Paul Francis, Executive Director
Born in Australia, Paul grew up in Tucson, Arizona. A first-generation college student, he graduated summa cum laude from the University of Arizona (U of A) with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. For the next few years he reviewed and assessed applications for admission and coordinated various programs for admitted students as an admissions counselor in the Minority Student Recruitment unit of the University of Arizona’s Office of Admissions and New Student Enrollment. He then returned to school, earning a Masters in Public Administration from the U of A where he served as president of the MPA student association and was named a Rombach Scholar.
In 2019 Paul successfully completed the Senior Executives in State and Local Government program through the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. In addition, he is an alum of the Asian Community Leadership Foundation’s Community Leadership Program’s Class of 2006, which was awarded a Washington Education Association Civil Rights Award for their project in service of the Minority Executive Directors Coalition.
Upon relocating to Seattle, Paul worked as a senior admissions counselor with the University of Washington’s Office of Admissions where he managed the campus tour guide program and organized programs for admitted students and their families. He then served for five years as the lead policy staffer for the Washington State House Democratic Caucus on higher education policy and general government fiscal issues. Paul joined the Council of Presidents team in 2011 and was named executive director in 2013.
Paul serves as the public four-year representative on the Washington Student Achievement Council, which provides strategic planning, coordination, advocacy, and program administration to support increased student access and higher levels of educational attainment in Washington.
He represents the public four-year sector on a number of statewide committees, task forces, and work groups, notably the Workforce Education Investment Accountability and Oversight Board, K-20 Education Network, the STEM Education Innovation Alliance, and Governor Jay Inslee’s Results Washington and Complete Count Committee initiatives.
Julie Garver, Senior Director of Policy & 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.
Ruben Flores, Director of Government Relations & Business Affairs
Ruben Flores began his career in higher education in Arkansas as a work-study student in a financial aid office, a position which eventually led him to the role of Associate Director of Financial Aid and Communications Officer. Later, Ruben and his family moved to Washington where he was stationed with the U.S. Navy, and where his wife was born and raised.
Prior to joining Council of Presidents, Ruben served as the Director of Financial Aid and Veterans Services at South Puget Sound Community College, and later as the Student Services Policy Associate at the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges, where he represented the CTC’s across state agencies, with legislature, and in multistate collaborations on issues regarding financial aid, college admissions, disability services, and dual credit options for students. As the SBCTC liaison to the CTC Financial Aid Council, he has kept abreast of the evolving issues and concerns with federal financial aid from the perspective of the student and the administrator.
Ruben, his wife, and their children immerse themselves in all things Washington and are self-proclaimed “eternal tourists” of this beautiful state. Ruben and his wife are licensed foster parents and are passionate about child advocacy.
Ruben holds a Masters of Science degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Henderson State University in Arkansas.
Darshan Robertson, Senior Executive Assistant
A native Washingtonian, Darshan has lived in the Olympia area since 2003. Prior to joining the Council of Presidents, she worked for 10 years as an executive assistant in the tribal gaming industry and also gained experience as a social media writer for a public relations firm. Darshan holds a BA from The Evergreen State College where she focused on creative writing.