Strada Announces Leadership Appointments for Policy, Advocacy, Communications

Newly established teams will focus on collaboratively shaping policy at state, federal levels to create pathways to opportunity for more people
August 29, 2023

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INDIANAPOLIS — Strada Education Foundation, an organization dedicated to strengthening the link between education and opportunity, today announced three leadership appointments for its policy, advocacy, and communications teams. These new leaders will help the foundation collaborate with government officials to develop and implement policy solutions that provide more individuals with equitable pathways to opportunity.

Strada announced its intention to establish a policy advocacy function in March to support the foundation’s new strategic plan. Strada will establish four teams under newly appointed leaders who will guide different aspects of the foundation’s policy and advocacy work: policy development, federal government relations, state government relations, and communications.

Katherine Valle-Palacios, who has been named senior vice president of public policy, will lead the development and analysis of a public policy agenda that informs the foundation’s advocacy efforts at the state and federal levels. Her team’s work will guide the foundation’s advocacy communications efforts led by new Chief Communications Officer Travis Reindl, whose team will focus on promoting and advocating for policies that drive ecosystem-level change that supports Strada’s mission.

Mark Rigdon, who will join Strada as senior vice president of state government relations, will develop a team focused on developing the relationships among state policymakers necessary to create impactful and sustainable systems change. Strada also will create an additional team to focus on developing relevant relationships at the federal level with Congress and the federal executive branch.

“I am thrilled to welcome these new leaders, who bring to our team a wealth of experience and a shared commitment to driving positive change in education,” said Gabriella Gómez, Strada executive vice president for policy, advocacy, and communications. “Strada’s new strategic plan is an ambitious effort to create system-level change, and the surest way to do that is by shaping policies that can make education and training opportunities more affordable, supportive, and connected to students’ interests and employers’ needs. These leaders bring the experience, relationships, and passion to help us bring this strategic vision to life.”

Valle-Palacios has worked on several aspects of federal education policy over the past decade, including five years in various roles with the U.S. House Committee on Education and Labor, and most recently as the special assistant to the president as part of the Domestic Policy Council at the White House. During her time with the council, Valle-Palacios was central in developing a postsecondary education agenda that resulted in the largest maximum Pell Grant increases in more than a decade and new programs established by Congress. She also played a pivotal role in drafting federal student loan policy proposals, including those related to debt relief and the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program.

“I am excited to join Strada and continue building on my more than a decade of experience developing federal policies that improve the lives of children, students, borrowers, and families,” Valle-Palacios said. “Improving the educational system is more than a job for me — it’s my life’s work. I look forward to bringing the same fervor to this new chapter. This role offers an opportunity to continue solving our country’s educational challenges by bringing together the right people to talk about how to solve the issues that matter.”

Reindl brings more than 25 years of experience in policy and communications to Strada. Most recently, he was senior vice president of communications at Helios Education Foundation, where he led the foundation’s strategic communications activities in collaboration with its policy, research, and community investments teams. Reindl previously served as a senior program officer at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, where he led communications and advocacy efforts focused on postsecondary education, and as program director for the National Governors Association, overseeing the higher education portfolio within the association’s Center for Best Practices.

“I am thrilled and humbled to have this opportunity,” Reindl said. “Strada is at the leading edge of delivering educational opportunity for a new economy, and I look forward to drawing on nearly 30 years of experience in higher education to help the organization deliver on its vital mission.”

Rigdon has worked at the intersection of advocacy, philanthropy, policy, research, and practice in education for more than 25 years, spending the last eight years at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, most recently as deputy director of state and local government relations. In that role, Rigdon’s team was responsible for implementing state and local policy, advocacy, and communications strategies across six focus states, which helped secure changes in the K-12 finance formula in Tennessee as well as the adoption of the recent community college funding formula in Texas. His team also supported the California effort to further develop and finance dual enrollment and pathways programs. Before joining Gates, Rigdon worked in philanthropic and policy roles for J.P. Morgan Chase’s Global Philanthropy Group, The Chicago Community Trust, the Spencer Foundation, and the National Governors Association.

“I am excited to join this dynamic team and leverage my experience working at the intersection of research, practice, and policy, to help more students, young adults, and displaced workers access high-quality education and training experiences,” Rigdon said. “By advocating for the adoption of innovative policies that provide that access, we will help more people launch, grow, or reposition their careers in ways that benefit not only themselves, but also their families and communities, allowing them to prosper and thrive.”

Reindl, Rigdon, and Valle-Palacios will begin their appointments in September and will be based in Strada’s Washington, D.C., office. The leader of Strada’s new federal government relations team will be announced in the coming weeks.


About Strada Education Foundation

Providing access to college degrees isn’t enough. That’s why Strada Education Foundation focuses on stronger connections between postsecondary education and opportunity in the U.S. and focus on helping people whom our systems have failed to serve equitably. We advance this mission through research, grantmaking, social impact investments, and public policy solutions. We collaborate with students, educators, employers, policymakers, and other partners to help create more equitable pathways to prosperity. Learn more at