In the News

Executive Director Update: A note from Brad Smith

On behalf of the Washington State Opportunity Scholarship (WSOS) Board of Directors, I am very excited to share some important changes that will be taking place over the coming months. These changes represent the next step in the continuing growth and evolution of WSOS as a powerful educational force:  the creation of an affiliated foundation to provide dedicated administrative support to WSOS and the appointment of our talented Executive Director Kimber Connors to lead it. 

Since its inception as the nation’s first public-private scholarship partnership, WSOS has expanded from its initial mission of providing scholarships to those pursuing baccalaureate degrees to supporting a much broader range of educational opportunities for Washington students. WSOS now offers scholarships not only for bachelor’s degree programs, but also for apprenticeships, certificate programs, associate degrees, and advanced degrees in health care. We have launched the Rural Jobs Initiative to help remove the unique barriers to higher education faced by students in the rural areas of the state. And we expanded our support beyond financial resources, ensuring that every Opportunity Scholar has access to peer and industry mentors. 

As a result of the hard work performed by a dedicated group of staff and volunteers on these initiatives, in just the last four years, the total number of students WSOS annually serves has more than doubled, from just over 1,000 back in 2020 to approximately 2,500 today. 

There are also other important measures of the success of WSOS. The numbers tell the story about how WSOS is changing lives: 

Given this track record and the growth of the organization in both size and complexity, WSOS went to the Washington State Legislature and received permission to create a new WSOS Foundation to serve as the program administrator, providing back-office support for its mission. The new Foundation, which will commence operations in September of this year, will handle finance, technology, and human resource services for WSOS. The Board believes that having a dedicated program administrator that is intimately tied to and solely focused on WSOS will enable even more success in the future. 

Another reason for confidence is that Kimber Connors has agreed to transition from her current role as WSOS Executive Director into a new role as the Executive Director of the WSOS Foundation, effective September 1, 2024.    

In the five years that Kimber has led WSOS, she has renewed important partnerships with many of the cornerstone partners whose generosity helped create the organization, cultivated new financial supporters, built a dedicated staff team, overseen the expansion of WSOS support offerings to students, and strengthened the organization’s position as a respected voice within Washington’s education community. 

Of course, Kimber’s transition to this exciting new role will leave a vacancy in the vitally important role of WSOS executive director and some very large shoes to fill. The WSOS Board is committed to finding another visionary leader to maintain and build on the organization’s momentum. We have convened a search committee and retained Clover Search Works to help us manage the process. Please watch for the WSOS Executive Director job announcement later this month. In the meantime, the search committee values your input and opinion; if you have any immediate thoughts on WSOS’ future leader, feel free to contact José Leonor (   

At a time when college enrollment is trending lower, WSOS continues to grow. Each year, we receive more scholarship applications, distribute more awards, and provide more support services, helping more students maximize their potential and realize their ambitions. We couldn’t do any of that without you, so on behalf of all of us at WSOS, thank you for your continued support.   

Brad Smith

Board Chair, Washington State Opportunity Scholarship

Vice Chair and President, Microsoft Corporation