Our Leadership

Dr. Mordecai Brownlee

Mordecai Ian Brownlee
Dr. Brownlee is an inclusive educator who is committed to the intellectual and economic empowerment of diverse communities, brings an impressive resume in advancing student access, expanding student support services, and empowering academic pathways at several public and private higher education institutions, including St. Philip’s College in Texas, the University of Charleston in West Virginia, Blinn College District in Texas, and Houston Baptist University. During his previous tenure at St. Philip’s College, Dr. Brownlee championed strategic enrollment and student success initiatives that led St. Philip’s to record enrollment and four of their largest degree and certificate awarding classes in the college’s 123-year history. Throughout his career in higher education, Dr. Brownlee raised millions for student scholarships and academic programs – some of which went to new programs designed to retool individuals to fill high-demand employment opportunities. He has also played an instrumental role in securing several multi-million-dollar capital construction projects. Dr. Brownlee’s has served on many community, state, and national boards including: the director of the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) Community College Institute; co-founder of the Rising Leaders Institute for the American Association of Blacks in Higher Education (AABHE), member of the My Brother’s Keeper White House Initiative in San Antonio, Community College Chair of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB), ApplyTX Advisory Council, and a member of the 100 Black Men of America, Inc. He is also a proud member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.

Bobby Pace

Bobby Pace
Vice President, Academic Success
Dr. Pace was hired as part of full-time staff in the fall of 2012 after serving nearly four years as an adjunct instructor. He was appointed Chair of the Social Sciences Department in the summer of 2015, and managed the Anthropology, Ethnic Studies, History, Geography, Political Sciences and Women's Studies Departments. He developed CCA’s nationally-recognized Model United Nations program, which includes more than 300 students on CCA’s campus, as well as a delegation that competes at the international conference in New York. Dr. Pace also piloted an Institute for Civic Engagement at CCA, which includes Aurora’s first Great Decisions Discussion Group that is part of the Foreign Policy Association’s program. Prior to joining CCA, Dr. Pace taught at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia and was a lecturer at the University of Colorado in Boulder. His educational background includes three Political Science degrees: a doctorate from the University of Denver, a master’s degree from Virginia Tech and a bachelor of arts from Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond.


Lynne Winchell

Lynne Winchell
Vice President of Administration/CFO
Winchell comes to CCA from the History Colorado Center, where she was the museum’s chief administrative officer. Prior to her time at History Colorado, she served as deputy state controller with the Colorado Department of Personnel & Administration for three and a half years and controller with the governor's office for over two years. In her role, Winchell oversees CCA’s Budget and Analysis, Facilities, Fiscal Affairs, Information Technology and Security departments, as well as the college’s bookstore and cafeteria operations. Winchell’s career has included a variety of fiscal-related roles, including business manager (Veterans Community Living Center at Fitzsimons), controller/budget officer (Colorado Office of the Child’s Representative) and chief financial officer (Adams County School District 14). Winchell holds three degrees from Regis University—a Bachelor of Science in Accounting, a Bachelor of Science in Finance and a Master of Business Administration in Finance and Accounting. She enjoys traveling, kayaking, Zumba and running. She enjoys football, particularly the New Orleans Saints, and traveling to different baseball stadiums with her husband and two sons.

Chris Ward, VP of Institutional Effectiveness at CCA Chris Ward
Vice President, Institutional Effectiveness
Dr. Chris Ward is responsible for oversight of the executive leadership in Institutional Research, the Center for Workforce Development, Strategic Partnerships and Resource Development, Assessment and Institutional Effectiveness, and College Communications. The VP of Institutional Effectiveness supports the mission of the college by overseeing institutional planning, research, grant development and reporting, external partnerships, communications and marketing, and contract-based workforce programs. The position also serves as the college's Accreditation Liaison Officer to the Higher Learning Commission, coordinates institution-level strategic planning, and serves as a member of the Cabinet. Since arriving at CCA in 2000 as director of grants and adjunct instructor of cultural anthropology, Chris Ward has worn many hats. He’s worked to bridge any gaps between CCA and the community by overseeing the workforce development staff while establishing strategic partnerships through his grants and resource development work with various community and state organizations. Ward’s also maintained a passion for the globalization of CCA and its curriculum that best serve the diverse community it serves, including providing entry and support for immigrants and refugees. He’s served on the globalization committee and the self-study group, chaired the emergency plan steering committee and assessment-working group and taken on various other tasks. Prior to coming to CCA, Ward earned his PhD in International and Development Education from the University of Pittsburgh and in 1985, did field work in China. He’s also authored several books and taught previously at Community College of Denver, the University of Pittsburgh, LaRoche College (Pittsburgh), Portland State University and National Taiwan University.

Angela Marquez

Angela Marquez
Vice President, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Dr. Angela Marquez joined CCA in January 2020 as the Vice President of Student Affairs. Marquez came to CCA from Metropolitan State University of Denver where she was previously the Special Assistant to the President for Hispanic Serving Institution and Executive Director for Inclusion and HSI. At MSU Denver, she led a 60-member cross-functional HSI implementation team and co-chaired the President’s Council of Academic Excellence and Student Success. She has more than 25 years of experience in higher-education leadership, diversity and inclusivity, and enrollment and retention. Marquez holds a doctorate degree in education and human resources, with a specialization in higher education and educational leadership, from Colorado State University. She earned a master’s degree in psychology and a master’s certificate in adult learning, training and development from Regis University. She also holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Regis.


Cindy Hesse, Director of Human Resources at Community College of Aurora in CO Cindy Hesse
Vice President of Human Resources and Personnel Success
Hesse has been integral in numerous recruitment and hiring processes tied to presidential searches within the Colorado Community College System. Her part in facilitating those hires speaks to her deep roots within the statewide system, beginning in 1994 at Northeastern Junior College, continuing for a decade with the CCCS and, now, with CCA. Hesse and her staff currently handle thousands of applications annually for open positions. Her CCA tenure has involved the hiring of vice presidents, deans and a plethora of faculty to fill what has been an increase in hiring allowances. But Hesse not only has been deeply involved in finding and placing talent over the years but participated in duties that run the gamut of HR responsibilities. Those tasks have included benefits and employee relations, training, payroll support, and policy and compliance. Her overriding goal is to create a beneficial working culture while supplying managers, directors and deans with the necessary resources to efficiently handle their jobs. To that end, Hesse also gets directly involved in mediation when problems arise and regularly consults with staff to discuss personnel issues. Consulting and listening to people’s concerns and fixing pressing issues are arguably the most fundamental facets of her position.

Janel Highfill

Janel Highfill
Associate Vice President Workforce Partnerships and Resource Development
Highfill joined the Community College of Aurora in spring 2013, serving originally as the Director of Strategic Partnerships and Resource Development before moving into her current role. Highfill leads the college’s partner engagement and workforce development initiatives, guiding business engagement and market research to inform non-credit and credit career and technical education programs. Highfill leads the college’s grant writing efforts, resulting in nearly $30 million in federal, state and private grants and other external revenue sources. These grants include a number of high-profile projects, including: the Wal-Mart Foundation’s Job Ready, Willing, and Able project with the American Association of Community Colleges; the U.S. Department of Labor’s Strengthening Working Families Initiative with matching funds provided by Gary Community Investments; and National Science Foundation S-STEM and Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation (LSAMP) grants. Highfill holds a Bachelor’s degree from Washington University in St. Louis and a Master’s in Public Policy from the University of Chicago. Her professional experience includes education and workforce policy leadership for Richard M. Daley’s administration in Chicago, leadership of enterprise initiatives at Front Range Community College and the Community College of Denver, executive-level program and policy positions at an alternative high school and early learning center, and senior leadership of parent/community engagement and advocacy for K-12 school reform. She is the founder and board chair for Springboard Child Care Inc. and has served as a board member and chair for Together Colorado, Project WISE and other community based non-profit organizations.

Reyna Anaya Headshot

Reyna Anaya
Dean of Student Success and Senior Student Affairs Officer
Dra. Reyna Anaya (she, her, hers) joined the Community College of Aurora (CCA) in July 2018 as the Dean of Students, and in November 2021 was promoted as the Senior Student Affairs Officer and Dean of Student Success reporting directly to the President. In her role, Dra. Anaya directly oversees student service programs, including: the Aspen Institute Accelerated Partnership Grant, CARE & Compliance Team, Colorado Scholarship Opportunity Initiative Grants, Mental Health & Counseling Services, Student Advocacy Services, Student Life, and the Truth Initiative Grant. Prior to her role at CCA, Dra. Anaya served as an Assistant Director of Community Standards & Conflict Resolution at the University of Northern Colorado (UNC) from 2013 to 2018. Dra. Anaya also has served as a Faculty Fellow and Faculty Member for the Association for Student Conduct Administrators (ASCA) Gehring Academy, and currently sits on the ASCA Board as a Director At-Large for Community Colleges. In addition, Dra. Anaya is the Past-President for the Colorado Coalition for the Educational Advancement of Latinxs (COCEAL), a coalition of post-secondary and professional educators devoted to the educational success of the state’s Latinx population. Dra. Anaya received her PhD in Higher Education & Student Affairs Leadership program from UNC in 2019, Masters of Arts in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies from UNC in 2009, and Bachelor of Science in Human Development & Family Studies from Colorado State University in 2007. She is also a published scholar with works focused on intersectionality theory and graduate student mothers of color, self-care, and student conduct in higher education. Last and most importantly, Dra. Anaya is a mom of three to Aiyana, Mateo, and Antonio.

Carmen Wade

Carmen Wade
Dean of Academic Affairs and First-Year Success
Dr. Carmen Wade joined the CCA community January 2020 as the Dean of Academic Affairs and First-Year Success. In her role, Carmen serves as an instructional leader focused on the growth and development of both students and faculty/instructors in order to help students achieve their academic goals. Carmen also leads institutional efforts for first year success in English and mathematics, along with development and implementation of culturally-responsive and pedagogically sound instructional innovations. Prior to joining the college, Carmen served as the Director of Academic Support providing strategic and operational direction, leadership and oversight for academic support programs on campus and the Director of the LEAP Scholars Summer Bridge Program at Fayetteville State University. During her tenure, Carmen has also served as a classroom teacher, TRIO training consultant, tutor trainer, academic coach, and adjunct instructor. Carmen’s commitment and research interests include equity and access, student development research, assessment and evaluation, and retention & student success initiatives. Carmen earned a Doctor of Philosophy in Educational Management from Hampton University, a Master of Education in Education Administration and Supervision from Clemson University, and a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education from Claflin University.


Chris Tombari in front of a red background.

Chris Tombari
Dean of Academic Affairs and Transfer Initiatives
Chris Tombari joined CCA in August of 2009 as the Chair for the English as a Second Language (ESL) Department. In March of 2016, Chris changed positions to become the Associate Dean, where he oversees such student achievement and success initiatives as SLA Concurrent Enrollment courses, the Achievement Coach’s Gatekeeper Course Interventions, and SLA Program Advising. His other responsibilities include serving as a member of the SLA leadership team, working with academic misconduct reports, and working with department chairs, faculty, and personnel across the college to support the pursuit of strategic objectives. Prior to working at CCA, Tombari worked for almost 12 years as an instructor and program director in the non-profit education and consulting organization, Spring Institute for Intercultural Learning in Denver. He started his career in education in 1993 with the Peace Corps in Mongolia. Tombari holds a B.A. in English from Texas A&M University, an M.A. in English (with a focus on Applied Linguistics) from the University of Colorado Denver, and is currently working on his doctorate in Higher Education and Student Affairs Leadership through the University of Northern Colorado.

VA Hayman Barber

VA Hayman Barber
Dean of Academic Affairs and Workforce Partnerships
VA Hayman Barber has several years of experience working in higher education in a variety of capacities including employer relations, operations, international education, student activities, residential life, recruiting, alumni development and career services in public and private institutions. She began at CCA as the Dean of Academic Affairs and Workforce Partnerships in late 2019. Her work includes developing new STEM-related employer partnerships to help students attain meaningful career experiences. Formally the Director of Experiential Education & Career Services at the Denver Johnson & Wales University campus, she worked across the country with a number of companies creating strategic industry partnerships across a variety of sectors. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Broadcast News from Drake University and Master’s Degrees in Higher Education and Applied Communication and Leadership from the University of Denver. She recently finished her PhD coursework in Organizational Learning, Performance and Change at Colorado State University. Her dissertation is focused on how apprenticeships can be used as a tool to reduce educational and career related equity gaps in the United States. VA has lived in Colorado with her husband for 20 years and is the mom of two kids, Nora and Merritt.

Ana Martin-MejiaAna Martin-Mejia
Associate Dean of Assessment
Since joining CCA in Fall 2016, Martin-Mejia has been a Spanish instructor and faculty member and academic department chair for a large variety of World Languages and Liberal Arts programs. Her focus during those years was program development, curriculum redesign, implementation of innovative methodologies that support student success, and coaching and mentoring. As Associate Dean, she is particularly interested in developing and implementing systems that support the college efforts in the areas academic affairs personnel support and minority student success, retention, and completion. Prior to working at CCA, Martin-Mejia was part of the faculty at the University of Texas-Arlington, served as an adjunct at Metro State University and was an instructor at Tarrant County College in Fort Worth, Texas. She also simultaneously earned a master's degree in Latin American studies from Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va., while teaching Spanish as a graduate teaching assistant. Martin-Mejia has a second masters in teaching Spanish as a Foreign Language from Universidad Antonio De Nebrija (Madrid, Spain). She also earned a bachelor's in Spanish Literature from Universidad Complutense (Madrid, Spain).

Sheena Martinez

Sheena Martinez
Associate Dean of Career and Technical Education
Sheena Martinez has been with Community College of Aurora since 2017 and is currently serving as the Associate Dean for Career and Technical Education. Prior to this role, she served as project director for two federally funded grants at CCA - TRIO Upward Bound, funded by the Department of Education, and Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation, Metro Denver STEM Alliance, funded by the National Science Foundation. Both grants focus on providing culturally relevant support for students of color and first-generation, secondary/post-secondary students. Sheena has spent the majority of her career at four-year institutions, working in various areas of Student Affairs at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. and Doha, Qatar and Colorado State University. While she sees all of her professional opportunities as extremely valuable, some of the most impactful personal and professional experiences Sheena had were during the six years she spent working abroad. Learning through new cultures, religions, and ways of life has forever changed the way she engages the world around her. Back in the US for four years now, she loves working at an institution that serves a diverse community of students, faculty and staff. Sheena holds a master’s degree in student affairs in higher education and a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Colorado State University.

Michelle Pacheco

Michelle Pacheco
Associate Dean of Concurrent Enrollment

Michelle Pacheco joined CCA in the fall of 2015. Under Michelle’s leadership, the size of Concurrent Enrollment has more than doubled in the past three years. Michelle has participated in The Academic Management Institute, Leadership Aurora and has been an Inclusive Excellence facilitator. Prior to joining CCA, Michelle spent 10 years at Metropolitan State University of Denver where she was the Associate Director of Admissions. In her time there Michelle sat on numerous committees, which included chair of Admissions Review, ASSET (Advancing Students for a Stronger Tomorrow) Tuition Classification, The Denver College Attainment Network, Adams County EDU, and the Hispanic Serving Institute taskforce. Michelle is passionate about helping students achieve their educational goals by showing students how to self-advocate, and providing students the tools they need to be successful. Michelle holds a master’s degree in school counseling from Adams State University and a bachelor’s degree in history from MSU Denver. Michelle is a Colorado native and enjoys spending time with her family and road trips to the mountains.

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