DEAC Staff

Leah K. Matthews

Executive Director (2013 – Present)

Dr. Leah Matthews began serving as the DEAC Executive Director on April 1, 2013. Dr. Matthews comes to DEAC from her previous position as Vice President for Recognition Services at the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), the national coordinating organization for higher education accrediting organizations. In that role, she managed the CHEA recognition process for 60 accreditors that provide regional, national and programmatic accreditation. Prior to working with CHEA, Dr. Matthews served nearly 12 years on the staff of the Accrediting Commission for Career Schools and Colleges. Prior to joining ACCSC, Dr. Matthews worked for five years as a civilian based at the U.S. Army Japan Headquarters in Zama, Japan where she directed family support services and education programs for children and youth. Dr. Matthews also taught for several years in the Baltimore City Schools system.

Dr. Matthews frequently speaks on the topic of accreditation and distance education. She served as a non-federal negotiator for the U.S. Department of Education’s 2014 and 2019 Rulemaking Sessions on multiple areas that included distance education and state authorization. Dr. Matthews served on the steering committee and executive council of the WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies (WCET) from 2016-2019; as vice president of the International Network for Quality Assurance Agencies in Higher Education (INQAAHE) board of directors from 2018-2020; and as a board member of the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA) from 2016-2021.

Dr. Matthews earned a Bachelor of Arts in Music and Education from Westminster College, New Wilmington, PA; a Master of Public Administration from the University of Oklahoma and a PhD in Higher Education from George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia.

Listen to Dr. Matthews’ episode of the Accreditation Conversations podcast by Weave Education:

Assessing Far and Wide: The Accreditation of Distance Education (

Nan Ridgeway

Director of Accreditation (2005 – Present)

Ms. Nan Ridgeway joined the Distance Education Accrediting Commission as the Director of Accreditation in August of 2005. As Director of Accreditation, Ms. Ridgeway guides institutions through the process of initial and re-accreditation. She works to assure institutional compliance with the Commission’s published educational and ethical business standards. Ms. Ridgeway coordinates the work of hundreds of volunteer evaluators who assist the Commission in verifying the standards. Prior to joining the DEAC, Ms. Ridgeway served as an Accreditation Associate for the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP). She earned a Bachelor of Science in Family Studies from the University of Maryland, College Park and a Master of Business Administration from Strayer University.

Lissette D. Hubbard

Manager of Institutional Development and Assessment (2007 – Present)

Ms. Lissette Hubbard joined DEAC in May 2007. In her current role as Manager of Institutional Development and Assessment, she primarily oversees the curriculum review process for DEAC institutions undergoing renewal of accreditation as well as initial applicants. Ms. Hubbard also manages institutions’ requests for substantive and non-substantive review associated with degree level and vocational programs. In addition, Ms. Hubbard recruits and mentors volunteer subject specialists who conduct off-site curriculum reviews for DEAC. Ms. Hubbard is responsible for coordinating and managing materials for the Academic Review Committee’s quarterly teleconferences including agenda preparation and transmitting specific committee actions to the institutions relating to the review of curriculum. Ms. Hubbard earned her Bachelors of Business Administration from Baruch College, City University of New York.

Jessica Lucey

Manager of Institutional Review (2014 – Present)

Ms. Jessica Lucey joined DEAC in February 2017 as the Office Administrator. In June 2023, after garnering several years of experience in varying accreditation procedures and DEAC standards, Ms. Lucey was promoted to Manager of Institutional Review. In this role, Ms. Lucey is primarily responsible for coordinating and managing the agenda and materials for the DEAC Commission meetings, including preparing notice to the relevant constituencies and the public of institutions to be considered for accreditation and the resulting accreditation decisions. Ms. Lucey is also responsible for the review of institutional submissions and the preparation of documents associated with Commission meetings. Ms. Lucey is involved with several local theater companies, including the Shakespeare Theater Company, supporting various productions as Stage Manager, Teaching Artist, and Run Crew member. Ms. Lucey received a Bachelor of Arts in English from Harvard University, where she was awarded the David McCord Prize for exceptional talent in drama and/or the fine arts.

Leslie Urofsky

Academic Review Specialist (2018 – Present)

Dr. Leslie Urofsky joined DEAC in March 2018. In her role as Academic Review Specialist, she primarily handles the analysis of institutional submission of curriculum and academic units for accreditation review, with a specific focus on the delivery of curriculum and instruction provided via distance education. Dr. Urofsky brings over 20 years of teaching experience and specifically over 10 years of distance education teaching experience in applied ethics at both the undergraduate and graduate collegiate level. Dr. Urofsky’s graduate studies in ethics, theology and culture, afforded her the opportunity to study and work in comparative religious ethics as well as in applied ethics areas such as biomedical, advertising, and business. She served DEAC as a Degree Subject Specialist from 2009 to 2018. Dr. Urofsky earned a Bachelor of Arts from Carleton College, Northfield, MN; a Master of Arts and PhD in Religious Studies from the University of Virginia.

Martina Soares-Knize

Accreditation Coordinator (2019 – Present)

Martina Soares-Knize joined DEAC in September 2019. Prior to joining DEAC, she worked as a Maritime Transportation Analyst in the Office of Marine Environmental Response Policy at the United States Coast Guard. Ms. Soares-Knize has also done work as an Accreditation Analyst at the National Accrediting Commission of Career Arts and Sciences (NACCAS). Ms. Soares-Knize attended Pepperdine University, and Texas A&M University at Galveston where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Maritime Studies with a concentration in Environmental Maritime Policy, and minor in Anthropology. Ms. Martina Soares-Knize has also studied at a graduate level at SUNY Maritime College.

Elvera M.A. Pollard

Office Administrator (2023 – Present)

Ms. Elvera Pollard joined DEAC in July 2023. As Office Administrator, Ms. Pollard provides the accreditation department with administrative and technical support and oversees operational aspects of the DEAC office. Ms. Pollard also serves as the initial point of contact for accreditation inquiries and the accreditation process. 

For the past 11 years, Ms. Pollard served as an Aflac Benefits Advisor, providing supplemental, healthcare, and wellness services nationwide. In addition to Ms. Pollard’s employee benefits’ experience, she has over 28 years of expertise in the legal industry, from diversity manager, minority recruitment coordinator, attorney recruitment administrator, and legal secretary. Ms. Pollard served as an internal diversity consultant to management and departments on D&I issues at the law firm of Blank Rome, LLC., managed the external minority outreach and recruitment programs at the law firm of WilmerHale, was HR Assistant with Zuckerman Spaeder, and legal secretary with the law firm of Kutak Rock. 

Ms. Pollard earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Behavioral Management from Southeastern University, Washington, DC. 

Timothy Mott

Accreditation Compliance Specialist (2020 – Present)

Dr. Timothy Mott serves as an Accreditation Compliance Specialist on a part-time basis. He has been affiliated with DEAC since 2004 as an educational standards and subject specialist reviewer, team Chairperson, and authored dozens of institutional accreditation evaluation reports. He provided leadership to DEAC as a public member and Board Chairperson of the DEAC Board of Trustees and Accrediting Commission from 2006-2015. He continues to contribute expertise in accreditation practice by serving on the accrediting commissions of several other recognized accrediting agencies. Throughout his career, Dr. Mott has conducted numerous comprehensive institutional and programmatic quality assessment evaluations at colleges and universities in the U.S. and dozens of countries internationally in Australia, Asia, the Middle East, the Caribbean, and Europe. 

Other higher education appointments have included Director, Off-Campus Programs and Distance Learning at Cincinnati State Technical and Community College in Cincinnati, OH. At Union Institute & University, Dr. Mott provided senior leadership in the development, implementation, and evaluation of national, multi-campus bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degree programs and held the positions of Associate Provost, Distance Learning; Director of the ACE’s State Affiliate Office in Ohio; Assistant Vice President and Director of the University’s Office of Licensure and Compliance; University Registrar; and founding Dean of the Center for Distance Learning (CDL). In 2008, the UI&U’s Board of Trustees recognized Dr. Mott as Professor Emeritus. Dr. Mott began his career in adult-focused higher education as Coordinator for Liberal Arts Degree Programs at Thomas Edison State University in Trenton, NJ.

Dr. Mott earned a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Supervision from the University of Pittsburgh, and both M.Ed. in Elementary Science Education and B.S. in Elementary Education degrees from the Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

Debra Woods

Accreditation Compliance Specialist (2023 – Present)

Dr. Debra Woods has been affiliated with DEAC since 2016 and currently serves as an Accreditation Compliance Specialist. In addition, Dr. Woods continues to serve as an analyst on DEAC’s annual reporting on a part-time basis. Prior to her current role with DEAC, Dr. Woods served as an educational standards and subject specialist reviewer.

Dr. Woods’s other higher education appointments have included Director, NetMath Online programs and off-campus programs at University of Illinois, and as Executive Director and Academic Director of O’Reilly School of Technology. In addition, Dr. Woods also served as Chief Learning Officer (CLO) of FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research where she oversaw scientific and regulatory learning, leadership learning, core competency learning, and organizational development.

Dr. Woods has an earned EdD in Organizational Leadership from California Coast University, an MBA from Western Governor’s University, an MS in Mathematics from University of Southern California, and a BS in Mathematics from University of California, Los Angeles.

Elise Scanlon

Legal Counsel (2010 – Present)

Ms. Elise Scanlon is a Principal in the Elise Scanlon Law Group in Washington D.C. Before starting her own firm, Elise was counsel on the Education Team in the Government & Regulatory Affairs Practice Group of Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP. She served as Executive Director of the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC) that provided accreditation to more than 700 higher education institutions.

Ms. Scanlon interacts routinely with the U.S. Department of Education, key congressional committees, state oversight agencies and regional and national accrediting organizations. She also has experience guiding accrediting agencies through the recognition process of the U.S. Department of Education. In 2007, Ms. Scanlon was appointed by Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings to serve on a Negotiated Rulemaking panel charged with revising accreditation regulations. Since then, she has participated, with other higher education professionals, in various national conferences focused on issues including accountability and student achievement. She has written a number of articles on accountability and transparency in higher education and is a frequent speaker on these and other topics related to the changing landscape for higher education and accreditation.

Ms. Scanlon received her bachelor’s degree, magna cum laude from Dickinson College and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. She holds a law degree from Georgetown University Law Center.

General Counsel Services provided by Elise Scanlon Law Group

Charles (Chip) Baldwin

Chief Financial Officer (2013 – Present)

Mr. Baldwin brings more than 35 years of senior financial and accounting experience gained from working for firms such as Ernst & Young, Zurich Financial Services, USF&G/St Paul Ins., Response Ins., and NRT/Coldwell Banker.

Mr. Baldwin earned a Bachelor of Science in Accounting from University of Maryland and Master of Science in Finance from Loyola University of Maryland. Mr. Baldwin is a non-practicing Certified Public Accountant.

Curtis Campbell

Accounts Specialist (2016 – Present)

Mr. Campbell brings over 30 years of experience in bookkeeping, finance and accounting. His experience covers working with both governmental and non-profit organization as well as public and privately held corporations. Mr. Campbell is primarily responsible for maintaining DEAC’s system of accounting for all financial transactions. His various positions in the field over the years include Accounting Manager for the Eurasia Foundation in Washington, DC and at the Golden Queen Mining Company in Mojave, California.