With more than two decades of combined experience in higher education, the Student-Ready Strategies team is well-versed in national student success efforts, with particular expertise in supports for adult students and developmental education reform. Learn more about us.
Founder & CEO
Sarah Ancel founded Student-Ready Strategies to accelerate the nation's
progress toward a more effective postsecondary system that
serves all students. Sarah has a unique combination of local, state and
national experience in higher education policy and practice and a proven
record of successful student-focused reforms. She is a policy expert, a
strategic and tactical implementer, and a keen analyst of data, environment,
and opportunities. She is a leading national voice in serving non-traditional
student populations more effectively.
Before forming Student-Ready Strategies, Sarah served as Senior Vice President for the national nonprofit Complete College America. Sarah grew and coordinated support for its 46-member Alliance of States and its network of CCA Fellows. She provided policy consultation, coordinated with funders, delivered
in-state technical assistance, and developed and launched a strategy for returning adults. Before joining CCA, Sarah served as Associate Commissioner for Strategic Planning and Policy for the Indiana Commission for Higher Education. In that role, she was responsible for implementing the Commission’s strategic plan,
including developing and advancing the Commission’s legislative priorities. She came to that role after spending nearly a decade contributing to the fiscal management and oversight of Indiana’s state and local governments.
Senior Vice President
Vanessa Keadle serves as the Senior Vice President for Student-Ready Strategies. In this role, she supports efforts to help more education leaders, institutions, and systems transform through policy and process evaluation, strategic planning and agenda-setting, custom implementation support, and myriad other student-centered, equity-focused higher education services.
Prior to joining Student-Ready Strategies, Vanessa served as the Senior Strategy Director at Complete College America where she worked with states, systems, and institutional consortia to implement student success strategies. Her expertise is in developmental education reform, particularly corequisite support. Additionally, Vanessa spent nearly three years working for the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission as the Coordinator for Research and Evaluation in the Division of Student Affairs. In that role, Vanessa worked with West Virginia GEAR UP to evaluate the grant program by incorporating data collection strategies to enable rigorous research designs that supported the work of the college access program.
Vanessa’s prior experience in higher education include serving as the Director of Student Life at Marshall University in West Virginia where she worked for almost five years to assist students, parents, and other university stakeholders in navigating key institutional policies to better support retention and success. Before Marshall University, Vanessa served as the Assistant to the Director of Student Affairs at Penn State, New Kensington campus where she planned student engagement activities, including new student orientation and leadership development workshops.
Vanessa is currently working towards her education doctorate degree and is writing her dissertation which focuses on corequisite support and college student persistence. She holds a master’s degree in higher education administration from West Virginia University and a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Bethany College.
Vice President of Marketing and Communications
Kate Vaulter is a seasoned communications professional with more than two decades of experience working with non-profits and as a journalist. Most recently, she served as corporate communications manager of Early Learning Indiana, advocating for high-quality early childhood education for the state’s youngest learners. Prior to that, as director of communications Complete College America, Kate led external communications efforts for the organization, including facilitating media opportunities and producing reports about the college completion movement.
For seven years, Kate served as Director of Public Affairs at the Indiana Health Care Association/Indiana Center for Assisted Living (IHCA/INCAL), where she managed all internal and external communications and oversaw creation of a long-term care career pathways website now being licensed in states across the country. Kate’s media relations expertise stems from her eight years in the television news field as a reporter and an anchor. She began her on-air news career at WTWO in Terre Haute, Indiana in January 2002. She joined the FOX 59 News team in Indianapolis in November 2003 and covered a broad spectrum of issues and events on the state and local level.
Kate received her B.A. in Telecommunications at Ball State University. She is a native of Indianapolis.
Theo Meek, Ph.D.
Director of Strategic Implementation
As Director of Strategic Implementation, Theo Meek works closely with SRS's clients and other partners to ensure the highest level of support is provided and student-ready goals are met. Most recently, Meek served as Research Scholar for the Nevada System of Higher Education (NSHE), advancing the goals and priorities of the NSHE Chancellor and the Nevada Board of Regents. In this role, Meek worked with NSHE institutions, system leadership, and national partners to examine data, conduct research, and implement reforms focused on closing achievement gaps for minoritized student groups.
Notably, Meek led the research and policy development that ultimately led to Nevada's developmental education redesign, impacting 110,000 students. He was also instrumental in seeking out and securing $1.1 million in grant funding to support implementation of the corequisite support strategy, helping to ensure that approximately 15,000 students of color and students from Pell-eligible backgrounds will avoid the detrimental cycle of remedial education.
Previously, Meek served as the Director of the University Advising Center at the University of Nevada, Reno, where he worked with undeclared and interdisciplinary students and implemented equity and implicit bias training for the academic advising team, and as a Registration Coordinator in the University’s Registrar Office. These professional experiences, along with Meek’s own background as a first-generation student, informed his co-authorship of two books, Access for All and Success for All, documenting and contextualizing how Northern Nevada's higher education institutions promote access and support success for students historically marginalized. Meek completed his Ph.D. at the University of Nevada, Reno where he studied the causal effects of corequisite support.
Paiton Winters provides administrative and logistical support to ensure Student-Ready Strategies’ operational effectiveness. As a currently-enrolled student at Ivy Tech Community College, she also provides valuable insight into the experience of today’s college students and advice about opportunities for innovation. Paiton lived in Monterey, California before moving to Indianapolis and joining the SRS team.