She’s walking proof that a college degree can take you places

As director of Everett Community College in Monroe, Ciera Graham now serves as role model for students.

Ciera Graham, an administrator at Everett Community College, is one of 12 finalists for the Herald Business Journal’s Emerging Leaders award. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Ciera Graham, an administrator at Everett Community College, is one of 12 finalists for the Herald Business Journal’s Emerging Leaders award. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

This is one of 12 finalists for the Herald Business Journal’s Emerging Leaders award, which seeks to highlight and celebrate people who are doing good work in Snohomish County. The winner will be named at an event on April 11. Meet the other finalists.

Name: Ciera Graham

Age: 32

Profession: Director, Everett Community College East County Campus in Monroe

Ciera Graham knew that a college education — her parents preached its value — could take her places.

When Graham was attending Chief Sealth International High School in West Seattle, she visited Washington State University in Pullman.

“I wanted to stay local for my undergrad, but I found a very supportive community there,” Graham said.

At WSU Pullman, she earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology and set her sights on a career in education.

Her thirst for knowledge and natural curiosity drove her to continue her studies.

“I never anticipated getting an advanced degree,” Graham said. In 2015 she received a doctorate in sociology from the University of Cincinnati.

“As a person of color, I believe that the value of pursuing a college education is immeasurable and helps uplift and improve the socioeconomic standing of my own community,” Graham said.

“With a college education, I am able to serve as a role model to students who may not see college as a viable option,” she said.

She’s been that role model as a student and, for the past eight years, as a college and university administrator.

A little over a month ago, Graham was named the new director of Everett Community College East County Campus in Monroe.

She took over from Mostafa Ghous, who left the position to become a dean at Hartnell College in Salinas, California.

The Monroe campus, which enrolled more than 400 students last fall, offers higher education opportunities to those with limited travel options.

Students can earn an associate’s degree, complete high school, get job training and learn English, among other disciplines, she said.

Graham was previously associate director of student affairs at Washington State University in Everett. There she established a food pantry, launched a chapter of the Society of Women Engineers and started a CARE team, an outreach group aimed at helping university students in distress.

“When I first started at WSU Everett, there was no plan or infrastructure in place for reporting concerns about a student’s well being,” Graham wrote in her nomination statement.

Because WSU Everett is a campus that supports non-traditional, commuter and under-served students, it was imperative, she said, to create a system that would allow students and faculty to report concerns about another student’s personal, academic or psychological health.

Graham created a CARE team manual of procedures, policies and responses.

She currently serves on the board for Domestic Violence Services of Snohomish County.

She was selected by then-Everett Mayor Ray Stephanson and the City Council to serve on the Envision Everett Committee 2017. The group provided recommendations on education, housing, economic development, homelessness, substance abuse and arts and culture.

A nominator described Graham as having “a passion for the advancement of women and people of color. She is dedicated, smart, and works hard to make a difference in all that she does.”

Janice Podsada; jpodsada@heraldnet.com; 425-339-3097; Twitter: JanicePods

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