SHEEO Announces 2019 Excellence Award Winners

Little Rock, Arkansas – As members of the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association (SHEEO) convened at their 66th Annual Meeting in Little Rock, Arkansas, officials from SHEEO announced the winners of the organization’s SHEEO Excellence Awards. The awards recognize the leadership, dedication, and innovation of exceptional SHEEOs, agency staff, and agencies at a time when state policy success is increasingly linked to student success and, in turn, states’ economic and social prosperity.

  • The winner of the Exceptional Leader Award is Glen D. Johnson, Chancellor for the Oklahoma State System of Higher Education.
  • The winner of the Exceptional Agency Award is the University System of Georgia.
  • The winner of the David L. Wright Memorial Award is Paula Compton, Associate Vice Chancellor of Articulation and Transfer and the Executive Director of the Articulation and Transfer Network (OATN) at the Ohio Department of Higher Education.

Reflecting on the SHEEO Excellence Awards, Dr. Robert Anderson, president of SHEEO, said: “SHEEO is extremely proud of and grateful for the work of all the state higher education executive officers, their agencies, and the agency staff members. We know that these individuals and agencies work every day to advance student success and to ensure that the higher education systems in their states are working to improve the lives of all people. It is, therefore, an honor to recognize the winners of this year’s SHEEO Excellence Awards.”

Exceptional Leader Award

The Exceptional Leader Award is presented to a current state higher education executive officer from a member agency who has shown exceptional leadership, a commitment to higher education, a contribution to the greater good, and service to the SHEEO Association within the last year.

Chancellor Johnson has over 39 years of public service and has served as chancellor of the Oklahoma State System of Higher Education for 12 years. Under Chancellor Johnson’s leadership, Oklahoma’s State System of Higher Education has experienced tremendous success, in particular over the past year, especially with regard to completion of a strategic Task Force on the Future of Higher Education, a deep examination of State Regents’ policy regarding institutional function change and mission expansion requests, college degree completion initiatives, and a specific focus on campus safety and security issues. Chancellor Johnson has worked to maintain the current law with regards to keeping weapons off of college and university campuses in Oklahoma and addressing campus free speech best practices systemwide. He has also implemented an increased focus on coordinated online education efforts within Oklahoma’s State System of Higher Education and increased the reimbursement rate for concurrent enrollment from 27% to 87% by advocating for an additional $7.5 million to fund the concurrent enrollment tuition waiver program in the 2018 legislative session. The concurrent enrollment reimbursement rate has subsequently increased to 100% following the 2019 legislative session.

Chancellor Johnson has also served the wider, state higher education policy field by mentoring new state higher education executive officers and serving the SHEEO Association on its executive committee for a total of six years and as the current chair.

Jay Helm, Oklahoma State Regent for Higher Education, said: “We congratulate Chancellor Glen Johnson for receiving SHEEO’s Exceptional Leader Award. Glen has provided more than 36 years of public service to the State of Oklahoma, including over 23 years of state and national service in higher education leadership roles. As chief executive officer for the Oklahoma state system of higher education, he has served in leadership roles for SHEEO, the Southern Regional Education Board, the American Association for State Colleges and Universities, and the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges. A tireless and effective advocate for Oklahoma students and the public colleges and universities that serve them, his numerous contributions to the state of Oklahoma and the advancement of our higher education system are invaluable.”  

Dr. Stephen Pruitt, president of the Southern Regional Education Board, said: “Chancellor Johnson has shown tireless leadership in his pursuit to be sure each student in Oklahoma has access to a quality postsecondary education. In addition to his critical role in Oklahoma education, I have seen the impact he has had on our region and across the nation through his work with the Southern Regional Education Board and the State Higher Education Executive Officers. While the world will celebrate his body of work, I know Glen sees his magnum opus as the individual students whose lives are better today.”  

Constantine W. Curris, president emeritus, American Association of State Colleges and Universities, further praised Chancellor Johnson. “Glen Johnson, from my viewpoint, is one of the most effective higher education leaders in the country. The role of chief executives of both coordination councils and system boards is perhaps the most demanding in all higher education; these leaders must effectively navigate policy and programmatic issues between governing bodies and campus constituencies. Glen’s background, both as a university president and former Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives, has given him incisive insights and currency with both the academy and governing bodies.”  

Exceptional Agency Award

The Exceptional Agency Award is presented to a member agency whose innovative actions, policies, or practices advanced student success in their state; which displayed exceptional governance practices; which overcame exceptional challenges; or displayed other meritorious attributes within the last year.

The University System of Georgia (USG) has demonstrated a consistent commitment to advancing postsecondary education and student success within the state of Georgia.

Accomplishments in recent years include:

  • USG adopted Momentum Year, an all-in student success plank that aims to have all freshmen start college by: making a purposeful choice in an academic focus area, having a productive academic mind-set, and following clearly sequenced program maps. USG has conducted extensive analysis to build the case for the work; partnered with several external organizations; and convened institutional teams multiple times to learn from experts, share with one another, and develop implementation plans.
  • USG is collaborating with industry and economic development entities to increase access to academic programs leading to high demand careers in the state. They are expanding affordable programs in high demand areas through the USG’s online eMajor initiative. eMajor is part of eCampus, a system collaborative that leverages centralized administration, technology, and student support along with institutional curricular offerings to offer select majors and the entire general education curriculum (eCore) in a high quality, low-cost online format to all USG students.
  • USG has also been working diligently to bring down student costs. Over the past five years, the USG has collaborated with state leaders and institutions to hold undergraduate in-state tuition increases to an average of 1.7% with two years of no increase at all. This is the third lowest average annual increase in tuition and required fees in the Southern Regional Education Board states. Georgia has dropped to fourth lowest median undergraduate tuition and required fees among SREB 4-year institutions. The 2.5% increase for the 2019-2020 academic year is targeted on investments that improve student outcomes and address general cost increases.

As University System of Georgia Chancellor Steve Wrigley is quoted as saying: “We are honored to be this year’s recipient and look forward to continuing our efforts on behalf of Georgia’s current and future students. This award is a recognition of the work our entire team is doing to advance the University System of Georgia’s three priorities — ensuring more Georgians enter the workforce with a college credential, making college more affordable, and finding opportunities to be more efficient and make college more accessible.”

Brian Kemp, Governor of the State of Georgia praised USG and said: “The University System of Georgia (USG) has equipped its graduates with a strong foundation and the necessary skills to compete in the workforce for generations. The First Lady and I know this firsthand, not only as graduates of a USG institution ourselves, but as the proud parents of two current USG students. Across our state and around the globe, countless families like my own have benefited from the opportunities our twenty-six institutions provide. This national recognition is well-deserved, and it continues to solidify Georgia’s reputation as the top place for students to learn, job creators to invest, and families to grow.”

U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., a member of the Senate committee that oversees education, and the former chairman of the Georgia Board of Education, said: “For many years, I’ve worked closely with the University System of Georgia and its institutions to help improve access to quality education for all Georgians. By opening doors to students earning a college degree, we can change the entire trajectory of their lives and the lives of their families. USG is a national leader in delivering on the dream of an affordable college education. I’m so proud of the work our university system has done on behalf of our students and congratulate USG on this distinction.” 

Dr. Robert Anderson, president of SHEEO, said this of the University System of Georgia: “USG epitomizes what is possible when a state higher education agency works collaboratively within their state to increase educational attainment, administrative efficiencies and workforce outcomes. The student-centered focus of this state team under Chancellor Wrigley’s leadership is to be commended and emulated.”

David L. Wright Memorial Award

The David L. Wright Memorial Award is named in honor of the late David Wright, an esteemed colleague and leader in state higher education, who served in the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association, and the Florida Governing Board. This award recognizes a current SHEEO agency staff member, from a member agency, who embodies the exceptional commitment, work ethic, and ethical practices of David Wright, and who has made outstanding contributions to their agency.

Paula has worked for the Ohio Department of Higher Education (ODHE) for 14 years, beginning as the director of the Ohio articulation and transfer network in 2005 and moving in 2009 to her current position as associate vice chancellor of articulation and transfer and the executive director of the articulation and transfer network (OATN). 

Each year, Paula’s work and influence on the students of Ohio have expanded. Ohio’s articulation and transfer work began with the guaranteed transfer of general education courses between all of Ohio’s public colleges and universities. Paula’s dedication was key to expanding articulation and transfer policy to guaranteed transfer for pre-major and beginning major courses, to the guaranteed transfer career technical education courses, and to the guaranteed award of transferable credit for military training and experience. More recently, Paula has helped Ohio to move from the guaranteed transfer of courses between colleges and universities to the guaranteed transfer of full programs, as exemplified by the transfer of a full year of technical credit for students completing eligible certificate programs at Ohio’s non-credit technical centers, by Ohio’s apprenticeship pathways, and by work on the seamless transfer of full associate degrees as the first 60 credits of bachelor’s degrees at Ohio’s public universities.

Randy Gardner, Chancellor of ODHE, shared: “I’m excited that Dr. Paula Compton has been recognized for her outstanding efforts to advance the work of articulation and transfer in our state. She is a key member of an excellent higher education team here in Ohio, and a fitting recipient of the David Wright Award.”

Dr. W. Randy Smith, vice provost for academic programs at The Ohio State University, adds: “I have had the opportunity to work continuously with Paula Compton since she joined the Ohio Department of Higher Education. No one is more totally committed, professionally and personally, to student success efforts across Ohio’s 37 public colleges and universities than she is. Through a growing set of interrelated access initiatives related to transfer and articulation, she has set a standard of stewardship that has helped develop a now widely accepted, and real, ‘culture of transfer’ within the state, helping Ohio become a national model for such work.”


The State Higher Education Executive Officers Association is the national association of the chief executives of statewide governing, policy, and coordinating boards of postsecondary education.