The Virginia Governor’s Office today announced the appointment of higher education policy expert Deborah Santiago ’90 to the University of Mary Washington Board of Visitors. In addition, Heather Mullins Crislip ’95 and Rhonda VanLowe have been reappointed to second terms on the board. The appointees will serve four-year terms, which expire June 30, 2023. Santiago succeeds Davis Rennolds ’06, whose term expires June 30.
An innovator, thought leader and educational visionary, Deborah Santiago of Arlington has initiated and led successful local, national and federal programs for more than 20 years. She directed policy and research efforts to support rising aspirations, improve enrollment opportunities and achieve increased rates of higher education completion for all students, especially those from the Latino community.
Santiago is CEO and co-founder of the Washington, D.C.-based Excelencia in Education, which has become a trusted source of data and research on higher education policy and evidence-based practices for Latino student success. Her work has been cited in The Economist, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Chronicle of Higher Education and many other publications focused on higher education policy and practice.
Previously, she was vice president for data and policy analysis for the Los Angeles County Alliance for Student Achievement, and a policy analyst at the Library of Congress’ Congressional Research Service on legislative issues in higher education. She also informed programmatic and budgetary efforts in the Office of Postsecondary Education at the U.S. Department of Education and was program manager at the ASPIRA Association, a nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering the Latino community.
As the deputy director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans, Santiago worked with federal agencies and communities across the nation to improve awareness and education opportunities for Latinos. She serves on the advisory boards of TheDream.US and Higher Achievement. Her many honors include the prestigious Pahara Fellowship from the Aspen Institute.
Santiago holds a B.A. from Mary Washington and an M.A. in urban studies and affairs from Virginia Tech.
Heather Mullins Crislip of Richmond is president and CEO of Housing Opportunities Made Equal of Virginia Inc. (HOME), Virginia’s private fair housing organization. HOME seeks to ensure equal access to all through housing, counseling, policy advocacy and enforcement of the Fair Housing Act.
Before her civil rights work, Crislip held several roles in higher education at the Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia and the Chancellor’s Office at University of Hawai’i at Mānoa.
Crislip, a native of Blacksburg, Virginia, serves on the board of directors of Housing Virginia, a statewide partnership of public and private organizations devoted to affordable housing.
A 1995 graduate of Mary Washington, Crislip received a juris doctorate with honors from the University of Connecticut School of Law. She serves as rector of the UMW Board of Visitors.
Rhonda VanLowe of Reston retired as senior legal counsel to Rolls-Royce North America Inc., a position she assumed in 1999. Her previous positions include counsel for U.S. operations of Reebok International Limited and shareholder with Ginsburg, Feldman & Bress, Chartered.
An alumna of Cornell University, VanLowe received a juris doctorate from Georgetown University Law Center.
In service to the community, VanLowe is an inaugural member of the Fairfax County Police Civilian Review Panel. She was also a member of the Governor’s Task Force on Improving Mental Health Services and Crisis Response, and she served as board chair for the Northern Virginia Therapeutic Riding Program.