Gloria Bonilla-Santiago

Founder, LEAP Academy University Charter School, Camden, New Jersey; Board of Governors Distinguished Professor of Public Policy, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

Gloria Bonilla-Santiago is a Board of Governors Distinguished Service Professor, Graduate Department of Public Policy and Administration at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. She also directs the Community Leadership Center and is the overseer and Board Chair of the LEAP Academy University Charter School. Throughout her academic career, she has established a track record in coordinating large scale programs and private and public ventures that bring together external and internal stakeholders from a range of organizations, including government, business, non-profits and philanthropic sectors at the local, national and international levels. As a leading scholar, researcher, speaker, and international cross-cultural training consultant, Dr. Santiago brings over 25 years of experience in program development and innovation, social entrepreneur, research, fundraising, strategic planning, and leadership training. She writes and speaks widely on the areas of community development, public policy, education, migration, diversity management and, organizational leadership. In 1993, she received the Warren I. Susman Award for Excellence in Teaching, the highest recognition for teaching given to Rutgers’ faculty by the President of the University. In 2008, she received the L’Oreal Paris Women of Worth award, a national recognition that honors 10 women for their exemplary and transcending service to communities. Dr. Santiago’s record of service and the impact of her work on poor children/families, minorities, and community are exemplary by any standard. She is a passionate and enthusiastic educator, who has focused her professional acumen on helping people to be able to become self-reliant citizens through education and professional development. Her work on behalf of children and families has resulted in the development of a national and international model for public schools for poor children. Her model LEAP charter school in Camden City today serves 2,000 students from infancy through college and has become a hub for serving the families of these children through a number of LEAP portfolio schools in Camden City. Dr. Santiago has built and designed a pipeline from cradle to-16th five LEAP schools in Cooper Street, from ELRA (Early Research Academy) to LEAP STEAM-Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math. She has a 100% graduation and college placement rate for all her graduates. Her educational model and pioneer work is breaking grounds in the field of education nationally and internationally. She has fundraised over 100 million dollars to finance her projects. She is known as the “Patron saint of Cooper Street”. Dr. Santiago’s work through the Rutgers-Community Leadership Center is broadening and deepening the leadership base in the USA and International communities and beyond. She spearheads a number of signature projects with local, national and international impact in areas of Education Innovation and School transformation, Social Entrepreneurship, diversity management, organizational behavior, leadership development and community development. As a faculty member, Dr. Santiago’s agenda in the areas of research, teaching and service provide the impetus for her tireless efforts in developing programs and new approaches to tackle fundamental social problems. She has been successful in translating her research and empirical work into real policy strategies that have garnered a number of important contributions, such as charter school legislation in New Jersey; the enactment of important legislation impacting on women and the education of urban children. Dr. Santiago is the author of numerous articles and three books, entitled The Miracle on Cooper Street, Lessons from an Inner City, Breaking Ground and Barriers: Hispanic Women Developing Effective Leadership and Organizing Puerto Rican Migrant Farmworkers, available for purchase at She is also a blogger for US World News, the Huffington Post, and is a commentator for ABC, MSNBC, NBC, and CBS News on issues of education and Community Development.