Here are 25 leaders in higher education in Greater Cincinnati who are making a difference in the lives of students and taking their respective institutions to the next levels. Movers & Makers asked the major colleges and universities in the region to introduce their “notables” to our readers, part of a new regular feature highlighting influential people in various sectors of Greater Cincinnati’s nonprofit economy. The universities were invited to identify their notables within three categories or identify their own category.
Up-and-coming young leader (under 50)
Advancing vehicle for change mission
Dr. Nelson Soto, Union Institute & University, is provost and executive vice president for academic affairs. He is in the unique position to advance the university’s mission as a vehicle for change in the community through diversity and innovation in education. Soto ensures that all individuals, no matter their background or circumstances, have access to higher education and opportunities to improve their lives and those of their families. Soto’s prior experience includes serving as associate provost and vice president for curriculum and instruction at Harrison College. Before Harrison College, he served as an assistant dean in the graduate office at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis and as an instructional development specialist at IUPUI’s Center for Teaching and Learning. He holds a Ph.D. in educational policy studies from Indiana University, Bloomington, a master’s in education and bachelor’s degree in business from the University of Cincinnati.
Capital campaign ahead of schedule
Kevin Reynolds, Thomas More University, serves as vice president for institutional advancement. He plays a pivotal role in key initiatives including development of the Saints Community Standards, formation of the Institute for Higher Education Compliance, implementation of the 2021-26 Strategic Plan: Lighting the Way, and the progress of the largest capital campaign in university history, the $30 million Second Century Campaign: It’s Time for More, which hit the $20 million mark 18 months ahead of schedule. Reynolds also serves as the board chair at Covington Latin School and is a volunteer advisor to the Theta Omega Chapter for Alpha Tau Omega Fraternity at Northern Kentucky University. Nationally, he is a speaker and consultant with the agency ForCollegeForLife. His work in professional speaking and consulting centers on ending sexual violence through purposeful bystander intervention.
Regional knowledge creates value
Adrijana Kowatsch, Gateway Community & Technical College, is vice president of development and external relations and a valued community member thanks to her marketing and development expertise and regional knowledge. She started at Gateway in 2019 after serving six years as chief operating officer for UC’s Economic Center. In 2014, she was honored among the Cincinnati Business Courier’s Forty Under 40. She worked as the outreach coordinator at the Holocaust & Humanity Center and taught as an adjunct instructor at UC, where she was recognized as an alumni champion in 2014. She served in Public Allies, an AmeriCorps division focused on community service, advancing leadership and encouraging civic participation. Kowatsch was the commissioner on Hamilton County’s Commission for Women & Girls, a member of Northwest High School’s Personal Finance Business Advisory Committee and a member of the curriculum advisory group at the Ohio Dept. of Education.
Advancing programs to reduce costs
Ande Durojaiye, Miami University Regionals, is dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Applied Science, and the inaugural vice president for Miami’s regional campuses. At Miami, he has led efforts to increase access to students across the state. One highlight is establishing the Miami University Early College Academy, the first early college program in Southwest Ohio. The program partners with local school districts to provide opportunities for students to obtain an associate degree from Miami, while completing their high school graduation requirements. Durojaiye has also led the expansion of Work+, an innovative program through which Miami partners with local employers to build a stronger talent pipeline, while also supporting employees’ educational pursuits. Both programs promote affordable higher education by eliminating tuition costs.
A leader in honors education
Dr. James Buss, Northern Kentucky University, is the inaugural dean of the NKU Honors College, where, since 2018, he has led a team determined to create an innovative environment in which to experiment and transform students’ lives by enhancing their undergraduate experience. As a result, the number of students served by the Honors College has increased 30% in four years. Buss has served as the founding dean of two colleges during his academic career. He brings experience in creating academic programs, raising funds to support programming and working across university units to develop synergies between academic and student affairs. Buss has served on the board of directors for the National Collegiate Honors Council and recently co-chaired a national committee that rewrote national standards for honors education. He also serves as the founding director and general manager for Esports at NKU.
Holistic student-centered adviser
Alexandria Burns, Sinclair Community College, is an advising generalist, guiding students in areas such as career exploration, enrollment and course selection, financial aid and general success skills. Her coaching gives students the support and encouragement to succeed. She holds a master of education degree in college student personnel administration from Marquette University and a bachelor of science in public health from the University of South Florida. Recently, Burns became a global career development facilitator through the Center for Credentialing & Education. She also holds the certified career service provider credential through the National Career Development Association. Burns enjoys empowering people and finds joy in building partnerships and coaching individuals as they explore and identify their unique values, interests, strengths and goals.
Coming home to have influence
Sydney M. Prochazka, Mount St. Joseph University, was named this year as vice president for institutional advancement. The role marks a return to Cincinnati for the Xavier University graduate. Most recently, she served four years as a philanthropy adviser for the University of Saint Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary near Chicago. Prochazka also previously supported Toledo’s Little Sisters of the Poor as director of development. She is most proud of the way her career and volunteerism have influenced, and will continue to influence, “family trees.”
Prominent or rising BIPOC leader
Leader key to ‘C-State’ success
Tammie Larkins, Cincinnati State Technical and Community College, is director of C-State Accelerate, a program designed to improve retention and graduation rates for Pell-eligible students. Larkins holds a bachelor’s degree in education from Northern Kentucky University and a master’s in education from Strayer University. She worked for five years at Cincinnati State as a recruiter before being named to her current role. Cincinnati State tested the concept for C-State Accelerate from 2015-2018 as part of a statewide study that included three community colleges. The study was so successful that Cincinnati State conducted a major fundraising campaign to allow C-State Accelerate to relaunch in fall 2021. The goal is to provide academic, personal and financial support for 600 students over the next five years and, if funding is raised, to extend the program.
Faculty leader excels in research
Jyoti Saraswat, Thomas More University, joined the full-time math and physics faculty in 2014. She holds two bachelor’s degrees, in math and computer science and in education, two master’s degrees, in industrial and applied math, and a doctorate in applied mathematics. Her research interests include PDE Constrained Optimization and statistical analysis. She collaborates with the chemistry department on projects including a chemical and statistical analysis of bourbon, methods for authenticating human cremated remains and trace metal analysis of periodical cicadas. Saraswat maintains an active research program with her colleagues and her students, who have presented their work at various conferences. She serves as a board member of the Science & Engineering Fair of Northern Kentucky. She also is a part of Thomas More’s leadership team in the Dr. James E. Randolph Initiative. Saraswat chairs the Faculty Salary Committee and is faculty representative on Thomas More’s board of trustees.
Regional Sinclair leader lifting Mason
Madeline J. Iseli, Sinclair Community College, is senior vice president for advancement and regional strategy. She oversees Sinclair’s regional campuses, as well as grants development and the Sinclair Foundation. She came to Sinclair after serving as president of a nonprofit that established the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park and celebrated the Centennial of Flight in 2003. Prior to that, Iseli worked for U.S. Rep. Tony Hall. In her role with Sinclair’s regional campuses, Iseli is focusing on the Sinclair Mason Campus. Located just off I-71 across from Kings Island, Sinclair Mason owns nearly 70 acres along Courseview Drive to accommodate expected expansion in fast growing northern Cincinnati. Sinclair Mason currently offers a full complement of general education courses as well as a variety of certificate and degree programs. In 2021, a new $1.2 million Industrial Maintenance Technology lab opened to serve area manufacturing and automation jobs needs.
Black student affairs leader in white world
Dr. Eddie J. Howard Jr., Northern Kentucky University, is vice president for student affairs, where his team in two years has transformed the division to provide quality co-curricular programs and services that prepare students to learn, lead and serve. Helping students realize their dreams and creating the best experience possible has been the consistent goal in Howard’s more than quarter century of service in student affairs. His unique perspective on diversity, inclusion and race has been critical to NKU’s success. While working mostly at predominantly white institutions, and sometimes being the only person of color in the department, he has learned to lead in these environments while maintaining a neutral viewpoint and supporting issues that matter. In 2022, the American College Personnel Association recognized Howard for his outstanding contributions to ACPA, student affairs, services and higher education with the status of Diamond Honoree.
Advancing DEI at the Mount, region
Dr. Rayshawn Eastman, Mount St. Joseph University, serves as chief diversity and inclusion officer and Title IX coordinator. His experiences as a first-generation college student at the Mount guide his work. Eastman’s research focuses on diversity, inclusion, equity, co-curricular learning, black male success, retention, and organizational development and leadership. Eastman is active in DEI conversations across Greater Cincinnati – and is making a difference in diversity, inclusion and equity at the Mount.
UC lands local in national search
Eliot Isaac, University of Cincinnati, was named in March the university’s new director of public safety and chief of police. Isaac emerged as the top candidate following a national search. He came to UC after 33 years with the Cincinnati Police Department, starting as a recruit and rising to serve seven years as chief. He holds a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in human resource development from Xavier University. Isaac also is a veteran of the United States Army National Guard and a graduate of the FBI National Academy.
DEI leader inspires students
Tiffany Minard, Gateway Community & Technical College, is associate vice president of elevation and inclusion, makes diversity, equity and inclusion a point of pride at. Her guidance, compassion and ability to inspire students are some of the reasons she is one of the college’s notable rising leaders. Minard started at Gateway 11 years ago as an intervention counselor. She immediately showed her commitment to put students first and her dedication to further Gateway’s DEI efforts. She oversees the DEI department as well as the college’s community support, student counseling, career services and food pantry efforts. Minard is an exemplary leader whose commitment to Gateway’s DEI efforts has improved initiatives in recruitment, enrollment, student engagement in DEI programs and support for vulnerable populations in our region.
Established leader in a new role
Miami ‘open for business’
Randi Malcolm Thomas, Miami University, is inaugural vice president of ASPIRE – Advancing Strategy, Partnerships, Institutional Relations and Economy. Randi and his team work to earn recognition for Miami as being “open for business” and seeking partners who share the university’s values of innovation, creativity and inclusion. Randi manages Miami’s government relations, economic initiatives and community engagement efforts. He is the driving force behind the creation of Miami’s College@Elm Innovation and Workforce Development Center. The center is a university, community and private partnership for economic growth that promotes Oxford’s active arts community and nationally recognized university to attract companies and people to live and work in Oxford year-round.
Recent addition with great expectations
Only complete regional nursing pathway
Marrē Barnette, Cincinnati State Technical and Community College, joined the college in May 2021 as director of nursing and associate dean of the Health and Public Safety division. Barnette will oversee all the college’s nursing programs, including the recently approved Bachelor of Science in nursing degree program. With it, Cincinnati State became the only college in the region to offer a complete nursing education pathway, from state-tested nursing aid to licensed practical nurse to registered nursing degrees at associate and bachelor’s levels. A native of Franklin, Ohio, Barnette holds a master’s in nursing from the University of Cincinnati and is completing a doctorate in nursing practice at Northern Kentucky University. She also has almost 30 years of nursing experience.
Norse athletics attracts new leader
Christina Roybal, Northern Kentucky University, joined July 1 as vice president and director of athletics, leading a department at an exciting time for the Norse: 17 teams now compete at the NCAA’s Division I level. NKU teams have earned berths in five NCAA tournaments since the school joined Division I in 2016. NKU boasts 16 straight semesters with a department GPA of 3.2 or higher with 119 student-athletes on the Horizon League Academic Honor Roll. Roybal came to NKU from the University of Northern Iowa, where she served as senior associate athletic director for sports administration. Her role also included being senior woman administrator and deputy Title IX coordinator. She also served on several committees for the Missouri Valley Conference.
New CMO fully immersed at Union
Dr. Jennifer Kramer-Wine, Union Institute & University, is the school’s new chief marketing officer. Kramer-Wine brings a wealth of expertise to the role, not the least of which is a deep love of Union’s ethos to engage, enlighten and empower adult learners. Before coming to Union, Kramer-Wine co-led two women-owned small businesses: The Fairview Agency and Edible Ohio Valley, which, led by Kramer-Wine and her sisters, grew to engage over 30,000 people in its local food network. Inspired by Union’s mission, she completed a Ph.D. in interdisciplinary studies focusing on public policy and social change and specializing in MLK studies. She holds a master of public administration degree from Baruch College and bachelor’s degrees in history and secondary education from the University of Cincinnati.
Xavier leader focused on nursing
Nezam Al-Nsair, Xavier University, was tapped to lead and expand the school’s College of Nursing as the nation grapples with a significant shortage of nurses. Al-Nsair, who joined Xavier June 1, possesses more than 20 years of leadership, professional and teaching experience, including development and growth of nursing programs at several institutions. He was instrumental in the development and accreditation of several traditional undergraduate, completion, accelerated, graduate and online programs. Al-Nsair served for several years as an acute-care bedside nurse. Before joining Xavier, he was the founding dean of the Myers School of Nursing and Health Professions at York College of Pennsylvania. With Al-Nsair’s appointment, Xavier is poised to play a key role in producing leaders for today’s ever-evolving health care landscape.
Workforce leader got start in 2002
Christi Godman, Gateway Community & Technical College, was recently promoted to vice president of workforce solutions. Godman began at Gateway in 2002 as an administrative assistant specializing in communications and computer literacy training. She was essential in creating and facilitating customized training programs that tackle workforce needs. As an associate vice president, she led strategic planning, designed training programs and developed strong relationships with industry partners that advanced the region’s economic and workforce goals. Godman serves on the Covington Housing Authority’s Jobs Plus Advisory Board, Enzweiller Building Institute Education Advisory Board and Health Careers Collaborative Advisory Board. She’s also a member of NKY Workforce Partner Roundtable & Strategic Workforce Team, various Chamber GROW NKY work groups and the NKY Business Services Team.
Public defender becomes educator
Heather Crabbe, Mount St. Joseph University, a native Kentuckian, began her career as a public defender with the Kentucky Department of Public Advocacy and worked with students at NKU’s Chase College of Law before joining the Mount in 2019 as associate provost for student academic support.
Her accomplishments in law and higher education earned her the “On the Rise − Top 40 Young Lawyers Award” from the American Bar Association. “I wake up in the morning motivated to not only go out into the world to make it a better place,” Crabbe said, “but also with the goal of empowering others to do the same … I was able to make a difference in the community in my previous work as a public defender … [B]eing a leader in higher education … allows me to contribute to a collective effort to help students grow and develop the God-given gifts and talents they will share with the world.”
New IT leader to report to Pinto
Bharath Prabhakaran, University of Cincinnati, becomes vice president and chief digital officer this month. He will lead IT@UC and support the university’s digital transformation initiatives. Prabhakaran has over 25 years of IT experience, including 18 years at Oracle, where he led the transformation of Oracle Fusion Applications to the cloud and rose to be a senior director. He comes to UC from the University of North Texas system, where he served as deputy chief information officer and associate vice chancellor of enterprise applications. He also has significant experience in the nonprofit sector. At UC, Prabhakaran will report directly to President Neville Pinto and serve on the president’s cabinet.
A statewide diversity leader
Carolyn S. Craig, Miami University, is director of diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging for the College of Arts and Sciences. Craig has worked at Miami since 2015 and is credentialed as both a certified diversity professional and an advanced certified cultural intelligence professional. She also is a fellow in the National Inclusive Excellence in Higher Education Leadership Academy. Among her additional inclusion efforts is representing Miami on the Ohio Diversity Council and leading the diversity, equity and inclusion certificate program, a professional development opportunity for Miami faculty and staff.
New Thomas More dean making mark
Annabelle Bautista, Thomas More University, joined a year ago as dean of student diversity, engagement and success. She also serves in the president’s cabinet and is part of Thomas More’s team on the inaugural Governing Board Equity in Student Success Project in Kentucky, supported by the Association of Governing Boards and the John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education. As dean, Bautista’s goal is to continue to build community, integrate student life with student success, and develop Thomas More students to strengthen the holistic university experience. Bautista came to Thomas More from Notre Dame de Namur University in California, where she served as assistant dean of students.
Business owner part of faculty
Mike Watkins, Sinclair Community College, brings real-world experience into the classroom in Mason. Watkins owns and operates AutoWorks, a company that offers full control-systems integration to manufacturers and other automated industries. His company’s services include electrical design, programmable logic controller and human machine interface programming, and installation and continuous improvement of automated factory equipment. Students in Watkins’ classes benefit from that up-to-date knowledge as they learn the skills necessary to start lucrative careers in the automation industry. Watkins earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Dayton, and he served in the U.S. Navy as a nuclear engineer.