Collaboration in Action: 2023 CHEC Conference Fosters Innovation and Efficiency in California Higher Education

The Ninth Annual California Higher Education Collaborative (CHEC) Conference, held from November 28 to December 1, 2023, at the UCLA Luskin Conference Center, brought together administrative leaders and professionals from California’s three public higher education segments—the University of California (UC), California State University (CSU), and California Community College (CCC) systems. The conference aimed to facilitate idea exchanges, share best practices, and drive improvements in administrative effectiveness. 

FoundationCCC was represented at the conference by colleagues from CollegeBuys. Jorge Burwick, Sr. Manager of CollegeBuys, served on the executive planning committee, representing the California Community Colleges and moderated a pre-conference workshop titled “Trends in California Higher Education Procurement. The panel discussion featured Jennifer Keiper, Sr. Director of CollegeBuys at FoundationCCC; David Gee, Director of Procurement Systems and Technology at CSU; and Paul Williams, Chief Procurement Officer at UCOP. The session covered system-level procurement offices, addressing topics such as supply chain constraints, supplier diversity, sustainable procurement practices, third-party risk management, professional development, and cooperative procurement models.

In response to the growing interest in procurement, this year’s conference introduced a dedicated procurement track, which complemented the pre-conference workshop. Sessions led by California community colleges included  “Streamlining Educational Technology Purchases for Systemwide Benefit” facilitated by Mina Hernandez, Director of Purchasing and Material Management at MiraCosta CCD, and Jennifer Keiper, Sr. Director of CollegeBuys; and “Debunking the Myth of Public Procurement” facilitated by Ben Cayabyab, Contracts Manager at Contra Costa CCD. These sessions sparked engaging discussions among purchasing professionals from UC, CSU, and CCCs.  

The CHEC Conference featured a Focus on Efficiency Awards Ceremony on the evening of November 29, honoring California Resilient Careers in Forestry and the CCC Accessibility Center’s Capability Maturity Model. California Resilient Careers in Forestry, a four-year FoundationCCC-led project funded through the Good Jobs Challenge, seeks to scale training programs and place graduates into high-quality jobs in the forestry and fire safety sector, addressing the critical issue of catastrophic wildfires and climate change impacts. The CCC Accessibility Center’s Capability Maturity Model, the second honoree, takes the broad concept of accessibility and breaks it down into achievable goals and milestones, empowering colleges and districts to drive accessibility forward effectively.

The Awards Ceremony concluded with the prestigious Leader of Change Award presented to Chancellor Dr. Sonya Christian. This award recognizes leaders with groundbreaking and pioneering approaches to problem-solving, leading to meaningful change in system operations. A committee of CSU, UC, and CCC administrative leaders selects awardees based on their innovation in improving student outcomes and campus operational efficiencies. 

Past recipients of the Leader of Change Award include former Assemblyman Marc Levine; Ron Coley, UC Riverside Vice Chancellor, Business and Administrative Services; and Joseph Quintana, FoundationCCC Chief Operating Officer. These individuals have fostered collaborations across campuses and systems, positively impacting higher education and the state. Chancellor Christian, unable to attend the event, provided an acceptance video, expressing gratitude for the recognition and emphasizing the importance of collaborative efforts in shaping the future of education.

Chancellor Christian provided a Leader of Change acceptance video for the CHEC conference.

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