Alumna named chair of Illinois Board of Higher Education

By Whitney Blair Wyckoff

Carrie Hightman, University alumna, was named chair of the Illinois Board of Higher Education last week. She will replace James Kaplan, who has served as chairman of the board since April 2003.

“I have a great interest in higher education in this state, being a product of it,” Hightman said.

President of AT&T; Illinois from 2001 to 2006, Hightman said that her experience in the business world gives her a unique perspective on the demands of higher education institutions. She said she wants to work toward ensuring graduates of state colleges have the business skills that will allow them to be competitive in the job market. In turn, this will help local businesses, she said.

Hightman also wants to improve accessibility to higher education. But she said she wants to settle into the position before she starts making changes.

“I’m just now getting my feet wet with the issues the board faces,” Hightman said.

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Her son, Brian, is a senior in LAS, and Hightman said having her son attend the University reinforces her commitment to higher education in Illinois.

Hightman graduated from the University with a bachelor’s in finance. While she was here, Hightman was a member of the Alpha Epsilon Phi sorority.

She attended law school at Florida State University. After she graduated, Hightman worked for the Florida Public Service Commission and later as associate counsel with the Florida Office of Public Counsel. Later she worked for Chicago law firm Schiff Hardin.

Now, Hightman is vice chair of the communications committee of the public utility, communications and transportation law section of the American Bar Association. She is also vice chair of the Chicago Urban League, vice chair of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation and board member of the Lyric Opera of Chicago. She has held a variety of other positions, including chair of the public utility law section of the Chicago Bar Association and board member of the Chicago Bar Foundation.

The Illinois Board of Higher Education is a fifteen-member agency that makes budget recommendations, oversees academic programs, works to implement policies that improve affordability and collects data about higher education. Hightman’s position is part time and unpaid, and will expire in 2013.

Today the board will in a video conference to consider budget recommendations for the next fiscal year.

“Carrie Hightman’s business experience will bring a valuable perspective to the Board of Higher Education,” Governor Blagojevich said in a press release. “I am confident her experience and background will help ensure that all Illinoisans have access to a high quality education at our colleges and universities.”