President's Bio


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President Kate Smith

Kate Smith, Ed.D., serves as Rio Salado College’s sixth president. With nearly 30 years of experience in education, she is a highly regarded and enthusiastic leader who advocates for student success on all levels. Smith understands the barriers that non-traditional students face and is dedicated to making education affordable, accessible, and equitable.

Smith decided to devote her career to education with one mission in mind— to empower others. Today, she continues to champion for making education accessible and equitable for all.

“As the president of Rio Salado College, I am eager to transform learning--to meet the needs of today’s learners.”

Partnerships are a cornerstone of Rio Salado College’s history and President Smith’s administration, which is continuing the tradition of working with other institutions, industry, and thought leaders to improve higher learning for all.

President Smith’s community development roles include service as a co-chair of the education committee for the Arizona-Mexico Commission; founding member of WGU Labs’ College Innovation Network; Presidents Forum Governing Board; founding member of the Taskforce on Higher Education and Opportunity; PHX East Valley Partnership Board of Directors; Alliance for Innovation & Transformation member; Excelencia Presidents for Latino Student Success; Friends of Public Radio Arizona Board of Directors; Higher Education Research and Development Institute Advisory Board; Valley of the Sun United Way Women United; and the Maricopa County Community College District Foundation and Tempe Chamber of Commerce Boards. In July 2023, the American Association of Community Colleges appointed Smith to serve a three year term with the Commission on Institutional Infrastructure & Transformation. Smith is also a proud member of Arizona Women in Higher Education, which named her 2023 Woman of the Year.

President Smith works with her Advisory Council, which is composed of community leaders, students and other stakeholders, to provide her administration with diverse perspectives, expert advice and assistance related to the college’s strategic priorities, new opportunities and external community matters.

Smith joined Rio Salado in 2016 as the vice president of academic affairs and chief academic officer. Prior to her tenure at Rio Salado, Smith served as the dean of the academic foundations division at Monroe Community College in Rochester, New York. She also served Monroe as an instructor, professor and administrator. Prior to her work at Monroe, she taught high school mathematics and served as a consultant to Hobart and William Smith Colleges and local companies on college and career mathematics readiness.

Smith holds a doctorate degree in community college leadership from Ferris State University, a master’s degree in mathematical education from the University of Rochester, a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and German from William Smith College and was a 2020-21 Aspen Rising Presidents Fellow.

Smith is passionate about learning, giving, mathematics and being an active member of her community. She and her husband Dennis enjoy spending time running and hiking the Arizona trails.