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Our Team

Our teams are leading education and workforce innovation across the country and breaking barriers by creating pathways to opportunity for all learners.

Meet Our Teams

Chris Bonnell
Vice President of External Relations

Chris Bonnell serves as the Vice President of External Relations for Western Governors University. Chris has decades of experience in higher education external relations with a focus on state and local legislative affairs. Chris is an established public policy leader in the fields of competency-based education and psychology, with a focus on issues of mental health and providing solutions/services. He is also passionate about philanthropic leadership and work that ensures the needs of the community are met in a thoughtful, solution-based manner. Chris holds a law degree from Hamline University School of Law and is a graduate of Concordia College. In his personal life, Chris is passionate about hockey and a board member of the Hobey Baker Memorial Award Foundation, an annual award given to the top National Collegiate Athletic Association men’s ice hockey player.

External Affairs


WGU External Affairs wants to help your state achieve its education and workforce goals.

Our team will work with you to establish a partnership that not only resonates with the students we are currently serving in your state, but provide additional opportunities for those who are not yet aware of WGU or the quality of education that we provide.

External Affairs

Paul Mero
Director of External Affairs

Paul Mero is a director of Western Governor’s University (WGU) External Affairs team. In this role he works to increase access to affordable, quality education for working adults in collaboration with policymakers and allies. Paul has a four-decade career in politics, public policy, and nonprofit institutions. He began his career with the United States House of Representatives, beginning as a press secretary and finishing his ten-year service as a chief of staff. Paul then merged his nonprofit organization, Projects for America, with the newly established Howard Center for Family, Religion, and Society located in Rockford, Illinois, where he served as executive vice-president, before moving on to become long-time president of Sutherland Institute in Salt Lake City, Utah, a nonprofit state-based think tank. He then founded Next Generation Freedom Fund focusing on intergenerational poverty solutions in Utah. Throughout his career, Paul has authored several books, numerous national op-eds and academic journal articles, and delivered too many public speeches. Paul joined WGU in April 2019. He has B.A in Public Policy from Brigham Young University and an M.S. in Management and Leadership from WGU. Paul and his wife, Sally, have been married 46 years, they have six children and 21 grandchildren.

Public Policy


WGU Public Policy advocates for the transformational changes needed to build an education system that works for everyone.

Our team is responsible for creating the WGU State Policy Playbook. With policy recommendations and real-life examples from fellow states, the Policy Playbook serves as a guide to help state leaders better understand and serve their working learners.

The second edition of the State Policy Playbook was published in 2022 with an emphasis on breaking down barriers to higher education and building on-ramps to work. It outlines specific, actionable policies that states can enact to transform higher education into a system that offers quality, customized learning experiences of all.

Public Policy

Rosie Marie O'Connor
Director of Public Policy

Rosie M. Connor, Ph.D., serves as the Director of Public Policy for WGU. After earning a bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois, she began work in the nonprofit sector in Southern California. Her professional career has been dedicated to furthering the efforts of nonprofits in education and healthcare. She earned a Master of Public Health degree from the University of Southern California and a Ph.D. in educational leadership and policy from the University of Utah. Her research interests and volunteer involvement include local, national, and global causes affecting underserved and marginalized communities.


Janie Harris
Public Policy Advisor

Janie Harris joined Public Policy in November 2022. Prior to WGU, she served as the director of advancement at Snow College where she directed alumni relations and fundraising efforts for the Snow College Foundation. Janie earned her bachelor’s degree in business administration through Utah State University and Master of Public Administration degree, with an emphasis in higher education administration, from Southern Utah University.

Margaret Hsiao
Public Policy Advisor

Margaret Hsiao joined Public Policy in March 2022. She has been at WGU for 14 years and previously worked in program development. Margaret earned a Master of Public Administration degree from the University of Utah and is pursuing a doctorate in technical communication and rhetoric at Utah State University.

Emily Peterson
Public Policy Advisor

Emily Peterson joined Public Policy in March 2022. She worked for almost 12 years at Snow College, where she was the grants officer and supervised the publication of the Snow College Magazine. She also worked for the Utah Legislature in the Office of the Legislative Auditor General. Emily has a J.D. from the Indiana University Maurer School of Law and communication degrees from the University of Utah.

Amanda Hildebrandt
Senior Community Relations Liaison

Amanda Hildebrandt joined WGU as the senior community relations liaison in 2022. She brings a wealth of experience, both professionally and personally, as she works closely with like-minded organizations to create pathways to opportunity and strengthen communities through education, particularly among underserved and marginalized populations. She has worked in higher education for more than 10 years. Her roles have primarily consisted of access and outreach, which are two major challenges that she experienced during her own educational journey. Amanda has a B.A. in speech communications from Metropolitan State University.

Adam Torres
Senior Community Relations Liaison

Adam Torres has over 15 years of experience in community engagement and advocacy. With WGU, he engages community organizations with a mission of advancing equity and access for all learners. At the New York City Department of Youth & Community Development, Adam partnered with numerous entities to manage citywide communications to launch comprehensive emergency services during the COVID-19 crisis. During his downtime, Adam enjoys running, playing video games, and (unsuccessfully) trying to beat his son in the board game Trouble.

Government Relations


We’re on a mission to change lives for the better by creating pathways to opportunity

To quantify the impact WGU has had in our first 25 years, we commissioned Gallup to study the economic effects of a WGU degree. The data proves what we already know: that our online, competency-based, student-centric approach to learning works. 

We’ve awarded more than 300,000 degrees in high‑demand fields.  Our alumni complete their degrees quickly, with little debt and high salaries–allowing them to contribute to their local economies and provide a higher quality of life for their families. See for yourself.

Find your state government relations director below and start the conversation about where WGU can make a difference in your state.

Government Relations

Patrick Baker
Director of Government Relations

Hailing from the great state of Minnesota, Patrick helps lead and execute a nationwide state government relations strategy that creates pathways to opportunity by partnering with elected officials, political appointees, business partners and communities of interest to ensure WGU lives up to its credo of being built by states, for states. Prior to his role at WGU, Patrick served as Vice President & Director of Government and Institutional Affairs for Greater Mankato Growth, his hometown regional Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Organization. Patrick was also fortunate to work for the National Governors Association in Washington, D.C. where he served in the Office of Federal Relations. Patrick graduated from Concordia College in Moorhead, Minn., with a B.A. in Political Science and holds a Graduate Certificate in Public Management from George Mason University in Fairfax, VA. Outside of work, Patrick enjoys road tripping with his wife Claire, being a dad to his beautiful daughters Eliza and Greta, and spending time with friends and family, especially if it’s at a brewery, winery or around a bonfire.

Allen Clarkson
Director of Government Relations

Allen has been with Western Governors University since 2005 in both faculty and administrative roles. He works to increase access to affordable, quality education for students in collaboration with policymakers, institutions, and businesses. Beyond access to education, Allen emphasizes the credibility of workforce-aligned degree programs to change the lives not only of students but also their families and communities. Prior to his time at WGU, Allen was a Latin, Public Speaking, and Computer Science teacher, taught graduate-level Technology Management and Emerging Technologies, and pursued extensive research in and practiced digital forensics, investigation, user rights, and law enforcement methods. Allen received a B.A. in Classical Studies and Philosophy and an M.S in Technology Management from Marshall University, and J.D. and M.J. degrees from Michigan State University College of Law. He also holds certificates from Christ Church College, Oxford, and Humboldt Universität, Berlin. Allen and his wife have four children who remind him on a regular basis that, at the end of the day, being a dad is the highest title to which he can aspire.

Dr. Rarkimm Fields
Director of Government Relations

Dr. Rarkimm Fields is a socialpreneur with over twenty years of successful leadership experience in the service based, higher education, and nonprofit industries. A native of Brooklyn, N.Y., Dr. Fields attained his PhD in Public Policy & Administration from Walden University. Dr. Fields dissertation was titled “The Ferguson Effect: Impact on Police Officers’ Culture and Perceptions in Local Police Departments”. Rarkimm also holds an MBA and MSML degrees from Western Governors University, MS in the Administration of Justice from the University of Phoenix, and a BA in Political Science from Brooklyn College.

Rarkimm is a community advocate, educator, and social change agent as evidenced by his 15+ years of experience in nonprofit leadership as an Executive Director of Waste Not Want Not Inc., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that focuses on mitigating waste and increasing awareness to food insecurity in the Metro Phoenix area, where he oversaw the government relations department and served as a business program faculty member at Western Governors University, assisting students reach their academic potential and educational goals through undergraduate degree attainment. 

Dr. Fields is an active member of the American Society for Public Administration (ASPA) and the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP) where he volunteers, promotes, and supports social change initiatives through public administration at the Federal, State, and Local levels of government. Rarkimm’ s research interests include Policing, Social Justice & Sustainability Studies, and Education Policy Initiatives. To unwind Rarkimm is an avid traveler as well as book reader. He enjoys spending time with his wife of 28 years and their three grandsons. His favorite quote is “If you had FUN you WON”!

Lyn Harry White
Director of Government Relations

In her role, Lyn works on behalf of WGU students, faculty, and employees to advance WGU’s mission and goals with elected officials at all levels of state government, agency personnel as well as, business and community thought leaders.  

Prior to joining WGU, Lyn served as Director of External Affairs for CMOC Mining Corporation,  Clark Hill Law Firm, and Freeport McMoRan Mining Co, where for nearly two decades she served as the company’s Government Relations Director. In her public affairs roles, Lyn facilitated numerous public policy accomplishments. In addition, she has served on numerous associations, boards, and commissions.  

She has extensive expertise in government affairs and management at the local, state, and federal levels of government. In addition, she has a wide range of experience in civic,  community, and political activities. She is a graduate of Arizona State University. Lyn enjoys spending time with friends and family. She lives in Arizona with her husband Tim, son Dylan, and daughters Danyelle and Robyn.

Emma Salomon
Director of Government Relations

Emma Salomon is a Government Relations Director for Western Governors University, where she advocates for states to diversify their higher education options. She has spent over a decade working in state legislatures focusing on education policy. Outside of WGU, Emma serves on the board of non-profits that advance global connectedness and free market economies.

Mindy Barham
Government Relations Manager

An advocate for equal access to higher education and opening doors of opportunity for all learners, Mindy leads WGU’s grassroots engagement and digital advocacy efforts at the state level.  She came to WGU in 2018 with decades of experience, working in various administrative roles across a diverse group of industries including building materials, heavy equipment, law enforcement and military training, healthcare insurance, and higher education.  A determined, innovative thinker with a knack for finding creative solutions to challenging problems, Mindy is passionate about serving the underserved through missions and volunteer work, as well as promoting fairness, justice, and inclusivity in the community.  A native of Seattle, Washington, Mindy currently resides in Raleigh, North Carolina where she enjoys spending time with her three children and granddaughter, playing piano, travel, sports, classic cars, and attending an eclectic mix of music concerts and events. Mindy received her B.S. in Business Administration Marketing from Western Governors University and is currently earning grassroots management certification through the Public Affairs Council.

Brentni Henderson Langdon
Government Relations Manager

Brentni Henderson Langdon serves as a Government Relations Manager at Western Governors University (WGU) and has been with the institution since 2018. She also serves as a Title IX Investigator. Ms. Langdon previously served as a Regional Manager of Regulatory Affairs at WGU where she specialized in research, regulatory board outreach, and as a Subject Matter Expert (SME) for accounting education and licensure. Prior to joining WGU, Ms. Langdon served as the Associate Director of business development and research for the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) International Evaluation Services and Aequo International. She developed business and processes for evaluating international education for candidates including standards for the accounting profession regarding education. In this role, Ms. Langdon developed the international evaluation services department, trained evaluators, streamlined operational processes, and provided support for regulated professions, boards and review course providers seeking information and guidance regarding international education. She also served as the SME for education initiatives at NASBA both domestic and international. Ms. Langdon earned her undergraduate degree in business management, and her MBA and Master of Arts in administrative dynamics from Western Kentucky University (Bowling Green, KY). 

Emily Riner
Government Relations Manager

Emily has been with WGU since 2019, serving students as an instructor in the Teachers College before transitioning to her role in government relations. She graduated from the University of Minnesota with degrees in political science and psychology. After moving to Kansas City, her passion for education was sparked during her tenure with Teach for America. Emily received her Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Missouri-St. Louis, her Educational Doctorate in Educational Leadership from the University of Missouri-Kansas City, and an Education Specialist in Principalship from Arkansas State University. As the product of a first-generation college graduate, Emily is thrilled to be in a position where she can continue the work of ensuring that all students, no matter their background, have access to an excellent education. In her free time, you’ll find her reading, hiking, visiting our national parks, and enjoying being outside with her husband, four dogs, and a barn cat on their land in Kansas.

Download the Complete WGU Policy Playbook

WGU's Policy Priorities

We believe that higher education should be: