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Leading Online Presidents Panel

graphic for leading online panel featuring Terisa Riley, Joseph I. Castro, Thom D. Chesney, and Walter M. Kimbrough

Leading Online: Higher Ed Digital Leadership during COVID-19

The Leading Online series features campus leaders who, even before COVID-19, have embraced social media and a variety of other digital communication tools.

This week learn from a panel of higher education presidents and chancellors who are successfully maintaining and building relationships with their community on platforms from Twitter and Instagram to Snapchat and blogging.

The Leading Online series will provide those who serve in public-facing positions within institutions of higher education a purposeful and practical framework to lead online. This series will also be helpful to those that support senior-level positions such as president, chancellor, vice presidents, provosts, and deans.

Highlighted Content from Panelists

Links to what was mentioned during the Lead Online panel.

Walter Kimbrough’s COVID Chronicles on Medium


Terisa Riley, Chancellor, The University of Arkansas Fort Smith

Dr. Terisa C. Riley began her appointment as chancellor of the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith on July 1, 2019. Dr. Riley is an experienced higher education administrator who has spent more than 25 years serving in virtually every facet of higher education, from academics to administration. Before her appointment as UAFS Chancellor, she served as Senior Vice President for Student Affairs and University Administration at Texas A&M University – Kingsville, as well as holding previous positions as the institution’s chief student affairs officer, chief financial officer, chief administrator, and chief enrollment management officer. Dr. Riley places a priority on communication, transparency, and shared governance, and has collaborated with campus leaders and stakeholders to prepare and implement strategic plans to increase enrollment, retention, and graduation rates. She has optimized spending practices, implemented more than $250 million in construction and capital investment plans, and led universities to millions of dollars in savings through strategic investment in sustainable practices – bettering her campus, and the earth.

Listen to her episode of Josie & The Podcast.

Joseph I. Castro, President, California State University, Fresno

Joseph I. Castro is the first Californian to serve as president of California State University, Fresno. He is the grandson of immigrants from Mexico, son of a single mother and the first in his family to graduate from a university. Dr. Castro is a Professor of Educational Leadership and a gifted scholar in the fields of leadership and public policy who has mentored hundreds of other scholars and practitioners, including many other university presidents and senior officers. Fresno State is a national leader in recruiting, supporting and graduating students from diverse backgrounds.

Thom Chesney, President, Clarke University

Thom Chesney has served as Clarke University President since July 2019, prior experience includes positions as President, Brookhaven College; Provost for Student Success and Assessment, The University of Texas at Dallas; District VP of Academic Affairs and Provost, Collin College; and additional administrative and faculty roles at the University of Texas at Dallas, Pennsylvania College of Technology, Texas Wesleyan University, East Tennessee State University, and Whitman College. An avid and accessible mentor to aspiring higher education and community leaders, his primary social media platform is Twitter. Outside of work he reenergizes through faith, family, cooking for others, and football—English Premier League, that is.

Walter M. Kimbrough, President, Dillard University

A native of Atlanta, Dr. Walter M. Kimbrough was his high school salutatorian and student body president in 1985, and went on to earn degrees from the University of Georgia, Miami University in Ohio, and a doctorate in higher education from Georgia State University. He has enjoyed a fulfilling career in student affairs, serving at Emory University, Georgia State University, Old Dominion University, and Albany State University. In October of 2004, at the age of 37, he was named the 12th president of Philander Smith College. In 2012 he became the 7th president of Dillard University in New Orleans, Louisiana. Kimbrough has been recognized for his research and writings on HBCUs and African American men in college.

Recently he has emerged as one of the leaders discussing free speech on college campuses. Kimbrough also has been noted for his active use of social media. He was cited by Education Dive as one of 10 college presidents on Twitter who are doing it right (@HipHopPrez), and in 2015 he was named by The Best Schools.org as one of the 20 most interesting college presidents. Dr. Kimbrough has forged a national reputation as an expert on fraternities and sororities, with specific expertise regarding historically Black, Latin and Asian groups. He is the author of the book, Black Greek 101: The Culture, Customs and Challenges of Black Fraternities and Sororities, and has served as an expert witness in a number if hazing cases.

Listen to his episode of Josie & The Podcast and the Bonus Coffee Talk from CASE Social Media & Community Conference.

About Josie

Dr. Josie Ahlquist

Dr. Josie Ahlquist is a digital engagement and leadership researcher, speaker, and consultant. She teaches teens, young adults, education professionals, and campus executives how to humanize technology tools and prioritize building online community.

She also serves as a research associate and instructor at Florida State University, creating curriculum to build digital literacy and leadership skills for undergraduates up to doctorate level students. She is extensively published and maintains an active blog and podcast (Josie & The Podcast), which have received accolades from EdTech Magazine, Inside Higher Ed and the Chronicle of Higher Education. Her book, Digital Leadership in Higher Education: Purposeful Social Media in a Connected World, comes out in July 2020.

Josie received her doctorate from California Lutheran University in Higher Education Leadership, Masters in Education from Northern Arizona University. She majored in sociology and human development at South Dakota State University.

About Josie

I’m Dr. Josie Ahlquist—a digital engagement and leadership consultant, researcher, educator, and author. I’m passionate about helping people and organizations find purposeful ways to connect, engage, and tell their unique story. I provide consulting, executive coaching, and training for campuses, companies, and organizations that want to learn how to humanize technology tools and build effective and authentic online communities.

My blog and podcast have been recognized by EdTech Magazine, Inside Higher Ed and the Chronicle of Higher Education. My book, Digital Leadership in Higher Education, was published in 2020 and was listed as a #1 new release for college and university student life. I have been growing my consultancy since 2013 and am based in Los Angeles. When I’m not helping clients lead online, you might find me training for a triathlon, spoiling my nieces and nephews, or exploring with my husband and our rescue dogs in our new RV called Lady Hawk.

I’d love to connect! Find me on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

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Rebekah Tilley

Assistant Vice President, University of Iowa Center for Advancement

Rebekah Tilley is the assistant vice president of communication and marketing for the University of Iowa Center for Advancement (UICA). In that role she supports fundraising and alumni engagement efforts for the university, including its CASE Gold winning Iowa Magazine, and serves UICA in a variety of strategic communication efforts.

Previously she was the director of strategic communication for the University of Iowa Tippie College of Business, and the director of communication for the University of Kentucky College of Law. She is a Kentucky native and a proud alum of the University of Kentucky.

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