President's Bio


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President Kate Smith

Kate Smith, Ed.D., began serving as Rio Salado College’s sixth president on May 15, 2021, a role she accepted after serving as the college’s interim president since August 2018. 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. “Teachers and education change lives— quite simply, that is why I chose a career in education.” Today, she continues to champion for making education accessible and equitable for all. 

“As the president of Rio Salado College, I am eager to advance the progress that has been made by our college to increase access and support students to succeed here in Arizona and across the country through innovative programs, services and partnerships.”

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

Among President Smith’s community development roles include founding member of WGU Labs’ College Innovation NetworkPresidents Forum Governing Board Member; founding member of the Taskforce on Higher Education and Opportunity; co-chair of the education committee for the Arizona-Mexico Commission; East Valley Partnerships Board of Directors; membership in the Alliance for Innovation & TransformationExcelencia Presidents for Latino Student Success; Friends of Public Radio Ex Officio Member; Higher Education Research and Development Institute Advisory Board Member; Valley of the Sun United Way Women United member; and board member for the Maricopa County Community College District Foundation and Tempe Chamber of Commerce.

President Smith also 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. In this role she was responsible for adult basic education, community development and partnerships, continuing education, curriculum, early college, faculty, library services, the honors program, incarcerated re-entry programs, institutional research and effectiveness, instructional design, instruction helpdesk, military programs, online and hybrid/blended learning, certificates and degrees and corporate and government partnerships.

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. Early in her career, she was an instructor, was then promoted to the role of full professor, and later served in administration. 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 back, mathematics and being an active member of her community. She and her husband, Dennis, live in Ahwatukee and enjoy spending time running and hiking Arizona trails.