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Chemeketa selects new president

By Alice Limer and Kaitlyn Wimmer with Dylan Umsted

The Board of Education announced on Monday, March 11, that Dr. Jessica Howard will be the next president and CEO of Chemeketa Community College, following contract negotiations.

Board Chair Neva Hutchinson (right) announces the selection of Dr. Jessica Howard as the next president of the college. Howard will assume the presidency after Julie Huckestein (center) retires at the end of the academic year. Photo by Caleb Wolf

At a board meeting called on short notice, board member Ken Hector of Zone Four moved to appoint Howard to the soon-to-be-vacant presidency. The board concurred in a unanimous vote.

Incoming college president Dr. Jessica Howard at one of the fora for presidential finalists. Photo by Kaitlyn Wimmer

Speaking with The Courier by phone, Howard said, “I’m delighted and honored to work for such an outstanding college. I’ve admired Chemeketa for years for its programs, the way in which it serves a large service area, the student-centered approaches and the outstanding staff and programs.”

“I have respect for the values and current work Chemeketa is doing,” Howard said, “but I also have a fresh perspective and energy.”

When asked if having a president familiar with the area would benefit the college, Howard said, “I think it will be extremely helpful to have someone come into this role and be immediately effective.”

Howard was chosen from a field of 58 candidates and will start working at Chemeketa on July 8 after President Julie Huckestein’s retirement on June 30. Howard is presently serving as president of the Southeast Campus of Portland Community College.

Beginning her time in academia, Howard spent some time at King’s College London studying English and music theory and composition. She then attended Rice University in Houston, Texas, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in music theory and English.

Howard described her educational career as unusual, spending 13 years as a full-time student. She said, “most of the time as a college student, I was in a blind curve…I wasn’t sure exactly where my studies were going to take me. I think I went through seven majors my sophomore year. I was interested in everything.”

Later, she obtained a Master of Music in Music Theory from the same institution. Attaining her highest degree, Howard graduated from New York University as a Doctor of Philosophy in Performance Studies.

Howard has spent the last 17 years working in post-secondary education. Beginning in August 2002, Howard was the Chairperson of the Department of Humanities and Music at San Antonio College in San Antonio, Texas. She held this position until July 2008, when she became the Interim Executive Vice President of Student Affairs and Academic Affairs. Then, in April 2009, Howard became the Vice President of Academic Affairs for San Antonio College.

After her time working for San Antonio College, Howard made the choice to return to community college to earn her Associate of Arts. “It would be a powerful thing to model the importance of getting a credential which, in many cases, is what our students need for that economic mobility,” she said.

Howard rounded off Chemeketa’s week of fora with presidential hopefuls, taking Friday, March 1, to introduce herself at her own trio of discussions, one each for staff, students and community members. At the day’s community forum, Keizer Mayor Kathy Clark asked Howard, “What would [some key goals be for your initial time] with this very important part of our community…and where do you see yourself in…our very broad and very diverse community?”

“I would say initially…getting out in the community a lot, making connections with all manner of community stakeholders and certainly offices like yours,” Howard said. “I think this is a relationship-driven state.”

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