Complete College America Appoints New Chief of Staff and SVP Following National Search

Dhanfu Elston, Former Vice President of Strategy, Will Oversee Organizational Strategy and Serve as Key Advisor to CCA President.

INDIANAPOLIS, IN, March 19, 2020 – Complete College America (CCA) today announced that Dhanfu Elston, Ph.D. (pronounced: dah-nee-foo) will serve as the national non-profit’s Chief of Staff & Senior Vice President for Strategy. Dr. Elston was selected for the position following a national search led by the CCA president along with a committee representative of the organization’s national Alliance.

In his new role, Dr. Elston will oversee organizational strategy and management, program implementation and strategic planning to help scale CCA’s Game Changer college completion strategies at institutions throughout the United States. In addition, he will serve as a key advisor to CCA’s President, Dr. Yolanda Watson Spiva, and a liaison to CCA’s Board of Directors. Dr. Elston has been with the organization since 2015 and previously served as Vice President of Strategy.

“During his past five years with CCA, Dhanfu has been instrumental in advancing the development and practical implementation of our completion strategies for colleges and universities across the country,” said Yolanda Watson Spiva, Ph.D., President of CCA. “He has a passion for serving the needs of under-served students, and an acute understanding of the structural changes needed to solve our evolving college completion crisis. In his new role, he will lead strategic initiatives that will help the organization continue to grow and enable us to further scale student success programs at institutions across the country.”

“From working alongside our organization’s founder to now supporting the leadership and vision of Dr. Spiva, I have never lost sight that this work is a calling toward an effort that has the potential to shape the future of higher education in America,” said Dr. Elston. “I am honored to have been selected for this role and look forward to continue serving CCA and its mission.”

Dr. Dhanfu Elston has dedicated 25 years to improving completion rates and eliminating equity barriers in higher education through the development of student retention and completion programs. During his time at CCA, Dr. Elston has served as Vice President for Strategy and Vice President for Alliance State Relations. He leads CCA’s national 15-To-Finish Game Changer strategy—which encourages student enrollment in 30 credits per year, when possible, to increase on-time graduation rates or decrease time to degree for part-time students—spurring the replication of on-time degree completion campaigns at over 500 institutions across nearly every state.

Dr. Elston also led the development of CCA’s Purpose First strategy, and College on Purpose publication, to reimagine career exploration early in students’ college experiences. He oversees CCA’s external partnerships—including its relationships with higher education state-wide systems, institutions and non-profit partners—and has led CCA’s pathways initiatives and equity scaling standards to close achievement gaps.

Prior to his ongoing tenure with CCA, Dr. Elston was the Executive Director of Student Success and Transition at Purdue University Calumet (now Purdue Northwest). Under his leadership, Purdue Calumet leveraged predictive analytics to create exponential gains in first-year retention, graduation rates, and enrolled credit hours. He has also served in multiple roles at Georgia State University and Clark Atlanta University, including as the Faculty Assistant Director for Undergraduate Studies at Georgia State.

Dr. Elston earned a Ph.D. in Educational Policy Studies from Georgia State University, along with an M.A. in Educational Leadership and a B.S. in Biology from Clark Atlanta University. He holds leadership positions in numerous professional associations and is a sought-after speaker about integrating comprehensive student success plans at institutions, and particularly those that educate highly diverse and underrepresented student populations. His full bio can be found here.