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A Message from Our New Vice President - Education Philanthropy, Keith Witham

March 23, 2023 2-minute read
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Dear friends and colleagues,

I came to Ascendium in 2021 because I saw an opportunity to work alongside a smart, passionate team in addressing some of the most persistent barriers that keep learners from low-income backgrounds from reaping the benefits of postsecondary education and workforce training. Ascendium’s mission is rooted in the recognition that education and training beyond high school can be life-changing: it offers the best chance for those trapped in poverty or low-wage jobs to find consistent and well-paid work and, with it, the dignity and well-being everyone deserves.

What drives me personally to this work is the belief that success in education and training beyond high school should not be a matter of luck. The systems in our country that distribute educational opportunity too often resemble a lottery — they leave to chance the success of learners from low-income backgrounds, those in communities that have been historically marginalized or disenfranchised and others. As a nation, we shouldn’t tolerate such an inequitable system. We can’t afford to. We need the talent that exists in every community to prepare us for the enormous social and economic changes ahead. We should expect a system that makes apparent a viable set of options for high-quality postsecondary education or workforce training for every learner. We should also redesign that system to ensure their success in whichever path they choose.

We have a long way to go towards that ideal. As I accept this new role at Ascendium, I’m hopeful and humbled. Every day our grant partners are showing what’s possible: clarifying the root causes of the problems they’re trying to solve, identifying and testing new solutions and removing the barriers to scale for interventions with demonstrated promise. We commit funding to those critical efforts, but we also commit to using our platform to build urgency, share learning and foster connections that can help strengthen our resolve when the work ahead feels immense. 

Our partners can expect this commitment to continue. Even as we engage in the coming year in a refresh of our funding priorities, our core mission and investment strategies won’t change. We will continue to invest exploring, validating and scaling reforms and interventions aimed at clearing a path for all learners to achieve upward mobility through high-quality postsecondary education and workforce training.

I’m grateful to Ascendium’s board of directors, Chairman, President & CEO Dick George and the Education Philanthropy team for enabling me to continue to be of service to our organization and the field in this new role. I’m also deeply indebted to my predecessor, Amy Kerwin, for her personal mentorship as well as for building the foundation upon which Ascendium’s education philanthropy will continue to grow and thrive. I take seriously the privilege and responsibility of our work and will carry it forward with the humility and curiosity modeled by Amy and the entire Ascendium team.


Keith Witham
Vice President - Education Philanthropy