NECHE Staff Biographies

Lawrence Schall


Dr. Lawrence Schall joined the Commission staff as President in 2020. Previously, he served as President of Oglethorpe University in Atlanta, Georgia for 15 years. During his tenure, Dr. Schall led the transformation of Oglethorpe from an at-risk institution to a university boasting a doubled class size and rigorous spending safeguards, raised over one hundred million dollars, and secured a solid financial outlook for the institution. Schall currently serves on the Board of Spelman College, the highly-ranked historically Black women’s college also in Atlanta.

President Schall received his undergraduate degree from Swarthmore College and his J.D. and Ed.D from the University of Pennsylvania. After practicing law as a civil rights attorney in Philadelphia for a decade, he served as Vice President of Administration at Swarthmore for 15 years before assuming the Presidency of Oglethorpe.

You can learn more about President Schall and his work at the Commission by visiting his blog, NECHE On The Road.

Patricia O’Brien

Senior Vice President

Dr. Patricia O’Brien has worked for the Commission since 2003, first as Associate Director, and since 2006 as Senior Vice President (formerly Deputy Director).  Prior to coming to NECHE, Dr. O’Brien worked at Bridgewater State College (now University) in Massachusetts, first as Director of Institutional Research and Assessment and later as Associate Vice President for Planning and Assessment.  She has also been an adjunct faculty member at Harvard University and at Emmanuel College in Boston. Dr. O’Brien has presented at several regional, national, and international conferences, and she is editor of Accreditation: Assuring and Enhancing Quality, published as part of New Directions for Higher Education series.  She has served on the governing boards of several educational institutions and is a member of the governing board of the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA).  She earned a baccalaureate degree in Psychology and Religion from Wellesley College and master’s and doctoral degrees in Education from Harvard University.

Carol Anderson

Vice President

Dr. Anderson joined the Commission in 2012.  As Vice President, she supports the Commission in its work and collaborates with member institutions that are engaged in the self-study or interim report process; she also assists international institutions seeking accreditation through NECHE. Anderson serves on the New England Board of Higher Education’s Regional State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA) committee.  Previously, she worked in public, private, and for-profit institutions as adjunct instructor, Director of Education, Director of Compliance, and Provost. She holds a B.A. and M.A. in Psychology from Bridgewater State College (now University), an Ed.D. in Adult Education from Nova Southeastern University and, in 2011, she earned a Doctorate in Law and Policy with a focus on regional accreditation and distance education from Northeastern University.

Laura M. Gambino

Vice President

Dr. Laura M. Gambino is a Vice President for the New England Commission of Higher Education, where her work focuses on helping institutions and the Commission use data and conduct assessment for institutional learning and improvement.  Prior to joining NECHE in 2018, Gambino was Associate Dean for Assessment and Technology and Professor of Information Technology at Guttman Community College (CUNY) and a Visiting Scholar at the Community College Research Center (CCRC), Teacher’s College, Columbia University.  Laura also worked for 13 years at Connecticut’s Tunxis Community College as a Professor/ePortfolio Coordinator.  From 2011 to 2014 Dr. Gambino was the Research Coordinator for the FIPSE-funded Connect to Learning project at LaGuardia Community College (CUNY).  Gambino, a leading ePortfolio and assessment practitioner and researcher, served as a Coach for the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA).

Paula A. Harbecke

Vice President

Dr. Paula A. Harbecke joined the Commission staff as Vice President (previously Associate Director) in June 2010.  Earlier she served as Vice President and Director with University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) (1980-2000); Provost at the School for International Training (SIT) (2000-2005); and Vice President of Academic Affairs at Regis College (2005-2010), giving her experience with international, online, and residential programs, undergraduate and graduate education, and public and private higher education.  She served as an evaluator on seven teams for the Commission and has overseen the preparation of self-studies as well as other institutional reports including proposals and contract reviews for the government.  She earned a bachelor’s, master’s and Ph.D. in accounting and an M.Ed. in educational psychology all from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

Aaron Perkus

Vice President

Dr. Aaron K. Perkus is a Vice President for the New England Commission of Higher Education.  His primary responsibility is to recruit, train, and support evaluation visiting teams and team chairs.  Before joining NECHE in January, 2020, Dr. Perkus worked in a wide range of higher education institutions, including private (Paul Smith’s College, Paul Smiths, New York) and public (Norwalk Community College, Norwalk, Connecticut) two-year colleges, as well as private regional (Fairfield University, Fairfield, Connecticut) and national (University of Bridgeport, Bridgeport, Connecticut) universities.  He has spearheaded accreditation and assessment work at each of the four institutions he has worked in.  Before joining the Commission, his most recent experience was as Deputy Provost and Associate Professor at the University of Bridgeport, where he served from 2016-2020.  He is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate from Southern Methodist University (Dallas, Texas) with a BA in English and Psychology. His MA, in English Literature, and PhD., in Comparative Literature, are from Binghamton University (SUNY: Binghamton, New York).