Daily Record Staff//July 28, 2022
//July 28, 2022
As a first-generation college student, teen mother and former single parent, Dr. Daria J. Willis, Ph.D., notes that she is an anomaly. Her mother is the product of 1960s segregated schools with no one to help her understand the value of education. Yet, she expected Willis to be the first in her family to earn a college degree.
This year, Willis became the first African American president at Howard Community College.
“While remarkable, my greatest accomplishment is lifting up others in providing access and opportunities that so many are not afforded due to their race, color, gender, creed, and socioeconomic status,” she said.
Focusing on history, she holds a bachelor’s and master’s degree in from Florida A&M University and a doctorate from Florida State University. She began her higher education career as a professor at Florida A&M University in 2007 and has spent the last 15 years gaining positions of increased responsibility. She previously served as provost and senior vice president for academic affairs for Onondaga Community College in New York and the first African American president of Everett Community College in Washington.
Willis is passionate about making the higher education experience more flexible and agile for the students it serves. “As a systems thinker and disruptor, I am passionate about innovating curriculum, instruction, and the student experience to appeal to the masses, not just the privileged few,” she said. “As an Aspen Ascend Fellow, I am fortunate to be with brilliant thinkers who change the world and to gain a unique way to view the world and my work. I will use what I learn to reshape policies and laws for a positive impact on the citizens of Maryland.”