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Rebecca Watts

Rebecca Watts

Regional Vice President, Northeast | Western Governors University

Weehawken, New Jersey, United States

Dr. Rebecca Watts serves as Regional Vice President in the northeast region of Western Governors University, helping to guide the strategic direction of WGU and further raise its profile among prospective students, alumni and external partners in 12 states spanning the Eastern Seaboard from Virginia to Maine. 

Areas of Expertise: 

Competency-based education, innovation in higher education, the digital divide, local workforce development, women in higher education, access to higher education for underrepresented communities, including people of color, first generation college students, military, working adults, rural populations, immigrants, and people who are incarcerated


Ohio University: Ph.D., Higher Education Leadership, 2013

University of Illinois at Springfield: M.A., Communications and Media Studies, 1997

Sangamon State University, Illinois: B.A, Communications and Media Studies, 1997

Lincoln Land Community College, Illinois: A.A. Communications and Media Studies, 1992

In 2022, LLCC recognized her with the Honored Alumni Award.

Social:   TwitterLinkedIn


Rebecca Watts, Ph.D., serves as a vice president for Western Governors University (WGU), a nonprofit, accredited university focused on competency-based learning that serves more than 120,000 students. In her role, Watts develops and strengthens relationships with partner organizations to expand student access, especially among the historically underserved, to WGU’s nationally recognized postsecondary programs. She also leads the university’s engagement with recent graduates and alumni in the northeastern United States, to facilitate alumni networking and job placements. 

Previously, Watts served as chancellor of WGU Ohio, a partnership between the state of Ohio and WGU to expand access to affordable higher education for Ohio residents through online, competency-based programs that address key workforce needs. Prior to joining WGU, she served as executive director for the University of Wyoming Trustees Education Initiative, a statewide effort to support Wyoming’s k-12 schools with innovative educator preparation. As associate vice chancellor for P-16 Initiatives at the Ohio Department of Higher Education, she led educator preparation program review and approval, college readiness efforts, and STEM scholarship and college access programs. 

Rebecca Watts holds a doctorate in higher education leadership from Ohio University, and degrees in communication, including a master’s degree from the University of Illinois at Springfield, a bachelor's degree from Sangamon State University, Ill., and an associate degree from Lincoln Land Community College, Ill.



State Policy and Its Effect on Educational Environments (Book Chapter)
Sole author; 2020 
Information Age Publishing, Charlotte, NC 

Higher Education and Hope: Institutional, Pedagogical, and Personal Possibilities (Chapter), 2019 
First author, with Leslie Rush, Ph.D. Gabriel Swarts, Ph.D., Cynthia Brock, Ph.D., Palgrave MacMillan,
London, UK  

Selected media appearances and articles.

To ease New York's teacher shortage, we have to think with ambition

USA Today, 2022-09-02

New York needs a strong, diverse teaching workforce to assure the learning and development of our children. New approaches to teacher training programs will help fill the pipeline and fulfill our mission as educators.

For fathers and sons we must reimagine college, 2022-06-18

Fewer men are pursuing college degree programs, and the gender gap in higher education, a decades-old issue, hit an all-time high last year.

To achieve education equity, teachers need to reflect the students they serve

Bronx Times, 2022-04-13

Watts and Dr. Pack write, “New York City fares better in its school diversity than other areas of the state, but we can and must do better.”

Time Poverty Slows Progress for Moms

Newsday, 2022-02-28

Watts writes, “[We] need to reimagine workforce training programs to address barriers of time-poor mothers and to fortify the leadership skills that women bring to businesses.”

Op-ed: We need to address disparity of student loan debt hampering Black college graduates

Hartford Courant, 2022-02-22

Watts writes, “Higher education providers, policy makers, and students must recognize the benefits of models that value skills-based mastery while addressing affordability.”

Rebecca Watts Discusses Affordable Broadband

ABC10-TV “Empire State Weekly”, 2021-11-24

Watts explains why the Federal Infrastructure Bill broadband package is so important to the welfare of all New Yorkers.

Opinion: Online access to higher education can boost RI’s economic recovery

Providence Journal, 2021-10-22

For Rhode Island learners of all ages seeking education pathways that lead to long-term career success, online, competency-based education offers as a low-cost option. 

Another Voice: Character education matters in today's world

The Buffalo News, 2021-08-20

Now is the time for more leaders in higher education, government and industry, as well as parents and caregivers, to reflect on how they can better support schools to inspire character. 

Opinion: New program will open doors to more veterans

Virginian Pilot, 2021-08-21

WGU and Sentara Healthcare partnered to launch the Sentara Service to Scholars Grant Program for the military community in Hampton Roads, Va.

The Great Resignation: Workers demand flexibility. Higher Ed should listen

The Journal News, 2021-07-28

Watts writes, “The Great Resignation is our current moment; it is a cultural tide that signals a demand in American society for better balance in school, work and life. Now is the time for more leaders in higher education, government and industry to respond.”

Why eliminating barriers to education in Pa. is essential to workforce development and economic prosperity

Philadelphia Business Journal, 2021-07-22

Watts writes, “Competency-based education is not meant to replace the excellent traditional higher education options in Pennsylvania, but instead serves to fill-in access gaps that traditionally impact under-represented communities. For many of the 2,600 Pennsylvania-based WGU students and 3,200 alumni, this model is the only way they can achieve a college degree and continue to advance in their careers without interruption – ultimately strengthening Pennsylvania’s workforce talent pipeline.”

Online Education: Preparing the workforce of the future

The Baltimore Sun, 2021-06-28

Watts writes, “Even as Maryland’s high school counselors and college admissions officers offer support to help students submit the FAFSA, innovative learning models that are complementary to the many excellent traditional higher education options in Maryland can fill existing gaps.”

Immigrants are key to our economic recovery

Citizens’ Voice, 2021-6-19

Watts writes, “When Wilkes-Barre resident Adam Emmanuel P. Salvatierra immigrated from the Philippines, he had already earned his Bachelor of Science in Nursing [but] While he dreamt of earning his master’s degree in nursing to advance his skills and knowledge to serve the greater good of the community, Adam’s full-time work schedule meant that he needed an alternative to a traditional, on-campus college experience if he was to pursue his dream.”

How to end she-cession: Prioritize workplace flexibility

New York Daily News 2021-06-17

Watts writes, “Recent data suggest that if we fail to adequately address the impact of the pandemic on women in the workforce, better days will remain elusive.”

Opinion: Virginia’s incarcerated can now receive Pell Grants. It will benefit everyone.

Washington Post, 2021-03-05

Gerard Robinson and Rebecca Watts write, “Recent legislation has brought about a monumental, generation-defining shift to help incarcerated people successfully reenter society.”