Leadership and Support Team

Get to know the leaders who are a driving force of the OLC Digital Learning Award competition. We’ll also be including the award judges, reviewers, advisory member committee members, key partners, and volunteers as we build upon this exciting initiative.

Advisory Committee


Meg Benke, Ph.D, Professor and Coordinator, MA Adult Learning MA Learning and Emerging Technologies, Empire State College, Fulbright Scholar 2015-2016 Waterford Institute of Technology, OLC Past President/Board Member. Meg.Benke@esc.edu

Meg Benke is a professor and coordinator at Empire State in adult learning and emerging technologies. Dr. Benke had an administrative career at Empire State College, serving as dean of the Center for Distance Learning, vice provost, provost and acting president.  Dr. Benke also coordinated a grant on adaptive learning from the Gates Foundation for the college. Dr. Benke was a Fulbright Fellow for 2015-2016 with the Waterford Institute of Technology in Ireland.

Dr. Benke was inducted into the International Adult and Continuing Education Hall of Fame for her contributions to adult and online learning. Dr. Benke was recognized for the Most Outstanding Achievement in Online Learning by an Individual, by the Online Learning Consortium in 2007 and was named an inaugural class of Sloan-C Fellows, for her extraordinary qualifications, significant experience, distinguished service and leadership in the field of online learning. She was president of the board of directors of OLC from 2011-2014.

Dr. Benke is a commissioner for the Middle States Association for Higher Education, and participated as a commissioner for the National Commission on Inter-state Regulation of Distance Education. See also serves as a member of New York State’s Regents Advisory Council.

Dr. Benke recent book chapters include in an edited volume, “Leading Change in Distance Education,” “Optimizing Student Success,”  “Leading Beyond the Institution,” “Visualizing and Actionable Future,” and  “Game Changers:  Education and Information Technology,” edited by Diane Oblinger. “SUNY Empire State College: A Game Changer in Open Learning,” Educause Digital Book.  


Liz Ciabocchi, Vice Provost for Digital Learning, St. John’s University, OLC Board Member, ciabocce@stjohns.edu

Elizabeth (Liz) Ciabocchi currently serves as Vice Provost for Digital Learning at St. John’s University.  Previously, she served as Associate Vice President for Online Learning (2013-2014) and in other administrative roles (2002-2013) at Long Island University; Academic Dean, Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, NY (2001-2002), and faculty member/administrator, New York College for Health Professions (1993-2001). Ciabocchi holds an Ed.D. in Higher & Postsecondary Education from Teachers College, Columbia University and a B.S. in Biology from the University of Scranton. She also earned an OLC Certificate (2011) and completed the OLC Institute for Emerging Leadership in Online Learning (2010).

In her current role at St. John’s, Ciabocchi leads the Office of the Provost’s academic initiatives in the development of digital learning strategies and programs of study offered in fully online and hybrid formats, oversees the Office of Online Learning & Services, and serves as a member of the Middle States Steering Committee and co-chair of the University Assessment Committee. 

Ciabocchi currently serves as a site team evaluator for the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (2013-present), and also served as Chair (2015) and Program Chair (2014) of the OLC Blended Learning Conference & Workshop and Steering Committee member for the OLC Accelerate Conference (2016) and OLC International Conference on Online Learning (2015). She was elected an OLC Fellow in 2015. Ciabocchi currently resides with her family in Long Island, New York. 


Sandra DeCastro, Vice President Community Programs, IMS Global Learning Consortium, sdecastro@imsglobal.org

Sandra has 25+ years of experience developing, implementing and managing marketing and community development programs in the corporate and higher education markets. As Vice President of Community Programs for IMS Global Learning Consortium, Sandra is responsible for developing and executing member engagement activities, developing the program for the annual IMS Global Learning Impact Leadership Institute, and coordinating the organization’s marketing and PR efforts. Prior to joining IMS in 2012, Sandra served as General Manager of Association and Client programs at Ellucian (formerly SunGard Higher Education) where she had overall responsibility for providing strategic direction and management for the company’s participation at industry and user events with a focus on developing productive relationships with the leading higher education associations. Sandra graduated from the University of South Carolina in 1985 with a B.S. degree in Marketing and Management.


Cristi Ford, Ph.D, Assistant Vice Provost for Learning Innovation Initiatives, University of Maryland University College, cristi.ford@umuc.edu

Cristi D. Ford is the Assistant Vice Provost for Learning Innovation Initiatives in the Center for Innovation in Learning and Student Success (CILSS) at the University of Maryland University. In her role she is able to offer thought leadership in identifying promising next generation online learning innovations as well as lead implementation of promising innovations through rapid protyping and the piloting process.  In her past position she has served as the Director of the Research Academy for Integrated Learning (RAIL) at the University of the District of Columbia as well as the founding Director of Distance Education creating Hampton U online at Hampton University. Her continued service to the HBCU community allowed her to serve as the summit chair for the Online Learning Consortium’s 2014 HBCU Summit in Online Education.   She has expertise and experience in building new online learning programs and has an interest in research related to teaching and learning in the online environment. Due to her experience, she also serves as a Middle States evaluator where she serves as a distance education expert on each accreditation team. Given her love for teaching, she also serves as an adjunct faculty member who teaches online every semester and serves as a national Quality Matters trainer at campuses across the country. She had been selected by the Online Learning Consortium, as a 2012 participant in the Institute of Emerging Leaders in Online Learning. In 2013, she received a best in track award at the 2013 International Conference in Online Learning for a paper entitled Three Institutions, Three Missions, One Goal: Addressing Quality Assurance in Online Education. She holds a PhD in Educational Leadership from the University of Missouri-Columbia and two degrees in the field of Psychology. 


Connie Johnson, Ed.D, Chief Academic Officer and Provost, Colorado Technical University Online, cojohnson@ctuonline.edu

Dr. Connie Johnson is Colorado Technical University’s (CTU) chief academic officer and provost, working with both online and ground degree programs. She has oversight of academic affairs, including faculty, curriculum, classroom experience, and accreditation. During her time at CTU, Connie has initiated adaptive learning technology implementation, effective leadership of academics, women’s leadership, leading academics through change, and effective technology implementation in the online classroom including the promotion of academics, faculty and student engagement through social media.

Connie has served in higher education for over 20 years with extensive experience in online and ground teaching, administration, and leadership. Additionally, Connie has extensive experience in regional accreditation, curriculum implementation, and faculty training and development. She is a trained peer evaluator for the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), has completed and served as a facilitator in the ACE Chief Academic Officer Institute, and is a member of the CTU Board of Trustees. Her educational background includes a Doctorate of Education, organizational leadership emphasis (2010), and a Master of Business Administration in management (1991) from Nova Southeastern University; and a Bachelor of Science with honors in criminal justice from Florida State University.


Dale Johnson, M.A., Senior Business Analyst, Arizona State University, dale.johnson@asu.edu

Dale Johnson, Senior Business Analyst, enjoys constantly innovating as he works with faculty and vendors to develop new courses and educational technologies. He is currently managing the Adaptive General Education Program. Dale studied architecture at ASU and public policy at Harvard, a learning path that combined his interests in design, engineering, art and history. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling and building: he’s traveled to more than 30 countries, lived in Barcelona for a year, and built his own solar home in Phoenix.


Kim Long, Ph.D, Associate Provost for Administration and Extended Education, Wiley College, klong@wileyc.edu

Dr. Kim Cliett Long serves as Associate Provost for Administration and Extended Education and Professor of Organizational Management at Wiley College. Dr. Long earned her doctoral degree from Northcentral University in Organizational Leadership. She is a Distance Learning Specialist certified in Distance Education by the University of West Georgia. She has earned the following certifications: Certified Program Planner in the area of Learning Program Management, Certified Faculty Developer and Certified Adult Educator.

Additionally, Dr. Long is the coordinator for the Wiley College Provost’s Roundtable with the chief responsibility for creating and executing a monthly professional development program for new and junior faculty with an emphasis on technology integration in the classroom.

Dr. Long’s research interests include servant leadership and distance education access for diverse and underserved learners. Currently, she is an Associate Editor for the e-Journal of eLearning, published by ACPI, headquartered in England. She also serves as an Advisory Board Member for Campus Technology magazine. Most recently, she was nominated by invitation only to author the article on “E-Learning” in a new reference project being launched by the Oxford University Press: Research Encyclopedia of Business and Management


Joe Moreau, M.A., Vice Chancellor, Technology, Foothill De Anza Community College, California Community Colleges Online Education Initiative , MoreauJoseph@fhda.edu

Joseph Moreau has been working with technology and media for over thirty years. He completed the certificate program in Motion Picture Arts and Sciences at the University of California, Los Angeles. He earned his BA in Media Production/Visual Arts at the University of California, San Diego and his MA in Education/Instructional Technology at the California State University, Los Angeles. He began his career working as a videographer and media specialist for a variety of firms in the private sector including aerospace, architecture and graphic design, and a major television network.

In 1990 he left the private sector to begin a career in higher education accepting the position of head of the Instructional Resources Center at Pasadena City College. Among the many projects on which he worked at Pasadena, most notably he was on the team that designed and implemented the 70,000 square foot Shatford Library that opened in 1993. He also planned and initiated the college’s transition from traditional media to fully digital media resources.

In 1997 Joseph left Pasadena for West Hills College in central California to become the Dean of Learning Resources. During his time at West Hills he oversaw the development of a sophisticated distance education infrastructure that included interactive video and online courses.

In 2000 Joseph accepted the position of Dean of Academic Information Services at MiraCosta College in Oceanside, California. As chief technology officer for the college, he had responsibility for all technology-related operations and services as well as instructional programs in Computer Information Systems, Computer Science, and Internet and Multimedia Technology. Joseph led the team that completed the design for the 50,000 square foot Library and Information Hub that opened in Spring 2003.

In 2008 Joseph was appointed Chief Technology Officer for the State University of New York at Oswego. Excited by the opportunity to work with bachelor’s and graduate students and faculty, he was also very eager to lead the university in the development of new support services for its expanding research mission. Joseph played a significant role in the planning and design of over $250 million dollars worth of construction and renovation projects on campus including a new science and engineering complex and new student housing.

In the spring of 2012, he was appointed Vice Chancellor of technology and CTO for the Foothill-De Anza Community College District. Overseeing technology for two of nation’s premier community colleges, Joseph is leading initiatives in desktop and application virtualization and mobile computing. In 2013, he also assumed the role of Executive Sponsor for the California Community College Online Education Initiative. This project is designed to overhaul the online instruction and support service infrastructure for California’s 113 community colleges.


Almarie Munley, Ph.D, Dean, University College, Hampton University, almarie.munley@hamptonu.edu

Almarie E. Munley, Ph.D. is the Dean of University College at Hampton University. She assumed this position in the summer of 2014 and has committed to growing the efforts of the HU University College to provide exceptional educational programs, revitalize the Hampton Roads community, and extend the global reach of the university. She has experience in designing, developing, and implementing exceptional education programs in various organizational settings with success among the on-line learning platforms.

She is an invited scholar and lecturer at several renowned universities across the globe, some to include: Hong Kong Polytechnic University, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Universidad Catolica de Portugal, University of St. Joseph-Macau and Universidad Francisco Marroquin-Guatemala. Her publication list includes books, articles, and academic-conference proceedings in the areas of leadership with particular emphasis in areas of cross-cultural leadership, global leadership competencies, diversity in the workplace and women in a leadership role.

Her research is published in the Journal of International Business Studies, Academy of Management Perspectives, International Journal of Leadership Studies, Journal of Strategic Leadership, and Journal of Soft Skills. Serving currently on the editorial board of Revista de Estudios Avanzados de Liderazgo. In addition, she is an ad hoc reviewer for the Leadership Quarterly. Her most recent book is titled Leadership Behaviors and Top Management Teams released December 2010 by Lambert Academic Publishing. Under contract is the book by Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group-with a working title: Cross Cultural Leadership: Managing and Communicating Across Cultures.

In her research, training and consultancies, Dr. Munley has worked with Bayer Guatemala, Pfizer, Abbott Central America, Copa Airlines, Banco del Café Guatemala. She consulted on a task force for the Peruvian Government in building and writing a country wide leadership training program. She also managed several leadership development projects internationally giving emphasis to the Latin American region working in several countries. She was the Assistant Director to a government literacy program in Guatemala Educating the Indian Girl. She was a fellow of the Latin American Leadership Program at Regent University during her doctoral studies. She is an invited country principal investigator with the very high profile leadership GLOBE project (Global Leadership and Organizational Behavior Effectiveness) from the Wharton School of Business and Thunderbird School of Management.

Recently she completed an appointment as a Fulbright Scholar 2010-2011 in Hong Kong at The Chinese University, Faculty of Business Administration, Department of Management, collaborating with faculty on research and also lecturing in Hong Kong, Korea and mainland China on various leadership and organizational topics.

Born and raised in Guatemala, she earned her Ph.D. degree in Organizational Leadership at Regent University’s School of Global Leadership and Entrepreneurship; her M.A in Education from Regent University; her B.S from the prestigious Universidad Del Valle de Guatemala.


Wendell E. Pritchett, Presidential Professor of Law and Education, University of Pennsylvania Law School, pritchet@law.upenn.edu

Wendell Pritchett is Presidential Professor of Law and Education at Penn. A Penn Law professor from 2001-09, Pritchett served as Interim Dean of the law school from July 1, 2014 to June 30, 2015. From 2009-2014, Pritchett served as Chancellor of Rutgers-Camden. In 2008 he served as Deputy Chief of Staff and Director of Policy for Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, who also appointed him to the Philadelphia School Reform Commission, where he served from 2011-14. His research examines the development of post-war urban policy, in particular urban renewal, housing finance, and housing discrimination. Pritchett has specialized in real estate and housing law, representing nonprofit organizations involved in the development of affordable housing.  As Rutgers-Camden chancellor, Pritchett had direct responsibility for the daily administration of a campus that enrolls more than 6,300 students in 39 undergraduate programs and 28 graduate programs at the master’s and doctoral levels. The southernmost of three regional campuses that comprise Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, Rutgers–Camden is located across 40 acres in the Camden Waterfront District. The chancellor is the chief executive officer of the Rutgers–Camden campus, overseeing 1,100 employees and an annual budget of more than $165 million. The chancellor reports to the Rutgers President and is a member of the President’s cabinet and a key member of the university’s executive team. As chancellor, Pritchett played a leadership role in the revitalization of Camden and served as an important partner with other institutions and businesses in promoting the economic, social, and cultural development of the fastest-growing region in New Jersey.  During his term, the campus increased enrollment by more than twenty percent, created the Office of Civic Engagement and implemented college access programs across the region, constructed a 350 bed housing facility, doubled research funding, and increased the size of the standing faculty by more than fifty.


Rhonda Spells Fentry, Ed.D.Interim Vice President, Technology Services, CIO, Prince George Community College, mailto:spellsrx@pgcc.edu

Rhonda Spells-Fentry serves as the interim Vice President for Technology Services at Prince George’s Community College, Largo, MD. In this role, she is responsible for managing the College’s technology strategy and managing overall technology operations including learning technologies and support services, administrative technology, IT security, and eLearning.

Dr. Spells-Fentry has held several positions in technology and education including system administration, technology training and project management, distance education, and classroom teaching at both the secondary and post-secondary levels. Rhonda is actively engaged in educational technology and distance education at the local, state, and national levels. She holds membership in a variety of professional organizations, including the board of directors of Maryland Online, the Center for Higher Education Chief Information Officer Studies (CHECS), and two affiliate councils of the American Association for Community Colleges, the Instructional Technology Council (ITC) and the National Council on Blackboard American Affairs.

Dr. Spells-Fentry holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Information Systems and a Master of Business Administration from the University of Maryland University College, and a Doctorate in Higher Education Administration with an emphasis in community college leadership from Morgan State University.

Online Learning Consortium Leadership


Kathleen Ives, D.M., Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer, Online Learning Consortium, kathleen.ives@onlinelearning-c.org

Kathleen S. Ives, D.M. has worked in online technology for over 20 years and is currently the Online Learning Consortium’s Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director where she oversees the organization’s strategic direction. Dr. Ives assumes this leadership role after serving as interim CEO and Executive Director since October 2013. Additionally, she serves as faculty for the Institute for Emerging Leadership in Online Learning (sponsored by Penn State and OLC) and on the Leadership Advisory Board for the Center for Learning Innovations & Customized Knowledge Solutions (CLICKS).
Formerly, Dr. Ives oversaw all forms of alternative instruction at Quinsigamond Community College in Worcester, MA (distance learning, accelerated programming). She serves as adjunct faculty for University of Phoenix, Denver-based American Sentinel University, and Bay State College in Boston.
Dr. Ives began her career at CBS and helped to develop the service that evolved into Prodigy. She then spent fourteen years designing and implementing consumer online information services, first at AT&T and then at Verizon where she spearheaded the development of the nation’s first online Yellow Pages product, now called superpages.com. Dr. Ives has degrees in communication, communication management, and organizational leadership from the University of California at Davis, the University of Southern California, Annenberg School of Communication, and the University of Phoenix-Online, respectively.


Karen Pedersen, Ph.D, Chief Knowledge Officer, Online Learning Consortium, karen.pedersen@onlinelearning-c.org

Dr. Karen Pedersen serves as the Chief Knowledge Officer for the Online Learning Consortium (OLC). In this role, she has responsibility to gather, curate and leverage the intellectual capital created by and disseminated through the organization to create and enhance services and resources provided to the OLC community. She works in five key areas including learning innovation, quality enhancement, community engagement and development, product development leadership, as well as publications, research, and policy.

Prior to joining the Online Learning Consortium, Pedersen served as the Associate Vice President for Extended Campuses at Northern Arizona University. In this role she was responsible for leading a system-wide enrollment management transformation as well as managing marketing, technology, and academic operations. She led a network of over 35 campuses in Arizona, developing new business and market opportunities, actively collaborating with and growing community college partnerships, as well as developing scalable, integrated and lean business processes/workflows. The scope of her responsibilities included coaching and mentoring 180+ full and part-time staff members in addition to supporting over 750 faculty members.

For eleven years Pedersen served as the Vice President for Professional Studies at Southwestern College (SC). In that role she was responsible for envisioning and building an online program from the ground up and launching over 25 innovative online programs. While there Pedersen expanded military partnerships and engaged in strategic infrastructure projects while successfully positioning her institution in an enrollment growth trajectory. SC participated in the Academic Quality Improvement Program (AQIP) through its regional accreditor (The Higher Learning Commission) and Pedersen participated in two strategy forums during her tenure. In addition, she served as an evaluator with the Kansas Award for Excellence and utilized the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence in her operations.

Pedersen also held the academic associate and dean roles at Upper Iowa University’s Extended University for four years. In these roles she was responsible for curriculum development, enhancing learner success initiatives, as well as faculty hiring, training, and evaluation. She also built the foundations for an online operation and traveled internationally to develop partnerships in Singapore, Hong Kong, and Malaysia.

Prior to starting her administrative career, Pedersen served as a faculty member at the University of Nebraska at Kearney. She holds bachelor of science and master of science degrees from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and a doctor of philosophy degree from Oklahoma State University. Pedersen has numerous international leadership experiences having worked collaboratively with the Indonesian National Police and the US government to provide expertise for a major distance education initiative as well as serving as an international keynote speaker.


Noreen Barajas-Murphy, M.A., Grant Project Director, Online Learning Consortium, nori.barajas@onlinelearning-c.org 

Nori has worked in education for over 25 years as an educator, faculty developer, and grant specialist.

She has acted as the project director for two Title V HSI grants at a private university in Southern California. For the Title V Part B Graduate Grant, she was the project lead for developing a 4-course certificate in Online Course Design aimed at K12 teachers. In her role as the grant director in the Title V Part A Coop Undergraduate Grant, she oversaw collaboration between a community college partner focusing on increasing the number of underrepresented students completing a 4-year degree in education. As part of the grant activity, Nori also lead an instructional design team in the complete redesign of the undergraduate Educational Studies Program, bringing Instructional Design services to the university for the first time. Nori also served as the team lead and grant writer for the development of a third Title V grant, focusing on Competence & Connection. Additionally, Nori has served as a grant groomer and grant selection committee member for a variety of K12 grants including Digital High School and Knox Grants.

Prior to and concurrent with her role on grants, Nori worked extensively in faculty development. She has developed a 6-module certification program for faculty to transition to online or blended teaching, she has developed an innovative digital scholarship training series in collaboration with university librarians, and she has developed comprehensive multi-year training programs for institutional roll outs of new student information systems at two large K12 school districts.