2021 | News

UPDATED: Montgomery College names Jermaine Williams as next president

He has been the president of Nassau Community College on Long Island, N.Y., for the past two years

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Jermaine Williams has been selected to be Montgomery College's next president.

Photo courtesy of Montgomery College

This story was updated at 5:40 p.m. on Dec. 17, 2021, to include comments from Jermaine Williams and Board of Trustees chair Mike Knapp

Jermaine Williams, the president of Nassau Community College on Long Island, N.Y., has been selected to be the next president of Montgomery College. The college announced Williams’ appointment Friday afternoon.

Williams has led Nassau Community College since 2019 and previously worked at Northeastern Illinois University, the Community College of Philadelphia and Temple University in Philadelphia, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Williams has a doctorate in educational administration from Temple University and holds certificates from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education, according to a biography from Montgomery College.

Williams’ bio states that he has several years of experience “creating, managing, and enhancing systemic and systematic institutional and state-wide programs and initiatives that have yielded positive student outcomes” and that his career has focused on addressing inequities in education, particularly among minority and marginalized communities.

Williams permanently succeeds former Montgomery College President DeRionne Pollard, who was hired in April to be the president of Nevada State College in Henderson, Nev., near Las Vegas. She left the Montgomery College job in August after 11 years in the position.

Charlene Dukes, formerly the president of Prince George’s Community College, has led Montgomery College as interim president since Pollard’s departure this summer.

In an interview with Bethesda Beat following a welcome ceremony Friday afternoon on campus, Williams said he felt “ecstatic and honored.” He said the college’s commitment to equity attracted him to the job.

“The dedication of Montgomery College to student access, the dedication to radical inclusion, their passion for meeting the students’ unmet needs, their desire to be transformational and innovative and even elevate that … they all resonate with my work and my experience, and what I believe I can help bring to the college,” he said.

Williams said he hoped to continue the college’s “data-informed” approaches when it comes to meeting unmet needs on campus — a task that continues to be a challenge during the economic downturn stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, he said.

“We know that social inequities have been exacerbated by what we’re going through. And learning from that is really taking a deep dive into how we’re moving forward with an equity mindset,” he said.

Mike Knapp, the chair of the college’s Board of Trustees, told Bethesda Beat on Friday that in addition to being “a really smart guy,” Williams stood out among the candidates because of his commitment to students and equity.

“His entire career, he’s been focused on serving in an advising role, serving as a teacher or serving as a vice president for student success,” Knapp said.

“We recognize that there are gaps in access. There are gaps in affordability. There are gaps in educational attainment. How do we, as Montgomery College, set a bar not just to close that gap, but to then move to that definition of success for all students?”

Knapp said the process for finding a successor to Pollard began over the summer.

“We spent June, July and part of August after Dr. Pollard’s announcement really assessing our stakeholders inside the college and outside the college,” he said. “We took that and put together our position profile based on that feedback, that we then put out for the public to consume to say, ‘OK. This is what we need. Who out there thinks they can do it?’”

Knapp said a search advisory committee made up of both people at Montgomery College and community members then narrowed a list of 80 who applied in October, down to 30 and eventually seven. The board then narrowed the list to three finalists, all of whom were interviewed.

“We had three great finalists. You would think having three great finalists together would make life easier. It made life harder, because we saw what each of them possessed ….,” Knapp said.

In a statement to Bethesda Beat on Friday, the Nassau Community College Board of Trustees wrote that during his time as president there, Williams “has proven his dedication to advance student access, completion and post-completion success.”

“Through a pandemic, Dr. Williams led the College with tenacity, continuing to provide a high-quality education and excellent support services to all students,” the Nassau board wrote.

Officials at Northeastern Illinois University could not be reached for comment Friday afternoon.

Williams is expected to take over as president some time in the first quarter of 2022, although the college did not give a specific date on Friday.

Williams will be paid $320,000 annually on a five-year contract, according to Montgomery College spokesman Marcus Rosano.

Williams, a 42-year-old father of two boys, said Friday that so far he’s been impressed with Montgomery County.

“When we were down a few weeks ago, the boys went ice skating at Rockville [Town] Center, and it was fantastic,” he said. “We think it’s fantastic and we’re extremely excited. This is our home now.”

Dan Schere can be reached at daniel.schere@bethesdamagazine.com