EICCD chancellor’s aim: Engaged, inspired, collaborative community

After “a few bumps along the way” of a protracted eight-month search, Eastern Iowa Community College District (EICCD) trustees voted Thursday, June 16, to hire Sonya Williams as EICCD’s next chancellor.

The current vice president of education and chief academic officer at the College of Lake County in Grayslake, Illinois, will begin her new duties at EICCD on Monday, Aug. 8. She will replace Chancellor Don Doucette who will retire this summer after leading EICCD for the past 11 years.

“My goals for education, my professional and personal values, and my commitment to advance the mission of community colleges aligns with those shared by EICCD,” Ms. Williams said Thursday at an introductory news conference at the Urban Campus in downtown Davenport. 

“We will stand firm in our commitment to students and stakeholders by strengthening our stance to cultivate an encouraging, innovative and collaborative culture,” she added. “As chancellor, I am excited for the opportunity to model the way and join a statewide system that provides life-changing opportunities to the communities we serve.”

The former U.S. Air Force captain’s appointment closely follows a series of public forums that included the three other finalists: Ellen Bluth, EICCD’s vice chancellor for workforce and economic development; Thomas McDonnell, vice president for academic affairs, Metropolitan Community College, Omaha, Nebraska; and Kimberly Paddock-O’Reilly, former provost, Logan University, Chesterfield, Missouri, and co-owner and coach of KLP Coaching, St. Charles, Missouri.

That group of four was the second set of finalists for the post. Two candidates originally were tabbed by the board’s search committee in April and forums were being planned to introduce them to the public. But instead, trustees opted to reopen and broaden the search to attract a larger pool of candidates.

Robert H. Gallagher
Robert H. Gallagher

On Thursday, EICCD Board President Robert H. Gallagher said he is pleased with the result of that extended process. He also lauded the incoming leader’s “ability to connect on a personal level” during those recent forums.

“Although we’ve encountered a few bumps in the road along the way, we are very happy to be here today, ready to introduce an outstanding community college leader who we are confident can lead our colleges into the future with vision, intelligence and heart,” added Mr. Gallagher, who chaired the search committee.

“With a proven commitment to student success and more than 25 years of progressive leadership roles in higher education, we believe she is especially suited to lead Eastern Iowa Community Colleges,” he added. “We are excited Dr. Williams agreed to join us here at The community’s college and look forward to facing the challenges of the future with her at the helm.”

Ms. Williams said the post is one she has been working for throughout her career and called it “a progressive, next level opportunity for me.”

In addition to overseeing all instructional operations at Lake County, Ms. Williams served in leadership, teaching and research roles for Joliet Junior College, Joliet, Illinois; Oklahoma City Community College, Oklahoma; Langston University, Langston, Oklahoma; and Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut. 

As chancellor, Ms. Williams will oversee the operations of the entire EICCD including Clinton, Muscatine and Scott Community Colleges. The Iowa colleges also deliver services through satellite sites in Maquoketa, Wilton and various locations in Davenport, as well as many area high schools.

Among Ms. Williams accomplishments at the College of Lake County, which includes three campuses and serves more than 15,000 students, are:

  • Successfully managing a budget of well over $50 million.
  • Creating a visionary plan for program and product expansion to enhance Career and Technical Education (CTE) and transfer offerings.
  • Collaborating and supporting the college’s Achieving the Dream teaching and learning excellence initiatives. 
  • Promoting diversity and inclusion practices. 
  • Developing a culture of inquiry and evidence in decision-making, fostering strong shared governance practices.

A native of Norman, Oklahoma, Ms. Williams graduated from the University of Oklahoma, where she earned a Bachelor of Science degree in zoology and a Ph.D. in anatomical sciences and cell biology/neurosciences. Her postdoctoral training includes three years at the Yale School of Medicine, where she studied neurobiology, reproduction and immunology.

She has been married for 30 years and has two daughters, two sons, and three grandsons.

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