Advocacy and Advisory Board

The Oregon State University - Cascades Advocacy and Advisory Board is the principal volunteer leadership organization for the campus. Board membership provides an opportunity for alumni, friends and community members to deepen their engagement with OSU-Cascades, and for the Chancellor and Dean of OSU-Cascades to gain advice and support. Members of the Board use their knowledge, networks, influence and affluence to advance OSU-Cascades' goals and help ensure the campus's future success. The Board promotes a positive image for OSU-Cascades, its students, alumni and business partners throughout the region, state and nation.

The board meets three to four times each academic year. Board meetings are open to the public. 
For media inquiries contact Christine Coffin, Director of Communications at 541-322-3152.

Board Meetings

Board Charter


AAB members pictured back left to back right: Chris Vlessis, Lisa Hale, Iman Nazeeri-Simmons, David Ford, Amber Broadbent and Rod Ray.
Front left to front right: Verenice Alvarez-Sanchez, Melanie Widmer, Mike Wallenfels, Mike Hollern, Mark Kralj and Sherm Bloomer.
Not pictured: Bruce Cummings, Dan Hobin, Erica Skatvold and Wade J Westhoff.



Retired, NBC News broadcast journalist

Bruce Cummings

Bruce Cummings and his wife Sandy have lived in Bend since 2006 when he retired from NBC News after 30-plus years as a broadcast journalist. The lion's share of his career was spent at NBC Nightly News, where he worked as a senior producer with Tom Brokaw and then Brian Williams. Bruce spent 18 of those years in NBC's Washington, D.C. bureau, managing the reporting of correspondents and producers covering the White House, the Hill, the State Department, the Pentagon and the federal agencies. He and the Nightly News team won numerous Emmys and other national awards. He was regularly called on to manage the coverage of major breaking news stories for all NBC News programs, including the Enron meltdown and the D.C. sniper. He transferred to the Los Angeles bureau of NBC News in 1997, continuing in his role as a senior producer of NBC Nightly News. He oversaw coverage of national stories from Alaska south through the Pacific Northwest, California, Mexico, and inland through the intermountain west…stories as diverse as the Columbine massacre and Michael Jackson's trial to California politics and the west’s legendary battles over water rights and annual rounds of wildland fires. Before joining NBC network news, Bruce was executive producer of the nation’s capital’s evening news at WRC-TV, the NBC-owned station in Washington, DC. He worked prior to that as a news producer for the late Peter Jennings at ABC's "Good Morning America." Bruce began his broadcasting career as a radio show host and then local television news anchor and producer on the east coast. Over the years, Bruce has done extensive work as a narrator of television productions and a voice-over artist for commercials and on-air promos. In Bend he works with his wife, who is the founder of TVStoryteller, an independent  video production company specializing in documentaries. Bruce is involved in community service via Bethlehem Inn and Smart Reading Oregon.

Former CEO, Bend Research, Inc.

Rod Ray

Dr. Rod Ray is the former chief executive officer at Bend Research, Inc., where he worked for over 30 years. BRI was purchased in 2014 by Capsugel, and Rod remains involved as a member of their scientific and business advisory board. During his time at Bend Research, he held numerous positions specializing in the development and commercialization of a wide range of products. He was instrumental in directing the management of large-scale programs to advance pharmaceutical compounds through the development process to commercialization, and served as the primary management contact for client companies. In addition to his expertise in advancing pharmaceutical processes and products, Rod has extensive experience in commercializing diverse products for the electronics, energy, medical, agricultural, and space industries. He is currently a consultant and board member for various pharmaceutical and technological companies. Rod holds a master’s degree and doctorate in chemical engineering from the University of Colorado, and a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from Oregon State University.  He is a registered professional engineer in Colorado and Oregon, holds 23 U.S. patents, and has 46 publications.

President and CEO, Madras Sanitary Service
Former Mayor of Madras


Melanie Widmer worked her way up through the family business, Madras Sanitary Service, starting in 1995 and now serves as president and CEO. She also served on the Madras City Council for eight years, and as mayor from 2008 to 2014. Melanie has held positions on the board of the  Madras Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce and with the Madras Redevelopment Commission. She currently serves on the steering committee of the Oregon Refuse and Recycling Association, EDCO board, Airshow of the Cascades Board, and Now4 OSU-Cascades committee. Melanie received her Associate of Arts degree from COCC and her Bachelor of Science in business administration from OSU-Cascades. Melanie and her husband Sid enjoy exploring our beautiful Northwest, as well as the rest of the world.



Retired, V.P. of Real Estate Development, Brooks Resources Corp.

David Ford

David Ford has long been a strong supporter of higher education in Central Oregon. He served on the Central Oregon Community College Board of Directors for eight years including two terms as Board Chair. In addition, since 2011 David has been a member of the OSU-Cascades Advisory Board and now as a member of the OSU-Cascades Advocacy & Advisory Board. David retired from Brooks Resources Corporation as Vice President of Real Estate Development in 2020. His legacy project was NorthWest Crossing, an award winnng, mixed-use community located on Bend’s west side. OSU-Cascades, Central Oregon’s only four-year university, has produced tremendously positive impacts for Bend and the rest of Central Oregon, and David believes this will only accelerate as OSU-Cascades grows to it full campus serving up to 5,000 students. David completed his undergraduate degree at the University of California, Davis and earned an M.B.A. from the University of Denver Daniel’s College of Business. He and his wife, Kitri, have lived in Central Oregon since 1991.

CEO, Grace Bio-Labs

Lisa Hale

Lisa Hale is CEO of Grace Bio-Labs in Bend. Prior to joining Grace Bio-Labs, Lisa led commercial operations for the life sciences division of Thermo Fisher Scientific. Lisa has more than 20 years of commercial experience in the biotechnology sector. As an original commercial employee of Invitrogen, she developed and executed commercial strategies from IPO offering through 31 mergers and acquisitions, successfully driving revenue growth for Life Technologies with Thermo Fisher Scientific. She received her undergraduate degree in biology from San Diego State University. Lisa and her family reside in Bend.


Founder and CEO, G5

Dan Hobin

Dan Hobin is founder and chief executive officer of G5,  a Bend-based marketing software and services company. G5 helps more than 8,000 self storage, senior living, and apartment communities optimize their marketing and occupancy rates.  Prior to founding G5, Hobin was the founder and chief executive officer of SmashCast, Inc., a web-based digital publishing company based in San Francisco. Dan has held key sales and marketing roles at and CyberSource, both in the eCommerce space.  Dan co-founded the Bend Venture Conference, an event  devoted to fostering the growth of technology companies in Central Oregon.  He is also on the Board of Directors of Summit Bank, the leading community business bank in Oregon. Dan received his bachelor’s degree in Asian Studies from the University of California at Santa Barbara and is a graduate of the Shibusawa International School in Fukaya, Japan. He lives with his wife Sara and three sons in Bend.


Chairman of the Board, Brooks Resources Corporation

Mike Hollern

After helping to found Brooks Resources Corporation in the late '60s, Mike has had a large influence on the Central Oregon region over the last 40-plus years. Mike guided Brooks Resources through the fat and thin years of the real estate industry, creating such memorable communities as Black Butte Ranch, North Rim, Awbrey Butte and NorthWest Crossing. He has also helped to shape a company whose name has become synonymous with community support. His vision is apparent throughout the community and he has positively influenced issues such as transportation, education, economic development and cultural resources. Mike is the convener of the state’s Advisory Board of the Governor's Regional Solutions team and serves on several private and public boards and foundations throughout the U.S. He is the former chair of the Oregon Transportation Commission, appointed by Governor Goldschmidt, and also served on an Oregon State University - Cascades real estate committee. Mike was honored by Willamette University’s Atkinson Graduate School of Management as the 2014 Glenn L. Jackson Leadership award recipient. He and his wife Sue have been honored within the community they’ve served by the Bend Chamber and Central Oregon Builders’ Association, among others.

Principal, Ferguson Wellman Capital Management

Mark Kralj

Mark Kralj has been an Oregonian since the day he was born. He graduated from David Douglas HS in Portland and then Oregon State University with a degree in accounting. His first job was with a CPA firm in Bend until he headed back to Portland to continue his education. Mark spent 42 years in finance and the investment industry, including 33 years as a Principal and portfolio manager at Ferguson Wellman Capital Management. His client base covered the length of I-5 from the Rogue Valley to Vancouver giving him the chance to learn every corner of Oregon and the needs of people in those communities. Riding Cycle Oregon for 12 years also provided an opportunity to visit residents in rural areas while experiencing the natural wonder of the state. His work to be part of the community included volunteering with numerous nonprofits including Chairman of the American Red Cross National Endowment, chair of the OSU Foundation, and the Providence Child Center Board. Since retiring Mark splits his time in Portland, Sunriver and Boulder CO where he and Kathy visit their 3 grandchildren in Colorado and and 2 in Camas.

Director of Quality Management, St. Charles Healthcare System. Liaison to the board of Central Oregon Community College.

Erica Skatvold

Erica serves in the role as liaison between the COCC board of directors and OSU-Cascades Advocacy and Advisory board.

Erica is serving in her second term with the COCC board, representing most of Bend. She served as the Vice Chair for 1.5 years and the Chair for the 2020-21 year in her past term. Skatvold grew up in Bend, taking classes at COCC through the college’s dual-credit program while attending Bend Senior High School. More recently, in the 2018-19 academic year, she was an enrolled student at COCC, working on nursing program prerequisites - giving her firsthand experience.

Skatvold holds a Bachelor of Arts in International Studies and Italian from the University of Denver (with a year of exchange at the University of Bologna in Italy) and a Master of Public Policy with a Certificate in Health Administration & Policy from the University of Chicago. She has worked at St. Charles Health System in Clinical Informatics, as the Manager of Clinical Practice & Professional Development and is now the Director of Quality Management. She also serves on the Deschutes Public Library System’s Budget Committee.

CEO and Co-Founder, Shape Integrated Software 

Chris Vlessis

Chris is the co-founder and CEO at Shape Integrated Software, a Bend based software company that helps digital marketing agencies scale their operations and data infrastructure. Shape’s platform serves hundreds of marketing agencies across the world, and manages more than $1B in ad spend across various digital channels. 

In the past, he has taken lead roles on large scale software projects for marketing agencies and other tech companies such as Intel and G5. Chris grew up in Bend and received his received his degree in Biochemical-Informatics from Oregon State University in 2018.

Executive Administrative Partner, Facebook Data Center

Vernice Alvarez-Sanchez

Verenice Alvarez-Sanchez is an executive administrative partner at the Facebook Data Center in Prineville. Prior to working at Facebook, Verenice worked for Mosaic Medical, a non-profit community health center, where she began as a clinic coordinator in 2013 and transitioned to an executive coordinator supporting the CEO and the Board of Directors in 2016. Verenice is passionate about diversity, equity and inclusion and has attended several training courses focused on highlighting the gaps in the education sector within the minority communities and building allyships with educational leaders to address these gaps. She has facilitated multiple cohorts of OSU’s Juntos program working with high school students and families helping them understand the education system, learn about higher education opportunities, as well as inform both students and parents about the importance of school participation, attendance and scholarships between 2015-2019.

Verenice is a Redmond High School graduate and earned her Bachelor of Science in Business Administration at OSU-Cascades in 2013. She served on the Latino Community Association from 2018 - 2022. Verenice enjoys spending time with her family, traveling, playing indoor soccer, and watching basketball.

Chief Operating Officer, St. Charles Health System

Iman Nazeeri-Simmons

Iman Nazeeri-Simmons is chief operating officer of St. Charles Health System in Bend with responsibility for the organization's four hospitals as well as its cancer, heart and surgical service lines, and its quality and patient safety programs. Before joining St. Charles, Iman served as chief operating officer of Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital for 14 years, and had also served as the hospital's chief quality officer.  

Iman received a bachelor's degree from Portland State University and a master’s degree in health behavior and health education from the University of Michigan. She is trained in Lean Leadership and has "a deep appreciation for the power of people and process to drive extraordinary outcomes for patients." 

Iman has taught in higher education for more than 17 years, most recently at the School of Public Health at University of California, Berkeley.

A proud Oregonian, Iman grew up on her family's farm in Boring in Clackamas County.

The Westhoff Group, Raymond James Financial Services

Wade Westhoff

Wade leads the Westhoff Group of Raymond James Financial Services in Bend. He has worked with individuals, families, small businesses, endowments and nonprofits in Oregon and around the country, helping manage financial affairs for more than 25 years. Prior to joining Raymond James, Wade served clients as a certified financial planner and accredited investment fiduciary with Securian Financial Services, ING Advisor Networks and Wells Fargo Institutional Trust and Private Bank. He is treasurer of the Institute of Healthcare Improvement's Certification Board for Professionals in Patient Safety. He earned a certificate in applied fiduciary practices from Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Wade earned a bachelor’s degree from OSU and is a third-generation alumnus. He served as chair of the OSU Alumni Association board of directors from 2016 to 2017, helping lead the integration of the organization with the OSU Foundation. In 2021, he was awarded the Alumni Association’s Jean and C.H. “Scram” Graham Leadership award.   

 He is a member of the Rotary Club of Greater Bend and of City Club of Central Oregon. He lives in Bend with his wife Jennifer and their children, and enjoys the year-round activities Central Oregon offers.

Senior Director, Portfolio & Product Development, Bend Bioscience

Amber Broadbent

Amber leads portfolio and product development for Bend Bioscience, a pharmaceutical development and manufacturing company that specializes in drug delivery innovation and drug product development. Prior to joining Bend Bioscience, where she worked with the company's founding leadershrip, Amber worked in product and commercial development at Bend Research-Capsugel-Lonza. During her career she has led cross-functional teams in defining technical and regulatory strategy to develop drug products and their manufacturing processes, supported the commercialization and launch pharmaceutical products, and helped develop strategic partnerships, as well as negotiated agreements that govern them. Amber earned a doctorate in engineering and a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering from Montana State University. She lives in Bend with her husband and their two children.

Senior Vice President, Global Home and Outdoor Sales, Helen of Troy


Mike is senior vice president of global sales for Helen of Troy’s home and outdoor division, where he oversees North America sales teams for Hydro Flask, OXO and Osprey brands. Mike's interest in the outdoor industry was sparked while attending college and working in retail with outdoor products. That experience has led to a 30-year career that has included advocacy in support of outdoor recreation issues.

Mike has served as president of the board of the Oregon Outdoor Alliance and currently serves on the advisory board of the OSU Center for the Outdoor Recreation Economy.