Academic Search believes that a team model for recruitment offers the broadest perspective on partner institution needs and candidate qualifications.

The Chancellor's Office search team consists of one senior consultant and two associate consultants.

Consultant Team

Richard Cummins, PhD

Senior Consultant

After a nearly four-decade career in higher education, Rich Cummins joined Academic Search as a senior consultant in 2021. From teaching as a graduate assistant to serving as college president—all while earning advanced degrees along the way—Dr. Cummins has dedicated himself to academia. As a consultant for Academic Search, he is motivated to enrich institutions by finding the most qualified candidates and assisting search committees as they hire esteemed individuals.

Dr. Cummins was president of Columbia Basin College, a two-year community college in TriCities, WA, from 2008 to 2017. He served as the Washington Chancellor for Western Governors University for the subsequent year (2017-2018) before retiring from higher education and entering the realm of consulting. Before appointment to the presidential position at Columbia Basin College, Dr. Cummins started as an English department faculty member in 1990 before working his way up to dean, executive vice president, and Acting President (2006-2007). He was named president in 2008 and worked diligently to increase CBC’s outreach and retention strategies to provide more opportunities and increased student success. CBC achieved Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSI) recognition in 2008.

As a student, Dr. Cummins earned a B.A. in English from the University of Cincinnati, an M.F.A. from the University of Arizona, a Ph.D. in Leadership Studies from Gonzaga University. He is a member of the American Psychological Association.

With a sharp eye for detail and a penchant for meticulous organization, Dr. Cummins’ consulting style is one that pays close attention to guidelines and steps. Still, his vast experience allows him to be flexible and instinctive. Throughout the consulting process, Dr. Cummins works closely with the school’s faculty and administration and finds deep satisfaction in assisting search committees as they select acclaimed candidates. After an extensive career in two-year schools, Dr. Cummins is especially fond of searches that serve community and technical colleges, as he believes they are engines for social mobility that transform lives. In every search Dr. Cummins is selected for, regardless of the institution type, he applies the same level of passion for recruiting and endorsing the best candidates, and he is committed to making a positive impact on the school by shepherding top-tier hires.

Dr. Cummins received numerous recognitions for his presidential work, including the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Tri-Cities (WA) Hispanic Chamber, induction into the Mid-Columbia Agriculture Hall of Fame, the Leadership Excellence Award from the Association of Community and Technical Colleges, the Science Advocate of the Year from the Pacific Science Center in Seattle, and the Crystal Apple Award from the school districts in southeastern Washington.

Krista Johnson


Krista Johns brings her years of higher education experience to bear in her role as Consultant with Academic Search. She is hands-on, organized, and process oriented. She is also committed to ensuring that client institutions and candidates have a positive experience from which to build in the future.

Ms. Johns recently retired from the California Community College system after 20 years of service as faculty, dean, and C-level administrator. After serving at Diablo Valley College, Berkeley City College, and the Chabot-Las Positas District, she was selected by the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office to serve as regional coordinator for the 26 Bay Area colleges during implementation of Guided Pathways strategies for student success.

Krista Johns took a hiatus from college administration to serve as Vice President at WASC- Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges. She led the Commission’s process of updating the standards of accreditation, including the introduction of standards regarding student learning outcomes, distance education, and credit for prior learning, among others. Her role as a mentor to new and prospective college presidents- and her skilled advisement to experienced leaders during times of difficulty- began at WASC-ACCJC and has continued since that time.

Prior to moving into the community college system, Ms. Johns was a scholar and thought leader in judicial education, serving at the University of Mississippi as chief instructional officer for the state court system and at the University of Nevada-Reno where she was founding director of the Institute for Excellence in Judicial Education. At the National Center for State Courts and the California Administrative Office of the Courts, she helped to define curriculum-based instruction, learner equity and success focus, and outcomes assessment as essential practices in legal and court education.

Krista Johns holds a JD from Illinois Institute of Technology-Chicago Kent College of Law, and a BA degree in Political Science from University of Wisconsin-Parkside. She also completed a fellowship with the California Community College Leadership Development Institute at Claremont Graduate University. She is licensed to practice law in Illinois, Mississippi, and California.

Shirley Robinson Pippins, PhD


Dr. Shirley Robinson Pippins has an exceptional ability to assemble brilliant candidate pools brimming with leadership qualities, integrity, and potential. She has demonstrated expertise in identifying outstanding talent and finds deep satisfaction in presenting search committees with phenomenal applicants who can lead their organizations to success.

Dr. Pippins joined Academic Search in 2016. She has experience in all areas of higher education, including community colleges, private institutions, and public schools. She was president of two community colleges, Thomas Nelson for eight years and Suffolk County for five years, and she was president of Victory University, a private Christian liberal arts school in Memphis. With her years of executive experience, Dr. Pippins can weather any challenge that may arise in a search.

After serving successfully in two presidential positions, Dr. Pippins was selected as the Senior Vice President of Programs and Services at the American Council on Education (ACE). She oversaw ACE's leadership development and DEI programs, including Spectrum, the Office of Women, and the Center for Racial and Ethnic Equity. She also served in volunteer leadership roles on the Executive Committee of the American Association of Community Colleges, where she was Chair of the Audit and Finance Committee and as Vice Chair of HERS, an organization dedicated to creating and sustaining women leaders in higher education.

Throughout her career, Dr. Pippins has remained committed to the mission of creating opportunities for those whose immense talent may be overlooked. She currently serves as faculty for three nationally recognized leadership development programs: the Executive Leadership Academy (ELA) with UC Berkeley, the Leadership Institute for Tomorrow (LIFT) with California State University Fullerton and the American Academic Leadership Institute(AALI). These programs provide opportunities for the strategic development of talent pools for administrative positions within higher education. Most recently her partnership with the Advancing Leadership Institute for Instructional VPs in Equitable Education (ALIVE) project of the CCCCIO has resulted in the advancement of academic leaders of color to executive positions in the California Community College system.

As a senior consultant, once Dr. Pippins is assigned a search, she immerses herself in the institution's staff, culture, and community to understand the types of candidates who will excel there. Her ability to recognize strengths and thoroughly analyze each applicant's skillset is unmatched, and she assembles impressive candidate cadres that often exceed the institution's expectations. Her work has resulted in the appointment of many historic firsts.

Dr. Pippins enjoys working with higher education institutions of all types, though she has a particular affinity for community colleges and Historically Black Colleges and Universities because of their missions and the student populations they serve. The East Chicago, IN, native is also an accomplished negotiator and facilitator, and her skills are especially advantageous in the final stages of a search.

Dr. Pippins earned her Ed.D. from Teachers College, Columbia University, and a master's in teaching from Manhattanville College. She also has a master's and bachelor's degree from the University of Illinois, where she was a member of America's oldest honor society, Phi Beta Kappa. Additionally, Dr. Pippins holds a Harvard University Institute for Educational Management certification.