Clark College has picked its next president, who will steer the school as it works to overcome a recent discrimination scandal.
The Vancouver-based community college on Friday picked Karin Edwards, current president of Portland Community College’s North Portland campus, after a nine-month search.
Trustee Paul Speer said Edwards’ record helping students achieve, working with the community and developing workers made her the right pick for the job.
“At the end of the day, the headline is she’s had success in closing achievement gaps, and through her work in equity has lifted up all students at her campus. She’s got deep partnerships in workforce development and has been a president before,” Speer said.
Edwards has nearly four decades of experience in education, according to Clark College, and currently serves on the National Council on Black American Affairs.
Edwards replaces President Bob Knight, who retired last summer in the wake of reports by OPB that he fostered a culture at the college that alienated people of color. School officials at the time said his retirement wasn’t influenced by the reports.
In November, the college’s board of trustees released a report finding four instances when Knight violated the college’s non-discrimination policies. The 228-page report found Knight made “micro-aggressive” comments related to race and sex. The report also found he obstructed the hiring process for the college’s vice president of the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.
In Edwards, the college found someone skilled in addressing racial equity, Speer said. She helped hire faculty and staff of color while at Portland Community College, according to Clark College.
But Speer also noted changing the culture will take more than Edwards’ hiring.
“One hire does not address every last issue in an organization,” he said. “Each and every employee at Clark College needs to come to work every day saying, ‘What do I need to do to uplift the culture, uplift the sense of commitments to students, and to help this college move forward in its healing?’”
When asked if Edwards has pitched any strategies for that healing, Speer said she first plans to listen before making any changes.
“I’m not going to predict where she’ll be with that, but I’m confident it will be aligned with what we’ve talked about with the needs of the college,” he said.
Clark College also recently created a new position to ensure it complies with ethics and anti-discrimination laws. Interviews for that job occurred last week, according to spokeswoman Kelly Love.
Editor’s Note: Clark College Board of Trustees member Paul Speer is currently a member on the OPB Board of Directors.