Learning & Organizational Development

Leading in Cougar Country

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Thank you to everyone who helped make this event a success!

Leading in Cougar Country Program

Leading in Cougar Country (LCC) is a virtual event for workplace leaders hosted by WSU Human Resource Services.

The past year has been full of new challenges and opportunities across the system, the state, and the world. This year’s event will be a great opportunity for workplace leaders to once again collaborate with and learn from one another!

LCC is intended for faculty and staff leaders (and developing leaders) at various echelons within the WSU System, including but not limited to academic chairs and directors, non-academic directors, managers, supervisors, administrative managers, and emerging leaders.

Areas of Focus:

  • Leading through Change 
  • How Change Impacts People and Organizations 
  • Communicating Change 
  • Dealing with and Working Through Resistance 
  • Designing and Implementing Organizational Change Strategy 
  • Overcoming Burnout 
  • Growth Mindset  


OPENING KEYNOTE: Zoe Higheagle Strong

Zoe Higheagle Strong, PhD. – Nimíipuu (Nez Perce)

Vice Provost for Native American Relations and Programs & Tribal Liaison to the President, Office of the President; Assistant Professor, Educational Psychology, College of Education; Director, Center for Native American Research & Collaboration

CLOSING KEYNOTE: Burt A. “Tony” Howard, MA

Senior Associate Vice President of Human Resource Services

Mr. Howard joined the WSU HRS in 2022 after eleven years as the chief human resources administrator in the Richland (WA) School District in the Tri-Cities. After graduating from Western Washington University in 1994 with a Bachelor of Arts in Math Education, he started teaching high school math and drivers’ education at Ilwaco High School on the Washington coast before relocating to Walla Walla. He completed a master’s degree in Mathematics Education at Central Washington University in 2000 and became a high school assistant principal and middle school principal in the Tenino School District from 2003-2007 before moving to Richland. Along the way, Mr. Howard picked up certifications as a school principal through Heritage University in 2003 and as a school superintendent through WSU in 2010.

While serving as the chief HR administrator in the Richland School District, Mr. Howard was responsible for employee relations, hiring, recruiting, labor management, and all other HR services for a company with more than 2,000 employees. During his tenure, he completed several trainings through the Harvard Negotiation Institute and the IRL School at Cornell University. He represented the school district as the lead negotiator in over 30 collective bargaining agreements.

Mr. Howard lives in West Richland near the Tri-Cities with his wife Carie and splits his work week between the Pullman and Tri-Cities WSU campuses. They have three daughters: Emily, who is studying health sciences at Boise State University, Lucy, a varsity soccer player at Richland High School, and Audrey, who is finishing middle school before starting at Richland High in the fall of 2022. Besides going to their daughter’s events, the Howards enjoy camping, traveling, and football, especially the Seahawks and WSU.

PANELIST: Dr. Matthew Jeffries

A smiling man.

Dr. Matthew Jeffries (he/him)

Director, Campus Climate and Community Building
Panel Discussion: Using an Equity Lens in the Midst of Organizational Change

PANELIST: Dr. Laura Lavine

A smiling woman.

Dr. Laura Lavine

Professor and Chair, Entomology

Dr. Laura Lavine is Professor and Chair of the Washington State University Department of Entomology.  Dr. Lavine received her Ph.D. in Entomology at the University of Kentucky and was a USDA NIFA Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Wisconsin-Madison before coming to WSU in 2001. Dr. Lavine has dedicated her career as a professor, scholar, and administrator to creating a climate and a culture that encourages equity and diversity of thought, competence, and connection. Her leadership style combines critical and evidence-based approaches while placing high value on relationships, vision, curiosity, and openness.

PANELIST: Dr. Anna Plemons

A smiling woman.

Dr. Anna Plemons

Associate Vice Chancellor, Academic and Student Affairs (WSU Tri-Cities); Assistant Professor (Career Track), Digital Technology and Culture


A smiling woman.

Amy Sharp

Director, Women*s Center


A smiling woman.

Hailey Rupp (she/her)

Deputy Chief of Staff, Office of the Chancellor, WSU Pullman

Presentation Title: Millennials as Leaders: Status Quo, Cancel Culture, and Other Avoidable Follies

Hailey Rupp is a proud millennial currently serving as the Deputy Chief of Staff in the newly formed Chancellor’s Office at WSU Pullman. Hailey has her BA in Business Administration from WSU Pullman and her MA in Strategic Communications from WSU Global. She has been working at WSU for the last eight years in a variety of engagement and communications roles, most recently leading the institution’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

She is passionate about building teams, growing employees, and creating a workplace environment that is, above all, fun. Outside of work, Hailey enjoys adventuring with her fiancé Bob and their two dogs; consuming craft beverages with friends; and cruising the roads of Whitman County in a windowless creeper van named Carl.


A smiling woman.

Christie Kittle (she/her)

Assistant Director, Learning Innovations, AOI

Presentation Title: Leading Through Change: The Importance of Building Relationships with your Employees

Christie earned a B.S. in Interdisciplinary Studies and an M.S. in Instructional Design and Technology. Prior to joining WSU, Christie was a math teacher, technology training specialist, volleyball coach, and private sector instructional designer. She joined the instructional design team at WSU in 2017 and became a supervisor in 2019. Currently the Assistant Director of Learning Innovations in Academic Outreach and Innovation, Christie leads a team of 11 learning professionals responsible for design and development of Global Campus courses as well as training and consulting instructors across the WSU system on best practices in teaching across all course delivery modalities.

Among the accomplishments for which she is most proud of her team is their success in migrating the entire institution’s courses onto a new learning management system while also supporting instructors pivoting to remote instruction during the pandemic. She is passionate about women in leadership, mentoring and coaching, process and productivity improvement & identifying learning and non-learning solutions to solve problems.


Sharon Games

HR Consultant, Employment Services, Human Resource Services
Presentation Title: Navigating Changes in Recruitment and Retention

Sharon has a Bachelor’s in Business Management and more than 20 years of experience in HR Management. Sharon is a results focused individual who empowers leaders to grow their most valuable assets, their people.

She started her career in customer service-centric roles, learning the importance of communication, collaboration and teamwork, which lead to an opportunity at private startup company where she helped create, build and grow the HR department and business. In June, 2019, Sharon joined Washington State University as a Human Resource Consultant and currently supports the College of Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences (CAHNRS) and WSU Extension with an emphasis on Employee Relations, Training and Development, Recruitment and Retention and Classification and Compensation.


A smiling woman.

Kaitlin Morehouse

HR Consultant, Employment Services, Human Resource Services

Presentation Title: Navigating Changes in Recruitment and Retention

Kaitlin has a Bachelor’s in Sociology from SUNY Potsdam and a Master’s in Employment and Labor Relations from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. She began her career as a HR and Operations Supervisor with the College of Natural Resources at the University of Idaho. Soon after, she joined the University of Idaho Human Resources team as a HR Business Partner. In November 2021 she joined WSU HRS as a HR Consultant.


A smiling woman.

Maria Royall (she/her)

HRS Benefits & Wellness Coordinator, Employee Benefits, Human Resource Services

Presentation Title: Identifying and Addressing Burnout: Finding your footing on the road to recovery

Maria received her Bachelor’s in Kinesiology from WSU in 2014, and has nearly 10 years of experience supporting employee wellbeing in various environments. She is dedicated to helping improve employee wellbeing, driven by the ever-changing nature of the matter, and motivated by a lifelong love for WSU.

Past Leading in Cougar Country events