Fresh Perspectives on Higher Learning

Insights & Outlooks

Yolanda Watson Spiva

Yolanda Watson Spiva

President, Complete College America

Dr. Watson Spiva’s nearly 25-year career in postsecondary education spans a range of executive leadership, general management, public affairs, operations and academic officer positions. She is the former President & CEO of College Success Foundation (CSF), a national non-profit college readiness, access, success, and scholarship organization headquartered in Bellevue, Washington, which serves nearly 12,000 low-income students, annually, through an integrated system of academic, financial, social and emotional supports to help them access and complete a postsecondary education.

Prior to joining CSF, Dr. Watson Spiva served as CEO/Executive Director of Project GRAD Atlanta Inc., a nonprofit based in Atlanta, GA, which served as a strategic partner to the Atlanta Public School District as well as hundreds of colleges and universities across the nation to increase the number of low-income, first generation, Atlanta students of color graduating from high school and college. Prior to Project GRAD, she was assistant dean at Trinity College in Washington, DC. 

Dr. Watson Spiva has also held various positions with the U.S. Department of Education in Washington, DC, and Atlanta, GA. in the Offices of Postsecondary Education, Student Financial Assistance, and Policy, Planning and Innovation, culminating in her service as Region IV Public Affairs Director in the southeast regional Office of the Secretary of Education.


In addition to having authored numerous research articles, Dr. Watson Spiva also co-authored the NAACP Image Award-nominated book, Daring to Educate: The Legacy of the Early Spelman College Presidents (1881-1953). In 2011, she was awarded the prestigious Turknett Leadership Character Award for outstanding leadership in the nonprofit sector.

Dr. Watson Spiva earned her undergraduate degree in economics from Spelman College, her master’s degree in public policy from the University of Chicago and her Ph.D. in higher education from Georgia State University. She also holds a board certification as an executive coach from the Center for Creative Leadership.

She is married with three children.

Authored Posts

Load More

Learn about our staff contributors and submission guidelines