Exchange Program, and maintaining CIC’s database. Webber started her professional career at Bank One, holding positions as trainer, business analyst, and auditor. She is a graduate of Wilson College (PA), where she double-majored in psychology and sociology. While at Wilson, she served as student ambassador of the Women with Children program and later as president of the Wilson College Student Government Association.
Senior Vice President
Kathy Whatley joined CIC as vice president for annual programs in March 2013. Her primary responsibilities include development of the Institute for Chief Academic Officers, the Presidential Spouses and Partners Program, and the Division and Department Chairs Workshops. Whatley comes to CIC from Berry College (GA), where she served as provost beginning in 2008. Prior to her appointment at Berry College, she served the University of North Carolina at Asheville as interim vice chancellor for academic affairs, dean of natural sciences, associate vice chancellor for academic affairs for natural sciences, dean of faculty, director of the undergraduate research program, and professor of physics. Whatley earned a BS in physics from Wake Forest University and an MA and PhD in experimental nuclear physics at Duke University. She has made presentations at many conferences, including CIC’s Institute for Chief Academic Officers, on such topics as undergraduate research, faculty compensation, and managing non-tenure-track faculty members.
Vice President for Communications
As vice president for communications, Laura Wilcox oversees CIC publications, electronic communications, and media and public affairs. She came to CIC as director of communications in December 2000 from the American Council on Education, where she had served since 1994 as assistant director for public affairs and managing editor of ACE’s public policy newsletter. Prior to joining the higher education association, Wilcox was a public affairs associate at the Urban Institute, a public policy and research organization in Washington, DC, and she worked on Capitol Hill for eight years, as deputy press secretary for Senator Lloyd Bentsen (D-TX) on the Senate Finance Committee, and on the staffs of Rep. Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Senator Bill Bradley (D-NJ). She started as a news anchor and reporter-producer for radio stations in Jacksonville, FL, and Herndon and Manassas, VA.