Community College Research Initiatives

August 20, 2020

Transition Coming for CCRI

Welcome Dr. Lia Wetzstein, our new Acting Director of CCRI

We’ve seen tremendous change in education and the economy since Community College Research Initiatives (CCRI) opened its doors on May 1, 2016. Since those early days, we at CCRI have used our research skills to study policy and program improvements to transfer and baccalaureate attainment, always seeking to advance equity in community college reform. We’ve accomplished a lot over these last four years and more good things are coming. 

In this August 2020 newsletter, we spotlight our New Directions for Community Colleges on “Transfer Partnerships for Improved Equity and Outcomes” just published by Wiley, thanks to NDCC editor and colleague, Pamela Eddy at William & Mary. I am grateful to my co-editors Theresa Ling Yeh, Lia Wetzstein, and Elizabeth Apple Meza who authored chapters and encouraged authors in Colorado, Minnesota, Ohio and Washington to write about their efforts to ensure more equitable bachelor’s degree completion for community college transfer students. This focus on equity threads through all of our work, undergirding our decisions about what thorny issues to study and problems to help solve.

We are also wrapping up the first phase of our research on community college baccalaureates (CCB) with our partner, the Center on Education and Skills at New America (CESNA), where I am a Fellow for Community College Education. CCRI’s collaboration with Mary Alice McCarthy, CESNA’s director, and her colleagues Iris Palmer and Ivy Love, has created a treasure trove of briefs, blogs and materials on state and institutional adoption of CCB degrees in states across the country. Delving deepest in CCB attainment, employment and wages in Florida and Washington, we are expanding knowledge on the CCB in substantive ways. I am so proud of our work, and I look forward to seeing where our collaboration will take us in the future.

Most importantly, we welcome new leadership for CCRI at UW. At the end of August, I will step back from my director role to pass the baton to Dr. Lia Wetzstein. Dr. Wetzstein has received her UW Service Award for dedicating 20 years of her professional career to the University of Washington. Lia has been a thought leader since joining the team, and she has the vision and energy needed for this important transition. Lia was the first research scientist that I hired for CCRI, and she has been a dedicated collaborator and creative contributor ever since. Many more good things are coming for CCRI as the team’s plans evolve, and I urge you to remain an integral part of the journey.

I am pleased to recognize another transition that is happening at this time. Starting July 1 Elizabeth Apple Meza, Senior Research Scientist, joined Grant Blume, Senior Lecturer, in the Evan’s School for Public Policy and Governance to work on an exciting initiative focusing on data-driven decision-making. Their grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) supports a partnership with Washington community and technical colleges to study and support data use by faculty for program improvement. Their group is actively pursuing partnerships in and beyond Washington to grow this exciting work.

I want to thank colleagues across UW who gave me the opportunity to serve the citizens of our great state. Special thanks to UW President Ana Mari Cauce for seeing the value of my work and to Janice DeCosmo, Ed Taylor, and Christine Muongchanh for creating a home for it to flourish. I am also very grateful to the Washington State Board of Community and Technical Colleges (SBCTC) for partnering with CCRI. To Jan Yoshiwara, Kristi Wellington-Baker and countless others, I express pride in our shared accomplishments. I also share my gratitude with CCRI team members during my tenure, Elizabeth Apple Meza, Grant Blume, Tim Harmon, Katie Kovacich, Joe Lott, James Siap, Maria Claudia Soler, Jaylen Willingham, Theresa Ling Yeh, and William Zumeta. Every one of you is an incredible talent and true blessing to UW and Washington state. 

Finally, to colleagues, family and friends back in my home state of Illinois, I’m giving you fair warning that I’m coming back to the place my love for community colleges began and evolved over many years at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. My passion for Illinois’ deep commitment to addressing systemic inequities to improve all of education couldn’t be stronger, and I very much look forward to working with you again.


Debra Bragg
Founding Director, CCRI