Senior Program Officer
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Sylvia Symonds is a senior program officer on the Early Learning and Pathways team at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Sylvia’s portfolio includes Accelerate Ed, an initiative that brings together 12 regional teams focused on designing accessible career pathways that support students in earning 30 college credits by the end of high school and guiding students into career-aligned courses, resulting in an associate degree by the 13th year.
Previously, Sylvia served as the deputy vice president for educational outreach and student services for Arizona State University. In this role, she led college access and outreach efforts for Access Arizona State University, whose mission is to increase the number of students prepared to enroll and succeed in higher education. Sylvia also served as the principal investigator for several grants totaling over $30 million in funding designed to increase postsecondary enrollment for first-generation, low-income and students who have been historically marginalized. In her previous roles, she worked for the Maricopa Community Colleges and the California State University system. In all, Sylvia has over 20 years of experience working in higher education.
She frequently presents to national audiences on topics including partnerships, Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) completion, family and student engagement, continuous improvement, education technology, college access, first-generation student success, and peer coaching. Sylvia was a co-author of a chapter in the recently published book Cultivating Student Success (2021). An Arizona native and a first-generation college student, Sylvia recently completed her Doctor of Philosophy in educational policy and evaluation from Arizona State University.