Our vision is that all students are prepared for the changing world of work. We aspire to narrow the gap between higher education and employment.
Our core values are equity, transparency, adaptiveness, and sustained capacity-building.
“The world of work is undergoing dramatic changes before our eyes... It requires employers and employees to come to terms with a new environment, in which flexibility and adaptability have priority over job security and long-term (if not lifelong) employment, structured environments, and standardized roles and responsibilities.”
－ The Economist
Nearly 3 in 4 employers say they have a hard time finding graduates with the soft skills their companies need.
– Society for Human Resource Management
50% of managers feel recent grads are prepared for a full-time job, while 87% of grads feel they are ready for the big time.
The QA Commons was founded in 2016 with a grant from Lumina Foundation, providing a new approach to higher education quality assurance. Focusing on the employability of students, the QA Commons provides an innovative certification process that aims to ensure today’s graduates enter the workforce prepared for the responsibilities they will be expected to face.
The QA Commons believes all disciplines need to prepare students for employability – not just those that are specifically workforce-related or pre-professional.
Convened national leaders (funded by a USA Funds—now Strada—grant). Unanimously decide that new models focusing on career readiness are vital.
Research begins on bridging the gap between Higher Ed and the workplace. Awarded a Lumina Foundation grant.
Launched a Faculty Employability Fellows program, enabling faculty to learn first-hand about local workforce needs, employer concerns, and the views of the role higher education needs to play.
The Board of Directors oversees the organization, with a focus on mission, strategy and goals.
Graduate Student Representative, Doctoral Student, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
The QA Commons Staff, our NCHEMS partners, and our robust Advisory Board and Stakeholder Advisory Board members comprise our entire team.
“For the rapidly changing jobs of today and tomorrow, “soft skills” are no longer just something to pick up “somewhere.” Technology, offshoring, and roboticization are but a few of the challenges graduates will face, and skills such as collaboration, adaptability, and continuous learning have become essential for ongoing employability. We need to integrate essential employability qualities with academic content and theory to prepare graduates for meaningful careers. That’s why we created The Quality Assurance Commons.”
— Ralph Wolff
President & Founder
Ralph Wolff is the Founder and President of The Quality Assurance Commons, and an independent policy consultant focusing on accreditation and quality assurance processes in the US and internationally.
He previously served as the president of the WASC Senior College and University Commission from 1996 through August 2013, and as Associate Executive Director since 1981. He is a member of the University Quality Assurance International Board (UQAIB) in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and on the National Advisory Boards of the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA) and for the Lumina Foundation on the Degree Qualifications Profile. He also is a member of the Board of Trustees of the United States International University Africa, located in Nairobi, Kenya and Palo Alto University. He has published multiple articles and book chapters on accreditation, quality assurance, distance education, and the changing role of the library. Current projects include a research study of quality assurance standards for international branch campuses from the perspectives of the sending and receiving countries, and developing a new registry for better understanding of the meaning and standards for degree, certificates, badges, etc
Before joining the staff of WASC, Mr. Wolff was one of the founders of the Antioch School of Law in Washington DC, which now continues to operate as the David A. Clarke Law School at the University of the District of Columbia. The law school was the first ever designed to prepare lawyers to serve in public interest and poverty law settings. He later became dean of the Antioch Graduate School of Education, heading five programs in seven states. He also served as Associate Provost, setting up internal quality assurance processes for the geographically dispersed college. In 1976, he was appointed a law professor at the University of Dayton.
A graduate of Tufts University, Mr. Wolff received his JD with honors from the National Law Center at George Washington University. He continues to be a member of the Washington, DC bar.
For his service in support of quality assurance and improvement in the WASC region and nationally he was awarded in 2008 the Virginia B. Smith Award for Innovation in Higher education and, in 2013, an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters by Loma Linda University.
Director of Operations & Planning; NCHEMS Liaison
Michelle comes to the QA Commons with breadth of experience in both the non-profit and corporate realms. Before joining the QA Commons, she served as Director of Organizational Strategy at the RP Group, a research-based organization focused on student success and equity in the California Community Colleges. Prior to her work in the field of higher education, she served as Managing Director at Atlas Capital Advisors, as a Senior Financial Advisor at Merrill Lynch, and as an Account Manager at Oracle Corporation. Ms. Deasy has served on the boards of the Mural Music and Arts Project, the Presidio YMCA, the South End Rowing Club, and the Cornell Track Association. She spent several years competing internationally as a professional triathlete.
Ms. Deasy earned a BS in Development Sociology from Cornell University and an MA in Demography from UC Berkeley.
Director, Kentucky Engagement
Dr. Janna Vice is Professor and Provost Emerita at Eastern Kentucky University. She serves as the Faculty Employability Fellows Director with the Quality Assurance Commons.
Dr. Vice served as Senior Vice President for Academics and Provost at Eastern Kentucky University from 2009 until her retirement in 2017. She has more than four decades of experience in higher education.
Prior to retirement, Dr. Vice was the convener of Kentucky’s Council of Chief Academic Officers (comprised of Kentucky’s six public universities’ provosts and the chancellor of Kentucky Community and Technical College System). The Council works in collaboration with Kentucky’s Council on Postsecondary Education. She also served a 4-year term on the Kentucky Board of Education, overseeing Kentucky’s Pre-K – Secondary system.
Her experience also includes working with Kentucky’s private 4-year institutions. Early in her career, she served Berea College prior to beginning her teaching career at EKU. She is an active Trustee at Alice Lloyd College. Both Berea and Alice Lloyd are part of the nine official “work colleges” in the United States.
Her focus as Provost was on student success, academic excellence, and faculty-student engagement–positioning EKU as a learning-centered university. She established an ongoing Assurance-of-Learning Program that engages faculty in continuous improvement of academic programs. This program resulted in EKU earning the 2014 Council on Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) Award for Outstanding Institutional Practice in Student Learning Outcomes.
Under her leadership, EKU launched a student-success campaign that dramatically increased the University’s student-success metrics; developed a successful model for high quality online education; and implemented a plan for continuous professional development for all faculty.
As a Professor of Business Communication and a senior administrator, Dr. Vice taught professional and analytical writing. Her research has focused on assessment of academic programs, student learning outcomes, and curriculum design. Her professional career also includes being a presenter and workshop leader for business and professional organizations. She has led “Executive Writing” workshops for the Commonwealth of Kentucky’s Department of Criminal Justice Training for nearly 500 rising police officers, pursuing increased leadership roles in their agencies.
Dr. Vice received her doctorate from the University of Kentucky in Career and Technical Education, with a Business Communication Emphasis. She is a two-time graduate of EKU, having earned her MA and BS degrees in Business Education.
She has completed the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Management and Leadership in Education.
Dr. Vice has received awards for excellence in teaching, scholarship, and service from the University, professional organizations, and community partners. She was honored upon her retirement by EKU’s naming the student atrium in the Business and Technology Center the Dr. Janna P. Vice Atrium. The “Dr. Janna Vice Award for Student Scholarship” was named in her honor to recognize an EKU student annually who has “exemplified a commitment to advancing academic excellence through scholarly and creative endeavors.” As provost, she received EKU’s Creative Thinking Award in recognition of “tireless efforts to engender critical thinking in the classroom and beyond.” She was inducted into the EKU Hall of Distinguished Alumni in 2013.
Other awards include being named Kentucky’s Outstanding Business Education Teacher, by the Kentucky Business Education Association; receiving the “Thurston Banks Award for Distinguished Academic Service,” by Ohio Valley Athletics Conference, for a career devoted to supporting academics of collegiate athletics; and receiving the “Susan Baldwin Walker Endurance Award” by Baptist Health Foundation, Women of Courage Awards, Richmond.
Director, Connecticut Engagement
Florence Tate is a nationally and regionally recognized accreditation analyst and organizational consultant who advises all sectors of higher education regarding strategic issues pertaining to initial or re-evaluation of accreditation, state licensure, SEVIS and Title IV eligibility. She served as Commissioner and Chair of the Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training (ACCET). Served as Commissioner, Chair, and Executive Director of Accrediting Bureau of Allied Health Schools (ABHES) to achieve re-recognition for 5-years with no stipulations from the Secretary of Education. In addition, she has participated in scores of both institutional and programmatic evaluation visits for three national accrediting agencies serving primarily proprietary institutions of higher education. In addition, she provides training for faculty, staff and leadership regarding the organizational requirements closing the gap between institutional operation and regulatory requirements. Her professional career spans 45 years with 35 of those years as a Chief Executive Officer for institutions of higher education. During this time, she has successfully guided two and four-year for-profit and not for-profit national accredited institutions through regional accreditation.
In addition to serving on scores of institutional and programmatic evaluation visits for three of the national accrediting bodies, she has served as a Commissioner, and Chair of many. Committee activities. Ms. Tate has participated in include: standards review, preliminary review, educational planning and financial review. She has also served on the Executive Committee of the Commission of the Accrediting Bureau of Allied Health Schools (ABHES), as its Chair and its Executive Director; the latter, for the last 3 ½ years.
Currently, she participates on several boards, regulatory counsels and advisory groups and has spoken on issues of higher education for major publishing companies, State Employment and Training Councils, and private school associations.
Ms. Tate is a graduate of Notre Dame College, Manchester NH.
William M. Plater is currently Research Director for Civic Learning and Community Engagement for the Global Common Good at Laureate Education, Inc., a global network of more than 70 campus-based and online universities in 25 countries. He also serves as Senior Scholar at The QA Commons.
He served as the chief academic officer at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) for 19 years (1987-2006), Director of the Office of International and Community Development (2006-10), and retired as Indiana University Chancellor’s Professor Emeritus of Public Affairs, Philanthropic Studies, and English in 2010.
Earlier, he served as Dean of Liberal Arts at IUPUI (1983-87), Associate Director of the School of Humanities (1977-83 at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), and as Director of Unit One, a residential living-learning program he helped create in 1971, also at UIUC.
Plater attended the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign from 1963 to 1973, earning a baccalaureate (1967), master’s (1969), and PhD (1973), all in English literature.
He is a recipient of various awards from the Chancellor’s Medallion, Morris T. Keaton Award, Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters, Honorary Doctor of Philosophy in Development Administration, Spirit of Philanthropy Award John W. Ryan Award for Distinguished Contributions to International Programs, Gerald L. Bepko Medallion for Leadership, Mayor’s Community Service Award, and the Gerald L. Bepko Award for Administrative Achievement.
Senior Advisor, Research & Evaluation
Dr. Gary J. Burkholder is the Senior Research Scholar and Senior Contributing Faculty at Walden University. He serves as Senior Advisor for Research and Analytics for the QA Commons,
Dr. Burkholder has served in several senior academic and business administration roles including Program Director, Director of Online Studies, Assistant Dean, Dean, college Vice President, Vice President for Research, and Vice President for Academic Affairs. During his tenure with Laureate Education, Inc, a global network of institutions of higher education, Dr. Burkholder served as Program Director and Academic Research Lead for the Laureate Professional Assessment, in which he collaborated in the development of a cross-cultural instrument to assess workplace readiness in newly graduating undergraduate students. Dr. Burkholder’s research focus spans qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods including multivariable statistical analysis and instrument development. He has conducted research in topics that intersect psychology and public health, including those involving exercise and diet behavior change and adherence; predictors of substance use, sex risk, and HIV risk among youth and adults. More recently, Dr. Burkholder’s research interests have involved retention and persistence in tertiary education as well as online pedagogy. He has served as author on approximately 70 peer-reviewed publications and collaborated in over 70 conference presentations. Dr. Burkholder is active the American Public Health Association, serves as a peer reviewer with the Higher Learning Commission regional accreditation body, and serves as a reviewer for several professional journals in education, psychology, and public health.
Dr. Burkholder received his Ph.D. from the University of Rhode Island in Experimental Psychology as well as his MA and BA degrees in Psychology. He also earned a Bachelor of Science in Engineering degree from the University of Washington.
Dr. Burkholder has received several teaching and mentoring awards, including the distinguished faculty award at Walden University, the award to the dissertation chair of the student receiving the Outstanding Dissertation Award, the David Wilson Award for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, and the Laureate Education Pyramid Award for excellence in Technology, Business, and Education. He is also the recipient of the University of Rhode Island Distinguished Achievement Award.
Senior Advisor, Faculty Fellows
Brad Clark is the Lead Principal at Latent Talent Accelerator, and currently serves as the Senior Advisor of Employer Engagement for Quality Assurance Commons.
Before founding Latent Talent Accelerator, he was the National Director of Economic Opportunity and Professional Learning at Hope Street Group. He also served as the State Director of the Kentucky Teacher Fellows Network for Hope Street Group from 2015 to 2017. Prior to leaving the classroom, Brad was an upper elementary teacher for nearly a decade and has served in a number of advisory and community-based roles in education and workforce over the past 15 years.
Brad holds a BA in history from Eastern Kentucky University and a Master of Arts in Teaching from Morehead State University.
Senior Advisor, EEQ Certification
Denise DeZolt, PhD is currently Consultant and Owner of DD and Associates Consulting, LLC. She serves as Senior Advisor for EEQ Certification.
Dr. DeZolt has over 30 years of experience in higher education, with the last 12 in global quality assurance and accreditation. Her community and professional service activities include participation on college/university and community boards, involvement in professional organizations, coordination of faith formation programs, and service on human participants in research review boards. Dr. DeZolt’s presentations at international, national, state and local professional conferences have been in the areas of global accreditation and quality assurance, higher education in the for-profit sector, and distance education. She was the primary or co-primary investigator on federal, state, local, foundation, and university grants related to serving diverse populations of children and adolescents. Additionally, she worked in private practice for several years focusing on children and families.
Dr. DeZolt earned her Ph.D. in School Psychology from Kent State University, her M.S. Ed. in Counseling from the University of Dayton, and her BA in Behavioral Science from SUNY Plattsburgh.
Senior Advisor, Finance
Dr. Robert Allison is a senior financial executive for not-for-profit and private higher educational institutions. His strengths include financial management, leadership, institutional strategy formation, capital planning/capital development, and business services planning.
Dr. Allison has a proven track record of institutional change and development, having held financial executive positions at Vanguard University of Southern California and California Lutheran University. He holds an EdD from California Lutheran University, an MBA from the University of Washington, and a BA in History for Vanguard University of Southern California.
Before joining NCHEMS as its President, Sally M. Johnstone served as a vice president at the Western Governors University, a provost at a public comprehensive university, as the founding director of WCET at the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE), an assistant dean, and as a faculty member.
She also serves as the executive director of the Foundation for Student Success, a commissioner on the US United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Commission, and on the editorial boards for Change magazine (USA) and the Journal of Open Learning (UK). She is the founding editor of the new Journal of Competency-Based Education.
Dr. Johnstone has written dozens of articles, books, and reports on issues of integrating effective new practices into academics. She has managed workshops, served on study groups, and given speeches throughout North America, Europe, and the Pacific Rim.
Dr. Johnstone earned her baccalaureate and master’s degrees from Virginia Tech, and her PhD in experimental psychology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Laleh has worked in both the financial services industry and the non-profit sector. She has held positions in wealth management, private client services, investment consulting, and branch management at Wells Fargo, Citibank, and California Bank & Trust. Laleh also has extensive experience working for a non-profit. She was the Director of Fundraising for Silicon Valley based Pars Equality Center and enjoyed utilizing her sales and management skills to implement and grow fundraising initiatives.
Laleh Kazemi holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration with concentrations in Finance and Organizational Management from St. Mary’s College of California.
Chief Academic Officers, Chief Executive Officers, and other dedicated experts serve our mission as advisors, advocates, and sounding boards.
University Registrar / Assistant Vice Provost, Homewood Student Affairs, Johns Hopkins University
Trustees Professor Emeritus, Kent State University; author; and consultant to Lumina Foundation
Executive Vice Chancellor & Chief Academic Officer & Professor of Psychology, Office of Academic Affairs
Chief Executive Officer, Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA) in Australia
A group of employers and provosts has convened in Kentucky to link employer needs with the certification process for the participating postsecondary programs in the state.
Executive Director, Workforce Center Kentucky Chamber of Commerce
Chief People an Culture Officer, Baptist Health System
Manager, Community & Government Relations, Toyota Motor Engineering
Workforce Development Manager, UPS
VP, Kentucky Beam Bourbon Affairs, Beam Suntory
Executive Director, Eastern Kentucky CEP, Inc.
Schools Offer Certification for Employability Skills
US News & World Report
November 5, 2019
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