This year’s Award Season included the recognition of the award winners for the 3rd Annual SANsational Awards.

Today, we’re excited to welcome Cheryl Dowd, Director of the State Authorization Network, to introduce this year’s SANsational Award winners. Congratulations to these institutions and individuals!

Enjoy the read and enjoy the day,

-Lindsey Downs, WCET

The SANsational Awards are relatively new, but the WCET State Authorization Network (SAN) is pleased to share its history, nomination process, and the award-winning solutions created by resourceful SAN institutional staff members.


Created by WCET, the SAN organization was formed to offer its members a network to share resources and provide training and understanding of state and federal regulatory complexities as they relate to institutional compliance for out of state activities of the institution. In 2015, SAN colleagues expressed interest in developing an award to celebrate and acknowledge the innovations of SAN members in creating processes and tools to manage regulatory compliance for out of state activities of their institutions.

sansational-mediumAs we all know, state authorization compliance for out of state activities of an institution is  very complicated.  Institutions must be compliant with each of the state’s regulations where the institution’s activities occur.  These activities include: internships, online courses, marketing, recruiting, online faculty, plus more!  Additionally, an institution must be aware and notify students whether the institution’s professional licensure programs meets professional licensing board requirements in the state where the student is located. Institutions have been very creative in the establishment of processes and procedures.  The SANsational Awards recognizes outstanding efforts by SAN member institutions and organizations in developing a high-quality, comprehensive solution to a challenging state authorization issue.  This award is meant to showcase good practice in state authorization work while encouraging others to strive for continued progress.

Nomination Process

Each year the nomination review committee chooses the categories for which awards will be given.  For each of the last three years, the awards have been given in the following three topic areas:

  1. Location: How do you identify where your students are located?
  2. Institutional Authorization: Notifications and disclosures for institutional state authorization and compliance status.
  3. Licensure Programs: Notifications and disclosures for professional licensure program status in each state.

All SAN members (institutions, organization, or corporations) in good standing are eligible to be nominated for a SANsational Award.  Members may nominate themselves for the award.  The Call for Nominations is open each spring and the nomination review committee reviews the submissions and may grant a maximum of three awards per topic and reserves the right to grant fewer than three awards per topic.  The awards are presented each fall during the WCET Annual Meeting at the SAN Coordinators’ Meeting.  A press release describing the award-winning innovations is presented and shared on the SANsational webpage on the WCET website.  Additionally, the previous years’ winners and press releases are available on the webpage.

Award Winning Solutions

We are thrilled to share the following three 2017 Award Winning Solutions and are grateful for the award winners’ descriptions of their work.

Location:  How do you identify where your students are located?

The Ohio State University

lisa SAN award - Copy
Marianne Boeke, Sharyl Thompson – Chair of the nomination commitee, SANsational Award winner Lisa Siefker

Lisa Siefker
Sr. Program Coordinator
State Authorization Program


Knowing where students are located is the first step in developing a state authorization strategy. “Where are your students?” seems like a simple question.

At a large, decentralized institution, the answer can be complicated. Ohio State is made up of 15 different degree-granting colleges, each with its own unique systems and processes. It became clear that we needed to develop a consistent way to track student location, but we didn’t want to create additional work for staff, or change established processes. As a solution, we partnered with the University Registrar to develop a splash page that is completed by students in the online student service center when they are registering for classes. The splash page pops up while a student is registering, and completion of the location field is required before a student can complete registration for an online course.

Institutional Authorization: Notifications and disclosures for institutional state authorization and compliance status.

University of Missouri – Kansas City
Brandie Elliott
State Authorization Coordinator


While state authorization can be confusing to those in charge of institutional compliance, it is doubly confusing to current and potential students attempting to navigate the waters.

Brandie with MB & Sharyl - Copy
Marianne Boeke, Sharyl Thompson – Chair of the nomination commitee, SANsational Award winner Brandie Elliott

In order to make this aspect of college life less confusing for students, UMKC Online designed its state authorization page to be user-friendly—for anyone who lands on the page.

The one-stop-shop features a clickable map where students can select their home state to see which online degree programs are available. Each listed program is linked to its designated home page featuring more information on the individual program as well contact information should they have questions. Additionally, students may view consumer protection information as well as the NC-SARA status for their home state. If there are stipulations for residents of a certain state, such as Colorado, there is a statement indicating the student or potential student must contact the online advisor for that particular degree program. In order to ensure accuracy on the back-end, there is a behind-the-scenes website for the online degree program coordinators: Confluence. Here, the coordinators can find more information on the various stipulations, updated information including what states and territories UMKC is authorized to provide distance education, any news in the field of state authorization, and various charts requested by the various Schools, including advertising and recruiting information.

Licensure Programs: Notifications and disclosures for professional licensure program status in each state.

The Ohio State University
Lisa Siefker
Sr. Program Coordinator
State Authorization Program


The goal of providing professional licensure board notifications and disclosures is to keep students fully informed of a program’s authorization status and whether the program will lead to a license. At Ohio State, we developed a multi-pronged approach to reach prospective and current students in traditional and online programs. Part of the strategy involves keeping university stakeholders informed of disclosure requirements through consultations, webinars, monthly email updates, and website updates. We also worked with legal counsel to develop clear disclosure language that is included on acceptance letters and program websites. For our online programs in licensure fields, we post licensure board contact information and approval status that is searchable by state and program.

Additional Awards in 2017

Unique in 2017, SAN chose to award three Network Awards of Distinction. These awards were chosen from nominations that did not fit the categories, but were of such high-caliber that the nomination review committee agreed that in the future a broad category may be needed to acknowledge innovations that are beyond what the review committee could perceive in a specifically designated category.  SAN is pleased to share the Network Awards of Distinction 2017 award winners and their work:

Leadership Impact Award

Leslie Weibush, The Ohio State University

Leslie exhibited great creativity, diplomacy, and collaboration at a large decentralized public university to lead a team to create and implement the University Policy for Out-of-State-Education Activities.

Beyond the Call of Duty Award

Ronald Brownie, Northern State University

Kenneth Heard, III, The University of Mississippi Medical Center

Ronald and Kenny displayed innovation, leadership, and teamwork in the creation of the Professional Licensure and Certification Taskforce and Data Base (PLC).

The SANsational Awards and Network Awards of Distinction exemplify the purpose of the WCET State Authorization Network to encourage a community that creates and shares brilliant and collaborative solutions to manage compliance. Certainly, the network is strong with members who are willing to design and share. During a recent SAN exclusive webinar, SAN members had the opportunity to learn the details of these SANsational award winning solutions and ask questions about idea conception through process implementation. You can learn more about joining SAN on the SAN Webpage.

Thank you

A special thank you to the nomination review committee organized by Marianne Boeke of NCHEMS and included:  Jeannie Yockey-Fine of Cooley LLP, Sharyl Thompson of HER Consulting, Brianna Bates formerly of New York University (a 2015 WCET SANsational award winner), and Heather Jaramillo of University of New Mexico (a 2016 WCET SANsational award winner).

Congratulations to our award winners and thank you for your work and contributions to the WCET State Authorization Network (SAN)!



Cheryl Dowd
Cheryl Dowd
WCET State Authorization Network (SAN)





Lisa Siefker is the Program Manager of State Authorization at The Ohio State University. In her current role, she works toward institutional compliance by seeking and maintaining regulatory and professional licensing board approvals nationwide. Lisa earned her Bachelor of Science degree from The Ohio State University prior to earning her Paralegal Certificate from Capital University Law School.

Brandie Elliott began her career in higher education in 2008. She entered the world of state authorization in 2013 at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. In her current role as the State Authorization Compliance Officer for UMKC Online, she ensures that UMKC is able to legally operate in and accept students from the various states and U.S. Territories. Brandie received a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and in Communication Studies with an emphasis in Journalism from Fort Hays State University. When she’s not scouring the world-wide web for state authorization updates and reading regulations, she can be found practicing her photography skills and traveling.

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