Rio Salado College President Kate Smith Named Aspen Institute Fellow

Rio Salado College President Kate Smith Named Aspen Institute Fellow


The Aspen Institute College Excellence Program today announced that Rio Salado College Interim President Kate Smith is one of 40 leaders selected for the 2020-21 class of the Aspen Rising Presidents Fellowship, a highly selected leadership program preparing the next generation of community college presidents to transform institutions to achieve higher and more equitable levels of student success.

“I am deeply honored to take part in this Aspen Rising Presidents Fellowship, especially now, as our country is grappling with COVID-19 and we are united in our efforts to create increasingly innovative ways to support and encourage student success,” said Smith.
Smith, an Ahwatukee, Phoenix resident, began serving Rio Salado in 2016 as the vice president of academic affairs and has served as interim president since August of 2018.
“As the acting president of America’s Online Community College, I am eager to further advance the progress that has been made to make education affordable and accessible in partnership with the Aspen Institute, its fellows, Rio Salado and the Maricopa Community Colleges.” 
The Rising Presidents Fellows will embark on a 10-month fellowship beginning in July 2020. Delivered in collaboration with the Stanford Educational Leadership Initiative, the fellows will be mentored by esteemed current and former community college presidents who have achieved exceptional outcomes for students throughout their careers, and will learn strategies to improve student outcomes in and after college, lead internal change, and create strong external partnerships with K-12 schools, four-year colleges, employers, and other partners. 
“Evidence shows that substantial improvements in student success are achieved only when presidents have the commitment and skill needed to lead change within their institutions and through partnerships in the community,” said Josh Wyner, executive director of the College Excellence Program. “These fellows have been chosen because they embody that commitment and, we believe, will build their skills even further to become transformational presidents.” 
“The Aspen Rising President Fellowship Program recognizes leaders who are committed to the success of students and community at large,” said Dr. Steven R. Gonzales, Maricopa County Community College District Chancellor. “Kate has the creativity and drive to transform our Colleges and we are tremendously proud of her to join this initiative.” 
Smith decided to devote her career to education nearly 30 years ago with one mission in mind. “Teachers and education change lives— quite simply, that is why I chose a career in education.”
The Aspen Rising Presidents Fellowship responds to the growing need for a new generation of leaders well-equipped to meet the challenges of the future. Nationally, nearly 80 percent of sitting presidents plan to retire in the next decade. While the traditional pathway to the presidency has excluded women and people of color, the incoming class of Aspen Rising Presidents Fellows is composed of 70 percent women and 61 percent people of color and represents institutions of varying sizes and locations.
Together, the 2020-21 fellows are leaders at colleges that collectively serve more than 500,000 students. As well, 42 Rising Presidents Fellowship alumni have become presidents of community colleges that collectively serve an additional 500,000 students nationwide. To learn more, visit:

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