Speaker Biographies


Joseph E. Aoun, Ph.D., a leader in higher education policy and an internationally renowned scholar in linguistics, is the seventh president of Northeastern University (MA). A respected voice on the value of global and experiential education, Aoun has enhanced Northeastern’s signature co-op program by expanding opportunities to 131 countries. He came to Northeastern from the University of Southern California’s College of Letters, Arts & Sciences where he was the inaugural holder of the Anna H. Bing Dean’s Chair. A member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, he was elected a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in 2013. He earned a Ph.D. in linguistics and philosophy from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and advanced degrees from the University of Paris VIII (France) and Saint Joseph University (Beirut, Lebanon).
Andrew K. Benton has been president of Pepperdine University (CA) since 2000. A lawyer by training, he has been involved in university administration for more than four decades, previously serving in key leadership roles at Pepperdine including: executive vice president and vice president for university affairs and administration. Benton is a highly respected voice on higher education issues, having recently offered testimony on proposals for improving transparency before the House Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Development. A recognized leader in the nation’s two largest higher education convening organizations, he currently serves as NAICU board chair and is a former chair of the American Council on Education. Benton also is immediate past chair of the Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities. He is a graduate and distinguished alumnus of Oklahoma Christian University with a degree in American studies, and earned a law degree from Oklahoma City University.
U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2010, building on a background as a public servant, university president, and teacher. Sen. Blunt serves on the Appropriations Committee; the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee; the Select Committee on Intelligence; and the Senate Rules Committee. He is the chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education and chairman of the Commerce Subcommittee on Aviation. He was overwhelmingly elected seven times to the U.S. House of Representatives prior to 2010. Before serving in Congress, he was a history teacher, a county official, and Missouri’s Secretary of State. Sen. Blunt also served four years as the president of his alma mater, Southwest Baptist University (MS). He earned a master’s degree from Missouri State University.
Sylvia M. Burwell is the 15th president of American University (DC) and the first woman to lead the university. A leader with experience managing large and complex organizations in the public and private sectors, Burwell brings to AU a commitment to education and research, a record of spurring innovation, and experience helping to advance solutions to some of the world's most pressing challenges. Burwell served as the 22nd Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services from 2014 to 2017, was director of the Office of Management and Budget from 2013 to 2014, and spent 11 years at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, including roles as chief operating officer and president of the Global Development Program. She earned undergraduate degrees in government from Harvard University and in philosophy, policy, and economics from the University of Oxford, where she was a Rhodes Scholar.
Christine Campigotto is director of applied data science at Civis Analytics, and leads a team in the design and implementation of data science products and services for a variety of nonprofit, advocacy, and public sector clients. She has guided millions of dollars into executing some of the largest-scale public opinion research projects in the country, optimizing digital advertising campaigns, and designing creative and groundbreaking reporting systems for executives and leaders to best understand their data assets. Prior to Civis, Campigotto served in the Obama Administration in a number of roles, including serving as an analyst in the White House evaluating the impact of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 on economic growth and job creation. She earned a B.A. in economics at the University of Denver.
U.S. Representative Michael E. Capuano (D-MA) is serving his tenth term in Congress from Massachusetts' Seventh District, which includes most of Boston. He is a member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the Financial Services Committee. Capuano also is co-chair of the Congressional Independent Colleges Caucus. Prior to serving in Congress, Capuano was the Mayor of Somerville, MA from January 1990 through January 1999. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth College (NH) and a law degree from Boston College Law School.
Steven R. DiSalvo, Ph.D., is the tenth president of Saint Anselm College (NH), and its first lay president. DiSalvo joined the college in July of 2013 after serving as president of Marian University (WI). At Saint Anselm, he has advanced the college's national reputation through scholarship, athletics and the college’s prestigious New Hampshire Institute of Politics. He completed a Ph.D. in educational leadership at Fordham University (NY) where he also earned an M.B.A. in marketing and a B.S. in psychology.
Donald A. Downs, Ph.D., is the Alexander Meiklejohn Emeritus Professor of Political Science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and an affiliate professor of law and journalism. He is a faculty consultant to the national Free Speech and Open Inquiry Project at the Institute for Humane Studies. His six prize winning books include Cornell `69: Liberalism and the Crisis of the American University and Restoring Free Speech and Liberty on Campus. Nationally recognized as a leader for promoting free speech and academic freedom on campus, Downs received the Jeane J. Kirkpatrick Academic Freedom Award in 2013. He is a graduate of Cornell University (NY) and earned a Ph.D. from the University of California-Berkeley.
Richard Ekman, Ph.D., has been president of the Council of Independent Colleges since 2000. He previously served as vice president for programs at Atlantic Philanthropies and, from 1991 to 1999, as secretary and senior program officer of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. His campus experience includes service as vice president and dean of Hiram College (OH), and assistant to the provost of the University of Massachusetts at Boston.
Jody Feder is director of accountability and regulatory affairs at NAICU. She represents the Association on issues including: accreditation, state authorization, Title IX, and educational privacy with Congress and the Administration. She joined the NAICU staff in March 2017 after more than 14 years as a legislative attorney with the Congressional Research Service. At CRS, she provided nonpartisan advice and analysis to Members of Congress on civil rights and education law. Prior to attending law school, she wrote about federal education issues as an editor for Thompson Publishing Group. Feder earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and government from Brown University (RI), and a law degree from Yale University (CT).
Sarah A. Flanagan, NAICU vice president for government relations and policy development, has an extensive background in higher education policy, education, and the federal government. She has been instrumental in a number of successful policy efforts with NAICU. Previously, she was the professional staff member for higher education on the Senate Subcommittee on Education, Arts, and Humanities, and staff director of the Senate Subcommittee on Children, Family, Drugs, and Alcoholism. Flanagan earned a B.A. from Providence College (RI) and an M.A.T. from Rhode Island College. She is a trustee of Mary Baldwin University (VA) and Beacon College (FL), and a trustee emerita of Providence College (RI).
Stephanie Giesecke, NAICU’s director for budget and appropriations, represents the association with Congress and the higher education community on budget and appropriations issues. She also is the key staff member for the Student Aid Alliance. Previously, she was a legislative assistant for the Association of Community College Trustees, and was a legislative assistant for Rep. Bill Alexander (D-AR). She is an active member of the Committee for Education Funding and served as president in 2006. Giesecke is a graduate of Washington University in St. Louis (MO) and The George Washington University (DC).
U.S. Representative Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) represents the Sixth Congressional District of Virginia, including the City of Roanoke, in the U.S. House of Representatives. He currently serves as chair of the House Judiciary Committee and as a member of the House Committee on Agriculture. Goodlatte is co-chair of the Congressional Independent Colleges Caucus. He is a graduate of Bates College (ME) and the Washington and Lee University School of Law (VA).
Jay Hatcher is senior vice president of business development and general counsel of The Learning House, Inc., where he builds relationships with prospective partner institutions. In addition, Hatcher manages contract negotiations with clients and vendors, and ensures compliance with state and federal regulations. Before joining Learning House, he was in private practice and served as associate general counsel to the Rawlings Group, LLC. Hatcher earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and government at the University of Mississippi and a juris doctor degree from the University of Kentucky College of Law.
Susan K. Hattan, senior consultant at NAICU, was a fulltime member of the government relations staff from 2003-2015, and continues to serve NAICU in an advisory role. Prior to NAICU, Hattan served for 27 years in the U.S. Senate, including 18 years on the staff of Sen. Nancy Kassebaum (R-KS), where she served as staff director of the Senate Committee on Labor and Human Resources. Hattan graduated from Washburn University (KS) and American University (DC).
Thomas L. Hellie, Ph.D., has served as president of Linfield College (OR) since 2006. During the decade, he has overseen the tripling of enrollment of Americans of Color; built or renovated six buildings; and established the Oregon Wine History Archive and a liberal arts-based wine studies program. Hellie will retire in June 2018. Previously, he was on the faculty of Hiram College (OH), served as vice president of the Associated Colleges of the Midwest, and as president and executive director of the James S. Kemper Foundation. Nationally, Hellie has served as secretary of the board of the Foundation for Independent Higher Education, chair of the NAICU Student Aid Committee, and board chair at the Council of Independent Colleges. He earned a B.A. in speech and theatre at Luther College (IA), and an M.A. and Ph.D. in theatre history at the University of Missouri-Columbia.
Vanessa J. Herman, assistant vice president for government and community relations at Pace University (NY), oversees the university’s federal, state and local government relations portfolio, and is the primary point of contact for the 43 elected officials and staff who represent Pace throughout Westchester County and New York City. Previously, she was director of government and external relations at Applied DNA Sciences, a bio-tech company located on the campus of Stony Brook University (NY). She also served as assistant director of governmental relations at Stony Brook, and as press secretary, executive assistant, and director of community relations for former U.S. Senator Alfonse D’Amato (R-NY). Herman earned a bachelor’s degree in political science/sociology and a master’s degree in literature from Stony Brook University.
Jim Hundrieser, Ph.D., is associate managing principal at AGB Institutional Strategies. Previously, Hundrieser served as vice president of marketing and enrollment management at Plymouth State University (NH), where he reengineered marketing, communications, and recruitment efforts. As a vice president with Noel-Levitz, he worked with more than 50 colleges and universities implementing strategies for small private institutions, as well as large research institutions. Using data-informed tools to shape strategy, Hundrieser has focused on creating enrollment plans to drive revenue growth. His expertise covers strategic enrollment planning, student recruitment, retention, academic advising, assessment, co-curricular programming, athletics, and campus organization. Hundrieser earned a Ph.D. in leadership and education from Barry University (FL).
Mahendran Jawaharlal has more than 30 years of experience as a strategic leader in the global higher education technology industry, helping companies expand their core competencies and achieve next-level growth. Jawaharlal joined CampusWorks on January 2 as president, and will assume the CEO role on July 1. Previously, he was president of Macmillan Enterprise Services Group and COO of Campus Management Corporation. Jawaharlal earned a B.A. in computer science from Monmouth College (IL) and an MBA from Florida International University. He currently serves on Monmouth College’s board of trustees.
Karin Johns, NAICU’s director of tax policy, is responsible for developing legislative strategies and representing the association on tax policy issues. She also serves as liaison to the NAICU Secretariat, chairs the Coalition to Preserve Employer-Provided Education Assistance (IRC Sec. 127), handles post-9/11 issues affecting international students, immigration, and Department of Labor issues and regulations affecting colleges and universities. Previously, she was legislative director for Rep. Phil English (R-PA), managing legislative staff and overseeing Ways and Means Committee issues. She also worked for Rep. Fred Grandy (R-IA). Johns graduated from Westminster College (PA) with a B.A. in information arts, and a concentration in political science. She also attended the Fund for American Studies Institute on Political Journalism at Georgetown University (DC).
Michelle Johnston, Ph.D., is the 22nd president of the University of Rio Grande (OH) and Rio Grande Community College (Rio), a position she has held since 2014. Prior to Rio, she was the senior vice president at the University of Montevallo (AL). Her career includes 10 years of service as a faculty member and over 20 years in administration. Active in a number of national and regional organizations, she represented NAICU institutions in small-group discussions related to Title IX with the U.S. Secretary of Education and the Office of Civil Rights in 2017. Johnston is a graduate of the University of Alabama and Louisiana State University, and earned a Ph.D. in educational leadership from Mississippi State University, and a post-doctorate in marketing and management from the University of Florida.
U.S. Representative Derek Kilmer (D-WA) is a third term Congressman from the Puget Sound region of Washington State. He serves on the House Committee on Appropriations, including the Interior and Environment Subcommittee and Commerce, Justice and Science Subcommittee. He previously served in both the House and Senate chambers of the Washington state legislature. Prior to elected office, he was a business consultant for McKinsey & Company and the Economic Development Board for Tacoma-Pierce County (WA). He is a graduate of Princeton University's (NJ) Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and earned a doctorate from the University of Oxford in England.
Walter M. Kimbrough, Ph.D., is the seventh president of Dillard University (LA), and has forged a national reputation as an expert on fraternities and sororities, with specific expertise regarding historically Black, Latin and Asian groups. He is the author of the book, Black Greek 101: The Culture, Customs and Challenges of Black Fraternities and Sororities. Prior to becoming Dillard president in 2012, he was the 12th president of Philander Smith College (AR) from 2004 to 2012. He also held student affairs posts at Emory University (GA), Georgia State University, Old Dominion University (VA), and Albany State University (GA). He earned degrees from the University of Georgia, Miami University (OH), and a doctorate in higher education from Georgia State University.
Kevin Kruger, Ph.D., president of NASPA Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education, is a national advocate for students, and the primary spokesperson for student affairs administrators and practitioners. He draws on more than 30 years of higher education experience, including 15 years at the University of Maryland College Park and the University of Maryland Baltimore County. He has published and presented nationally on leadership development, using technology in student affairs administration, and international education. Kruger earned a bachelor’s degree in history and political science from the University of Albany (NY) and a doctorate in counseling and personnel services from the University of Maryland College Park.
Andrew J. Magda is manager of market research of The Learning House, Inc., where he leads the development of custom and large-scale market research studies, and assists partner institutions with their research needs. Prior to joining Learning House, Magda was a senior analyst at Eduventures and a project manager at the Center for Survey Research and Analysis at the University of Connecticut.
Norman J. Ornstein, Ph.D., is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), where he studies politics, elections, and the U.S. Congress. A longtime observer and analyst of American politics and the U.S. Congress, he has been involved in political reform for decades, particularly campaign finance reform and the reform of Senate committees. Ornstein is co-host of AEI’s Election Watch series, a contributing editor and columnist for National Journal and The Atlantic, and the chairman of the Campaign Legal Center. Ornstein’s bestselling books include One Nation After Trump: A Guide for the Perplexed, the Disillusioned, the Desperate, and the Not-Yet Deported, with E. J. Dionne and Thomas E. Mann. He was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2004. Ornstein is a graduate of the University of Minnesota and earned a master's degree and Ph.D. in political science from the University of Michigan.
Tim Powers is director of student aid policy at NAICU. He serves as a liaison to Congress, the Executive Branch, and the broader higher education community on issues related to the many aspects of student aid. Powers joined NAICU in January 2015 after more than five years on the staff of former U.S. Representative Tim Bishop (D-NY), where he focused primarily on higher education issues under the jurisdiction of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. He earned a bachelor’s degree in communications at Wake Forest University (NC) and an MBA at Georgetown University (DC).
Anne M. Prisco, Ph.D., was elected Felician University’s (NJ) fifth president in July 2012, and was the first new president in 28 years and the first lay leader in the Catholic school’s history. With more than 30 years of experience, she possesses a unique combination of administrative skills and academic experience in higher education. Collectively she has served as an administrator, faculty member, researcher, and consultant. Prisco serves in various professional and civic roles, including as a member of NAICU’s Student Aid Committee and as a trustee of the New Jersey President‘s Council. Prisco is a graduate of the University of Arizona, and earned an M.B.A. from Fordham University (NY) and a Ph.D. in economics and education from Columbia University (NY).
Michael Rogers, an award winning journalist and best-selling author, most recently served as the futurist-in-residence at The New York Times and as a columnist for NBC.com. His career began as a writer for Rolling Stone; he launched Newsweek’s technology column and, for ten years, was vice president of The Washington Post Company's new media division, guiding both the newspaper and Newsweek into the new century, as well as serving as editor and general manager of Newsweek.com. His work in interactive media ranges from early ground-breaking projects for Lucas Film and Apple to dozens of Internet ventures. Rogers has received patents for multimedia storytelling techniques, and is listed in Who’s Who in Science and Engineering. Rogers studied physics and creative writing at Stanford University (CA), with additional training in finance and management at the Stanford Business School Executive Program.
Larry J. Sabato, Ph.D., professor of politics at the University of Virginia and the founder and director of the University’s Center for Politics, is one of the nation’s most respected political analysts. A New York Times bestselling author, and recipient of three Emmy awards, he is the author of the recent book TRUMPED: The 2016 Election That Broke All the Rules, which explores the 2016 election and its surprising outcome. Sabato is the author or editor of two dozen books on American politics, and appears multiple times per week on national and international news outlets including FOX, CNN, MSNBC, and CNN International. Sabato earned a bachelor's degree in government from the University of Virginia, a graduate degree from Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, and a doctorate in politics from The Queen's College at Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar.
Rev. Michael J. Sheeran, S.J., has served as president of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU) since April 2013. From 1975 to 2012, Fr. Sheeran was a faculty member and administrator at Regis University (CO), including serving as academic vice president (1982-1993) and president (1993-2012). In August 1993, Fr. Sheeran hosted the first meeting between Pope John Paul II and President Bill Clinton. He currently staffs the national coordinating committee for the Ignatian Mission Reaffirmation Process (“Examen”) of AJCU. Fr. Sheeran earned a doctorate in politics from Princeton University in 1977. His dissertation on the Quaker decision-making process–a variant on Jesuit Communal Discernment–is now a book used by Quakers to teach their method to new members of their community.
Michael S. Steele is a political analyst and former lieutenant governor and national party chair. He made history in 2003 as the first African American elected to statewide office in Maryland, winning a term as lieutenant governor; and again with his subsequent chairmanship of the Republican National Committee in 2009. Steele’s ability as a communicator and commentator has been showcased through his current role as a political analyst for MSNBC. In addition, Steele can be heard each week on the radio program, Steele & Ungar on SiriusXM. He is the author of Right Now: A 12-Step Program for Defeating the Obama Agenda, and co-author of The Recovering Politician’s Twelve Step Program to Survive Crisis. Steele is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University and Georgetown Law Center, and served as an Aspen Institute Rodel Fellow in Public Leadership and a University of Chicago Institute of Politics Fellow.
Mary Pat Seurkamp, Ph.D., joined Yaffe & Company in 2013 as a senior consultant and is also a founding partner of MPK&D. She was appointed president of Notre Dame of Maryland University in 1997 and was named president emerita when she retired July 2012. Seurkamp now serves as senior advisor and director for the CIC New Presidents Program, and also is engaged in other consulting activities in higher education. Prior to Notre Dame, she served at St. John Fisher College (NY) for 21 years. Seurkamp has served as board chair of the Council of Independent Colleges (CIC), chair of the Maryland Independent College and University Association, and as a member of the NAICU board and executive committee. She is a magna cum laude graduate of Webster University (MS) with a B.A. in psychology, earned an M.A. in counseling from Washington University, and a Ph.D. in higher education from the State University of New York at Buffalo.

John K. Tolmie joined Yaffe & Company in 2016 as senior vice president and as a senior consultant.  He is also CEO of TTG Healthcare Solutions and founder and CEO of a higher education technology solutions company.  Tolmie has served in executive positions in healthcare, including 15 years as CEO of not-for-profit hospitals and health systems.  In his role, he has established the vision, strategic direction, operational oversite, leadership development, quality services, strategic partnerships and fulfilling the mission of the communities served. Tolmie has extensive board experience, as both CEO and board member, including serving seven years on the board of Notre Dame of Maryland University, with service on the executive committee and as chair of Enrollment Management Committee, Compensation Committee, and Strategic Planning Committee.  In addition, Tolmie has served on the board of numerous hospital and community boards, focused on strategic planning, leadership development, governance development and fulfilling the organizations mission.  He earned an MBA and MHA from Georgia State University.  

David L. Warren, Ph.D., became president of NAICU in 1993 after nearly a decade as president of Ohio Wesleyan University. Earlier, he held administrative and faculty positions at Yale University (CT) and Antioch University (OH), and served as chief administrative officer of the City of New Haven, CT. At NAICU, Warren has led cooperative efforts with other national higher education associations, such as the National Student Aid Alliance, National Campus Voter Registration Project, Campus Cares, and the University & College Accountability Network (U-CAN), a major national consumer information effort for informed college-choice decisions. His work on behalf of higher education has been recognized with 24 honorary degrees. Warren is a graduate of Washington State University and Yale University (CT) , and earned a doctorate in higher education administration from the University of Michigan. He also was a Fulbright Scholar in India and a Rockefeller Fellow at Yale.
George Waldner, Ph.D., is a visiting fellow at the Institute for Humane Studies, and is working to strengthen outreach efforts to academic leaders. Waldner is president emeritus of York College (PA), where he oversaw significant growth in the college’s resources while maintaining its ongoing commitment to high-quality but affordable education. Previously, he served as the vice president for academic affairs and professor of political science at Wilkes University (PA), as well as the provost and faculty member in political science at Oglethorpe University (GA). Waldner earned a Ph.D. in politics from Princeton University (NJ).
Lawrence M. Zacarese, Esq., assistant chief of police and director of the Office of Emergency Management at Stony Brook University (SUNY), has more than 20 years of experience in law enforcement, emergency management, emergency medical services, and fire-rescue. Prior to joining Stony Brook in 2009, he served more than 10 years in the New York City Police Department in various capacities, including as a tactical paramedic and canine handler in the Special Operations Division’s Emergency Service Unit, and as a patrol and plain clothes Street Narcotic Enforcement Sergeant. He is a graduate of the FBI National Academy, and the FBI Mid-Atlantic Law Enforcement Executive Development Seminar leadership-training program at Princeton University (NJ). A licensed attorney, he earned a bachelor’s degree in forensic psychology and a masters in public administration from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice (NY), and a juris doctor degree from the Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center at Touro College (NY).