WGU announces its inaugural Utah Advisory Board

Western Governors University (WGU) has created a formal Utah Advisory Board comprised of seasoned and exceptional community leaders. It will focus on empowering adult learners to complete degrees and fill workforce needs.

The newly created, 10-member board will work directly with Ismar Vallecillos, WGU’s Northwest Regional Director, and Ben McAdams will serve as the first Board Chair. Members will provide advice and counsel on matters pertaining to WGU Utah, serve as advocates for the university and its programs, and assist in outreach to the greater community.

WGU is the nationally recognized, online university headquartered in Salt Lake City. Created in 1997 by former Utah governor Mike Leavitt and 18 other U.S. governors, WGU currently serves nearly 130,000 students living in all 50 states, U.S. territories and military bases abroad – including more than 8,000 in Utah.

In 2021, the university increased its commitment to the Beehive State, establishing a partnership with the state aimed at supporting the more than 370,000 midcareer adults across Utah who have some college but no degree – a critical population segment needed to meet evolving workforce needs. A feature of that partnership includes the university’s backing of the Adult Learners Grant Program, to which the school pledged $1 million.

Board Member Bios

Ben McAdams (Chair) is a former Member of Congress, Utah State Senator and Salt Lake County Mayor. He is passionate about WGU’s mission to change lives for the better by creating pathways to opportunity. Ben knows firsthand how hard it can be to gain an education and still make ends meet. As the child of a single mother who raised six kids on a public-school teacher salary, he worked 2-3 jobs at a time to pay tuition and expenses as he earned his undergraduate degree. Ben still wouldn’t have been able to do it without additional resources including Pell Grants and Stafford Student Loans.

Silvia Castro is the executive director of the Suazo Business Center, a Utah nonprofit focused on economic mobility for the minority community. She has more than 20 years of experience working with nonprofit, government, and for-profit organizations. Silvia received an international fellowship through which she completed her MBA with an emphasis in international business from the University of Utah. She received her bachelor’s degree in international business from Westminster College, where she graduated with honors.

Carine Clark is a three-time president and CEO of high-growth tech companies, specializing in helping companies scale from $10 million to $100 million or more. She recently joined Pelion Venture Partners as a General Partner, focusing on building the newest Pelion Opportunity Fund to complement their existing products and driving some of the blockchain investments. Carine earned a bachelor’s degree in organizational communications and an MBA from Brigham Young University.

Kristen Cox is the world’s leading authority on how to apply the Theory of Constraints to governments and nonprofits. As the former executive director of the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget for the State of Utah, she orchestrated a 35% improvement across Utah’s $20B executive branch. Kristen is currently the executive director of the new Initiative on Government Improvement as well as an instructor at the University of Utah’s Eccles School of Business.

Lew Cramer is the CEO–Utah of Colliers International, the largest commercial real estate company in the intermountain west. He has worked extensively in the global telecommunications and broadband sectors. For over a decade, Lew taught international business at Georgetown University and real estate finance at the University of Southern California. Previously, he practiced corporate law at major law firms in the San Francisco Bay/Silicon Valley area and in Los Angeles. Lew holds bachelor’s and juris doctor degrees with honors from Brigham Young University.

Richard E. Kendell has a 35-year professional career, highlighted by his time as the commissioner of the Utah System of Higher Education. He was an associate dean for two different schools at the University of Utah and the interim president for Southern Utah University. Richard was also the deputy to former Governor Mike Leavitt for public education, higher education, and economic development, among other various positions throughout his career. He earned a bachelor of science in English at Weber State University as well as a master’s degree and Ph.D. in Leadership and Policy at the University of Utah.

James Jackson III serves as the supplier diversity program manager at Zions Bancorporation, where he is responsible for building relationships with capable diverse suppliers who can provide goods and services across the enterprise. James has worked in various areas of the

financial industry for almost 20 years and found his passion serving and building his community. In conjunction with his role at the bank, James serves on several boards of directors and is the founder of the Utah Black Chamber. As a native Utahn, James is committed to the social and economic growth of the black and overall diverse community. His goal is to further promote Utah diversity with the hopes of it becoming a more attractive destination for people of color.

Jacqueline (Jacque) S. Lee is the Director of Government Vertical Strategy at T-Mobile USA and has over 25 years of public sector experience at the company. She has been involved in T-Mobile’s Project 10 Million and Connecting Heroes programs. Jacque has also worked to find education connectivity solutions in both K-12 and higher education.

Ryan L. Smith is the chief information officer and vice president at Intermountain Healthcare, an integrated delivery network (IDN) based in Salt Lake City, Utah. With over 25 years of experience in information technology, he is nationally and internationally recognized as a CIO and is a frequent speaker. Ryan received a bachelor’s degree in computer science from the University of Utah and later an MBA from Western Governors University.

David Utrilla founded the U.S. Translation Company in 1995 and currently serves as its CEO. He and the company have received multiple awards, including Utah’s Best of State and being listed six times in the Inc. 500/5000 for fastest growing companies in America. David is also the Honorary Consul of Peru in Utah and has held this position since being appointed by the President of Peru in 2009. He studied international business and economics in Peru and in the U.S.

About WGU
Established in 1997 by 19 U.S. governors with a mission to expand access to high-quality, affordable higher education, online, nonprofit WGU now serves nearly 130,000 students nationwide and has more than 240,000 graduates in all 50 states. Driving innovation as the nation’s leading competency-based university, WGU has been recognized by the White House, state leaders, employers, and students as a model that works in postsecondary education. In just 24 years, the university has become a leading influence in changing the lives of individuals and families, and preparing the workforce needed in today’s rapidly evolving economy. WGU is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, has been named one of Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies, and has been featured on NPR, NBC Nightly News, CNN, and in The New York Times. Learn more at www.wgu.edu.