Dr. Daria J. Willis serves as the fifth president of Howard Community College. She assumed office in January 2022, following a nation-wide search process and an unanimous vote by the college's Board of Trustees. Dr. Willis is the first African American to lead the college in its history.
Dr. Willis is focused on issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion, ensuring the college's culture of care and belonging extends to all students and employees. To build an equitable foundation for students, she has started the process of reorganizing the areas of teaching and learning and student success. An active social media user, Dr. Willis launched her own Instagram Live series, "Conversations from the Couch," to connect with the community.
Prior to her appointment at Howard Community College, Dr. Willis was the president of Everett Community College in Everett, Washington, where she reported to a five-member board of trustees, managed a $73 million budget, and oversaw an institution with 840 employees. Committed to shared and participatory governance, Dr. Willis practices collaborative leadership and worked directly with three collective bargaining units at Everett.
Among her accomplishments are the adoption of the Guided Pathways framework across Everett Community College to help close achievement gaps and promote student success and achievement, adoption of a new advising model to assist students with course selection and degree completion, and completion of the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities mid-cycle review process for accreditation. She also secured $43.5 million from the Washington Legislature to fund the new Learning Resource Center that broke ground in September 2021.
Under her leadership, Everett Community College received $2.5 million in grants from the U.S. Department of Education to support TRIO and STEM programs for students of color and students who are low-income and with disabilities. A $50,000 Rise Prize grant and part of a $100,000 Washington Department of Labor grant went to the development and launch of a Weekend College for adult students and student parents.
She is a 2021 Aspen Institute Ascend Fellow, dedicated to empowering children and families across the country. She serves on the Howard County Economic Development Authority Board of Directors and on the advisory board for the Phi Theta Kappa international college honor society. Dr. Willis was named an Influential Marylander in 2022 by The Daily Record.
Earlier in her career, Dr. Willis was the provost and senior vice president of academic affairs at Onondaga Community College, which is one of the community colleges of the State University of New York. Other previous leadership positions include the dean of academic studies at Lee College in Baytown, Texas; executive dean of centers/dean of instruction at the Lone Star College-North Harris Greenspoint Center and Victory Center; and department chair of social and behavioral sciences and kinesiology at Lone Star College-University Park Campus in Texas and the Faculty Senate president.
Dr. Willis started in academia as an adjunct faculty member in history at Tallahassee Community College (Florida) and later as an adjunct faculty member in history at Florida A&M University. As an assistant professor of history at Lone Star College-Tomball, she taught United States history.
Dr. Willis earned her Ph.D. in history from Florida State University. She holds a master’s degree in history and a bachelor’s degree in history education from Florida A&M University, a historically Black college in Florida.
Dr. Willis and her husband, Dr. Isiah David Brown, are the proud parents of daughter Lyric, son Isiah, and daughter Imani.
An education gives an endless amount of opportunities to today's students. I believe in keeping students first and at the center of everything that I do. My experience began as an adjunct faculty member teaching US History courses. I mentored students and helped them succeed in their personal and professional goals in life. I have traveled across the world with students, exposing them to other cultures, people, and places. I'm not done yet!
A college needs the support of a diverse pool of talented faculty and staff. I have been privileged to work with other professionals that care about our students and the community. I believe in building teams, providing support, collaboration, transparency, and most of all having a good time. We are all in this together. It certainly takes a village.
Community Colleges were formed in cities across the nation to serve the unique needs of their local communities. This is the #1 feature that attracts me to this profession. Shirley Chisolm once said "service is the rent we pay for the privilege of living on this earth." I believe in serving all regardless of race, color, national origin, or creed. This is what makes community colleges so special. I participate in several community organizations in my spare time and as a representative of the college. My children are often attending events alongside me so they too can understand and learn the value of helping others before themselves.