Expanding Access to Higher Education


Expanding Access to Higher Education

College Board names Stefanie Sanford chief of policy, advocacy and government relations


Growing up in Dallas and Austin, Stefanie Sanford, Ph.D. '03, was ingrained with the belief that education held the key to opportunity and has made a career fighting to expand that notion.

"I learned a lot from each of the environments in which I went to school and see value in different approaches and styles – a point of view I've brought to my current work in education policy," said Sanford. "That said, all the great classes and teachers had one thing in common that I've held on to – that hard work and deliberate practice were the keys to success."

After almost 11 years at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, most recently as director of policy and advocacy for the United States Program, the alumna of the Department of Communication Studies within the College of Communication at The University of Texas at Austin will step down to accept a position as an executive at the College Board, a nonprofit organization created to expand access to higher education.

"The next three years open up huge opportunities to assure many more students are truly career and college ready," said Sanford. "I am excited to join the College Board because I believe, as its president does, that equity and excellence must advance together and that the College Board is uniquely placed to assure that recent policy victories translate into dramatically improved learning and outcomes for students."

Her new role as chief of policy, advocacy and government relations begins March 1, 2013. At the College Board, Sanford will help lead the executive team and oversee the policy agenda for the nonprofit organization, which serves an estimated seven million students and 6,000 member institutions each year. 

"Stefanie is an extraordinarily talented and dynamic policy leader," said David Coleman, president of the College Board. "She has a remarkable track record of delivering results and has the expertise and deep relationships needed to get things done that matter for kids. Her success in building diverse, bipartisan partnerships based on shared data and evidence is unparalleled. We are honored that Stefanie has chosen to join our team."

Sanford will serve a similar role to the one she held as director of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, where she led the development and execution of advocacy and policy strategies to support the foundation's College Ready and Post Secondary Success programs.

Among her successes, Sanford's team launched the Data Quality Campaign and helped build a coalition around the Graduation Rate Compact, a program that made clear the collection of comparable data on four-year high school graduation rates across the U.S.

Sanford said she will continue her goals to advance transparency, build coalitions, and advance policies to improve outcomes for low-income and minority students.

"There are promising pockets of progress, especially in the lower grades - but at the higher grades, achievement is flat," said Sanford. "Greater competition from around the world means we need to raise standards and achievement."

Sanford, a former assistant to the Texas Speaker of the House and White House Fellow, is also author of a book on generational change in American politics titled "Civic Life in the Information Age: Politics, Technology and Generation X." A new and updated paperback version of the book was released in November.

Much of the book was built on research gleaned from her dissertation at UT. Sanford wrote her Ph.D. thesis on the intersection of generational change, technological advance and social capital, and studied young people in Austin.

The nonprofit executive said her experiences in the College made her a much more rigorous thinker and analyst, and sharpened her skills in writing and rhetoric in addition to helping her meet the leaders who ultimately introduced her to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

During the time she was a student, Sanford also helped Richard Cherwitz, professor in the Department of Communication Studies, launch the Intellectual Entrepreneurship program. She said she was inspired by the dedication and scholarship of Sharon Jarvis, associate professor in the Department of Communication Studies, and was honored to have Dean Roderick P. Hart as her advisor.

For more information, contact: Lauren Phillips, 512-471-2182 or Nick Hundley, 512-471-7209