Accreditation Boot Camp Speakers



Terrell2Terrell Halaska, HCM Strategists 

Terrell Halaska is the Founding Partner of HCM Strategists. Terrell leads the firm’s support of several education clients and provides strategic guidance to HCM’s health team. A graduate of the University of California, San Diego with a bachelor’s degree in political science, Terrell began to focus on policy during her master’s studies at the Monterey Institution of International Studies. She put her education to work on Capitol Hill as Press Secretary to Rep. Scott Klug and on the state level as Media Manager for the National Governors Association and Director of the state of Wisconsin’s Washington, D.C. office. After the confirmation of former Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson as Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Terrell joined his senior management team as deputy chief of staff.

Terrell soon moved from HHS to the White House, where she advised the president, domestic policy advisor and other senior staff as special assistant to the president for domestic policy. In that role, she developed and advanced administration policies on family and children’s issues – including early childhood education, welfare reform, housing, and homelessness. In 2005, she was confirmed by the U.S. Senate as Assistant Secretary of Education for Legislation and Congressional Affairs, serving as the department’s top negotiator with Congress on several key initiatives. Married to David Dunn, Terrell splits her time between Washington, D.C. and Austin, Texas, where David also shapes education policy as head of the state charter school association.



Melissa Emery-Aras, Government Accountability Office


Melissa Emrey-Arras is a Director in the Government Accountability Office’s (GAO) Education, Workforce and Income Security team.  She oversees GAO’s higher education reports and has led national studies on issues ranging from student loans to veterans’ education benefits.

Before joining GAO in 2001, Melissa worked at a private sector consulting company and conducted program evaluations for state and local governments.  She also worked for a number of years in non-profit agencies serving children and families.

Melissa received a master’s degree in public policy from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, where she was awarded the Manuel C. Carballo prize for graduate research.  She holds a bachelor’s degree from Swarthmore College

Andrew Gillen, Independent Higher Education Analyst

Over the last several years, Dr. Andrew Gillen has studied financial aid policy as the research director of Education Sector and the Center for College Affordability and Productivity.   His research has addressed numerous issues in higher education, including college affordability, financial aid, the economics of higher education, transparency, accountability and accreditation. Andrew is currently an adjunct professor of economics at Johns Hopkins University, a committee member of the Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance and a program officer at a family charitable foundation.

Andrew received a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Ohio University and a Ph.D. in Economics from Florida State University.

Eric Kelderman, The Chronicle of Higher Education

Eric Kelderman, a staff reporter at The Chronicle of Higher Education, covers state policy, the future of public higher education and accreditation, and occasionally legal issues and music. Kelderman joined The Chronicle in 2008 from, a project of the Pew Center on the States. He has also covered education and state politics for The Gazette newspapers in Montgomery County, Md. In 2010, Eric was part of a team of Chronicle reporters that won first prize from the Education Writers Association for their articles.

Eric holds a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Maryland at College Park; a master’s degree in music theory and composition from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities; and a bachelor’s degree in music from Luther College, in Decorah, Iowa.

Amy Laitinen, New America

Amy Laitinen is director for Higher Education with the Education Policy program at New America. She previously served as a policy advisor on higher education at both the U.S. Department of Education and the White House. She was named a top innovator for her work on federal policy and competency-based education by the Chronicle of Higher Education. Amy’s current work focuses on federal policies to increase quality and transparency in higher education as well as the politics of higher education reform.

Amy is the product of public higher education, holding an associate degree from Miami-Dade Community College, a bachelor’s degree from New College of Florida and a master’s degree in public policy from the University of California at Berkeley.


Doug Lederman, Inside Higher Ed

Doug Lederman is one of the three founders of Inside Higher Ed. With Scott Jaschik, he leads the site’s editorial operations, overseeing news content, opinion pieces, career advice, blogs and other features. Doug speaks widely about higher education, including on C-Span and National Public Radio and at meetings around the country, and his work has appeared in The New York Times and USA Today, among other publications. Doug was managing editor of The Chronicle of Higher Education from 1999 to 2003. Before that, Doug had worked at The Chronicle since 1986 in a variety of roles, first as an athletics reporter and editor. He has won three National Awards for Education Reporting from the Education Writers Association, including one in 2009 for a series of Inside Higher Ed articles he co-wrote on college rankings. He began his career as a news clerk at The New York Times. He grew up in Shaker Heights, Ohio, and graduated in 1984 from Princeton University. Doug lives with his family in Bethesda, Maryland.

Michale McComis, Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges

As the Executive Director, Dr. Michale McComis serves as the Chief Executive Officer of the accrediting commission, managing the day-to-day operation of ACCSC’s Arlington, Virginia office and staff, and overseeing the ACCSC accreditation process. Michale also coordinates the Commission’s legislative activities and is the Commission’s liaison with state and federal agencies, institutional and programmatic accrediting organizations, and higher education associations.

Michale’s tenure with ACCSC began in 1994 and during that time he has conducted hundreds of on-site evaluations to ACCSC member institutions, and is a frequent speaker at accreditation workshops and training seminars as well as at state and national conferences on accreditation and higher education. Michale  is considered by many to be amongst the leading voices on accreditation matters. He has testified before both the U.S. House of Representative Committee on Education and the Workforce and the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Pensions, and Labor (HELP) Committee on issues related to accreditation. Additionally, Michale also served as a non-federal negotiator on three separate U.S. Department of Education Negotiated Rulemaking panels for the establishment of federal regulations related to the Higher Education Act of 1965, as well as many other federal and non-federal panels and working groups engaged in accreditation matters.

Michale earned his Baccalaureate of Arts (History), Master of Education, and Doctor of Education degrees from the University of Virginia where he has taught graduate-level courses as an adjunct faculty member in education policy. Prior to joining ACCSC, Michale served in the United States Marine Corp and garnered skills in the trades as an electrician’s apprentice and HVAC Technician.


MaryEllen McGuire, PNPI

MaryEllen McGuire is the President of the Postsecondary National Policy Institute (PNPI).  Prior to creating and launching PNPI, MaryEllen served on the White House Domestic Policy Council as President Obama’s Senior Advisor for Education.  In this capacity she focused her efforts on developing and advancing the president’s higher education agenda.  Apart from her work with the administration, MaryEllen previously served as the Senior Education Policy advisor to Senator Chris Dodd on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and Majority Staff Director of the Senate Subcommittee on Children and Families.  Before her time with Senator Dodd, she worked on education and social policy issues for then-Senator Joe Biden, was the Assistant Director of Research to former First Lady Hillary Clinton, worked for the Connecticut General Assembly, and served as a Connecticut public school teacher. She also served as the Director of New America’s Education Program from 2008-2009 and launched PNPI at New America in 2012 where it remained through the summer of 2015.  In 2002, MaryEllen received her doctorate in politics and education from Teacher’s College, Columbia University and holds a bachelor’s in political science from the University of Connecticut. In 2016, MaryEllen was awarded a Distinguished Alumni Award from Teacher’s College for her contributions to federal higher education policy.

Ben Miller , The Center for American Progress


Ben Miller is the Senior Director for Postsecondary Education at American Progress. He was previously the research director for higher education at New America, as well as a senior policy advisor in the Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development at the U.S. Department of Education. Miller’s work focuses on higher-education accountability, affordability, and financial aid, as well as for-profit colleges and other issues. Miller’s work has appeared in The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and Inside Higher Ed, among other outlets. He holds a bachelor’s degree in history and economics from Brown University.

Rick O’Donnell, Skills Fund

With more scars than he cares to count from fighting the good higher ed reform fight, Rick O’Donnell is a tireless entrepreneur and civil servant who has founded multiple social and for-profit ventures rooted in making American lives better. His most recent start-up, College Portfolio, was acquired by…a bootcamp.

Prior to founding Skills Fund, O’Donnell was Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies, where he served as the state’s chief consumer protection official with direct oversight of the Financial Services, Securities, Banking, Insurance, and Public Utilities Commissioners. Rick also led the Colorado Department of Higher Education, overseeing all 29 public colleges and universities, the regulation of private and occupational schools, the state’s student loan servicing agency, and the state’s college savings plan administrator. He currently serves on the U.S. Department of Education’s advisory counsel (NACIQI) that oversees all college accrediting agencies.

Terri Taylor, Education Counsel

Terri Taylor’s portfolio focuses on projects related to access and diversity in higher education on behalf of the College Board’s Access & Diversity Collaborative, the Association of American Medical Colleges, and leading institutions of higher education, among others.  She also works on issues related to federal accountability for colleges and universities, new models for delivering quality instruction to K-12 students, data and privacy, state assessment transitions, and educator evaluation and effectiveness. Ms. Taylor earned her B.A. from the University of Virginia, with distinction, and her J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center.  Before law school, she taught English to migrant students in Virginia and to 7-12 grade students in the Kyrgyz Republic as a Peace Corps Volunteer.