Behind the Resume #68 – Daria Willis

Daria Willis - New Employee Photo

What is your title at EvCC, and what will you be doing in your day-to-day endeavors at the College?

President. My job is to ensure that every person at the College has the tools they need to succeed.

Tell us a little about your professional background.

Daria and her mom at High School Graduation
High School Graduation with my mom

I started in higher education as an adjunct professor teaching history at Florida A&M University and Tallahassee Community College. While working on my graduate degrees, I also worked at the Museum of Florida History and the John G. Riley Center for African American History and Culture. There was one point when I worked four jobs at one time to make a decent living. I relocated to Houston, Texas for a tenure track teaching position in 2010. Shortly thereafter, I became a department chair, faculty senate president, and dean of instruction. In 2016, I moved to Syracuse, New York to serve as Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs at Onondaga Community College until June 2019. In essence, I have lived in Georgia, Florida, Texas, New York, and now Washington.

What was your most memorable job? Why?

Daria playing trombone
FAMU Marching 100

I LOVED working at Victoria’s Secret in college. I especially enjoyed the exclusive employee discounts on merchandise! Most importantly, I appreciated the opportunity to help women and transgender individuals feel beautiful and more confident in themselves regardless of their shape and size.

Do you recall having an embarrassing moment at work?

Daria with her family
Family photo 2019

It was my first year working in Syracuse, New York. There was a snow storm the night before and the college opened the next day. As I was walking into the building without snow boots, I slipped and fell on a patch of ice in front of my peers. Talk about embarrassing!

What does a typical day look like for you?

Daria with family
First Xmas cruise 2015

I usually get started around 5:30 in the morning. After reading my daily devotional, checking my different social media pages, and reviewing emails and text messages on my phone, I ride my Peloton bike for twenty to thirty minutes while the house is quiet. I rarely eat a large breakfast in the morning, so I will have one of my husband’s famous blueberry smoothies and I am out the door headed to campus no later than 7:00. When I make it to the office, I like to have a little moment to get the blood flowing by turning on Spotify. I typically listen to Jazz, Hip-Hop, R&B, or Gospel music. It really depends on my mood.  At that point the day begins. Over the years I have learned the importance of expecting the unexpected. Anything can change my schedule and I try to stay mentally prepared for the unexpected. At the end of the day when I make it home, I focus on my family. I’ve got three little ones and they all need a different level of attention. Once the kids are sleeping, I binge watch TV shows with my husband, say my prayers, and I go to sleep to get ready to start the cycle again.

Daria as a baby with her older brother
Baby pic with my big brother

Describe yourself at 10 years old.

Very bossy. Ask my older brother.

If Hollywood made a movie about your life, who would you like to see cast as you?

Sanaa Lathan—although I cut my hair first.

What is your favorite meal/ snack in summer?

Grilled Salmon and Asparagus

Favorite summer beverage?

 Daria and Imani
Daria and Imani

Cucumber infused water with ice

What would be the title of your autobiography?

I’m Coming After Everything They Said I Couldn’t Have

Tell us three things most people don’t know about you.

  • I have 6 tattoos
  • I played 4 instruments in high school
  • I hate chocolate cake

What is a defining moment in your life?

Daria as a young child with her dad
Me and my dad

My father died when I was six years old, leaving my mother to raise two children alone. It was terrible and a hard pill to swallow. I realized that life is promised to no one. I live each day as if it were my last. He is my Guardian Angel.

What children’s character can you relate most with? Why?

Couples vacation Vegas wax Museum
Couples vacation Vegas wax Museum

I was a huge fan of A Different World. I even believed Hillman College was a real school. That show was so important to my growth as a young adult. It was because of A Different World that I chose to attend a Historically Black College and University after high school. Freddie Brooks was one of my favorite characters because of her free spirit. She defined her own path. I’d like to think I am doing the same.

What is your favorite book? Favorite movie? What makes these choices your favorites?

Book—Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement by Barbara Hansberry

Family pic in TX 2016
Family pic in TX 2016

Movie—Coming to America with Eddie Murphy

I fell in love with Ella Baker in graduate school. She was a radical visionary that did not take no for an answer. Mrs. Baker loved her people and she was a pioneer in the Civil Rights Movement, often telling the men of the movement to make room for women leaders. It is our time.

I have always been a fan of Eddie Murphy. Coming to America is my absolute favorite movie. I know it word for word. It is probably the song “Soul Glow” that has me addicted!

Halloween Syracuse, NY with my team in Academic Affairs
Halloween Syracuse, NY with my team in Academic Affairs

What are you reading right now/ what was the last book you read? Are you participating in any reading challenges?

I am reading Presidential Transitions from the ACE Series on Higher Education. No reading challenges at this time.

What do you like most about your job?

I love having the ability to make a positive difference on thousands of lives each and every day by the stroke of a pen.

Where is your hometown? Were you born and raised in the same place?

Grand Canyon 2016
Grand Canyon 2016

I am a Georgia Peach. Born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia until I turned 17.

Best memory of your childhood?

My mother took me to the Cabbage Patch Hospital for my birthday. Understand, this is when Cabbage Patch dolls were popular. I was able to watch my doll being born out of an actual cabbage. I named her Elizabeth, received her birth certificate, and purchased all of her newborn essentials in the hospital gift shop. It was a real treat!

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Right here at Everett Community College

Daria at the Houston Food Bank
Service learning project at the Houston Food Bank while a dean in TX. I’m in the front laying on the floor.

What do you like to do on your days off?


Do you have a favorite quote/ piece of advice?

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have taken the side of the oppressor.” Desmond Tutu

Leave a Reply