Strada Education Network
Ruth V. Watkins is president of Strada Impact, where she leads Strada Education Network’s research, philanthropy, thought leadership, and policy efforts to help more individuals access and complete postsecondary education and training to improve their careers and lives.
Before joining Strada in 2021, Watkins built a strong reputation for supporting social change and community workforce needs as the 16th president of the University of Utah. In that role, she increased degree completion rates and research funding, established innovative student funding models, and built strong partnerships with community stakeholders. Uniting the campus as “One U,” Watkins and her team drove innovation in research, education, and operational efficiency, and addressed major societal challenges, including in mental health and interpersonal violence.
Under Watkins’ leadership, the University of Utah cultivated broad and deep connections to communities and was responsive to the state’s workforce needs. During her tenure, the university produced more graduates in high-demand fields than any other state institution, and those graduates secured employment or proceeded to graduate or professional school at noteworthy rates.
Watkins previously served as the University of Utah’s senior vice president for academic affairs for five years before being appointed president. Earlier in her career, she spent 20 years in leadership and faculty roles at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she served as dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, vice provost, and associate provost.
Watkins graduated with highest honors from the University of Northern Iowa with a bachelor’s degree in speech-language pathology. She earned a master’s degree and a doctorate in child language at the University of Kansas, where she was a National Institutes of Health predoctoral fellow. Her scholarship focuses on communication development and disabilities in young children.
The event will bring employers and educators together to discuss the importance of integrated work experiences that help students apply their learning, connect with employers and develop marketable skills.
A college or university can be deemed a "Hispanic Serving Institution" if at least a quarter of its students are Latino. But Deborah Santiago, co-founder and CEO of Excelencia in Education, says serving Latino students is about more than just enrolling them. It’s about supporting their journey through college graduation and into the workforce. Deborah and I discuss the Seal of Excelencia, and along the way we learn about her own journey growing up in a military family and pursuing her education as a first-generation college student.
Most people agree we need to improve economic mobility in this country. How to do that is another question entirely. Join Strada Education Network’s Ruth Watkins as she talks to educators, employers, and innovators about their best ideas for the future of education and work.
With massive new investments being made in education infrastructure, this conversation will bring together state higher education officers to discuss leadership during a time when many postsecondary institutions are facing mammoth disruption. This includes supporting disconnected students, the declining enrollment and value proposition of postsecondary education, widening equity concerns, and how each chief will utilize public funding to invest in long-term success for students pursuing postsecondary opportunities.
Join the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and the Texas Higher Education Foundation during this virtual summit to learn more about their ongoing efforts to refresh the state’s strategic plan for higher education.
The updated plan, which is being developed in partnership with higher education institutions, business leaders, employers, policymakers, and other stakeholders across the state, will build upon the focus of the original plan to increase postsecondary attainment by developing clear goals that expand the educated workforce and drive economic prosperity.