January 16, 2020
College Futures Foundation welcomes Director of Public Policy Ria Sengupta Bhatt and Senior Program Officer April Yee to its staff.
For more than 15 years, Bhatt has focused her career on improving educational opportunity for California’s diverse students, playing key roles in policy research, advocacy, nonprofit strategy, and program evaluation.
When she steps into this new position with College Futures Foundation in February, she will be responsible for directing the development and implementation of the foundation’s public policy initiatives, advancing equitable student success policies at state and institutional levels, engaging policymakers, and directing related research and evaluation efforts.
“Ria is a strong addition to our team and will be taking on a newly created and vitally important role for College Futures,” said President & CEO Monica Lozano.
“She brings strategic yet practical thinking and an orientation towards learning and working in partnership—and she deeply values socioeconomic opportunity for all. In addition to a keen understanding of the higher education policy landscape in the state, she is thoughtful and creative when it comes to long- and short-term public policy approaches to better serve students and California’s future.”
College Futures is a private foundation that partners with organizations and leaders across the state to catalyze systemic change, increase bachelor’s degree completion, and close equity gaps so that the vision of a seamless, student-centered educational path to opportunity becomes a reality—and one that’s available to every student, regardless of zip code, skin color, or income.
Bhatt previously served as interim executive director and deputy director at California Competes, a policy research and advocacy organization focused on improving higher education and workforce outcomes. She worked as a consultant to clients in the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors at strategic learning firm Informing Change, and currently serves on the board. She was a researcher at the Public Policy Institute of California and currently serves on its Higher Education Advisory Council.
Most recently, Bhatt consulted to Project Attain, an initiative to improve educational attainment for working-age adults in California’s Capital region. She co-designed and implemented the launch of the initiative, and directed Project Attain’s participation in Degrees When Due, a nationwide project to re-engage adult learners led by the Institute for Higher Education Policy.
She holds a master’s degree in public policy from Georgetown University and a BA in economics from the University of California, Los Angeles.
“I am thrilled to join this incredible team,” said Bhatt.
“College Futures Foundation has a truly unique voice in the statewide higher education landscape—on equity gaps, affordability, student pathways, and many other policy issues. I look forward to working with the Foundation’s diverse partners to advance a strong policy agenda in support of California’s students and its economy.”
April Yee joined College Futures Foundation in early January. As a Senior Program Officer, she leads the development and implementation of grantmaking in student success pathways and holistic student supports, under the Foundation’s Student-Centric Practices strategy. She will work closely with the Foundation’s Program, Learning, and Communications teams in other strategy areas as well.
Yee brings to the position more than 15 years of experience supporting students’ transitions to and through college as a direct service provider, researcher, and funder.
“April brings to this position so many skills as an experienced grantmaker and researcher,” said Monica Lozano.
“Her unwavering commitment to transformative institutional change in service of student success is clear. She will no doubt strengthen our thinking, our team, and our ability to scale our work and its positive impacts on students in partnership with those who are serving students every day.”
Prior to joining the Foundation, Yee served as a program officer at The James Irvine Foundation, where she partnered with non-profit organizations, colleges and universities, and state higher education system offices to help smooth student transitions from high school to college in California.
As a researcher at UC Davis’ Center for Poverty Research and the University of Pennsylvania, she examined college student decision-making, focusing on how culture, class, and institutions shape academic and career pathways. Most recently, she helped scale the state’s college guidance platform, CaliforniaColleges.edu, at the California College Guidance Initiative. She began her career serving students as an academic advisor at Prep for Prep and LaGuardia Community College’s Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP).
Yee earned her B.A. from Smith College and her M.S.Ed. in Higher Education Management and joint Ph.D. in Sociology and Education from the University of Pennsylvania.
“I am excited to be working with College Futures and our partners to help produce more college graduates for a thriving California,” said Yee. “I have dedicated my professional life to supporting low-income, first-generation students of color as they navigate higher education institutions, working towards a college degree for a better life. I am equally dedicated to transforming those institutions to become more student-centered and easier to navigate in the first place.”
For Yee, the work is also personal. “The Foundation’s mission resonates deeply with me as a former low-income student who had a long and winding path to earning a B.A. I was fortunate to make it through with essential supports and am committed to ensuring that the California students of today and tomorrow have the same opportunity.”