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State Relations Leaders in New Jersey, Oregon Honored for their Work

Robin Walton, vice president for community and government affairs

Robin Walton, vice president for community and government affairs

The Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) has announced the recipients of the 2019 Service Awards in State Government Relations. Robin Walton, vice president for community and government affairs at Thomas Edison State University, will receive the Marvin D. "Swede" Johnson Achievement Award. Emma Kallaway, government relations director at Portland Community College, will receive the Edwin Crawford Award for Innovation.

The honorees will be recognized at an awards luncheon on Dec. 5, 2019 at the 2019 Higher Education Government Relations Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana. 

Walton was selected to receive the Marvin D. "Swede" Johnson Award for her leadership supporting adult learners at Thomas Edison State University. She formed a coalition of adultā€serving institutions to provide congressional leaders with policy advice regarding quality assurance, higher education reauthorization and regulations affecting adult students. 

Walton oversaw the advocacy efforts for the creation of a more equitable budget formula for Thomas Edison State University. During one of most contentious budget seasons in state history, Walton successfully steered advocacy efforts to secure additional resources for student support services and the restoration of nearly 25 percent of the institution’s budget. 

She also managed a two-tiered local and state initiative to secure the facilities for the university’s school of nursing, which is in George A. Pruitt Hall. Walton led the advocacy campaign for the University to acquire the property involving alumni, local businesses, churches, not-for-profit organization and residents.

According to Merodie Hancock, President of Thomas Edison University, Walton is a respected and admired leader among her colleagues locally and nationally.

“Ms. Walton is competent, professional, dedicated, articulate and intellectually curious,” Hancock said. “Her optimistic outlook and readiness to take on any challenge is infectious.” 

At the state level, she has developed bipartisan relationships with legislative and executive branch staffs, recruiting advocates throughout state government in support of the University’s unique mission. New Jersey State Sen. Troy Singleton said of his work with Walton:

“Ms. Walton is a professional of exceptional ability, dedication and integrity. She is committed to excellence and to public service. She has the gift of being able to work with and relate to a wide range of people and to quickly gain their trust and respect. Because of her talent, energy and determination, Ms. Walton has been successful in making significant contributions to the students of Thomas Edison State University.”

Kallaway is being honored for her innovative advocacy which in 2019 resulted in a $50 million increase in Oregon’s expected state-wide community college budget. She pivoted from the tradition of a single large-scale advocacy day by students and campus leadership to incorporating a series of smaller lobbying days from a variety of advocates targeting non-traditional constituencies.

She has worked as a government relations officer at Portland Community College for two and a half years. She previously worked at the Oregon Student Association, first as a Legislative Director and then as the Executive Director.

By working closely with the Oregon Community College Association and ensuring that all advocacy addressed the state-wide budget rather than the college’s individual budget ask, Kallaway became an advocate for all community colleges in Oregon. Due to the size of the other colleges, many are unable to staff a full-time lobbyist, and Kallaway’s representation ensured that all colleges were part of the budget conversation.

"Emma is a tireless advocate for community colleges and the students we serve. She is an incredibly strategic thinker who navigates complex policies and politics flawlessly to garner support for community colleges and our students,” said Marc Goldberg, associate vice president of Workforce Development and Community Education at Portland Community College. “Emma engages various stakeholders in a personable way that puts people at ease and helps them mobilize in a clear, productive way.”

Outside of her work with the college, her community service efforts are also dedicated to the service of students and youth in Oregon. She currently serves as the Treasurer for both the Oregon Student Foundation as well as for the Partnership for Safety and Justice Political Action Committee Board. As noted by Portland Community College President Mark Mitsui:

“Through her time at the college, Emma has made a difference at PCC, exemplified the college’s
mission, and has positively impacted the people of our state.”

The two awards are given annually for leadership in state relations and institutional advocacy. They are the only national awards in higher education state relations, a field that encompasses advocacy and outreach efforts on behalf of colleges and universities to governors, state legislators and other key policymakers.

The awards are administered by CASE and co-sponsored by the American Association of Community Colleges, the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities.


About CASE
CASE believes in advancing education to transform lives and society. As a global nonprofit membership association of educational institutions, CASE helps develop the communities of professional practice that build institutional resilience and success in challenging times. The communities include staff engaged in alumni relations, fundraising, marketing, student recruitment, stakeholder engagement, crisis communications and government relations. CASE is volunteer-led and uses the intellectual capital of senior practitioners to build capacity and capability across the world.

CASE has offices in Washington, D.C., London, Singapore and Mexico City. Member institutions include more than 3,600 colleges and universities, primary and secondary independent and international schools, and nonprofit organizations in 82 countries. CASE serves nearly 91,000 practitioners. For more information about CASE, please visit

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