Advisory Committee


2021 Advisory Committee

Postsecondary Commissioner Shannon W. Gilkey convened local, state and national experts in higher education and workforce development to set priorities for Rhode Island's postsecondary system. The committee met in three day-long sessions, and the results of the conversations will inform the strategic direction of the work of our office. 

Key among the recommendations were: 1) Intensification of participation among adults 25 and older, minorities, and high school students; 2) Expansion of direct supports to students; and 3) Fixing structural barriers that hamper student success.

“Essentially, the Advisory Committee found that in order for the state to make good, living-wage jobs with longevity accessible to more Rhode Islanders, the higher education system needs to focus its efforts on students who sometimes find themselves struggling to earn degrees and credentials that will qualify them for those very jobs,” said Commissioner Gilkey. “Rhode Island needs to make the college/workforce training experience easier for any person, at any age, to attain any degree or credential without complications. For too long, the people who enter workforce training or college on a different schedule than the ‘right-after-high-school’ path discover that their path can be fraught with issues such as debt, childcare, full-time work, biases, limited choices, and outdated policies. Fortunately, we have an established base of resources, talent, vested parties, and the sheer will to make our higher education system more accessible, more affordable, and more helpful to learners.”

“Upon examination of the data, it is clear that students who are black, indigenous, or persons of color are underrepresented in the workforce training and college sectors,” said Ledbetter. “Addressing adult BIPOC barriers with direct resources will certainly aid in persistence and completion.”

Added Weygand, “As a state, we need to help BIPOC students in K-12 classrooms start their college experiences earlier and with more marketing, education, and outreach. The programs to earn college credits and even associate degrees are available and are successful, but most are underutilized and favored by white students. The expansion to all high school students will boost attainment and enable high school graduates to continue on successfully to college or begin work with necessary credentials already in hand.”

Chief among the other recommendations were: increasing workforce trainings that support the R.I. economy; equity in enrollment; expanding the Rhode Island Reconnect program; improving the education data collection system; adding more advisors and equipping them with better communications about training and learning options; and creating a statewide prior learning assessment program.

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Thursday, August 26, 2021
 “Creating a More Prosperous Economy in Rhode Island”

Friday, September 24, 2021
 “Equity in Enrollment, Persistence, and Affordability”

Friday, October 22, 2021
 "Understanding the Needs of Today’s Postsecondary Students"

Overview of the Advisory Committee


All sessions were public meetings and ran from 9:00-3:00. 

Rhode Island Nursing Education Center
350 Eddy Street
Providence, RI

Please read this information about COVID PROTOCOLS at RI Nursing Education Center



Meeting Details

> 1: Creating a More Prosperous Economy in Rhode Island

Research shows that the knowledge and skills of workers available in a labor force affect business and economic growth. Additionally, those with higher education and workforce training see higher wages and lifetime earnings. Increasing access to career training and incentivizing those who are educated in Rhode Island to stay in the state are essential to creating a more prosperous economy.

Topic #1: Increasing access and participation in career training opportunities, with an emphasis on state priority sectors.
As the economy starts to recover from the downturn of the pandemic, postsecondary education is one way to help people recover, particularly those hit hardest by the pandemic. This topic will feature discussion regarding the landscape of postsecondary education in Rhode Island, the opportunities available, and the importance of various sectors to the Rhode Island economy.

Topic #2: Credentials of value/stackable credentials; recommendations, and how to get there.
The second topic will dive deeper into high quality training programs and their ability to provide credentials and training that supports the Rhode Island economy. Discussion will center around highlighting Rhode Island’s priority economic sectors and partnering with businesses to provide training opportunities that count toward a degree. Further, stackable credentials and their importance in creating and educated workforce will be discussed.


Meeting Prep Materials 

Featured Speaker



Anthony P. Carnevale


Anthony P. Carnevale is Director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, a position he has held since the center was established.

President Reagan appointed Dr. Carnevale to chair the human resources subcommittee on the White House Commission on Productivity; President Bush appointed him to the White House Commission on Technology and Adult Education; and President Clinton appointed him to serve as the chairman of the National Commission on Employment Policy.

During his career, Dr. Carnevale has held numerous positions of note: he was Vice President for Public Leadership at the Educational Testing Service; Director of Human Resource and Employment Studies at the Committee for Economic Development the nation’s oldest business-sponsored policy research organization; and the Founder and President of the Institute for Workplace Learning (IWL). At IWL he worked with private companies to develop high performance work systems and more effective work and training systems. Prior to founding IWL, Dr. Carnevale was Director of Political and Government Affairs for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), the largest union in the AFL- CIO.

He is a recipient of the Truman award from the American Association of Community Colleges in 2013 and the Morris T. Keeton Adult and Experiential Learning Award from the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning in 2009.

Dr. Carnevale earned a B.A. from Colby College and a Ph.D. in public finance economics from the Maxwell School at Syracuse University. Before moving to Washington, D.C., Dr. Carnevale worked as a research economist with Syracuse University Research Corporation.

(photo credit: Georgetown University)



> 2: Equity in Enrollment, Persistence, and Affordability

Research shows that completing some form of postsecondary credentialing improves lifetime earnings, creates stronger community engagement, and leads to greater personal growth and fulfillment. While Rhode Island has committed to raising attainment rates to 70% by 2025, attainment gaps still exist for Black and Latinx students. Further, more work is needed to fill the financial void that has arisen for middle and low-income individuals who do not qualify for Pell Grants, adult-learning students, and Black and Latinx students. Supporting high students enrolled in dual credit and dual enrollment programs and providing financial support to students who need it are strategies to increase attendance and persistence.

Topic #1: Equity in Rhode Island’s Postsecondary Education System
While equality means treating every student the same, equity refers to making sure every student has the support, resources, and opportunities to be successful. To create equity in education, systems must be structured to ensure every student has an equal chance for success. Discussion on this topic will include an analysis of the current state of equity in the Rhode Island postsecondary education system, the current barriers to equity that exist, and ways to provide more equity and opportunity to any student entering the education system.

Topic #2: Affordability and Its Role in Equity
Affordability is described as not just the cost of tuition but all the other costs and fees associated with postsecondary education and credentials. Often these non-tuition costs are less predictable and create barriers to affordability that are especially present in low-income and underrepresented communities. Discussion for this topic will focus on how to make postsecondary education affordable for ALL types of students and how fixing the affordability gap will support the goal of creating equity in Rhode Island’s postsecondary system.

Meeting Prep Materials

Featured Speakers



Scott Jenkins

Scott Jenkins  

Scott Jenkins is the strategy director for state policy at Lumina Foundation, an independent, private foundation in Indianapolis that is committed to making opportunities for learning beyond high school available to all. In that role, he leads the development and advancement of the foundation’s state policy agenda. Jenkins has a broad and extensive background in institutional, state, and federal policy development and execution. Before joining Lumina, he served as education policy director to two governors; as director of external relations for Western Governors University; and as a deputy assistant secretary in the U.S. Department of Education in the George W. Bush administration. Jenkins holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Central Florida.

(photo courtesy of Lumina Foundation)




Dr. Sylvia Spears

Sylvia Spears  

Dr. Sylvia Spears is vice president for administration & innovation, and distinguished professor of educational equity and social justice at College Unbound, Providence, which she joined in August. College Unbound is an accredited degree-completion institution focused on equity and community engagement. Previously, she was vice president for diversity & inclusion at Emerson College, Boston, a position she held for nine years. There, she helped the college implement new diversity initiatives aimed at driving excellence in inclusiveness. She served as chair of the college’s sexual assault task force and helped create policies on sexual misconduct, Title IX, interpersonal violence, and others. She has held senior leadership positions at Dartmouth College and New England College, and earned her doctoral degree at the University of Rhode Island in its joint program in education with Rhode Island College.

(photo courtesy of College Unbound)



> 3: Understanding the Needs of Today’s Postsecondary Students

While postsecondary education has been an important component of society since The Great Society in the 1960s, today’s students experience postsecondary education differently than previous generations. While more students are attending college, the cost of tuition, fees, and other auxiliary costs like textbooks has risen tremendously. Recent data shows that the “traditional” 4-year experience is rare for most postsecondary students, and technology has changed how and where students can access education. By better understanding who the students of today are and what issues they face, we can create a postsecondary education system that supports all those who want to enroll.

Topic #1: Creating a better understanding of postsecondary students in Rhode Island and what challenges they face.
This topic will highlight recent trends regarding the students enrolled in postsecondary education. Approximately 25% of students who enroll in postsecondary education across the US are ages 18-24 and directly enroll after high school graduation, despite the perception that this percentage is higher. In reality, most postsecondary students are age 25 and older and are parents, employees, and students who had been enrolled previously but paused their education or transferred schools. Discussions will center around how the population of postsecondary students has changed, the variety of options outside of college that students have access to, and how Rhode Island can better support all students.

Topic #2: Supporting student persistence through wraparound student services.
Wraparound student services include tutoring, counseling, childcare, transportation, and other non-instructional services that help students complete their credentials. This topic will center around supporting students, particularly those most vulnerable in excelling once they are enrolled in college. This includes highlighting how support at the institution level is essential for the persistence of students and how these services might be funded.

Meeting Prep Materials

Featured Speaker



Jimmieka Mills

Jimmieka Mills  

Jimmieka Mills is a strategic consultant, journalist, public speaker, and activist. Raised in Oakland, California, Mills experienced first-hand the effects of poverty and since 2016 has used her voice and her pen to bring awareness to the barriers faced by the most marginalized among our society. Mills has worked as a consultant for Lumina FoundationHope Center for College Community and Justice, and Young Invincibles, to name a few. Her work focuses on elevating individuals and communities experiencing homelessness as well as housing and food insecurity, many of which are college student populations. Mills sits on both the board of directors of the Faculty and Students Together Fund, the advisory board for the Hope Center for College Community and Justice, and serves as a frequent peer reviewer of research focused on issues faced by impoverished communities.

(Photo courtesy of Lumina Foundation)



Co-Chairs of the 2021 Advisory Committee

Beverly Ledbetter

Former Vice President and General Counsel, Brown University


Robert Weygand

Robert A. Weygand, Vice President of College Unbound; Former U.S. Congressmen and R.I. Lieutenant Governor

Beverly Ledbetter served Brown University for more than 40 years where she represented, advised, and defended the Ivy League university in all legal matters and matters with significant legal consequences. Ledbetter was a senior policy advisor to the president, the board, and senior management and provided legal guidance on university policies and practices, as well as risk assessment and management. Ledbetter was also a principal advisor on federal and state regulatory and compliance issues and served as Brown's liaison to several national higher education organizations. Her specialty is litigation, employment, labor and benefits law, contract law, real and intellectual property, non-profit corporate law, student affairs, and conflict resolution.


Robert A. Weygand is currently the vice president of College Unbound, Rhode Island’s newest fully accredited college. He previously served as vice president and chief financial officer at University of Rhode Island and was on the faculty in the Department of Political Science. Prior to URI, Weygand was the President and CEO of the New England Board of Higher Education in Boston. He is a former United States congressman, was Rhode Island’s 65th lieutenant governor and is a former state representative. He has served on many non-profit boards and commissions and is a recipient of numerous public service awards.

Advisory Committee Members

Rep. Karen Alzate
Chair, RI Legislative Black and Latino Caucus
RI House of Representatives

Rep. Gregg Amore
Chair, House Finance Subcommittee on Education
RI House of Representatives

Rob Anderson
State Higher Education Executive Officers Association

Marie Bernardo-Sousa
Johnson & Wales University

Marcela Betancur
Executive Director
Latino Policy Institute

Claudia Cordon
Co-Education Director
Progreso Latino

Sen. Sandra Cano
Chair, Senate Education Committee
RI Senate

Paige Clausius-Parks
Senior Policy Analyst
RI Kids Count

Andrew Cortes
Executive Director
Apprenticeship RI and Building Futures

Barbara Cottam
RI Board of Education

Patricia Coyne-Fague
RI Department of Corrections

Tim DelGiudice
RI Council on Postsecondary Education

Michael DiBiase
President & CEO
RI Public Expenditure Council

Daniel P. Egan
Association of Independent Colleges and Universities-RI

Shannon W. Gilkey
RI Office of the Postsecondary Commissioner

Tom Giordano
Executive Director
Partnership for RI

Mike Grey
Governor’s Workforce Board

Meghan Hughes
Community College of Rhode Island

Cedric Huntley
Executive Director
Nonviolence Institute

Angelica Infante-Green
RI Department of Education

Tom Izzo
RI Council on Postsecondary Education

Linda Katz
Co-Founder and Policy Director
Economic Progress Institute

Marta Martinez
Council on Elementary & Secondary Education

Rick Metters
Vice President
Fidelity Investments

James Monteiro
Founder and Director
Reentry Campus Program

Cortney Nicolato
United Way of Rhode Island

Marc Parlange
University of Rhode Island

Sen. Ryan W. Pearson
Chair, Senate Finance Committee; member, Senate Education Committee
RI Senate

Mackenzie Raimond
Student Representative
RI Council on Postsecondary Education

Frank D. Sanchez
Rhode Island College

Sen. James Seveney
Member, Senate Education Committee
RI Senate

Javaid Siddiqi
President and CEO
Hunt Institute

Jennifer Slattery
Director of Training and Membership Services
RI League of Cities & Towns

Neil Steinberg
RI Foundation

Darrell Waldron
RI Indian Council

Tammy V. Warner
Assistant Commissioner
RI Office of the Postsecondary Commissioner

Matt Weldon
RI Department of Labor & Training

Jeffery Williams
RI Council on Postsecondary Education

Kasim Yarn
RI Office of Veterans Affairs