Dr. Daria J. Willis was appointed the 17th president of Everett Community College on April 29, 2019, becoming its first African American president, a highlight in an impressive career in higher education. Her leadership has brought substantial educative change to community colleges, students, faculty, and staff.
Prior to her appointment, Dr. Willis served as Provost and Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs at Onondaga Community College (OCC) in Syracuse, New York, within the State University of New York (SUNY) system. During her tenure as provost, she implemented programs targeted at increasing enrollment and providing access and equity to underserved and underrepresented populations, including the cohort-based Weekend College and Adopt-a-School, a partnership program with the Syracuse City School District. Additionally, Dr. Willis oversaw curriculum development, implemented a credential manual for faculty hires, streamlined academic programs into guided pathways, and encouraged faculty to develop four academic programs to OCC.
Dr. Willis began her educational career in 2007 teaching at Florida A&M University
After relocating to Houston, TX in 2010, Dr. Willis worked for Lone Star College, and served as an Assistant Professor of History, department chair, faculty senate president, and Executive Dean of Centers. Additionally, she implemented the first Doctoral Support Group at Lone Star College for faculty and staff, offering scholarships to employees earning a graduate degree. She later served as Dean of Academic Studies at Lee College, a Hispanic Serving Institution in Baytown, Texas, where she started its first National Model United Nations program at Lee College
She earned a Ph.D. in History from Florida State University with a focus on 19th and 20th Century African Americans, Women, and the South. Her dissertation topic was a biography on Adella Hunt Logan, an educator and a woman’s suffragist in Tuskegee, Alabama. She earned a BA and MA in History from Florida A&M University, and played trombone in the college’s “Incomparable Marching 100 Band.”
Dr. Willis is a 2018 recipient of the American Association for Women in Community Colleges’ “40 Under 40” Award. She is a 2017 Cohort Fellow for the Thomas Lakin Institute for Mentored Leadership, an organization dedicated to training African American community college administrators for the presidency. Dr. Willis is also featured in the December 2017 issue of Diverse: Issues in Higher Education as a member of the Lakin Cohort, and she is a 2017 Cohort Fellow for the League for Innovation’s Executive Leadership Institute.
Through her family, Dr. Willis finds strength and motivation. Her amazing husband, Dr. Isiah Brown, and their incipient three children, Lyric, Izzy, and Imani, provide the solid ground upon which she walks. They keep her focused as she strives to ensure success for all students. www.dariajwillis.com
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.
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