As a strategic decision allowing for maximum flexibility and a desire to keep infrastructure costs low, the NCII was created with only Founder & President Dr. Rob Johnstone as a full-time employee. However, NCII has identified an amazing core team of primary consultants that represent decades of experience with a vast array of local, state, and national inquiry & improvement efforts. These seasoned professionals can be matched with project needs in a customized fashion, and they all bring both their own unique perspective and a passion and energy for this important work. Click on any of the names below for a brief biography.
Dr. Johnstone works to help 2-year and 4-year colleges create structures and processes that increase student completion, learning and labor market outcomes. His unique & engaging approach to inquiry & improvement fuses the world of foundations, initiatives, and system-level policy changes with the ground-level work of college practitioners & college senior leaders. He has worked on the ground with over 150 colleges around the country both directly and on initiatives such as the AACC Pathways Institutes, Lumina's Beyond Financial Aid, The Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, Gates’ Completion by Design, Lumina's Guided Pathways for Success, Kresge’s and Gates’ Pathways projects in Arkansas, Michigan and the Seattle area colleges, Texas Completes, and Carnegie's Statway / Quantway.. He served as a Director, Dean and Provost in the California community college system for over a decade, and worked as a strategic consultant in industry prior to shifting to higher education. He brings a unique dual perspective with over 20 years of consulting experience in industry and higher education, and brings an energy and passion for authentic change to improve outcomes.
Darla M. Cooper, Ed.D., is the Director of Research and Evaluation for the Research and Planning Group for the California Community Colleges (RP Group) has worked in the California community college system for over 10 years having previously held institutional research director positions at Santa Barbara City College, Oxnard College, and Ohlone College. She has extensive experience serving as an external evaluator for several federal and private foundation grants and is currently leading Student Support (Re)defined, a research project examining what supports student success. In addition, she has recently worked on several projects including the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, Bridging Research Information and Culture (BRIC), Student Transfer in Professional Pathways Project, and the Accreditation Study. Dr. Cooper also has direct experience assisting students achieve their educational goals in her previous work at the University of Southern California as a director of research and information, student services counselor, and ombudsperson. She holds a B.A. in Psychology from the University of California, San Diego, and a M.S.Ed. and Ed.D. from the University of Southern California. Dr. Cooper can offer her expertise on projects that involve helping practitioners use data and research to improve, and evaluating student success initiatives.
As an independent consultant, Kelley Karandjeff focuses on making evidence useful for community college practitioners and promoting success for all students. For 15 years, Ms. Karandjeff has worked directly with community colleges and secondary schools to develop, deliver and improve innovative career technical education (CTE) programs and student success initiatives. She now serves as a researcher with an interest in dissemination designed to support practitioner action. She partners regularly with the Research and Planning Group for California Community Colleges (RP Group) and individual California community colleges, providing qualitative research and evaluation, project management, communications and facilitation services. She is currently leading projects focused on pathway development, CTE bridge programs and student support and has directed efforts related to contextualized teaching and learning and transfer.
Gregory Stoup has over 20 years of experience in higher education research and has managed research activities in both the university and community college settings. Prior to joining the California Community College system, Gregory was the director of a policy research institute at Case Western Reserve University. Currently Gregory serves as the Senior Dean of Research & Planning at the Contra Costa Community College District and Vice President of the Research & Planning Groups of California. Recently he has also served on a statewide task force examining California economic & workforce development policy and currently serves as an advisor to the Public Policy Institute of California and sits on the Board of California’s Centers of Excellence. Gregory has worked on several national educational reform projects including Completion by Design (Gates Foundation), Achieving the Dream (Lumina Foundation), and The Aspen Institute's College Excellence Program.
Ian Walton taught mathematics at Mission College in Santa Clara, CA for 33 years. He received the system Hayward Award for Excellence in Education in 2011, the Vasconcellos Advocate Award in 2007 and the CCC Technology Leadership Award in 2006. He is currently a Commissioner for the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges and works on a variety of state and national projects related to both mathematics and educational policy. Ian served many college leadership roles as division chair and in his local union and academic senate. He also served ten years on the Executive Committee of the statewide Academic Senate for California Community Colleges (ASCCC) and was President for 2005 – 07. Particular issues of significance during his term included revising the graduation competencies in math and English and initiating the system Basic Skills Initiative.
Ian grew up in Scotland and has a bachelor's degree in Pure Mathematics from the University of St. Andrews. He came to California as a Fulbright scholar in 1973 and has a Ph.D. in Differential Equations from University of California at Santa Cruz. Ian has wide experience in accreditation, governance and basic skills issues. He particularly enjoys collaborating with administrative and research colleagues to ensure that projects incorporate a faculty-friendly perspective and thereby increase the likelihood of institution wide faculty support and implementation of project goals.