|IN THIS ISSUE
Over the past three years, WICHE's Western Policy Exchange (WPE), a project
partially funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, has supported a variety of policy
activities for member states. The state roundtables designed to assist individual
states in their efforts to improve their higher education systems and better achieve state
priorities constitute one important component of this project. Fourteen roundtables
in six states over the past two years have generated considerable discussion throughout
the WICHE region and nationally. Why have they been successful? What policy issues have
been addressed? What systemic reforms and sustainable outcomes have resulted from the
roundtables? This issue of Exchanges addresses these questions by examining the roundtable
experiences of Arizona, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, South Dakota, and Washington during
1997 and 1998.
The Western Policy Exchange
roundtables have proven to be a successful mechanism for building stronger relations among
state policymakers, university leaders, the corporate sector, and the public regarding
higher education. Since 1997, six WICHE states have utilized the roundtables to convene a
cross-section of state leaders to build consensus around the role of higher education in
achieving state priorities, the ways it carries out this role, and the means and extent to
which it is funded.
A State-Driven Process With Definable
Each WPE roundtable is unique by virtue of a state driven design and process. Success is
defined differently in each state. In NEW MEXICO for example, seven bills
were introduced during the 1998 legislative session as a direct result of two roundtable
discussions which outlined the state's policy objectives for higher education. A third
statewide roundtable on the topic of teacher education resulted in a formal action plan,
jointly endorsed by the State Board of Education and the Commission on Higher Education.
According to Bruce Hamlett, the Commission's executive director and a WICHE commissioner,
the objectives of the New Mexico roundtables were to develop a broader audience for
thoughtful higher education policy. "We had some success in the first year and even
more success in year two. We will continue the roundtable process which, over a period of
years, will strengthen the interest in and support for changes in state-level higher
education public policy."
ARIZONA's underlying achievement came in bringing the right people
together in a neutral and non-threatening environment to discuss the enactment of
legislation to improve K-12 education and implement a new set of student and teacher
standards topics of mutual interest but considerable debate among education and
"The Arizona Education
Roundtables demonstrate that standards for students and for teachers have caught the
attention of the education community. While policymakers in our state do not see eye to
eye on all issues, the roundtables provided a forum to identify areas of agreement and to
reinforce the need to provide quality preparation for Arizona's teachers." -Lisa Graham Keegan, State
Superintendent of Public Instruction and Roundtable Co-convener
The concept of systemic change has provided the theoretical framework for
the Western Policy Exchange project. Roundtable states have incorporated and modified this
evolving framework to fit their individual policy environments. Two statesArizona
and New Mexicofocused on teacher education, a specific issue requiring the
commitment and contributions of education leaders and policy-makers systemwide.
MONTANA's "change agenda" involved a broader set of
challenges: to foster better relationships among state, corporate, and campus leaders and
to build consensus around the direction of the state's newly reorganized university
system. During the roundtable, legislative leaders deferred to the Board of Regents the
task of defining the future of the Montana University System rather than exercising direct
control over the process. Consequently, the Regents developed a vision statement designed
to encourage specific action plans based on widespread input from the campus communities.
"We have already put in place a requirement for systematic inquiries by our campus
leaders of community business leaders to determine local needs for research and economic
development and for communication about the knowledge, expertise, and research
capabilities available on our campuses," notes Richard A. Crofts, commissioner of
higher education, Montana University System, WICHE commissioner, and roundtable
In WASHINGTON, legislative leaders promoted the roundtable process and
its follow up. Conveners asked the states institutions to present ways they are
responding to three forces of change: the changing academic marketplace, technology and
distance learning, and competency-based credentialing. Roundtable discussions highlighted
successful strategies along with limitations in the policy environment. In the subsequent
legislative session, lawmakers passed legislation which links funding to systemic reform
efforts involving innovation and collaboration by the states higher education
As a result of the
roundtable experience, state leaders gained an understanding of the magnitude and speed of
change in the higher education environment. The innovation and collaboration necessary by
all of Washingtons institutions and policymakers to adapt to this change was also
realized. Don Carlson, State Representative, WICHE Commissioner and Roundtable
Co-convener." -Don Carlson, State Representative, WICHE Commissioner and
Sustainable Outcomes Take Time
Roundtables have not proven a quick fix for states to solve problems or
spontaneously improve strained relationships. Rather, they offer state leaders a tool for
working through the change process. The process itself may span several years and work
best when institutionalized into the states strategic planning activities. In a
study of two WPE roundtable states, project consultant Louis Bender suggests that
roundtables evolve in five stages over at least as many years: (1) Socialization; (2)
Priority Setting; (3) Agenda Building; (4) Action; and (5) Revitalization and Recycling.
The first stage, Socialization, occurred in IDAHO, which used three statewide
roundtables and four smaller campus meetings to achieve common ground between
the public and private sectors regarding the future and role of higher education in the
state. As a result, a true dialogue between state, corporate, and higher education leaders
It is not easy to bring
together the right mix of individuals or keep them together on a sustained basis. People
who are the most valuable to the process are also those with the most commitments. It
takes time to get all participants up to speed and vested in the process; inevitably,
turnover and substitutions occur. And of course intermediate and long-term strategy in a
changing and competitive educational environment does not provide a clear target.
Identifying end points is difficult but essential to providing understandable successes
and benchmarks as the process evolves. Commitment and patience are essential.-John Hansen,
Former State Senator and Roundtable Co-convener
Once roundtable participants are comfortable with and assume ownership in
the process, the other stagesPriority Setting, Agenda Building, and Actionhave
a better chance of success. SOUTH DAKOTA, which also participated in a series
of Pew roundtables during 1995 and 1996, helped mentor other roundtable states. Here,
policymakers have come to anticipate and rely on regular roundtables to guide actions by
the legislature, executive branch, institutions, and the Board of Regents. After years of
developing the trust and commitment of policy-makers, South Dakota implemented a new
funding framework and a faculty salary competitiveness program. Both represent major
shifts in higher education policy for the state.
are a special tool in moving disparate parts together. They are not challenging to the
unique responsibilities and processes of either of the parties, legislative or higher
education. They are flexible enough to adjust to meet new and different needs, are not
driven by individual personalities, and provide an informal process to overcome the formal
structures of a separation of power approach to public policy decision making and
implementation. They can build the institutional commitments needed for longer-term
approaches to public policy that are missing in most state policymaking bodies. The South
Dakota roundtables have provided the foundation for some fundamental changes in the
operation of our higher education system. Since these are long-term strategies, it
requires continuing efforts to sustain these policy directions. This is especially true in
a policymaker environment challenged by term limits and board member turnover."
T. Tad Perry Executive Director, South Dakota Board of Regents, WICHE
Commissioner and Roundtable Co-convener
|Case studies were
conducted during February 1999 in Idaho and South Dakota by Louis Bender, external
evaluator for the Western Policy Exchange project. The case studies confirmed several
elements critical to a successful roundtable. Among them:
- Commitment to the roundtable process for a
period of five or more years.
Sponsorship by a neutral host to eliminate any real or perceived agenda by one or more
- Selection of conveners and leaders whose
position, reputation, contacts, or status will attract participants and lend legitimacy to
- Participation by a broad-based but carefully
selected group of participants to establish widespread ownership of the
process and its outcomes.
- Use of an outside facilitator, when needed,
who will establish a non-threatening but productive environment and be trusted by all
- Discussions that occur within the broader
context of state priorities.
- An understanding by participants that despite
limited resources and diverse perspectives, each is dedicated to a common
- Active involvement by state legislators.
Without exception, those
interviewed described an evolution from skeptic to believer then to advocate. A total of
39 leaders and policymakers were interviewed in the two states. Every single one declared
their states roundtable experience had been successful and believed it should be
continued as a tool for systemic change. -Louis Bender, External Evaluator
for the Western Policy Exchange Project
Following the developmental process for the roundtables, many of the states are moving
from priority setting and agenda building to action. Their efforts represent long-term
commitments, and many have plans to continue the roundtable process in the future.
Arizona has assigned the Arizona Education Conference Committee (AECC), an
advisory alliance of education leaders from five statewide education boards, the task of
monitoring the progress of the roundtables and implementing proposals to strengthen the
role of universities in K-12 improvement.
Idaho formally endorsed a continuation of the roundtable process. As a
result, the State Board of Education will institutionalize semiannual roundtables on
higher education issues. Special efforts will be taken to involve more legislators in
Montana continues to receive input on a revised mission statement from
legislative, business, and campus leaders. Once the process is complete, the regents will
move forward with broad plans for the future of the university system.
New Mexico will sustain the roundtable process by convening regional and
statewide roundtables during 1999 on teacher preparation and partnerships. A joint
proposal to strengthen teacher preparation, induction, retention, and recruitment programs
in New Mexico has been submitted to the U.S. Department of Education.
South Dakota looks toward future roundtables to reinforce and advance the
states change agenda as regent turnover and legislative term limits take effect.
Washington will encourage the development of learner-centered,
technology-assisted course delivery methods; competency-based measurements of student
achievement; and better collaboration among private and public sector institutions through
statutory changes to the Washington Fund for Innovation and Quality in Higher
part of WPE activities, WICHE commissioned Richard Richardson to develop a conceptual
framework for systemic change and to observe how this idea evolved among the Western
states over the course of the Kellogg grant. The roundtables offered an opportunity to
better understand how states view systemic change, incorporating and modifying elements of
the concept to fit their needs, or not integrating systemic change elements in their
activities. This monograph, Systemic Change in Higher Education, will be available in June
1999; for further information, check the WICHE Web site at http://www.wiche.edu under Western Policy Exchange or
call Cheryl Blanco at WICHE, 303-541-0224.
Participating states designated co-conveners to provide
leadership and involve a broad-based group of policymakers in the roundtable process.
State higher education executive officers (SHEEOs), legislators, governing board members,
university presidents, or state superintendents fulfilled these roles in each state.
Co-conveners also identified coordinators to help plan the meetings and handle local
logistics. From the Kellogg Foundation grant, WICHE provided each roundtable state
technical support and assistance, resource materials, a staff member to attend meetings
and prepare a discussion paper, an outside expert or facilitator, and financial support to
cover select meeting expenses.
"We have been trying to pull together
statewide meetings on educational issues for several years. The financial and
organizational support of WICHE and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation provided the catalyst
needed to make it happen."
--Frank Besnette, Executive Director, Arizona Board of Regents and
Two roundtables in 1998 looked at strategies to strengthen the role of
higher education in K-12 improvement. Roundtable participants, including key
representatives from state government, higher education, and the K-12 sector, focused on
three priority issues: the preparation of teachers, the support of beginning teachers, and
the recruitment and development of continuing teachers.
Conveners: Judy Gignac, president, Arizona Board of Regents; Dan
Schottel, state representative and WICHE commissioner; Lisa Graham Keegan, state
superintendent for public instruction; Lattie Coor, president, Arizona State University;
Peter Likins, president, The University of Arizona; Clara Lovett, president, Northern
Coordinator: Tom Wickenden, associate executive director, Arizona Board of Regents.
Facilitators: Calvin Frazier, education consultant; Esther Rodriquez, associate executive
director, State Higher Education Executive Officers.
Better connecting higher education with government and the corporate sector
provided the overarching theme of three statewide roundtables and four smaller campus
roundtables during 1997 and 1998. Within this context, policymakers explored the role of
community colleges and the creation of a policy environment that enhances institutional
flexibility and responsiveness to state needs. Also addressed was the role of the State
Board of Education, which will assume responsibility for and permanently institutionalize
the roundtable process in Idaho.
Conveners: Curtis Eaton, member, Idaho State Board of Education;
John Hansen, former state senator.
Coordinator: Charles Ruch, president, Boise State University and WICHE commissioner.
Facilitator: Richard Jonsen, executive director, WICHE.
Resource Expert: James Gibbons, special assistant to the president and provost for
industry relations at Stanford University.
During an October 1997 roundtable, policymakers reaffirmed the role and performance
of higher education and the results of a 1994 restructuring effort which sought to
minimize competition and improve delivery by integrating the states universities,
colleges, and vocational-technical centers into a two-university system. The roundtable
discussion resulted in a regents vision statement, which outlined the future
and direction of higher education in the state.
Conveners: Richard Crofts, commissioner, Montana University System
and WICHE commissioner; Emily Swanson, state representative and WICHE commissioner.
Coordinator: Richard Crofts, commissioner, Montana University System and WICHE
Facilitator: Dennis Jones, president, National Center for Higher Education Management
Two 1997 roundtables sought to build consensus around state objectives for higher
education and the policy environment necessary to achieve them. K-16 partnerships for
teacher preparation and development emerged as one of eight policy goals and the focus of
a third roundtable held in 1998.
Conveners: Bruce Hamlett, executive director, New Mexico
Commission on Higher Education and WICHE commissioner; Michael Olguin, former state
representative and majority leader; Michael Davis, state superintendent.
Coordinators: Kari Cole, government liaison officer, New Mexico Commission on Higher
Education; Charlotte Cooper, policy analyst, New Mexico Commission on Higher Education.
Facilitator: Tim Karpoff, professional meeting facilitator, Karpoff and Associates.
Resource Experts: Calvin Frazier, education consultant; Dennis Jones, president, National
Center for Higher Education Management Systems; Esther Rodriguez, associate executive
director, State Higher Education Executive Officers.
Three statewide roundtables and four regional mini legislative
roundtables during 1997 and 1998 contributed to the development of a new funding framework
linking state funding to higher education objectives, a faculty salary competitiveness
program, and a formal discussion of higher educations accountability to state
Conveners: Robert T. Tad Perry, executive director,
South Dakota Board of Regents and WICHE commissioner; Larry Gabriel, former state
representative and majority leader; Barbara Everist, state senator; Mitch Richter, state
Coordinator: Robert T. Tad Perry, executive director, South Dakota Board of
Regents and WICHE commissioner.
Facilitator: Dennis Jones, president, National Center for Higher Education Management
Challenged by three forces of changethe changing academic
marketplace, technology and distance learning, and competency- based credentialing
policymakers and higher education leaders met twice during 1998. They were charged with
proposing and demonstrating strategies for serving the state into the new millennium.
Conveners: Don Carlson, state representative and WICHE
commissioner; Jeanette Wood, former state senator; Marcus Gaspard, executive director,
Washington Higher Education Coordinating Board and WICHE commissioner.
Coordinators: Jean Six, senior analyst, Washington State Senate; Sherie Story, research
analyst, Washington State House of Representatives.
Facilitator: Dewayne Matthews, senior program director, WICHE.
Resource Experts: Robert Zemsky, director of the University of Pennsylvanias
Institute for Research in Higher Education; Clara Lovett, president, Northern Arizona
Western Policy Exchanges is published by WICHE with support from the
W.K. Kellogg Foundation. For more information about the state roundtables or this issue,
contact Carrie Besnette at 303-541-0248 or CBesnette@wiche.edu