Governor appoints Foothill-De Anza chancellor to higher-education body

Gov. Jerry Brown appointed Foothill-De Anza Community College District Chancellor Linda M. Thor to the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE). Pending confirmation, she will begin service as one of three California commissioners on the nonprofit consortium.

WICHE promotes sound public policy, innovation, cooperation and resource sharing in higher education. It was founded in the 1950s to increase access to higher education for residents in the West and now includes 15 states and U.S. Pacific Island territories.

“I have long admired the work of WICHE, particularly in the areas of higher-education policy and research as well as educational technology,” Thor said. “I am proud to be asked by the governor to represent California on a commission focused on student access and success.”

Thor has served as chancellor since 2010. She previously served as a community college president, putting her stamp on Arizona’s Rio Salado by building the nation’s largest “college without walls,” which serves working adults through distance learning, creating degrees customized for corporations and government and offering accelerated programs.

Under Thor’s leadership, the Foothill-De Anza district recently received a $16.9 million state grant jointly with the Butte-Glenn Community College District to develop a statewide online education system to increase the number of students who earn college degrees. She recently served on a statewide task force charged with exploring the prospect of California community colleges offering select baccalaureate degrees in applied career fields with unmet workforce needs.

“Linda Thor’s experience in Arizona and California can provide ideas for new interstate initiatives in many crucial postsecondary domains,” said California Board of Education President Michael Kirst, a Stanford University education professor emeritus and former WICHE commissioner.

WICHE operates student exchange programs that have enabled tens of thousands of California students to attend undergraduate, graduate and professional programs in other western states at reduced tuition rates. Its Undergraduate Exchange, for example, allows California students to attend participating colleges and universities in other states at 150 percent of resident tuition. The commission recently added an Internet Course Exchange.

The commission supplies data and analysis to educators, policymakers and governors. In California, WICHE has provided legislators with information on how to align higher-education appropriations with state goals and how other states have improved student data collection. Other WICHE focus areas include supporting effective teaching and learning via technology, improving matriculation and transfers to increase graduation rates, shortening time to earn a degree and saving students money.

Each governor may appoint three representatives to the commission. The position is not compensated.

Thor joins WICHE’s sitting California commissioners Christopher Cabaldon, mayor of West Sacramento, and Dianne Harrison, president of Cal State Northridge.

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