Ruben Flores, Executive Director

As Executive Director, Ruben Flores leads COP and collaborates with its member institutions to shape the state-level policy and advocacy agenda for the sector. As COP’s spokesperson, Ruben represents the sector externally at the state level as a member of the Washington Student Achievement Council, Workforce Education Investment Accountability and Oversight Board and the Washington STEM Education Innovation Alliance, as well as in regional and national conversations.

With prior experience as the Director of Government Relations and Business Affairs at the Council of Presidents, Ruben brings extensive involvement in higher education institutions and agencies across multiple states and sectors. Before joining COP, he held key roles in higher education, including Director of Financial Aid and Veterans Services at South Puget Sound Community College and Student Services Policy Associate at the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges.

Ruben, the first Latino and military veteran Executive Director of COP, holds a Master’s of Science degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. Ruben, his wife, and their two children wholeheartedly immerse themselves in all things Washington, proudly proclaiming themselves as “eternal tourists” of this beautiful state. Ruben and his wife are also licensed foster parents and are deeply passionate about child advocacy.

Julie Garver, Director of Policy and Academic Affairs

Since 2015, Dr. Julie Garver has been the Director of Policy and Academic Affairs for the Council of Presidents. In her role, she is responsible for promoting, supporting and representing the state’s public four-year colleges and universities to address policy and data issues across state agencies, sector organizations and multistate collaborations including transfer, data, dual credit, admissions, academic policy, international research, degree programming and international education.

Julie has worked in higher education policy and government relations in Washington, Oregon and Washington D.C. since 1998. Prior to her current role, Julie served as Program Assistant for The Latin America Working Group in Washington D.C. Upon returning to the West Coast, she served as the Legislative and Communications Director for the Oregon Student Association, then held multiple positions with the Oregon Community College Association including Policy Director, Government Relations Director, Communications/Student Issues Director. She moved to Washington in 2007 to serve as the Director of Government Relations with The Evergreen State College. Julie has also served as the Policy Analyst for Statewide Accountability in Oregon and completed a doctoral internship with ConnectEd: The California Center for College and Career.

Julie earned a Bachelor of Arts in International Political Economy with a minor in Economics from the University of Puget Sound, a Master of Arts in International Affairs with a focus in International Political Economy from American University, and a Ph.D. in higher education policy from Oregon State University.

Darshan Robertson, Director of Communications and Operations

As Director of Communications and Operations, Darshan Robertson oversees COP’s digital communications and office operations. With over 20 years of administrative and operations management experience spanning multiple industries, Darshan has developed expertise in effective communications strategies and efficient operations management.

Before joining Council of Presidents in 2014, Darshan worked for 10 years in administration in the tribal gaming industry. Prior to that, she served as a regional manager at a national fuel company, overseeing administrative operations for 13 offices that collectively served 24,000 customers in Washington and Idaho. During her time in public relations, Darshan also gained experience in copyediting and social media management.   

In the community, Darshan is an active member of the American Association of University Women (AAUW) Seattle Branch, where she volunteers with the communications team.

Darshan earned a bachelor’s degree in creative writing from The Evergreen State College.

Ashleigh Withey, Executive Assistant

As Executive Assistant for the Council of Presidents, Ashleigh is responsible for organizing meetings and events, along with providing administrative support to the Council of Presidents directors.

Ashleigh brings with her a strong background in higher education, having previously worked at Saint Martin’s University in student recruitment, academic advising, and as an executive assistant for academic administration. She also earned her Master of Education in Higher Education & Student Affairs from Saint Martin’s. Prior to her professional experience in higher education, Ashleigh earned her BA in Communication Studies & Public Relations from Eastern Washington University and her AA in History from Centralia College.