Higher education experts from JFF, Education Trust, and UNCF join National Advisory Board

Expertise in improving educational access, success, and equity will help InsideTrack increase impact

PORTLAND, ORE. (FEBRUARY 24, 2021) — InsideTrack, the nonprofit student success organization that has served with more than 2 million students, today announced the appointment of three new members to its national advisory board: Wil Del Pilar, vice president for higher education policy, practice, and research at education civil rights nonprofit The Education Trust, Joel Vargas, vice president of national education and workforce nonprofit JFF, and Julian Thompson, strategist at the United Negro College Fund (UNCF). The three leaders join a distinguished group of senior experts in higher education leadership, student affairs, and policy who advise InsideTrack on the creation of new strategies for institutions to meet emerging challenges facing students

.“Despite slow advances in college access and completion, the past year has exposed the ways in which the democratic promise of higher education and upward mobility remains unfulfilled for Black, Latino, and low-income students—too often because of resource and equity gaps that are ingrained in the student experience,” Del Pilar said. “Creating a more equitable system of higher education and dismantling the legacy of institutionalized racism demands that we dismantle structures and build the capacity of institutions to help students overcome the barriers to success they encounter both inside and beyond the classroom.”

A former university administrator and national expert and speaker on underrepresented student support, Del Pilar’s work focuses on highlighting inequities and advancing evidence-based solutions to improve access, affordability, and completion in higher education for low-income students and students of color. Prior to joining the Education Trust under the leadership of former U.S. Secretary of Education John King, Del Pilar held leadership positions in Pennsylvania including as Deputy Secretary of Postsecondary and Higher Education in Governor Tom Wolf’s administration. He also brings deep institutional experience through leadership roles at universities including Pennsylvania State University, the University of Florida, and the University of California Santa Cruz.

“Today, we know that the journey from high school to college and career follows a markedly different trajectory than is sometimes widely understood,” Vargas said. “As the lines between high school, college and work continue to blur, it’s critical that we meet students where they are both with the types of career-connected learning and support they need to thrive in a fast-changing economy.”

A nationally-recognized author and expert on the integration of early college and work-based learning in high school curriculum, Vargas has for more than 30 years advanced state policies and local practices that promote improved high school and postsecondary outcomes. Since 2003, he has held senior leadership positions at JFF, including starting and leading the organization’s Oakland-based West Coast office. He also oversees an array of JFF’s national efforts focused on redesigning education and workforce development systems, building inclusive regional economies, and helping people advance economically.

“The pandemic has exposed the ways in which minority students and the institutions that serve them continue to face disproportionate challenges, but also hold unrecognized potential. Supporting historically excluded students and institutions will require intentional investments, personalized solutions, and sustained application of best practices, as institutions continue the hard work of closing deep-rooted inequities," Thompson said. “By ensuring that all students and institutions can succeed, we can fulfill this promise. I am pleased to join this critical opportunity to advance vital aspects of that work with institutions of higher education.”

With experience as a K-12 administrator, urban education policy advisor and nonprofit leader, Thompson’s current practice at UNCF focuses on the development of new programs, policies, initiatives, and networks that contribute to the resilience of Historically-Black Colleges and Universities and the students they serve. While at UNCF, he also designed leadership development and networking programming for HBCU presidents and boards. Julian previously worked for the City of Philadelphia as a senior policy advisor to Councilwoman and Majority Whip Blondell Reynolds Brown.

“We entrust our advisory board with a critical responsibility -- ensuring that every aspect of our work and organization remains true to this mission. Julian, Wil, and Joel bring a wealth of expertise and decades of experience on the frontlines of access, equity, and innovation,” said Ruth Bauer White, President of InsideTrack.”We’re proud to welcome them to our advisory board as we develop powerful new approaches and ways to empower students for success from college access to completion and lifelong learning.”

These three leaders join existing InsideTrack national advisory board members Dr. Virginia M. Fraire, associate provost of the University of Texas El Paso, Nicole Hall, director of the Career Services Center at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and Mary B. Marcy, president of Dominican University of California.


About InsideTrack: InsideTrack is passionate about student success. We partner with institutions and organizations to improve enrollment, persistence, completion and career readiness. Our student support methodology uncovers first hand feedback about student goals and challenges. Through strategic guidance, staff training and student coaching, we help institutions turn this feedback into actionable insights that drive better student outcomes. As a nonprofit member of the Strada Education Network, we offer partners access to a comprehensive range of student success solutions as well as the latest research and insights on student success. We’ve supported more than 2 million students since 2001 and currently serve over 4,000 programs. Visit us at www.insidetrack.org and follow us on Twitter @InsideTrack.

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