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Higher Education Executive Council

The Higher Education Executive Council is the leadership and advisory group shaping the direction of higher education programs and initiatives.  Members are a representative group from contributing member institutions who are engaged and active in the community, who leverage 1EdTech standards and provide advocacy for the organization.  It is composed of leaders from the larger Higher Education Contributing Member Leadership Network and meets every other month.  

The goal of the Higher Education Executive Council is to provide leadership that improves the edtech ecosystem for every learner by helping to facilitate the leadership imperatives that enable the next generation of education and learning.

Sherri Braxton Castanzo
Senior Director for Digital Innovation
Dr. Sherri Braxton Castanzo is the inaugural Senior Director for Digital Innovation at Bowdoin College. By way of partnerships across the college, she leads efforts to identify, prioritize and pursue opportunities for digital innovation impacting both curricular and co-curricular learning spaces. Her work also extends to developing partnerships and collaborative initiatives with peers at other institutions as well as establishing new consortia relationships to prepare and position Bowdoin for the academic transformation on the horizon in the K-16 education landscape.

Dr. Castanzo also currently serves as a consultant for the University System of Maryland under the direction of the Kirwan Center for Academic Innovation. In that role, she supports strategic programs in the areas of digital credentials and online learning. She is also a member of the Governing Body for the Arizona State University Trusted Learner Network. Her work with 1EdTech includes serving as co-chair of the 1EdTech Digital Credentials Innovation Leadership Network (ILN), as an inaugural member of the Trusted Microcredential Coalition, as a member of the Digital Learning Ecosystem ILN, and as a participant in the Digital Credentials Working Group. Previously, she served as task force co-lead for the IMS Global Consortium Open Badge Extensions for Education (OBEE) initiative to identify new extensions for the Open Badges 2.0 Specification and past co-chair of the 1EdTech Open Badges 3.0 working group. She has also authored book chapters on both digital credential program design and implementation and the comprehensive learner record.

Dr. Castanzo earned a Doctor of Science in Computer Science from The George Washington University with a double minor in Management Science and Educational Leadership. She holds a Master of Science in Computer Science with a Mathematics minor from North Carolina State University and a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics with Computer Science minor from Wake Forest University. Dr. Braxton is also a graduate of both the MOR Associates Information Technology Leadership Program and the EDUCAUSE Learning Technology Leaders Institute where she also served as a faculty member and co-director.
Daniel Burgess
Service Owner for Learning Management
Shawna Dark
Chief Academic Technology Officer, UC Berkeley
Warren Goetzel
Director of Academic Technology and Engagement
Warren Goetzel Ph.D., is the Director of Academic Technology and Engagement at the Office of Information Technology (OIT) and Director of Faculty and External Engagement at the Center for 21st Century Universities (C21U), Georgia Tech. In his roles he oversees Georgia Tech’s digital learning ecosystem including a portfolio of academic cloud services that enables teaching and learning online at scale. Dr. Goetzel is also responsible for assisting in the systemic exploration, development, adoption, and assessment of new and innovative educational methodologies and curricular models and furthering the Institute’s efforts in lifelong learning initiatives. He currently serves on the 1EdTech HED Executive Council and co-chairs Georgia Tech’ Educational Technology Steering Committee and Affordable Degrees-at-Scale Symposium. Dr. Goetzel has a Ph.D. and Ed.S. in Instructional Technology and Design, and master’s degrees in Library Media Technology and Science Education all from Georgia State University.
Kathryn Green
Director, Product Experience
Chris Howes
Vice President and Chief Information Officer
Dr. Chris Howes serves as the Vice President and Chief Information Officer of the Kentucky Community and Technical College System. Dr. Howes joined KCTCS in 2021 and provides leadership, service, and strategic technology direction for the system. An experienced technology leader, his career includes working with technology startups, healthcare organizations, and serving in technology leadership roles at the University of Kentucky. Most recently, he served as Chief Information Officer at Morehead State University.

Dr. Howes holds three degrees – a Bachelor’s degree in computer information systems, a Master’s degree in business administration, and a Doctor of Education degree in educational technology leadership, all from Morehead State University. He also serves on technology and higher education industry advisory boards.

A native of eastern Kentucky, Dr. Howes is passionate about supporting the mission of KCTCS and serving the people of the Commonwealth. He lives in Lexington with his wife Rebecca, daughter Emilia, and son Jude.
Avi Hyman, Ed.D.
Director of Academic, Research & Collaborative (ARC) Technologies
Avi Hyman is the University of Toronto's Director of Academic & Collaborative Technologies. He is an anthropologist with a doctoral degree from OISE, who has, for the past couple of decades, been fortunate to have positions which have allowed him to think both strategically about technology in higher education, and actualize ideas on an operational day-to-day level. 

He is cross-appointed to the university’s Centre for Teaching Support & Innovation (the faculty development centre), and the university’s Information Technology Services division (Office of the CIO). He also acts as an “ambassador” of sorts between central IT and the University’s Library System. Avi is an unabashed advocate of a standards-based approach to higher education technologies, and the philosophy of open access / open source learning. His landing page is
Vince Kellen, Ph.D.
Chief Information Officer
Dr. Vince Kellen currently serves as the chief information officer for the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), as well as a member of the Chancellor's Cabinet, and vice chancellor and chief financial officer's senior management team. UCSD is recognized as a top 15 university world-wide and 7th best public university in the world, with over $1 billion in annual research funding, 34,000 students, 16 Nobel laureates who have taught on its campus and 161 faculty with national Academy memberships.

Dr. Kellen brings a rare combination of academic, business and IT strategy experience to his role, with a focus on transformational leadership within IT, applying leading edge approaches to current business challenges.  His twenty-five years of executive-level information technology experience offers a proven track record of successfully integrating innovative applications of information technology into all aspects of teaching, learning, and student success.  These innovations have resulted in markedly improved efficiencies and enhanced learning environments, as well as fruitful, collaborative relationships with researchers, faculty, staff, and students across all levels of higher education and the world. 

Dr. Kellen formerly served as the senior vice provost of Analytics and Technologies for the University of Kentucky, one of the top public research institutions and academic medical centers in the US., where his areas of responsibility included institutional research and analytics, enterprise software, research computing, academic technology, IT infrastructure and cloud services, and supporting the university’s 17 colleges, 30,000 students, and 14,000 faculty and staff.  Prior to that role, he held the position of chief information officer for three years. 
Icon representing Michelle Lew
Michelle Lew
Director, Teaching and Learning Technologies
Michelle Lew is the Director of Teaching and Learning Technologies at UCLA's Center for the Advancement of Teaching. In addition to contributing to a variety of campus IT initiatives and governance committees, Michelle is responsible for campus-wide programs and services that use technology to enhance student learning. Her portfolio includes UCLA's Learning Management System and related ecosystem tools as well as media-related services including lecture capture, instructional media production, and video streaming.

Michelle received her Bachelor of Arts degree from UCLA and she earned her MBA from USC's Marshall School of Business.
Kate Miffitt
Director for Innovation in Information Technology Services
Kate Miffitt is Director for Innovation in Information Technology Services in the CSU Office of the Chancellor. In this role, she oversees strategy, services, and programming at the intersection of emerging technologies, user experience, and digital accessibility.

Prior to this role, she spent ten years serving in different roles at the Pennsylvania State University, managing learning design teams, leading the development of online courses and programs, and supporting teaching and learning with technology.

Kate holds an M.A. in education in instructional technologies from San Francisco State University and a B.A. in English from Stonehill College. Her areas of interest include emerging technologies, design thinking, and digital learning.
Gary Ritter
Executive Director of Digital Transformation & Business Relationship Management
Gary Ritter, Ed. D., has been with Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte, NC since 2004 where he currently serves as the Executive Director of Client Services. His areas of responsibility include leadership and strategic planning for technology use, technical support, classroom and lab support, technology asset management, academic technology services and staff development. Prior to assuming this role in 2019, he served as the Executive Director of Learning Technology Services. His first role in the information technology area came in 2010 when he was selected as the inaugural Faculty Liaison to Information Technology Services, a role designed to facilitate communication and understanding between faculty and technical staff. Gary has helped lead several major projects such as the selection and implementation of D2L Brightspace as the learning management system, Cisco Webex as the video conferencing and collaboration platform and Panopto as the video capture and repository system for the college. He continues to teach American history every semester. Professional interests include leadership, strategic planning, pedagogy, customer support, learning technologies, innovation, civic learning and neuroscience informed decision making. He holds the following degrees: Bachelor of Arts in Media Studies and History from UNCG; Master of Arts in Public History and Historic Preservation from UNCG; Doctorate of Education in Educational Leadership from UNCC. He enjoys time with his wife and their two boys, travel, reading, disc golf, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and the New York Yankees.
Jack Suess
VP of IT
Mr. John "Jack" Suess is Vice President of Information Technology and Chief Information Officer (CIO) for the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC). As Vice President, he provides university leadership for information technology at UMBC and serves on the executive leadership team of the university. He is responsible for providing information technology services in support of teaching and scholarship, research computing, and administrative support. Reporting directly to the President, he is responsible for strategic planning and implementation, coordination, budget, personnel, and policy related to information technology at UMBC.

Since 2000, Mr. Suess has been very active nationally in the areas of cybersecurity, identity management, analytics, and cloud computing and has served in a number of national information technology leadership activities with EDUCAUSE, Internet2, and InCommon. His recent activities include participating in the Internet2 Board of Directors (2010-2013), InCommon (2009-Present), Internet2 Council and Program Advisory Committees (2008-Present), ECAR Strategies Working Group (2013-Present), Higher Education Information Security Council (HEISC) (2000-Present, Chair 2003-2006), REN-ISAC Executive Advisory Group (2006-2013), Center for Higher Education CIO Studies (CHECS) (2013-Present), and the National Strategy for Trusted Identity in Cyberspace (NSTIC) (2012-Present).
Kacey Thorne
Senior Director, Skills Architecture
Kacey Thorne is the Senior Director of Skills Architecture at Western Governors University. Kacey operates at the intersection of higher education and the future of work, where she is responsible for establishing a network of open skills that are aligned to workforce needs. To accomplish this transformative work at scale, Kacey has established an emergent ecosystem of partnerships, tools, and technologies that continues to evolve. Kacey is passionate about the urgent call to action for higher education to better meet the needs of students and employers. She is deeply invested in student success and creating higher education systems that support access, equity, and upward mobility.
Sonya Watkins
Chief Information Officer
As the Chief Information Officer at the University of Central Oklahoma and a member of the President’s Cabinet, Sonya provides leadership for the continued development of innovative technology solutions in support of the university mission. The division of information technology delivers enterprise-level information services that connect students, faculty and staff to learning resources and productivity tools which are available anytime from anywhere. Employing her skills as a certified Project Management Professional (PMP), Sonya has been instrumental in facilitating major information technology initiatives that support the strategic direction of University of Central Oklahoma including the Student Transformative Learning Record.