Note: Our session will begin with a Student Lightning Talk, Digital Journeys: A Student’s Perspective on Inclusive Learning, presented by Eddie Frausto of Every Learning Everywhere. This will be immediately followed by the Plenary fireside chat

As the curtain draws on our onsite conference, we delve into a profound fireside chat that encapsulates the heart of our discussions: the collective responsibility of institutions in ensuring student success in the digital age. Two distinguished educational leaders come together to paint a vision where every arm of an institution collaborates, with digital learning pioneers leading the charge.

In our ever-evolving educational landscape, what does it mean to support students who engage in learning through myriad modalities? This conversation seeks answers, exploring the multifaceted dimensions of support tailored for a diverse student body with varying backgrounds, ambitions, and needs. We’ll probe into the foundational strategies that leaders must sculpt to ensure that digital learning remains cohesive, inclusive, and potent across different modalities.

Through this intimate dialogue, attendees will gain insights into what students truly seek from their educational journey in today’s world and how institutions can transition from mere ideation to tangible action. From course-specific initiatives to institution-wide strategies, this session aims to redefine student support, preparing them not just for academic success but also for the evolving challenges of the future.

Join us for this thought-provoking culmination, as we chart a blueprint for holistic student success in our increasingly digital world.


Dr. Carlos Morales is President of TCC Connect Campus, the online campus of Tarrant County College. It is the largest and fastest growing of the six campuses which delivers eLearning, Weekend College, and accelerated programs. He is responsible for the educational endeavors of more than 30,000 students served by 500+ faculty. Carlos leads campus-wide discussions and explorations in pursuit of innovative learning tools that could strategically impact teaching and learning practices in higher education. He has been instrumental to shape TCCs technological future academically, administratively, and strategically.

Dr. Morales is an instructional technology scholar, a visionary and dynamic leader with experience at undergraduate, graduate, public and private institutions of higher education and an educator, presenter, and author. His experience spans more than 25 years as a faculty member of Biology, Science Education, Educational Technology, and Instructional Design in the classroom and online. He has held progressive administrative roles as Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, Executive Director of Academic Technology, and Instructional Designer.

Carlos produces and consumes scholarly work to ensure his teaching and administrative philosophies remain contemporary and integrate innovative, data-driven strategies. He is the author of internationally peer-reviewed academic articles, book chapters and has conducted over 100 invited and refereed conference presentations. Throughout his career, Dr. Morales has used technology to improve teaching and learning and student success. He is enthusiastic about incorporating technology advancements that engage students in the learning process and that help faculty to enhance teaching methods. Morales has accomplished this through the development of instructional technology training sessions, designing, and implementing technology-enriched classrooms and the development of fully online college degrees. He is a sought-out expert and leader in higher education innovation; experienced creating converged learning environments (online, hybrid and web-assisted) and as well as adult and accelerated learning opportunities.

During 2020-21 – the year of the COVID-19 pandemic – Dr. Morales was deeply involved in the fast transition of students, faculty, and student services staff from the classroom to the virtual and remote dimensions. He led the design and implementation of student support activities to increase persistence and retention during an extended remote teaching period of four terms: spring ‘20, summer ’20, fall ’20 and spring ‘21 semesters.

His external leadership positions include serving as Chair of the Board of Directors for the Hispanic Educational Technology Services (HETS), past President of the Board of Directors for North Texas Area Community Health Centers (NTACHC), Secretary of the Board for National Community College Hispanic Council (NCCHC) and Vice Chair for the Community Advisory Board of KERA/KXT Radio and TV, and member of the Board of Directors of the Instructional Technology Council. Dr. Morales is an active peer reviewer on editorial boards for academic journals in the United States, Puerto Rico, Latin America, and the European Union.

A 2009 Frye Leadership Institute Fellow and a 2012 Millennium Leadership Fellow with the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, Dr. Morales graduated from the Inter American University of Puerto Rico, with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in biology and science education. He earned his doctorate from Capella University in Instructional Design for Online Learning.

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Dr. Marla Franco serves as the inaugural Vice President for Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) Initiatives at the University of Arizona (UA). She has worked in higher education for nearly 25 years at public universities in California and Arizona, having served in various roles within academic and student affairs to champion greater college access and degree attainment among underserved and minoritized students, which strongly informs her work today.
Dr. Franco led efforts that resulted in the UA becoming the first four-year public university in the state of Arizona to be federally recognized as a Hispanic Serving Institution by the U.S. Department of Education in April 2018. She is now working across the university to develop a centralized vision for maximizing this designation in a way that truly benefits students, faculty, staff, alumni, and community members from diverse backgrounds. This federal distinction has widespread implications for the UA, the greater Tucson community, the state of Arizona, and beyond.
Dr. Franco also serves as co-founder of the AZ HSI Consortium, which aims to bring together all 21 HSIs across Arizona to develop a community of practice to engage collectively in professional development, support the exchange of evidence-based and culturally affirming practices, facilitate successful transfer of students to Arizona universities, and collaborate across HSIs when seeking funding opportunities and other important partnerships.
As a scholar-practitioner, she has co-authored publications to inform improved practice at HSIs. Dr. Franco’s contributions to the field of higher education and the community are well recognized. She has received the John Hernandez Leadership Award from the American College Personnel Association, the Edith Auslander Outstanding Support of Hispanic Issues in Higher Education Award from the Pete C. Garcia Victoria Foundation, the Exemplary Leadership Award from Valle Del Sol, and Hispanic Businesswoman of the Year from the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. In June 2019, Dr. Franco’s leadership resulted in the UA receiving the inaugural Seal of Excelencia and recertified in 2022, aimed at recognizing institutions that demonstrate intentional impact and success in the three core areas of work that Excelencia has determined lead to Latino student success: data, practice, and leadership.
Dr. Franco is a first-generation college graduate, having earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of California, Berkeley, a master’s degree in counseling from California State University, Long Beach, and a doctoral degree in higher education leadership from Azusa Pacific University. Dr. Franco leads strategically, courageously, and with a fierce passion for what she does.