Public forums are scheduled June 5, 8, 9 and 12 in The Dalles and Hood River as the Columbia Gorge Community College board nears a decision on the institution’s next president. There will be two separate public forums for each candidate on each college campus. (Internal forums with students, staff and faculty are also scheduled.) Public forums on The Dalles Campus will be held in Room 3.301, Building 3 (“Health Sciences”). Public forums on the Hood River Campus will be in Room 1.310 on the third floor.

Members of the public who attend the forums will be invited to provide their feedback through written forms which will be reviewed by the college board. Here are candidate biographies and corresponding forum dates:

Dr. Anne Howsare Boyens: Monday, June 5, 10:30 a.m. The Dalles Campus / 3:30 p.m. Hood River Campus. Dr. Howsare Boyens is provost of Des Moines Area Community College in Des Moines, Iowa. Her urban campus serves more than 4,200 students in credit classes, workforce training, adult education and literacy. This is part of a district has six campuses and six centers, serving over 32,000 students. Dr. Howsare Boyens oversees Urban Campus, Southridge Center, DMACC Capitol Center and Evelyn K Davis Center for Working Families. For the past 19 years, Dr. Howsare Boyens has served the diverse needs of DMACC’s students, staff and faculty in various capacities. After completing her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and her Masters of Arts in School Counseling from the University of Iowa, she began her career as a counselor at DMACC Urban Campus. In this role, she also taught numerous student development courses. In 2008, she transitioned into administration as associate provost for student services and then as associate provost for academic services. As chief executive officer of the Urban campus, Dr. Howsare Boyens serves over 3,000 credit students in Arts & Sciences and Career & Technical programs. She oversees the Evelyn K. Davis Center for Working Families to provide community services to more than 7,000 clients per year. Dr. Howsare Boyens also leads the Southridge Center and Career Academy, serving high schools in Warren County and Des Moines Public Schools. She leads district-wide non-credit high school completion and English Language programs, serving over 1,200 non-credit students. Dr. Howsare Boyens leads the district’s newly developed post-secondary programs at two corrections facilities. She launched the UNI@DMACC program, serving place-bound students. Dr. Howsare Boyens serves on various nonprofit and economic development boards.

Dr. Ken Lawson: Thursday, June 8, 10:30 a.m. The Dalles Campus / 4:30 p.m. Hood River
. (Note: 4:30 p.m. starting time in Hood River is correct.) Dr. Lawson is vice president of instruction, Skagit Valley College, Mt. Vernon, Wash. His community college experience 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. Dr. Lawson’s career — which includes serving as a full-time faculty and dean of the Social Sciences/Equity and Social Justice division at Shoreline Community College, and dean for the Humanities and Social Sciences at Seattle Central College — has focused on ensuring equitable access, achievement, and outcomes for all students. He is deeply committed to the role higher education plays as an agent of positive social change. Since 2013, Dr. Lawson has served as the vice president for instruction at Skagit Valley College. 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 for diverse communities.Dr. Lawson has a doctorate in political science from the University of Washington, and a Master of Arts and Bachelor of Science in political science from the University of Utah.

Dr. Jerry Fliger: Friday, June 9, 10:30 a.m. The Dalles Campus / 3:30 p.m. Hood River Campus. A first-generation college student, Dr. Fliger is vice president of instruction, Texas City, Texas. He is passionate about the role education plays in transforming lives. Through his student- centered lens and engaging approach to instruction, Dr. Fliger encourages students to chase their dreams with the help of supportive and engaged faculty, staff, and administrators. Dr. Fliger has served in higher education full-time for 20 years as a faculty, department chair, associate dean, dean and vice president for instruction at four institutions. His work at Hispanic and minority-serving community colleges focuses on increasing access and student success. One of his accomplishments includes leading a college’s ability to offer its first bachelor’s degree. In 2020, he led the transition to fully online instruction in response to the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the transition back to in-person instruction. Dr. Fliger is committed to exposing students to a global perspective through education. He has created, led, and
supervised study abroad programs at multiple institutions and recently focused on a social justice program with Ireland. Dr. Fliger has led extensive efforts to forge strong partnerships between industry and higher education. Through his work with faculty, advisory boards, chambers of commerce, and economic partnerships, he led the creation of over a dozen programs since 2019. Emphasizing opportunities for students to achieve gainful, lasting employment, he has incorporated continuing education into program development, making it possible to quickly respond to workforce needs. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Interpersonal and Public Communication from Purdue University-Fort Wayne, a master’s degree in Speech Communication from Miami University and a doctorate in communication from Bowling Green State University with an emphasis in culture and rhetoric. Dr. Fliger currently serves on the boards of a local chamber of commerce and economic development partnership.

Dr. Rachel Solemsaas: Monday, June 12, 10:30 a.m. The Dalles Campus / 3:30 p.m. Hood River
. Dr. Solemsaas is chancellor, Hawai‘i Community College, Hilo, Hawaii. She brings three decades of progressive public service experience, including 18 years in leadership and administration at community colleges.  She takes pride in serving institutions that align with her passion and purpose as an anti-poverty activist.  She was appointed chancellor of Hawai‘i Community College in 2016. Hawai'i Community College is part of the University of Hawai'i, a ten campus system; her college serves the Hawai'i (Big) Island.  She previously served as chief financial officer and chief business officer at Truckee Meadows Community College in Nevada, Bellevue College and Edmonds College, both in Washington State.  Prior to joining the Community and Technical College system, Dr. Solemsaas served Snohomish County and King County in various capacities in finance related to public government, health and human services. Dr. Solemsaas’s educational background brings three distinct skillsets: business acumen, administration and community college leadership.  She earned a doctorate of education with an emphasis on community college leadership from Washington State University, a master’s in public administration from the University of Washington and a bachelor of science in accounting from De La Salle University in Manila, Philippines. Dr. Solemsaas considers the Pacific Northwest her home.  Her humble beginnings as an immigrant started in Everett, Wash., in 1986, where her family moved from the Philippines due to opportunities with Boeing.  She met her husband, Ron, in Renton and raised their family, settling in Lake Stevens, Wash.  Today, they enjoy being grandparents. Dr. Solemsaas is a board director for the American Association of Community Colleges, the primary advocacy organization for the nation’s community colleges. She has served as a commissioner for the Northwest Commission for College and Universities since 2020, as board director and past president of the National Asian Pacific Islander Council, and as a member of the Hawai'i Leadership Fellows.  As a Collective Impact Movement practitioner, Dr. Solemsaas led the establishment of Vibrant Hawai'i and served as its board chair during its formation. Vibrant Hawai'i evolved beyond an antipoverty movement. Today, it is a catalyst for creating opportunities to build abundance for the Hawai'i Island community.

The presidential search attracted 33 candidates. Thirteen search committee members, from the college and community at large, reviewed all initial applications before arriving at the four finalists. The college board contracted with American Community College Trustees (ACCT), a non-profit organization based in Washington, DC, to conduct the search. ACCT’s consultant was Dr. Luke Robins.