For release January 21, 2016
Board selects Johnstone as next NCHEMS president
Sally M. Johnstone, a vice president of the Western Governors University, will succeed Peter Ewell this summer in the presidency of the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems (NCHEMS). Her appointment culminates a several-month search by the NCHEMS board of directors and a series of leadership transitions within the 46-year-old organization based in Boulder.
Johnstone brings a rich background in academic affairs, distance learning, competency-based education, and state policy to NCHEMS. A graduate of VPI and the University of North Carolina (Ph.D. in psychology), she directed the Center for Instructional Technology at Maryland’s pioneering University College, the Western Cooperative for Educational Technology (WCET) at WICHE (located in the same building as NCHEMS), then served five years as VPAA at Winona State University before assuming her present assignment in academic affairs at Western Governors University. She is the incoming editor-in-chief of the Journal of Competency-Based Education.
Preceding the appointment, Dennis Jones, who had served as NCHEMS president since 1985, had last year announced his partial retirement and been succeeded in the presidency by Peter Ewell, his colleague since 1981. Ewell assumed the presidency pending his own partial retirement next September, prompting the board’s present search. Jones and Ewell will continue on staff and remain active in project work. Last summer, the board named Patrick Kelly to the organization’s vice presidency.
Board chair Earl Hale led the search and lauded Johnstone as an “imaginative yet steady hand with the ability to lead NCHEMS in its next phase of its life. She “stood out in a strong pool of candidates for her thoughtfulness about changes in American higher education and NCHEMS abilities to respond to them on behalf of students, funders, and the public interest.”
Ewell praised the appointment as bringing to the organization “a colleague who knows us well and deepens the set of capabilities we bring to clients. Sally is thoughtful, a listener, collaborative, and a hard worker. Staff members here look forward to her arrival.”
Johnstone expressed delight at her appointment, noting her long association with NCHEMS and “profound appreciation for its enduring value to American higher education.” In recent years she has been working with Dennis Jones on a multi-state project to introduce competency-based education in community colleges and with NCHEMS staff on the development of an interactive model to assist colleges with the sustainable financing of programs–”these are typical NCHEMS projects,” she reported.
NCHEMS began life in 1969 as a federally funded research center; since 1985 it has been an independent nonprofit organization funded by clients (often states) and foundations. It has provided the research and consultation backbone for policy development in a host of states, university systems, accrediting bodies, and higher education associations. It functions with a core staff of 14 and budget of $3 million a year, sharing offices in Boulder with two sister organizations, the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE) and the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association (SHEEO).