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Dietra Y. Trent, Ph.D.

Dietra Y. Trent, Ph.D. is a strong advocate and true champion of public education. She has over twenty-years of experience working hard to advance equity for Virginia’s most disadvantaged populations.  On August 25, 2019, she joined the Mason family as Chief of Staff to Interim President Anne Holton.  Previously, she served as Sr. Director for Equity Research and Training within the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs at Virginia Commonwealth University.  In this capacity, she led an effort to support state and local governments, nonprofits, and interested citizens in advancing equity and inclusion through an integrated approach including policy evaluation, targeted training, and research.  In July 2016, Governor Terry McAuliffe appointed Dr. Trent as Secretary of Education for the Commonwealth of Virginia.  Prior to her appointment, she served as Deputy Secretary of Education, a position she also held during the administration of then-Governor Tim Kaine.  She joined Governor McAuliffe’s administration in January 2014.

As Secretary of Education, Dr. Trent’s primary responsibility was to promote the Governor’s agenda to eradicate the Achievement Gap, promote great teaching and learning, and strengthen educational pathways to the new Virginia Economy.  In this capacity, Dr. Trent provided guidance and oversight to three coordinating agencies, including the Virginia Department of Education, the Virginia Community College System, and the State Council of Higher Education, as well as Virginia’s 16 public colleges and universities, 23 community colleges, and five higher education and research centers.


Prior to joining the McAuliffe administration, Dr. Trent served as Deputy State Director for Senator Mark Warner.  Having served in former Governors Tim Kaine and Mark Warner’s offices, as well as the Office of Congressman Robert C. “Bobby” Scott, she has a wealth of federal, state, and higher education experience.

During her time in Governor Warner’s office, Dr. Trent’s proudest moment was establishing and obtaining state funding for the Minority Political Leadership Institute (MPLI), housed at Virginia Commonwealth University.  MPLI is a six-week intensive program designed to promote leadership for aspiring individuals interested in running for elected office or assuming leadership roles in minority communities. She currently serves on the MPLI advisory board and as Interim Director of International Education and Special Assistant to the Provost at Radford University.

Dr. Trent’s career in higher education began over twenty-years ago when she served as Director of Federal Relations for Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU).  Representing a comprehensive, urban, research university, she spent much of her time in Washington, DC, advocating on behalf of VCU’s medical school and hospital.  It was at VCU when she realized she would pursue a career in higher education.

Now, two decades later, Dr. Trent’s philosophy about leadership is: “power does not lie in one’s title or position, rather power lies in one’s posture.  And it is only in assuming a posture to serve others that enables us to make a positive difference in the lives of others.”

A native of Halifax County, Virginia, Dr. Trent earned a bachelor’s degree in Sociology and Criminal Justice from Hampton University and completed her master’s and doctoral degrees in Public Administration and Policy from VCU