Daria Willis

Daria Willis

EvCC offers presidency to community college exec in NY state

Daria Willis is vice president for academic affairs at Onondaga Community College in Syracuse.

EVERETT — The choice has been made for a new leader at Everett Community College.

Now the college must finish negotiating a contract.

The EvCC Board of Trustees voted unanimously Monday night to offer the college presidency to Daria J. Willis, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at Onondaga Community College in Syracuse, New York. The campus is within the State University of New York system.

Willis has accepted, pending completion of contract negotiations.

The decision was made after a national search, a campus visit earlier this month with student, faculty, staff and community forums as well as an in-depth interview with the board of trustees. There were 41 applications.

Mike Deller, chairman of the EvCC board, said the trustees relied on a search committee of campus and community representatives, which came up with a presidential profile as well as other recommendations. It really wanted someone well versed on diversity and equity issues, Deller said.

“The thing that struck us about Daria is she’s very innovative in a lot of different ways with programs that address under-served populations, in fundraising initiatives and with projects that helped students advance,” Deller said. “Plus her energy. Man, she puts on track shoes.”

Willis previously served as dean of academic studies at Lee College in Baytown, Texas. She earned a doctorate in history from Florida State University. Her bachelor’s degree is in history education and she has a master’s degree in history from Florida A&M University.

A 17-member presidential screening committee reviewed applications for the job before sending recommendations on to the board of trustees.

Current EvCC president David Beyer announced in September that he plans to retire in June after 13 years leading the college. Beyer is the the longest-serving president in the college’s history. Willis will become the college’s 17th president since the college opened in 1941.

Deller credited Beyer for improvements made at the college and his outreach to the community and businesses. He believes Willis will continue that tradition and advancing programs “with new flavor and new ideas.”

Willis was chosen over two other finalists: Warren Brown, president of North Seattle College and a Seattle Colleges District vice chancellor, and Karin Edwards, president of the Cascade Campus of Portland Community College.

Originally from Atlanta, Georgia, Willis began her career as an adjunct faculty member teaching History at Tallahassee Community College. She relocated to Houston, Texas serving as an assistant professor of history, department chairwoman, faculty senate president and executive dean of centers with the Lone Star College system with over 95,000 students.

Throughout her career, Willis has focused on programs providing access and equity to under-served and underrepresented populations. Programs such as Weekend College, Box of Books, and the adopt-a-school partnership with local elementary schools have connected the community with ways to help students.

She has also served in a variety of community organizations, most recently as the chairwoman of the NAACP’s education committee and as a member of the Executive Leadership Team for the Syracuse Chapter of the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women campaign.

EvCC’s next president will lead an institution that serves more than 19,000 students per year at several locations throughout Snohomish County, with most students at the college’s main campus in Everett. In the past decade, EvCC has added more than $150 million in new construction.

Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446; stevick@heraldnet.com.

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