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 on November 4, 2021. Dr. Willis is the first African American to lead the college in its 51-year history.
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 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.
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.