ASCC Board of Higher Education participates in leadership seminar
Members of the Board of Higher Education (BHE), the governing Board overseeing the American Samoa Community College (ASCC) participated in a professional development seminar last week facilitated by Dr. Wilson Hess, currently President of the University of Maine at Fort Kent.
With over 30 years experience in higher education administration, Dr. Hess offered his insights on the roles and responsibilities of college/university boards, accreditation expectations of boards, and the development and refinement of appropriate board policies and procedures.
Dr. Hess, who served as President of the College of the Marshall Islands (CMI), from 2005 to 2009, and was recently named President Emeritus of the institution, now consults extensively for the Association of Governing Boards (AGB), and has worked with all of the colleges whose top administrators comprise the Pacific Post-secondary Education Council (PPEC).
This was his first visit to American Samoa, who five years ago facilitated a board seminar in Hawai’i attended by previous members of the ASCC BHE and other PPEC boards, and was invited to similarly facilitate for the current BHE by its Chairman Rev. Dr. Leanavaotaua Sekuini Seva’aetasi following recommendations from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).
In addition to Chairman Leanavaotaua, current members of the BHE Vice Chairman Dr. Fanuatele To’afa Vaiaga’e, HC Tauili’ili Lauifi, Father Viane Etuale, Rev. Dr. Si’ulagi Solomona Jr., and Dr. Annie Fuavai, along with Student Representative Ms. Talimeli Taufete’e also attended the two-day seminar held at the facilities of the College’s Community & Natural Resources (CNR) Division. Dr. Galea’i and ASCC administration members Vice President of Academic and Student Affairs Dr. Kathleen Kolhoff-Belle, Vice President of Administration and Finances Dr. Rosevonne Pato, Chief Financial Officer Emey Silafau, and Office of Institutional Effectiveness Director Sonny Leomiti also attended, along with CNR Director Tapaau Dr. Daniel Aga.
Dr. Kolhoff-Belle said Dr. Hess offered a number of thought-provoking insights on governance of a college in today’s educational climate. “The seminar helped new Board gain a wider perspective on the roles, responsibilities and duties of Board membership,” she explained. “It also helped all of us prepare for our accreditation self study and forthcoming accreditation review visit by WASC. Attending a seminar like this together promotes a stronger working relationship between the Board and the ASCC leadership team.”
Dr. Hess explained that he conducted the seminar using the national standards of the AGB.
“The BHE members reviewed the basic tenets of the American system of higher education accreditation and WASC’s role in that system,” he said. Seminar materials included a 2006 white paper prepared by WASC, which described challenges facing U.S. accredited colleges in the Pacific.
“I believe the Board accurately assessed several key challenges, including: geographic insularity, public financial support, and awareness of the special governance issues associated with regionally accredited higher education institutions,” Hess explained.
Asked if colleges and universities in the American Pacific can expect to genuinely fulfill the expectations of a national agency such as WASC while taking into consideration the unique cultures of the region, Dr. Hess cited ASCC as an example of an institution successfully balancing priorities from both the inside and the outside.
“I am convinced that a union which reflects the best practices of U.S. higher education, while respecting the unique circumstances of American Samoa, is at the core of ASCC,” he said. “One specific aim of our seminar was to forge a working understanding of board roles and responsibilities that is consistent with U.S. accreditation expectations while respectful of the unique circumstances of Pacific societies. If education is to be effective it must both understand the setting in which it is offered, while simultaneously challenging everyone in the learning community to raise their levels of understanding, reasoning, and performance. ASCC appears to be on that path.”
Dr. Hess has been the President of University of Maine at Fort Kent since 2010. He previously served as the President of the College of the Marshall Islands (CMI), from 2005 to 2009, and was recently named President Emeritus of the institution. While at CMI, he oversaw the implementation of a highly successful enrollment management program and established a $27 million building program and campus redesign. Dr. Hess previously served as an Executive Director of the Audubon Expedition Institute, and from 1990 to 2000 he served as President of Unity College in Maine. Prior to this, he held various faculty and administrative positions at Unity College from 1977 to 1989. Dr. Hess earned a Master's Degree in History at the University of Maine in Orono and a Bachelor's Degree in History at the University of Baltimore. He has also engaged in Doctoral Studies in History at the University of Maine.