Higher Learning Commission


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Staff Liaisons

The Commission assigns a staff liaison to each affiliated institution. This staff liaison serves as the primary resource person to that institution. The staff liaison explains Commission policies and procedures and draws on the skills of other staff members to provide effective assistance and service to colleges and universities.

Here are the Commission's Staff Liaisons:

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Ahuja SunilSunil Ahuja serves as Vice President for Accreditation Relations, Institutional Change and Research. He joined HLC in 2013, and now oversees substantive change and institutional research, in addition to holding an institutional portfolio. Before coming to HLC, Dr. Ahuja was Dean of the Division of Social Sciences and Human Services at Lorain County Community College. He was a Professor of Political Science at Youngstown State University, where he also served as Acting Chair of the Department of History. He has also held faculty positions at Seton Hall University and at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Dr. Ahuja was a fellow in the Academy for Advanced Leadership of The Chair Academy, an American Council on Education (ACE) Fellow, and an Ohio Academic Leadership Academy Fellow. Among his other leadership experiences, he has served as Chair of the Academic Senate at Youngstown State University, as President of the Northeastern Political Science Association, and as coeditor of Legislative Studies Quarterly.

Dr. Ahuja has published nine books on American legislative politics, policies and elections and taught widely in these fields. His newest book, an edited volume titled Government at Work: Policymaking in the Twenty-First Century Congress, was published by Lexington Books in spring 2016. Dr. Ahuja holds a Ph.D. and an M.A. in Political Science from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and a B.S. in Government from Northwest Missouri State University.

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Bordenkircher TomTom Bordenkircher, Vice President for Accreditation Relations, has experience in P–12 public education, higher education, county and state government policy and leadership, national foundation leadership, and specialized accreditation. Prior to coming to HLC, Tom was senior consultant and state director for the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation’s STEM Teaching Fellowship Program. In Ohio, he was the Associate Vice Chancellor for the state Board of Regents, where he oversaw higher education program approval and the development of a statewide accountability system for educator preparation programs.

His higher education experience also includes roles as professor of education, chair, director, and associate and interim dean. Prior to his work in higher education, Tom began his career as a teacher of young children with severe disabilities. His professional interests continue to center around research and policy work for young children, especially those experiencing learning and reading difficulties.

Dr. Bordenkircher holds B.S., M.Ed., and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Pittsburgh.


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Brzuzy StephanieStephanie Brzuzy joined the Commission as a Vice President for Accreditation Relations in 2013. Dr. Brzuzy is active in projects to better understand how non-financial indicators impact institutions of higher education. Before joining the Commission, Dr. Brzuzy was Professor of Social Work at Aurora University. She has served in numerous administrative capacities, most recently as Director of the School of Social Work at Aurora University. She also served as Chair of the Department of Social Work at Xavier University and Associate Director of the School of Social Work at Arizona State University. Dr. Brzuzy earned a Ph.D. from The Ohio State University and has published works on vulnerable populations in the social welfare state, gender identity, and teaching in social work. She continues to do research on transgender identities and social policy activism in the United States.

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Johnson BarbaraBarbara J. Johnson, Vice President for Accreditation Relations, has extensive experience in higher education as both an administrator and faculty member. Prior to joining the Commission in 2013, she served as a Senior Vice President at Meharry Medical College and Professor and Chair of the Department of Counseling, Adult and Higher Education at Northern Illinois University. Her previous professional experience includes student affairs administration, community college and adult education, marketing research and consultation in both higher education and corporate environments at Wake Forest University Medical School, Vanderbilt University, and CB&A Market Research Group. Dr. Johnson has held faculty positions at the University of New Orleans, Jackson State University, Volunteer State Community College, and Peabody College Vanderbilt University. Her publications address the recruitment, development, retention and experiences of students and faculty in a variety of post-secondary institutions.

Dr. Johnson received a B.S. in accounting from Winston-Salem State University, an M.B.A. with a marketing focus from The Ohio State University, and a Ph.D. in Education and Human Development (emphasis in Higher Education) from Vanderbilt University.


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Lootens White AndrewAndrew Lootens-White joined the Commission in 2007 as a staff liaison, but now serves as the Commission’s Vice President and Chief Operating Officer. Academically and professionally, he is interested in how colleges and universities can mobilize the efforts of faculty, staff, and students to accomplish collectively-valued goals. This approach is important not only in regard to his work with a small number of institutions for which he remains liaison, but also with his present focus on Commission operations, including peer review, communications, events and services, the Commission’s online Assurance System, and other internal support activities.

Dr. Lootens-White previously worked as the director of academic technology and a writing-across-the-curriculum faculty liaison at the University of Missouri. He also has served in a state-wide academic affairs role at the Missouri Department of Higher Education. He earned a B.S. in Secondary Education, English Education, a M.Ed. in Secondary Education, Language Arts, and a Ph.D. in Instructional Theory and Practice from the University of Missouri.


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Martin Eric

Eric Martin joined the Commission in 2010 as a staff liaison and also served as the Director of the AQIP Pathway from 2012-2015. He now serves as Vice President and Chief of Staff and performs a wide range of leadership functions for the Commission and its members.

Prior to joining the Commission, Dr. Martin held multiple positions at Governors State University in south suburban Chicago, including: Director of Writing Across the Curriculum (1999-2001); assistant provost (2001-2004); associate provost (2005-2006); and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences (2006-2010).

Dr. Martin holds a Doctor of Arts degree in English from Illinois State University (1995) as well as a Master of Arts (1992) and a Bachelor of Arts magna cum laude (1990), also from Illinois State.


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Rosen JeffJeff Rosen serves as Vice President for Accreditation Relations and Director of the Open Pathway. From 2005 to 2011, he was Dean of the School of Continuing and Professional Studies and Associate Professor of Art History at Loyola University Chicago, where he created programs in allied healthcare and managed the University’s summer session, pre-collegiate program and noncredit programs for adults. From 2002 to 2005, he was Associate Dean for the Humanities, Arts and Sciences and the Summer Session at The University of Chicago, and, from 2000 to 2002, Associate Dean for Graduate Programs at Northwestern University’s School of Continuing Studies, where he created programs in public policy and sport administration. From 2003 to 2009, he served as an elected Trustee of Oakton Community College in Des Plaines, Illinois. From 1986 to 2000, he was a professor of art history at Columbia College Chicago. He is a past Chair of the Leadership and Strategy Network of the University Professional and Continuing Education Association (UPCEA). He contributed the essay, “The Completion Agenda and the Public Good,” to Continuing Education: Access, Innovation, Engagement, edited by Robert Wiltenberg and Daniel Shannon, published in March 2015 by UPCEA. In January 2016, Manchester University Press published Dr. Rosen’s book, Julia Margaret Cameron’s ‘fancy subjects’:  Photographic allegories of Victorian identity and empire; a paperback edition is planned for 2017.

Dr. Rosen received his Ph.D. in art history from Northwestern University; M.S.Ed. from Southern Connecticut State University; and B.A. cum laude in sociology from New York University.

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Solomon14Karen J. Solomon, Vice President for Accreditation Relations, joined the Commission in 2003 and has served as a liaison to more than 220 member and applying institutions. She presently serves as Chair of the Executive Council for WCET and as a peer reviewer for the INQAAHE Database on Good Practices in Quality Assurance. Dr. Solomon is a speaker, consultant and reviewer regarding assessment, adult learning, development of international accreditation processes, and distance education. In 2013, she was named Director of the Standard Pathway.

Previously, she was Coordinator of Research and Evaluation in Adult Continuing Education at Northern Illinois University; Education Associate in Outcomes Assessment for ACT, Inc. (formerly American College Testing); founding Executive Director of Illinois Campus Compact for Community Service; and Associate Dean of Student Development at Benedictine University. Dr. Solomon earned an Ed.D. in Adult and Continuing Education from Northern Illinois University, M.B.A from Benedictine University, and B.A in Business from North Central College.


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Stenson LinneaLinnea A. Stenson joined the Commission in December 2013 and was named Director of the AQIP Pathway in 2015. Dr. Stenson brings 30 years of higher education experience as an educator, scholar and administrator at a wide range of institutions, including a research university, correctional facility, liberal arts college and a comprehensive community and technical college, affording an understanding of higher education in multiple venues. Dr. Stenson was the founding Program Director of Steven J. Schochet Center for GLBT Studies at the University of Minnesota. From there and for 10 years, Dr. Stenson served as academic dean for liberal arts departments and career programs at Minneapolis Community and Technical College, providing leadership, budget preparation and management, curricular administration, and annual program reviews; for five years during this same tenure, Dr. Stenson served as the Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs.

A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Augustana College in Rock Island, Dr. Stenson received an M.A. and Ph.D. at the University of Minnesota with research concentrated on the formation and place of lesbian identity in 20th century American novels. She has published a number of articles and presented papers at national conferences, most recently on creative partnerships between community colleges and small liberal arts colleges to support world language learning, and on programs designed for college readiness and retention.


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Sweeney AntheaAnthea M. Sweeney joined the Commission in March 2013. She serves as the staff liaison for institutions in the eligibility, candidacy and initial accreditation processes, as well as for other institutions in transition. Dr. Sweeney previously worked as the Assistant Dean for Academics at Charlotte School of Law in Charlotte, NC, where she also served as founder and director of the Academic Success department, an adjunct law professor, and an academic success counselor who worked directly with at-risk students. She is a licensed attorney admitted in good standing in the State of New York and spent five years in private practice as a Banking and Finance attorney with the firms of Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP and Moses & Singer LLP before transitioning to legal education. Dr. Sweeney holds a B.A., magna cum laude, in Comparative Modern Languages and Political Science from Long Island University, a M.A. in Political Science, also from Long Island University, a J.D., magna cum laude, from Touro College Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center and her Ed.D. in Higher Education Leadership and Policy from Peabody College of Education and Human Development at Vanderbilt University.


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Vanis MaryMary I. Vanis served as an HLC peer reviewer and team chair for over 25 years before joining the staff as Vice President for Accreditation Relations in 2014. As a peer reviewer, Dr. Vanis participated in more than 30 evaluation visits, working with community colleges, tribal colleges, and private colleges and universities. Beyond her work in accreditation, Dr. Vanis has over 30 years of experience in higher education as an administrative, instructional and student services leader. Her previous positions include Campus Executive Officer for Ottawa University Arizona, Director of the Center for Workforce Development for Maricopa Community Colleges, and the Founding Campus Dean for the Red Mountain Campus of Mesa Community College.

Dr. Vanis holds a Bachelor of Science in Education and Master of Arts from the University of Nebraska, and a Doctor of Education from Northern Arizona University.




Related Resource

Staff Campus Visits