Strada Appoints Kathleen Smith as Senior Vice President of Federal Government Relations

Veteran education policy advocate brings extensive federal experience to shape policy solutions that strengthen pathways to opportunity
September 19, 2023

Read Time

INDIANAPOLIS  Strada Education Foundation, an organization committed to strengthening the connection between education and opportunity, today announced the appointment of Kathleen A. Smith as senior vice president of federal government relations. With more than three decades of experience in state and federal relations and postsecondary education advocacy, Smith will play an important role in advancing Strada’s mission and policy objectives.

Smith will join Strada’s newly established policy, advocacy, and communications team, focusing on engaging federal government leaders in Congress and the executive branch to drive transformative changes in postsecondary education and workforce development. Smith’s team will develop comprehensive federal advocacy strategies, cultivate relationships with federal policy leaders, and advance Strada’s public policy framework to shape sustainable, impactful systems change. She will be based in Strada’s Washington D.C., office and will start at the end of October.

“Strada’s policy, advocacy and communications leadership team is complete with the addition of Kathleen Smith,” said Gabriella Gomez, Strada’s executive vice president for policy, advocacy, and communications. “I have had the fortune of working with Kathleen while we were both committee staff in Congress and with the U.S. Department of Education. I have seen firsthand the significant value she brings to advancing policies in the federal context. We are thrilled to have her bring her deep expertise from the field to Strada.”

Smith brings an extensive background in leadership and policy experience, having most recently served as senior vice president, director of federal relations, outreach and development for the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency. During her tenure at PHEAA, Smith cultivated relationships with members of the Pennsylvania congressional delegation and relevant congressional committees, shaped advocacy strategies related to state and federal legislation, and managed institutional outreach efforts. Smith’s leadership also extended to collaborating with federal agencies that impacted higher education programs.

Prior to joining PHEAA, Smith held several positions in the U.S. Department of Education, including as deputy chief operating officer of Federal Student Aid, and before that as special assistant to the secretary and acting assistant secretary for the Office of Postsecondary Education. In those positions, she played a central role in ensuring student aid was delivered to students and that it complied with federal rules and regulations, preventing program fraud, advising the secretary and senior staff on education issues, and representing the agency to Congress and other federal agencies.

Smith also has served as education policy advisor for the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, for which she contributed to legislation development and provided expertise on higher education matters. She also has served in leadership roles for the Education Finance Council and the U.S. House of Representatives.

“Since I began my postsecondary education policy journey on a small college campus more than 35 years ago, I have been working with students and families to help make the seemingly impossible possible, ensuring that opportunities are available and progression is attainable. I carry those students and families with me each day,” Smith said. “Decades of finding solutions to problems, paths for agreement, and answers to important questions has led me here. To work with such a talented team of people, each of whom has dedicated themselves to Strada’s central mission, is a privilege and an honor. Crafting and supporting policies and processes that build bridges, provide opportunities for students and families, and witness the real-life impact on their lives is more gratifying than I can explain.

“I am excited to support and advance Strada’s mission and use my skills, knowledge, and experience to contribute good work and have it manifest into opportunities and hope for more people — there’s nothing better.”

Smith earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology from D’Youville College, a master’s in public administration from the University of New Haven, and a master’s in communications: journalism and public affairs from American University.

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