Dr. Amardeep Kahlon, Conference Chair

Dr. Amardeep Kahlon is passionate about innovation and research in higher education. She is a highly experienced and innovative educator with experience in the complete education cycle from design to evaluation. She is keenly interested in innovative pedagogies for increasing student retention and engagement.

Dr. Kahlon is currently the director of Fast Track to Success, a competency-based education (CBE) project. As a part of this project, she holds workshops around Texas for disseminating CBE best practices. She is the co-director of a Texas Affordable Baccalaureate grant, wherein she works with South Texas College to create accelerated, competency-based pathways to a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Information Technology. In October 2017, Dr. Kahlon was profiled by The Chronicle of Higher Education as one of the top ten classroom innovators in the country.

Dr. Kahlon is also part of an NSF funded project to build a sustainable model for broadening the participation in computer science in community colleges. While she was on sabbatical in 2013-14, she served as a founding dean of academic affairs at a university in India.

Dr. Myshie Pagel, Conference Co-chair

Dr. Myshie Pagel has worked in higher education for over 20 years as a faculty member and administrator. Her areas of interest include faculty/ student engagement, student access, and development of viable educational pathways for students.  She currently serves as the Dean of Education and CTE at the Valle Verde campus of El Paso Community College and leads the development team for CBE at EPCC.

Dr. Emma L. Miller

Dr. Emma L. Miller has been in higher education administration in the state of Texas for over 20 years. She has a Ph.D. in Applied Management and Decision Science with a concentration in Leadership and Organizational Change from Walden University. Currently, Dr. Miller is Assistant Dean for Bachelor programs as well as the Program Chair for the Competency-Based Education Bachelor of Applied Science in Organizational Leadership program at South Texas College as well as the advisor for the National Society of Leadership and Success South Texas College Chapter. In addition, Dr. Miller has also been an Academic Dean with Brightwood College and a Director of Academic Affairs for the University of Phoenix McAllen, TX campus. As a researcher, she has focused on mentoring examining how it relates to student retention and attrition and its impact on the institution. She has written in books, international journals and presented at local and international conferences. Dr. Miller has recently co-authored a chapter “Survey Research Methods” for the book: Education Research: An African approach published by South Africa Oxford University Press as well as co-authored “Education Diplomacy in Mentoring Diverse Populations” in the International Journal of Early Childhood Education. In addition, Dr. Miller serves as Senior Advisor for the non-profit organization Blue Marble Space Institute of Science.

Dr. Eric A. Roe

Dr. Eric A. Roe has extensive experience in creating high-performance / high-profile programs and collaborative partnerships to make professional and workforce education relevant for employers and the economy through systemic reforms which align competencies with talent development pathways.

He is currently the Executive Director of the Texas Engineering Executive Education (TxEEE) at the University of Texas at Austin.

At UT Austin, Dr. Roe is a member of the Cockrell School of Engineering’s Leadership Team and responsible for the college’s executive engineering Master’s degree programs, engineering professional development, conferences, and customized corporate training. Prior to UT Austin, Dr. Roe was the Director of Applied Technology at Polk State College and founder of the Manufacturing Talent Development Institute. In these roles he instituted one of the first competency-based degree programs when he transformed a traditional Engineering Technology program to competency-based Open-Entry/Early-Exit, served the state through the ManufacturingTDI statewide resource center bridging industry and talent development systems, and served as Principal Investigator (PI) of an NSF ATE grant and Co-PI and director of three US DOL TAACCCT grants to strengthen Engineering Technology and Advanced Manufacturing training and education programs. These initiatives have created the toolkit for a unified educational system that provides the curriculum, educational articulation pathways, and certifications needed to deliver required workplace competencies for STEM and modern manufacturing careers.

Dr. Roe held various positions in manufacturing research, technical services, and engineering before joining the education sector to become a founding director of FLATE, the Florida Advanced Technological Education Center and shifted his focus to creating a skilled and educated STEM workforce. Dr. Roe earned his Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from the University of South Florida, where he developed an alternative feedmill process for citrus processing. In his professional career, he has worked in 3 areas of vital importance to industry – Manufacturing, R&D, and Education. He has served as keynote speaker and technical lecturer at regional, national, and international conferences in economic and workforce development, education, and engineering.

Krystian Grodecki

Krystian Grodecki is the Southwest Regional Director at D2L, partnering with higher education institutions across the southern US to evaluate, develop and adopt new technology. His role includes working with universities and colleges to support specific initiatives including increasing student engagement, faculty adoption, implementing alternative delivery models (CBE), and adaptive learning. His focus on the steering committee is creating a valuable interaction between education technology companies and conference attendees.

Dr. Craig Shieber

Dr. Craig Schieber has built a reputation as an innovator and leader of change in education.  His work has focused on building student agency, project-based learning, inquiry learning, and personalizing the educational experience. Current efforts focus on development of competency-based education and the many aspects of teaching that are encompassed in this historical shift in education pedagogy. He has recently begun dialog about these topics at several international conferences. Craig’s doctoral work at Seattle Pacific University was on How Technology is Influencing Education. Awards include: White House Presidential Teacher’s Award, Who’s Who in American Schools, and The Golden Acorn Award. Craig teaches at City University of Seattle.

Tesha Graham

Tesha Graham is the Student Success Coach for the MyWay Competency-Based Education (CBE) programs at University of Mary Hardin-Baylor (UMHB). She is also an Adjunct Associate Professor in the General Studies & Student Development department at Austin Community College. She is passionate about helping students succeed academically and personally. Her background encompasses holistic advising/counseling, student support and retention. She has served in higher education for nearly 20 years in various roles as Guidance Counselor, GoArmyEd Counselor, Coordinator of Transfer Evaluations and Program Technician. She holds a M.S.Ed. in Leadership for Higher Education and a B.S. in Management of Human Resources.

Carlos Rivers

Carlos Rivers serves as the Operations Research Analyst of the Institute for Competency Based Education at Texas A&M University-Commerce. Rivers uses advanced mathematical modeling and analytical methods to help the university investigate and interpret information that assists management with decision making, policy formulation, or other managerial functions related to Competency-Based Education (CBE). Rivers is considered a subject matter expert in competency-based data analytics and has spoken on the subject at numerous conferences at both the state and national level. He has also assisted other universities in the development and implementation of their own CBE programs. Rivers was recently selected to serve on the National Advisory Board for Postsecondary Competency-Based Education and Learning Research by the American Institutes for Research and the Lumina Foundation. He was also selected for the Competency-Based Education Network’s Collaboratory project. He created the university’s first Competency-Based Education Dashboard and predictive modeling application. Rivers has provided baseline data to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) that has served as a starting point for grant applications to fund additional competency-based sites in the state of Texas. His publications on competency-based education and data analytics have appeared in such venues as The Journal of Competency-Based Education, EDUCAUSE Review, WCET Frontiers and The Evolllution.

Kristin Walker

Kristin Walker is passionate about the mission of community colleges and training the future workforce. Working in higher education for 18 years, she has gained experience in Business, Career, & Technical Education; Protective Services-Fire Academy, EMT, Paramedic, Police Academy; Continuing Education; Dual Credit; Job Placement; Disability Services; Grant Writing and Managing – specifically, Carl D. Perkins Federal Grant, Texas Workforce Commission’s Skills Development Fund Grants and Department of Labor Training Grants. She has her dream job as the associate vice president of workforce education for Trinity Valley Community College leading the Adult and Continuing Education department, Small Business Development Center, and Workforce Education.

Stephanie Long

Stephanie Long comes to the table with over 14 years of professional GIS experience, a Master of Science in Geography and a GISP certification. Currently she develops curriculum and instructs GIS courses for the GIS Department at Austin Community College. She was recently appointed by her Department Chair to be the Online Program Coordinator for her department at ACC allowing her the pleasure of teaching five GIS courses online in the Competency Based Education format. Stephanie uses innovative technology and a flexible work schedule to meet the needs of her diverse online students.

Dr. Rita Mitra

Dr. Rita Mitra is an Associate Professor in Practice in the Information Systems and Cyber Security Department at The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA). She teaches computer science and cybersecurity courses and continues the design and development of the cybersecurity courses in UTSA’s first fully online program, the Bachelor of Business Administration in Cyber Security (BBA), from her role as a learning architect with the Institution of Transformational Learning at UT System. A focus of her work revolves around testing and piloting software and hardware tools for competency-based labs and exercises, which she believes are the cornerstone of the curriculum.

Prior to joining UTSA, Dr. Mitra worked as an educational technologist with a focus on testing, training, prototyping, and curating innovative methods of content delivery in new platforms and applications. Her contributions in these initiatives focused on identifying gaps and driving agile innovation. Dr. Mitra was a classical pianist, violinist, and educator for many years before starting a second career in computer science and cybersecurity. She finds it a privilege to work and learn alongside her students, to impart an artistic, creative, and improvisational mindset, and to foster an attitude of immediacy towards today’s security challenges.

Ann Kennedy

Ann Kennedy is the multimedia developer for Fast Track to Success and faculty in the Visual Communication department at Austin Community College. She has successfully designed and delivered online, competency-based courses. She has created and curated CBE video case studies for the Fast Track to Success project. Her areas of expertise range from being an online educator for adult learners with Austin Community College District to previously managing a well-renowned publishing concern. As a freelance graphic designer for the past 20 years, Ann has an uncanny ability to combine worlds of creativity with all things technical.

Dr. Ali Esmaeili

Dr. Ali Esmaeili is currently serving as the Dean of Math, Science, Bachelor Programs, and University Relations at South Texas College. Since 2008, prior to fulfilling his position as Dean, Dr. Esmaeili served as Campus Administrator, Professional Development Coordinator, Instructional Support Services Coordinator, Division Director, and Associate Dean for Bachelor Programs. He holds an Ed. D. In Education, Master of Education, Master of Science from Texas A&M University-Kingsville. He is one of the founding faculty at the South Texas College. In addition, he is the founding Administrator for the Bachelor Programs at South Texas College. Currently, he is one of the Board Member at the Community College Baccalaureate Association, Former Board Member of Rio Grande Valley Council of Teachers of Mathematics, Former Board Member of South Texas Educational Technology School District, and former Honorary member of National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development. He has presented at several Nationally known conferences such as SACSCOC, League for Innovations, NISOD, CCBA, and many more.

Dr. Sheri Ranis

Dr. Sheri Ranis is a program director with the Academic Quality and Workforce Division of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. She brings over 30 years of education policy and grantmaking experience to her work on Career and Technical Education at the Coordinating Board, which includes supporting the Carl D. Perkins Program and representing the Board at C-BEN. Sheri’s topical expertise spans college access and success policies and strategies, non-profit organizational management, technology-enabled innovation in instruction and student supports and education research and evaluation. Community/technical colleges and adult student populations are her professional passions.


Early in her career Sheri ran international and domestic education and scholarship programs at the Social Science Research Council. More recently, she served as senior staff designing and managing education investment portfolios at both the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Lumina Foundation. Sheri was also Executive Director of a college access and success non-profit in Seattle, WA. She has served as a consultant and on numerous advisory boards and committees for non-profit and education enterprises across the United States. Sheri holds a Ph.D. in Education from Teachers College, Columbia University and degrees in international affairs and government from Columbia University and Smith College, respectively.

Jessica Mason
James Fountain

James Fountain currently serves as the Executive Director for Competency Based Education at Texas A&M University-Commerce. James has a Master’s in Education Administration from the University of Oklahoma. He has 13 years’ experience in Higher Education and has served a Campus President, Campus Director of Academic Affairs, Dean and Faculty-member where he focused on returning adult students. James has a distinguished background in Competency Based Education which started with direct assessment and helped launch various types CBE programs while serving at private colleges and Universities. James is also a national advisor for the CBE field as he has given over 50 presentations about CBE throughout the United States.  He has unique insights to various accreditation initiatives as he has led or participated in 18 different accreditation processes at both the institutional and programmatic level.