New CEOs

Mordecai Brownlee will be the next president of Colorado’s Community College of Aurora (CCA), as of July 15. He is currently vice president for student success at St. Philip’s College, the only college in the nation federally designated as both a historically Black college and university (HBCU) and a Hispanic-serving institution (HSI), located in San Antonio, Texas.

Brownlee has focused his career on advancing student access, expanding student support services and empowering academic pathways at several public and private higher education institutions, including the University of Charleston in West Virginia, Blinn College District in Texas and Houston Baptist University.

“We wanted someone with an entrepreneurial spirit who would expand CCA’s reach and partnerships, and experience in strategic enrollment management who will be able to reverse the declines in students and revenues facing the institution during these challenging times,” said Joe Garcia, chancellor of the Colorado Community College System (CCCS). “CCCS’s goals of diversity, equity and inclusion also called for someone who will champion learning environments that promote student success for Aurora’s growing and increasingly diverse communities. Without a doubt, that candidate was Dr. Brownlee. His impressive background and progressive leadership style make him the best fit to advance CCA’s vision, mission and values.”

Brownlee also serves as an adjunct professor at Morgan State University School of Education & Urban Studies and the University of Charleston School of Business and Leadership, where he teaches business management, human resources, social justice and community college leadership. He also is director of the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators’ Community College Institute; co-founder of the Rising Leaders Institute for the American Association of Blacks in Higher Education; member of My Brother’s Keeper White House Initiative in San Antonio; and community college chair of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

Marsha Danielson has been appointed president of Minnesota State College Southeast. She will begin in her new role on July 1. Currently, Danielson is vice president of economic development at South Central College (SCC). She has served at the Minnesota college since 2007, first as dean of economic development and in 2016 in her current post.

“One of Dr. Danielson’s greatest strengths has been her ability to build lasting partnerships within and outside the institution, which I know will serve her well in her new role,” said SCC President Annette Parker.

Prior to SCC, Danielson served Minnesota State University, Mankato for 11 years as director of development, director of alumni relations and special events, interim director of marketing and communications and director of development and external relations. Her professional resume also includes serving as tourism regional manager and marketing manager for the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.

Danielson has been a strong advocate and spokesperson for diversity issues in the region, serving as the founding executive director of the Greater Mankato Diversity Council for the organization’s first three years and a volunteer facilitator for eight additional years.

Felicia L. Ganther will serve as the next president of Bucks County Community College (BC3) in Pennsylvania, effective July 1. She is currently associate vice chancellor of student affairs at the Maricopa County Community College District, a position she has held for eight years. Prior to that, she was executive director at the College of Lake County for 11 years.

Ganther has extensive experience in student life, crisis management, retention initiatives, strategic planning, academic quality improvement and first-year student programs. She has received the National Resource Center for the First-Year Experience’s National Outstanding First-Year Advocate Award, and a proclamation from the Illinois State Senate for her work with the retention of first-year students. In 2017, she was selected as an Aspen Institute Presidential Fellow and nominated to receive the John Rouche League of Innovation Excellence in Community Colleges Award.

“Institutions of higher education are facing a distinctive set of challenges associated with the pandemic,” said BC3 Trustee Blake Eisenhart, who led the presidential search committee. “With Dr. Ganther’s leadership and enthusiasm, we will achieve our mission and continue to grow Bucks’ reputation as one of the pre-eminent colleges in the nation.”

Kate Ferrel is the next president of Nicolet College in Wisconsin, as of July 1. She is currently executive vice president of academic and student affairs at the college.

“Kate’s knowledge of Nicolet’s operations, and her personal relationships with staff, stakeholders, the Wisconsin Technical College System and her engagement with the Nicolet community at large will serve Kate and the college well and she’ll be able to hit the ground running,” said Sharon Nielsen, Nicolet’s board chair.

Ferrel joined Nicolet in 2014 as dean of students. She subsequently was vice president of student affairs before her promotion to her current post. Prior to Nicolet, Ferrel served at Mid-State Technical College in Wisconsin from 1999 to 2014, first as a career services and campus support manager and then as an associate dean of business. Her economic development experience includes her service as a director on the Centergy-Central Wisconsin Economic Development Board, participation in educational study tours to Germany, China, Ireland and Finland, and service as Mid-State Technical College’s Workforce and Economic Development liaison.

Prior to higher education, Ferrel worked for 10 years in private industry and for non-profits in marketing and public relations positions.

Stephanie J. Fujii will lead Arapahoe Community College in Colorado, effective July 12. She is currently vice president of academic affairs at Scottsdale Community College (Arizona), a position she has held since 2016. In that role, Fujii has worked with colleagues to develop and launch a cannabis industry education program and two hybrid transfer associate degrees, which have no textbook costs. She also created and delivered a certificate program to address the training needs of local tribal courts in Maricopa County and Arizona for the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, among other initiatives. Fujii’s previous roles at Estrella Mountain Community College include division chair of counseling in student affairs and tenured counseling faculty.

Throughout her career, Fujii has presented nationally on the topics of diversity, equity and inclusion; student retention/persistence; college counseling; and student development. She is on the board of directors for the National Asian/Pacific Islander Council, an affiliated council of the American Association for Community Colleges.

“Dr. Fujii has amassed a great breadth and depth of experience in higher education in areas such as teaching and learning, developing academic and career technical education programs, creating career pathways and fostering student success,” said Joe Garcia, chancellor of the Colorado Community College System. “Her professional experience, energy, and vision make her a great fit to lead Arapahoe Community College during this pivotal time. As we emerge from the pandemic, a credential of value for our students is more important than ever for professional and economic success and personal growth.”

Lisa Jones is the next president of Colorado Northwestern Community College (CNCC). She will be the first African-American woman president at the college and in the Colorado Community College System. She most recently was vice president of student development at Cedar Valley College, a Hispanic-serving and predominately Black institution in Texas, where she led several initiatives to support enrollment growth, increase college funding and improve student success outcomes. During her tenure, the college saw a 40% increase in overall enrollment and significant increases in target populations including female veterans, adults over the age of 25, and Hispanic and Black males.

Previously, Jones was vice president of student affairs at Henry Ford College in Michigan.

“At such a critical time in the college’s history, she brings both energy and an entrepreneurial mindset with over 30 years of experience as a leader in higher education, deep understanding of issues facing students from various backgrounds, commitment to reversing trends in generational poverty, and the executive experience to manage the intersection of sustaining financial health and innovation,” said Joe Garcia, chancellor of the Colorado Community College System.

Phil Sisson will become president of Middlesex Community College in Massachusetts on July 1. He is currently provost and vice president for academic and student affairs at the college, a position he has held for 11 years.

Sisson has over 30 years of diverse and exemplary college leadership experience in the areas of campus administration, strategic planning, academic and student affairs programming, fiscal management, resource development and business, community and K-16 partnerships – all with a clear and consistent focus on equity, access and student success.

Sisson developed a passion for teaching and serving adult learners and for the unique mission of community colleges at Bristol Community College (BCC), where he served for six years as director of student support services and evening administrator in continuing education. After serving for a year in an interim promotion as assistant dean of continuing education and community services, he became assistant dean of academic affairs and chief academic officer at the Liston Campus of the Community College of Rhode Island. He served there for seven years and was promoted to dean of workforce education and lifelong learning and dean of arts, humanities and social sciences. He then moved to Cape Cod Community College where he was dean of language and literature, mathematics, natural sciences and life fitness. Within a year, he was named vice president for academic and student affairs.

Dione Somerville will become president of Owens Community College in Ohio on June 15. She most recently was executive vice president at Hawkeye Community College (HCC) in Iowa.

Somerville began her 27-year career in higher education as assistant director of campus programming at Ursuline College (Ohio) before taking leadership positions at Ohio College of Podiatric Medicine, Lorain County Community College, Iowa State University and Bloomsburg University.

Among her accomplishments at HCC, Somerville leads the college’s Covid response, including helping to provide leadership to academic affairs during a six-month vacancy of the provost position.

Prior to Hawkeye, Somerville was vice president for student affairs at Bloomsburg University. In this position, she provided leadership for Bloomsburg’s regional accreditation and the creation of the university’s first Division of Strategic Enrollment Management.

Interim CEO

Karen Normandin will become interim president of Kennebec Valley Community College in Maine as of June 1 and will serve for the 2021-22 academic year. She is currently KVCC’s vice president of student affairs, enrollment and public relations. She has served at the college for more than 30 years.

CEOs on the move

Richard Hopper, president of Maine’s Kennebec Valley Community College (KVCC) since 2013, plans to leave the college at the end of May. He has received a Fulbright Fellowship in the Ukraine.

Over his eight years as leader of the college, Hopper oversaw the construction and opening of the new KVCC Harold Alfond Campus in Hinckley, increases in student enrollment, implementation of data-driven decision making and increases in the college’s fundraising. He was also a Maine system leader in advancing student support strategies and services at both KVCC’s campuses.

“Rick was frequently a leader in identifying and designing strategic and accountability initiatives,” said Maine Community College System President David Daigler. “He always sought data-driven analyses to ensure that important decisions were informed, and significant investments were prudent. And, like all of our presidents this past year, he kept a steady hand during the many challenges of the pandemic.”

DeRionne Pollard, who has served as president of Montgomery College (MC) for 11 years, will leave the two-year college sector to be president of Nevada State College as of August 16.

As president of the Maryland college, Pollard changed the culture that resulted in serving more students with greater success. She gained national attention for her work, and in 2017 recieved the Carnegie Corporation of New York’s Academic Leadership Award. As the only community college president selected, Pollard — who also served on the American Association of Community Colleges board of directors — was recognized as one of seven “exceptional American college and university presidents,” according to Carnegie.

“Dr. Pollard’s leadership has produced some extraordinary changes in our shared notions of inclusion, access and quality,” said Michael J. Knapp, MC’s board chair. “In many ways, her unique vision has fundamentally shaped the way we think about serving our community as fiscal stewards, business partners and architects of student success.”

Pollard previously was administrative and instructional president of Las Positas College in California. Prior to that, she served in various posts at College of Lake County (Illinois).


Debra R. Geiger will serve as dean for business and professional services at Savannah Technical College in Georgia. She previously was the college’s department head for paralegal studies since 2012.

Kyle Longacre is the new dean of workforce and economic development at Montgomery County Community College in Pennsylvania. The job will include overseeing the launch and implementation of the new Baker Center of Excellence for Employee Ownership and Business Transformation. The center will provide educational programs and resources for employee-owned companies.

Bradley “Brad” Phillips will serve as the next executive director of the Maryland Association of Community Colleges (MACC) on July 1. He is currently the association’s deputy executive director. Phillips has more than 20 years of experience in higher education policy having worked at MACC since 2008 and before that at the Maryland Higher Education Commission. He will succeed Bernie Sadusky, who is retiring after nine years as head of the organization.

About the Author

Matthew Dembicki
is editor of Community College Daily and serves as publications director for the American Association of Community Colleges.