Regional Vice President, Northeast | Western Governors University
Jersey City, 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
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,
NJ Spotlight, 2021-08-12
Watts writes, “Research shows that removing the federal ban on Pell Grants for people in prison will increase employment rates among formerly incarcerated students by 10% on average.”
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.
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.”
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.”
Hartford Business Journal, 2021-07-12
“We’re constantly evaluating our [cybersecurity] program,” said Rebecca Watts. This summer, in an effort to raise awareness of cybersecurity as a career option, the university is staging a virtual “cyber camp” for high school students. Watts said the goal is to reach communities that have been historically underrepresented in cybersecurity and in the tech world as a whole.
Providence Journal, 2021-07-11
Watts writes, “An investment in broadband is an investment in Rhode Island’s post-pandemic economic recovery, to educate its current and future workforce and strengthen those industries in Rhode Island that are predicted to grow in coming years, such as business, health care, and IT.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
Watts writes, “Even as the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia and Virginia College Access Network have formed an important new partnership to assist students submit the FAFSA, online, competency-based education is a low-cost option available now for those who seek to earn a degree aimed at employment or career advancement.”
Gotham Gazette, 2021-04-23
Watts writes, “Federal, state and city efforts to expand broadband access will help, but a comprehensive solution can best be found by combining efforts from both private and public sectors.”
The Republican/MassLive.com, 2021-03-31
Watts writes, “Now more than ever, women will look to higher education models that fit into their busy lives and allow them to upskill or reskill during the economic recovery phase of the pandemic.”
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.”
CHHI N.Y. state newspaper wire, 2021-02-19
Rebecca Watts says it’s appropriate that New York is focusing on both infrastructure needs and putting the cost of broadband within the reach of consumers.
ABC27-TV “This Week in Pennsylvania”, 2021-02-14
Watts explains that the digital divide is essentially the distance between the haves and the have nots to have access to high-speed internet broadband and who doesn’t, and the problem is big in Pennsylvania.