On Monday night, Adrien Bennings became the first woman of color selected as president of Portland Community College.
When Bennings replaces Mark Mitsui in June, she will take the reins of Oregon’s largest higher education institution, which enrolls 50,000 students on four campuses. (Since 2018, Oregon has increased access to community college with full tuition grants.) She’ll also encounter challenges: PCC saw its enrollment plummet during the pandemic and was the site of a fierce debate over whether to make vaccinations a requirement for return to in-person classes. (The board didn’t.)
And as WW reported last year, PCC is similar to many Oregon colleges in its racial disparity in attainment: 39% of Black students completed their degree in 2019-20, while 52% of white students did.
Bennings, who is Black, hails from Texas, where she received a doctorate in higher education administration at Texas Tech University. She worked at Texas Tech, then Clovis Community College in New Mexico, before becoming president of Kellogg Community College in Battle Creek, Mich.
Her selection to run PCC was a unanimous decision by a 23-member committee, which conducted a nine-month search. “Dr. Bennings brings demonstrated strengths as a strategic thinker and transparent decision maker; as a skilled and collaborative communicator, relationship builder and fundraiser; and as a strong advocate for equitable student success,” said Mohamed Alyajouri, chair of PCC’s board of directors, in a statement.
Bennings will become just the second woman to serve as PCC president, and the first permanent hire. Sylvia Kelley was PCC’s interim president from 2015 to 2016.