Ruth V. Watkins

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.

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