National Center for Inquiry & Improvement
Ed is an educational consultant, coach, and senior fellow with NCII. He retired as the executive director for completion and performance at Guilford Technical Community College (GTCC) in North Carolina, where he also served as the managing partner director for Completion by Design in North Carolina. Ed held a senior management position at a large bank prior to joining GTCC as a developmental education adjunct instructor in 2005. He received GTCC’s Claire Hunter Award for Excellence in Developmental Education in 2007. In 2010, he became the Developmental Education Initiative grant director, overseeing the scaling of three core programs and two smaller projects under that grant.
Ed has engaged in state and national guided pathways work since 2011. In addition to his leadership with Completion by Design, he provided coaching and consulting to more than 50 colleges and systems in 15 states through the North Carolina Student Success Learning Institute, AACC Pathways Project and Pathways 2.0, Texas Pathways Institute, California Guided Pathways, and the National Center for Inquiry and Improvement. He shares the work and outcomes of Completion by Design and guided pathways at state and national conferences. He received the BB&T Staff of the Year Award for the North Carolina Community College System for his statewide work on guided pathways in 2014.
Ann Buchele, PhD
Vice President of Academic and Student Affairs
Linn-Benton Community College
Ann is vice president of academic and student affairs at Linn-Benton Community College in Oregon. Ann has more than 30 years’ experience in education, 25 of those years in higher education. She has had a wide range of teaching and administrative experience in the transfer and career and technical education areas. Her career has focused on new program development, workforce development, and innovation. Ann has been a guided pathways coach in Oregon for the past five years, and she has also completed the SSCN Guided Pathways Coaching Training through Jobs for the Future and Achieving the Dream. Ann holds a master’s degree in education and a doctorate in community college leadership.
Adrienne Forgette, PhD
Vice President of Academic Affairs
Clark State College
Adrienne is the vice president of academic affairs at Clark State College in Springfield, Ohio. Prior to that, she served San Juan College (SJC) in Farmington, NM, as the vice president for learning, where she oversaw academic programs; the Office for Workforce, Economic, and Resource Development; and the Center for Professional Development and Exploration. She also led San Juan’s successful participation in AACC’s Pathways 2.0 project.
Adrienne builds strong teams dedicated to student success. Under her leadership, SJC redesigned developmental education and adopted a multiple measures approach to placement, increasing the number of students who successfully completed college-level math and English. She is also an advocate for experiential learning, high-impact practices, and wrap-around student services. Adrienne has spent most of her career serving rural colleges. She is a first-generation community college graduate from Mt. San Antonio College and holds a doctorate in clinical psychology. Outside of her work at the college, Adrienne enjoys time with family and exploring the outdoors.
Octavia Lawrence, MAE
Dean of Students
West Kentucky Community & Technical College
Octavia Lawrence serves as the dean of students for West Kentucky Community and Technical College. She has worked in rural community colleges for more than 18 years. In her career, she has worked in TRIO programs; academic advising; accessibility services; and diversity, equity, and inclusion. She received a bachelor’s degree in English from Fisk University and a master’s degree in student affairs and counseling from Western Kentucky University.
Octavia is a native of Annapolis, Maryland. She now resides in Paducah, KY, with her two children. In her spare time, she loves reading, spending time with family and friends, and volunteering with her sorority, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.
Kenneth Lawson, PhD
Vice President for Instruction
Skagit Valley College
Kenneth has more than 20 years of experience working in community colleges in Washington State. He began as an adjunct faculty in basic education. From that experience, he gained an appreciation for the power of community colleges to make a transformative difference in students’ lives. Kenneth’s career has focused on ensuring equitable access, achievement, and outcomes for all students, and he is deeply committed to the role higher education plays as an agent of positive social change.
Kenneth joined Shoreline Community College as a full-time faculty member in political science in 2001. As dean of the social sciences/equity and social justice division at Shoreline, he helped create a Global Affairs Center, an inclusive honor’s program, and a Center for Service-Learning. Kenneth also served as dean of humanities and social sciences at Seattle Central College.
In 2013, Kenneth moved to Skagit Valley College as the vice president for instruction. In that role, he works with faculty and staff to create equitable learning environments, programs responsive to local economic and social needs, and educational pathways to serve diverse communities. Kenneth has helped lead Skagit Valley College’s strategy to improve student learning and success through the implementation of a comprehensive guided pathways approach, placing equity at the center of the effort. As a result, the percentage of students completing their degree or certificate (within four years) has increased by 11 percentage points for transfer students (31 percent), and 9 percentage points for workforce students (35 percent). Equity gaps between completion rates for Latinx and non-Latinx students has dropped from a gap of 7 percent to 2 percent since 2016.
In 2019, he was selected as one of 40 leaders from across the country to serve as an Aspen Presidential Fellow. He recently completed the Aspen/USC Racial Equity Leadership Series and currently participates in NCII’s Rural Community College Leaders Learning Community. Kenneth holds a doctorate in political science from the University of Washington as well as a master of arts and bachelor of science in political science from the University of Utah.
Erica Orians, PhD
Vice President and Executive Director, Michigan Center for Student Success
Michigan Community College Association
Erica joined the MCCA in 2015 as the executive director of the Michigan Center for Student Success, where she supports community colleges in their efforts to improve student success. Erica previously held positions at the University of Utah, The Ohio State University, Miami University-Middletown campus, and the Columbus College of Arts and Design.
Erica has taught undergraduate and graduate-level courses at several institutions of higher education and enjoys staying active in local, state, and national professional organizations. Erica earned a doctorate in educational leadership and policy from the University of Utah, where her dissertation focused on benchmarking and efficiency among rural community colleges. She earned a master’s degree in higher education and student affairs and a bachelor’s degree in history from The Ohio State University.
Laura Rittner, MPP
Executive Director, Ohio Success Center
Ohio Association of Community Colleges
Laura serves as executive director of the Success Center for Ohio Community Colleges at the Ohio Association of Community Colleges (OACC). In this role, she oversees the OACC’s student success initiatives including Ohio’s guided pathways project for community colleges, the Student Success Leadership Institute, and the Leadership Academy for Student Success. The Success Center’s portfolio of grants has grown to include more than $13 million in state, federal, and private foundation investments under Laura’s leadership. She has engaged many national partners in the OACC’s student success efforts and served as an inaugural coach for the American Association of Community Colleges’ Pathways Project from 2016 to 2017. Laura is currently serving as a coach for Texas Pathways.
Laura has 17 years of experience in community college leadership. She joined the OACC in 2013 as director of research and data analysis after working for seven years at Lakeland Community College in Kirtland, OH, as director for institutional research. Laura holds a bachelor’s degree in political science and psychology from Miami University in Oxford, OH, and a master’s degree in public policy from The George Washington University in Washington, DC.
Joyce Walsh-Portillo, MBA, PhD
Joyce was first involved at Broward College and its guided pathways work in Florida in 2013 after state legislation drastically changed the way developmental education could be offered. She was recruited as one of 12 national coaches for the American Association of Community Colleges’ Pathways Project that launched in 2015, working with 30 leading colleges around the country. This work continued with a second national cohort from 2018 to 2021. During that time, she worked with Milwaukee Area Technical College and Gateway Technical College as their assigned pathways coach. She is currently coaching the University of New Mexico, Valencia campus in Los Lunas, NM as part of its Title V grant, PASOS (Pathways to Articulation & Sustainable Opportunities for Students).
As associate vice president of academic affairs, Joyce participated in numerous presentations within Florida at state meetings at the Council of Academic Affairs, at Moving the Needle conference at St. Petersburg College, and as a co-presenter with Complete College America at Florida State College at Jacksonville representing Broward College. She has participated on panels in several state meetings addressing pathway initiatives including New Hampshire, New Jersey, Indiana, Texas, Michigan, and Oregon.
Joyce holds a master’s degree in business administration, and she earned her doctorate in higher education administration at Florida International University. She is currently a full-time professor of business administration at Broward College, an endowed teaching chair recipient and a NISOD award of excellence winner. She is passionate about student success in the classroom and beyond. She is married and has an adult son.