Skip to main content
info@wsac.wa.gov | (360) 753-7800
917 Lakeridge Way SW | Olympia, WA 98502

Pave the Way Conference

PTW Virtual Logo

Pave the Way Virtual

In lieu of an in-person conference in 2021, the Washington Student Achievement Council (WSAC) is hosting a series of webinars focused on strategies to advance equity, increase college readiness, and broaden access to higher education in Washington State. Pave the Way aims to ensure historically marginalized students receive the support they need to succeed. 

Next Up:

Helping Communities and Families Save for College: Child Development Accounts
May 13, 2021 @ 9:00-10:30 A.M. - Register Now!

Child Development Account (CDA) programs are gaining momentum as an effective strategy to help address the racial wealth and opportunity gap by empowering families to build assets and save for postsecondary education. This session will discuss the latest research on CDAs’ impact in states and local communities, consider implementation in Washington, and discuss how CDAs can be used in tandem with other programs to increase postsecondary attainment. This session is hosted in partnership with WA529 College Savings Plans. WA529 helps Washington families save for educational expenses, with a vision of fostering a well-educated community by helping students and families overcome financial barriers to education and avoid future debt.

 

Schedule & Registration

Schedule & Registration

Pave the Way Virtual webinars will take place via Zoom. Details of upcoming events in this series will be posted as they are available.

Date Time Topic Participate

May 13, 2021

9:00–10:30 A.M.

Helping Communities and Families Save for College: Child Development Accounts

Register Now

April 8, 2021

9:00–10:30 A.M.

Multi-Faceted Support Programs: Using Evidence to Address Multiple Barriers to Student Success and Advance Equity

View the Recording

March 18, 2021

9:00–10:30 A.M.

Postsecondary Basic Needs: Busting Barriers to Critical Supports

View the Recording

Feb. 11, 2021

9:00–10:30 A.M.

Increasing Postsecondary Enrollment: Regional Partnerships Supporting Adult Learners

View the Recording

Jan. 7, 2021

9:30–11:00 A.M.

From Equity Gaps to Educational Debt: The Student Experience in Higher Education

View the Recording

Nov. 6, 2020

9:00–10:30 A.M.

Labour Market Relevance and Outcomes of Higher Education in Washington State

View the Recording

Oct. 22, 2020

1:00–2:30 P.M.

Unlocking Access to Postsecondary Enrollment—FAFSA/WASFA as a Key Strategy During the COVID-19 Crisis 

View the Recording

Sept. 24, 2020

10:00–11:30 A.M.

Lessons on Recovery: The Value and Potential of Higher Education in Response to the COVID-19 Crisis

View the Recording

Speakers

Speakers
April 8 – Multi-Faceted Support Programs: Using Evidence to Address Multiple Barriers to Student Success and Advance Equity
PresentersApril 8 Presenters & Panelists

Marco Lepe, Research Assistant at MDRC

Marco Lepe is a research assistant in MDRC’s Postsecondary Education policy area. Since joining MDRC in 2017, he has conducted research on programs and policies aimed at improving college access, persistence, and success for underrepresented students at community colleges and broad-access institutions. He has also provided technical assistance, supported operations for random assignment evaluations, and coordinated and coauthored MDRC reports. Lepe holds a bachelor’s degree in religious studies from the University of California, Berkeley.

Alyssa Ratledge, Research Associate at MDRC

Alyssa Ratledge joined MDRC in 2012. As a research associate in MDRC’s Postsecondary Education policy area, she works closely with community colleges, technical colleges, and open- and broad-access institutions to implement and evaluate programs for low-income students. Her primary areas of focus are student success programs, financial aid interventions, and rural higher education. She has coauthored MDRC reports for several studies in postsecondary education, and she is the project manager for the Detroit Promise Path evaluation. Ratledge holds a bachelor’s degree in public policy from Brown University.

Stefani Thachik, Director of Policy and Outreach at the New Jersey Office of the Secretary of Higher Education

Stefani Thachik serves as the Director of Policy and Outreach for the New Jersey Office of the Secretary of Higher Education. Her main roles include assisting in the development, communication, and implementation of policy and programmatic initiatives benefiting students within the state. Prior to this role, Stefani worked in academic and students affairs for ten years. She received her Ph.D. in Educational Leadership from Virginia Commonwealth University, her M.Ed. in Counselor Education from Clemson University, and her B.S. in Psychology from James Madison University.  

Panelists

Kimber Connors, Executive Director at Washington Opportunity Scholarship

Kimber Connors has been a pioneer and innovator in education since 2010 and continues to make a significant impact in Washington state through her leadership of the Washington State Opportunity Scholarship (WSOS), an innovative public-private partnership that supports low- and middle-income Washington students in completing higher education and launching careers in high-demand industries. Under Kimber’s leadership, WSOS has helped thousands of Washington students from largely low-income backgrounds pursue careers in high-demand fields such as computer science, health care, engineering, and biology. Before pursuing her passion for education, Kimber was a rising leader in the corporate world. She left behind a promising career in accounting to pursue her passion for social justice and to bring her expertise in data and statistics to advancing education. In short order, Kimber moved from teaching on a high-poverty Navajo reservation in New Mexico to a master’s degree in education policy to her role as the executive director of WSOS. 

Vero Guajardo, Vice President of Programs at College Success Foundation

At College Success Foundation, Dr. Guajardo is Vice President of Programs, the largest unit in the organization, which provides direct student services in the state of Washington, as well as Washington, D.C., working to address the disparities in education access, persistence and completion which foster educational inequity for underserved students from low–income backgrounds. CSF provides a unique integrated system of supports and scholarships to inspire underserved, low-income students to finish high school, graduate from college and succeed in life, because we believe “a college degree is attainable for all.” With over 25 years of K-12, higher education, civic, and non-profit experience, Dr. Guajardo’s personal and professional work is always framed with the lens towards addressing inequity and expanding access and success, and commitment towards equity-focused access and change, while ensuring excellence. Dr. Guajardo has vast experience in education management and deep fiscal experience with oversight of multi-million dollar budgets and budget/grant development. Dr. Guajardo has robust program management experience in various states (WA, CA, TX, and OR), with federally-funded, state-funded, multi-institution, DE&I, and STEM centric programs, as well as in policy advisory, Professional Development and Leadership training (development of team dynamics and competencies, equity-minded leadership development, staff coaching, small and large scale strategic planning and work plan development), teaching experience at the community college and university level, direct student services, including advising, outreach and recruitment, re-entry, and budgetary fiscal oversight, all while tracking measurable success to develop and implement frameworks and action that is data-informed and research-based. As an equity-minder leader and manager, she believe in a design-thinking approach with a servant and adaptive leadership disposition. This may seem strange to apply design principles to leadership and management in her work, but all this means is that Dr. Guajardo believes in listening and ‘empathizing’ to understand and lead teams towards defining scopes of work to be done towards creating change, help identify strengths and needs, facilitate the ideation for solutions, coach through frequent iterations and improvement and loop-back, to foster consensus building to achieve benchmarks, goals and ultimately create change. This is done with partnership and collaboration, accountability and transparency. She is the eldest of 7 children from immigrant parents (musicians and farm/cannery workers), undocumented until the age of 15, and the first in her family to graduate from high school and complete community college and university degrees.

Michele L. Johnson, Chancellor and CEO at Pierce College District

Dr. Michele Johnson has served as chancellor and CEO of Pierce College since 2005. She has been at Pierce for over 40 years, first as a part-time criminal justice instructor, becoming a tenured faculty member, and moving up through administrative ranks. Michele served as president of Pierce College Fort Steilacoom for 6 years before becoming district chancellor and CEO. Michele’s focus is to build and sustain an organization centered on student success. She is a firm believer that the college’s mission should drive decision-making, resource allocation, and assessment at all levels, and that the mission is all about student success. She is most proud of the work the college has done to increase student success rates, which has resulted in national recognition for Pierce’s innovation and hard work. Michele is currently on the Tacoma Pierce County Chamber Board, the Greater Metro Parks Foundation Board (co-chairing the campaign for the Eastside Community Center), Lakewood’s Promise, and a member of Tacoma Rotary 8. She is a member of the Puget Sound Higher Education Capacity Project’s Critical Issues Committee. Michele earned a PhD in Educational Policy and Management at the University of Oregon, and MA and BS degrees in Police Science and Administration from Washington State University. Born and raised in Tacoma, Michele is also a proud Lincoln High School graduate.   

Past Webinars

Past Webinars
April 8, 2021 - Multi-Faceted Support Programs: Using Evidence to Address Multiple Barriers to Student Success and Advance Equity
View the Recording
View the Slide Presentation

WSAC’s Equity Landscape Report highlights various racial equity gaps in terms of persistence rates, transfer rates, and participation in developmental coursework that are key indicators to understanding Washington’s challenge to increase postsecondary attainment, especially for students of color. In this session, experts from MDRC will share evidence-based research and highlight programs grounded in this research that have been shown to support postsecondary students’ credential attainment, with a focus on equity. A panel of leaders will discuss local progress and confront the challenges to successfully implementing these strategies, especially in light of COVID-19. This session is presented in partnership with MDRC. MDRC is committed to finding solutions to some of the most difficult problems facing the nation—from reducing poverty and bolstering economic self-sufficiency to improving public education and college graduation rates.

March 18, 2021  Postsecondary Basic Needs: Busting Barriers to Critical Supports
View the Recording

Learn how financial supports play a critical role in addressing postsecondary basic needs security, with a specific focus on leveraging emergency assistance grants and SNAP benefits. This session will provide an overview of postsecondary basic needs security nationally and in Washington, strategies to address current challenges, and actions we can all take to address them. Bringing together research and practice, you will learn from the research from the Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice, as well as the work and partnerships of colleges, student leaders, nonprofit organizations, and state agencies to collectively bust barriers to critical supports.

February 11, 2021  Increasing Postsecondary Enrollment: Regional Partnerships Supporting Adult Learners
View the Recording

Over 229,000 people in Washington are unemployed, and several regional efforts are trying new equity-focused approaches to support adult learners. We will hear from college and community partners from North King, Pierce, and Spokane regions to learn about strategies that include: multi-campus outreach, adult learner “peer” orientations, pre-enrollment financial help, and pre-enrollment coaching in partnership with 9 campuses. 
 

January 7, 2021  From Equity Gaps to Educational Debt: The Student Experience in Higher Education
View the Recording

In partnership with the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges, FuturesNW, and the Washington Student Association, this session will focus on the postsecondary education experience of students who are Black, Indigenous, or people of color (BIPOC). From Equity Gaps to Educational Debt: The Student Experience in Higher Education will reflect on whether Washington is achieving equity in postsecondary attainment and invite attendees to consider what the State should do to ensure an adequate higher education for all Washington students. The session will feature a panel of BIPOC students from various higher education sectors in Washington to understand the student experiences in postsecondary education and inform the opportunities and challenges for Washington.
 

November 6, 2020 Labour Market Relevance and Outcomes of Higher Education in Washington State
View the Recording

In the recent report Labour Market Relevance in Four US States: Ohio, Texas, Virginia and Washington, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) looked at how graduates fared in the labour markets of four diverse states. While the research was carried out before the COVID-19 crisis, the key findings and policy recommendations in the report are even more relevant in the post-COVID recovery period, as countries seek to harness the potential of higher education to help citizens upskill and reskill. The presentation will focus on findings and policy recommendations for Washington, shedding light on areas of misalignment between graduate supply and demand, dispersion in graduate outcomes, and policies to help align higher education and the labour market and improve outcomes for all graduates in the state.
 

October 22, 2020  Unlocking Access to Postsecondary Enrollment—FAFSA/WASFA as a Key Strategy During the COVID-19 Crisis
View the Recording 
View the Slide Presentation

This webinar will highlight Washington’s challenge with improving FAFSA/WASFA completion rates. Increasing completion is the key to students accessing the state’s generous financial aid system, including the Washington College Grant (WCG). Despite the groundbreaking investment of the WCG, the state still has seen a consistently low financial aid completion rate. We will examine recent national evidence that suggests FAFSA filing rates may be lower during the current cycle for low-income students and students of color due to COVID-19 and show state data that points to existing racial disparities in FAFSA filing. 

WSAC is taking steps to address the challenge though Aim Higher Washington, an ambitious initiative to advance equity in postsecondary attainment through the support of FAFSA/WASFA filing. Join us and find out more about how you can be involved, with a presentation of data and research followed by a panel discussion focused on state and local efforts to increase FAFSA/WASFA completion.
 

September 24, 2020 – Lessons on Recovery: The Value and Potential of Higher Education in Response to the COVID-19 Crisis
View the Recording

This webinar will highlight findings from WSAC’s recently released report Lessons on Recovery: The Value and Potential of Higher Education in Response to the COVID-19 Crisis. The report presents lessons from the Great Recession and observations from the growing body of evidence around students' and workers' experiences during the current crisis, highlighting COVID-19’s disproportionate impact on marginalized populations, and discusses priority areas for addressing educational inequities and economic challenges exacerbated by the pandemic.

Sponsorships

Interested in sponsoring Pave the Way Virtual?

Make an impact! Your organization can help advance equity and broaden access to higher education in Washington State by contributing to the success of Pave the Way. Learn more in our Call for Sponsors.

 


Visit our archives for information about past years' Pave the Way conferences.