Sandra Caldwell, Ed.D.

Dr. Sandy Caldwell attended Paris Junior College in Paris, TX where she later worked as a community college faculty member and served in her first community college administrative role.  Dr. Caldwell was an educator for almost 30 years before she retired as the Executive Director and State Higher Education Executive Officer (SHEEO) for the Wyoming Community College Commission, State of Wyoming.  Dr. Caldwell has a long history in higher education having served as president of Reedley College in Reedley, CA, community college vice president at Western Wyoming Community College, in Rock Springs, WY, community college academic leader and faculty member at Paris Junior College in Paris, TX, and university field researcher at Oklahoma State University Ag Extension Center in Lane, OK. She brings significant knowledge of higher education in multiple states including the importance of post-secondary credential attainment and the role community colleges play in supporting regional and state economic vitality. 

She has a large breath of experience and is a champion for industry partnerships.  She is also a champion for the role of governing boards and collaboration at the state-level.  She helped create the largest rural-based internship and degree completion program and successfully launched a new community college in CA, partnered to build a campus-based industrial worksite for the extraction industry in WY, lead the State of Wyoming and Campbell County in the formation of a new community college district, and created an initial institutional effectiveness plan that incorporated the block transfer in TX.  She served on the CA president’s CEO board and served on the funding formula workgroup, which developed an allocation model for the colleges. She has conducted numerous national presentations and has written articles for various higher education publications.  Additionally, she served on numerous accreditation teams for the Higher Learning Commission and Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges.  Finally, she found great joy in serving as a Bellwether College Consortium judge in Leadership and Governance where she got to see the positive changes colleges make through intentional board and administrative leadership. 

Her experience with community colleges, overseeing colleges with multiple sites and centers as well as engaging with multiple colleges with locally elected trustees, gave her the skills needed to represent the State of Wyoming’s interests with the state’s eight community college districts.  As a result, she is well versed in state-level higher education funding and the impact it has on local colleges.  In her Executive Director role in Wyoming, she worked on collaboratively developed legislation with the Commission, legislature, and college trustees and trustee association.  A priority for her was working to facilitate seamless transitions for students and to increase overall college completion in support of the state’s economy in collaboration with the college presidents, trustees, commissioners, Superintendent of Public Instruction, president of the University of Wyoming, and the Governor’s Office.  She helped successfully lead the State of Wyoming in implementing a statewide longitudinal education data system after 10 years of limited success. 

Dr. Caldwell grew up in rural Oklahoma and, after surviving as a homeless youth, found her success in life through attendance at a rural-based community college.  She has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mathematics and statistics from Oklahoma State University and a doctorate from Texas A&M University-Commerce.  She is a graduate of Leadership Wyoming and served as the board president for the Wyoming Women’s Foundation. 

Spotlight Questions

1. Who was your earliest professional influence? 

Really, this was my grandmother who always instilled going to college and having a career so that I could stand on my own two feet. Once I got started in my career, it was Bobby Walters who encouraged me to pursue an administrative career in the community colleges. I was really young in my career, and he encouraged me to take the steps to get my doctorate and pursue career advancement. 

2. What are you most proud of personally and professionally? 

This may surprise people, but becoming a full-time faculty member at the community college where I got my start as a dual credit student. I probably would not have gone to college given my circumstances. But, I ended up taking this class and it profoundly changed me. I could have never imagined myself in the class much less teaching a class. So, when I became a full-time faculty member, I achieved something that I never thought was possible.

3. What is your favorite pastime or hobby? 

Packing into the high country on horseback. I love trail riding and camping in the wilderness. We typically go for 40-50 mile round trip excursions.

4. If not Higher Ed, what? 

I would host people in camping and entering the wilderness. I would help them set up and get themselves ready to go.

5. What was the best piece of advice you have received? 

Be yourself but be your executive self. You can command your actions and communicate that to others.

6. What is your favorite drink? 

White wine, which is closely followed up by Aperol Spritz!

7. What is your favorite cuisine? 

This is hard. I could eat Mexican food three meals a day for 365. However, my absolute favorite that I only want from time to time is a toasted chili cheese dog with tater tots.

8. What is your favorite movie? 

Now, it is Dune Part 2 (and Part 1). I’ve read the entire FH original series and almost all of the ones done by his son and his co-author. Otherwise, it is the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I like world building stories.

9. Fun fact? 

I have a black belt in Taekwondo Chang Hon-style.