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Graduation Initiative 2025 Symposium

October 11 & 12, 2017

The California State University Office of the Chancellor is excited to host our upcoming Graduation Initiative 2025 Symposium on October 11 and 12, 2017. The symposium will feature nationally recognized speakers sharing their experience with proven, evidenced-based strategies that support student success.


Registration is by invitation only.

Faculty and staff interested in attending are encouraged to reach out to their president. Presidents will identify teams of eight from their campus to participate in the Graduation Initiative 2025 Symposium. Registration opens August 1, 2017 with registration information to be sent directly to the campus team members.


Wednesday, October 11, 2017

12:00 p.m.
1:00 p.m. Opening, lunch and keynote speaker: Sara Goldrick-Rab
2:45 p.m.

Frameworks of Innovation: Conversations on Strategic Thinking and Learning

Bridget Burns, Deborah Santiago and Wil Del Pilar

4:30 p.m. Networking Reception


Thursday, October 12, 2017

8:00 a.m.
Breakfast and brief welcome
9:00 a.m. Breakout Sessions #1
10:15 a.m.
Breakout Sessions #2
11:30 a.m.
Closing lunch and keynote speaker: Shaun R. Harper


Sara Goldrick-Rab

Sara Goldrick-Rab
Professor of Higher Education Policy and Sociology
Temple University​

Sara Goldrick-Rab is Professor of Higher Education Policy & Sociology at Temple University, and Founder of the Wisconsin HOPE Lab, the nation’s only translational research laboratory seeking ways to make college more affordable. She is best known for her innovative research on food and housing insecurity in higher education, having led the two largest national studies on the subject, and for her work on making public higher education free. She is the recipient of the William T. Grant Foundation’s Faculty Scholars Award and the American Educational Research Association’s Early Career Award, and in 2016 POLITICO magazine named her one of the top 50 people shaping American politics. Her latest book, Paying the Price: College Costs, Financial Aid, and the Betrayal of the American Dream, is an Amazon best-seller, and has been featured on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, the New York Review of Books, and CSPAN’s Book TV, among other venues. The Chronicle of Higher Education calls her “a defender of impoverished students and a scholar of their struggles,” and she is ranked 10th in the nation among education scholars according to Education Week.

Shaun R. Harper

Shaun R. Harper
Executive Director
University of Southern California Race & Equity Center

Shaun R. Harper is the Clifford and Betty Allen Professor in the Rossier School of Education at the University of Southern California, and executive director of the USC Race & Equity Center. He also is president of the Association for the Study of Higher Education. Dr. Harper’s research focuses on race, gender, and student success in higher education. He has published over 100 peer-reviewed journal articles and other academic publications, and received more than $12 million in research grants. Johns Hopkins University Press is publishing his 13th book, Race Matters in College. His research has been cited in more than 5,000 published studies. The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Chronicle of Higher Education, and over 11,000 newspapers have quoted Professor Harper and featured his research. He spent a decade on the University of Pennsylvania faculty, where he founded the Center for the Study of Race & Equity in Education.

Bridget Burns

Bridget Burns
Executive Director
University Innovation Alliance

For the past decade, Bridget has advised university presidents, system chancellors, and state and federal policy leaders on strategies to expand access to higher education, address costs, and promote completion for students of all backgrounds. Named one of the “16 Most Innovative People in Higher Education” by Washington Monthly as the founding Executive Director of the University Innovation Alliance, Bridget leads a national consortium of large public research universities collaborating to improve outcomes for all students through innovation, scale, and diffusion of best practices.

She previously served as an American Council on Education (ACE) Fellow at Arizona State University, Chief of Staff and Senior Policy Advisor for the Oregon University System, and National Associate for the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education. She was the recipient of the 2012 Edwin Crawford Award for Innovation in higher education government relations and has served on various statewide governing boards, including the Oregon State Board of Higher Education, Student Assistance Commission, Commission for Children and Families, and the Public Commission on the Oregon Legislature.

Deborah Santiago

Deborah A. Santiago
Chief Operating Officer and Vice President for Policy Excelencia in Education

Deborah A. Santiago is the co-founder, Chief Operating Officer and Vice President for Policy at Excelencia in Education. For more than 20 years, she has led research and policy efforts from the community to national and federal levels to improve educational opportunities and success for all students. She co-founded Excelencia in Education to inform policy and practice compel action, and collaborate with those committed and ready to act to increase student success. Her current work focuses on federal and state policy, financial aid, Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs), and effective institutional practices for student success in higher education. She has been cited in numerous publications for her work, including The Economist, the New York Times, the Washington Post, AP, and The Chronicle of Higher Education. Deborah is a Pahara fellow and serves on the boards of the National Student Clearinghouse and the

Wil Del Pilar

Wil Del Pilar
Vice President for Higher Education Policy and Practice

Wil Del Pilar, Ph.D., serves as Ed Trust’s vice president of higher education policy and practice. In this role, Wil spearheads Ed Trust’s mission to highlight inequities and outline solutions in order to improve access, success, affordability, and completion in higher education for low-income students and students of color.

Prior to joining Ed Trust, Wil served in Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf’s administration as deputy secretary of postsecondary and higher education, where he developed and implemented the state’s strategic vision for higher education. Before joining Governor Wolf’s team, Wil had experience in the Pennsylvania Department of Education, working as an executive assistant in the state’s higher education office. In this role, he managed an array of services for the state, including the College Access Challenge Grant and the Pennsylvania Information Management System.

Aside from working for Pennsylvania’s Department of Education in higher education policy roles, Wil has held senior development positions, as the director of development at Pennsylvania State University and at the University of Florida’s Machen Florida Opportunity Scholars Program. In both positions, he fought to secure funding to support access and success initiatives for historically underrepresented students.

In addition to his policy and development experience, Wil has a wealth of institutional experience, working in admissions at Chapman University in Orange, California, and the University of California Santa Cruz, as a financial aid counselor at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, and as a research assistant at Penn State.

Wil holds a doctorate in higher education/higher education administration from The Pennsylvania State University, a master’s degree from California State University-Dominguez Hills, and a bachelor’s degree from Chapman University.

Connect with us

All speakers will be streamed online at

Use #GradInitative2025 to comment, reflect, and ask questions.


Please contact Dr. Sabrina Sanders, Director, Students Affairs Projects & Initiatives:

Access 2016 symposium resources here.