Meet the Incoming President
COLUMBIA, MD – The Howard Community College Board of Trustees today appointed Dr. Daria Willis as the fifth president of the college. The board voted unanimously in support of Dr. Willis during a public meeting. Dr. Willis, who currently serves as president of Everett Community College in Washington, will become the first African American to lead the college in its 51-year history.
“The board of trustees is excited to welcome Dr. Willis as the fifth president of Howard Community College,” said Christopher G. Marasco, chair of the board of trustees. “The trustees were impressed with Dr. Willis’s energy and accomplishments, her commitment to students and their education, and her steadfast focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion in her work. We look forward to working alongside her as she leads Howard Community College into the future.”
Dr. Willis will start her presidency on January 10, 2022. She is succeeding Dr. Kate Hetherington, who retired October 1, 2021, after 14 years as president. Lynn Coleman, vice president of administration and finance, will continue to serve as interim president until Dr. Willis’ arrival.
“My educational philosophy has always been to focus on students and put them at the heart of everything you do, so I am incredibly honored to lead a college whose mission is providing pathways to success,” said Dr. Daria J. Willis, incoming president of Howard Community College. “Community colleges are in the business of transforming lives of students and their families. As the next president, I commit to empowering the college and the Howard County community, inspiring innovation, closing the achievement gap among students, and advocating for social justice, equity, and education for all.”
At Everett Community College, Dr. Willis reports to a five-member board of trustees, manages a $73 million budget, and oversees an institution with 840 employees. Committed to shared and participatory governance, Dr. Willis practices collaborative leadership and works directly with three collective bargaining units at her college.
Among her presidential accomplishments are the adoption of the Guided Pathways framework across the college to help close achievement gaps and promote student success and achievement, collaborative leadership 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.
Dr. Willis is active in the Everett community and the state of Washington. She is on the Community Mission Board for the Providence Regional Medical Center, Snohomish Aerospace Task Force, Girl Scouts of Western Washington Board, Seattle Chapter of the International Women’s Forum, Economic Alliance of Snohomish County Board, and the board of the United Way of Snohomish County. Dr. Willis serves on the Washington Lottery Commission through a gubernatorial appointment.
She currently sits on the advisory board for the Phi Theta Kappa international college honor society. She also serves on the American Association of Community Colleges’ Commission on Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity. She was recently named a 2021 Aspen Institute Ascend Fellow, dedicated to empowering children and families across the country.
Prior to her presidency, 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 began her career 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 and developed a course entitled Hip Hop in 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, look forward to relocating to Maryland. They are proud parents to daughter Lyric, who has plans to attend the college in the spring, nine-year-old son Isiah, and three-year-old daughter Imani.
The board of trustees conducted a national search to find the college’s fifth president, working in collaboration with AGB Search, an executive search firm. Led by Trustee Feli Solá-Carter, a 17-member president search committee oversaw the process to identify four presidential finalists. The search committee members included three trustees; representatives from each employee constituency group; a student; a representative from the college’s diversity, equity, and inclusion committee; the chair of the Howard Community College Educational Foundation board of directors; and the president and CEO of the Howard County Chamber of Commerce.
To learn more about the presidential search, visit howardcc.edu/presidentialsearch.