New Clark president excited to provide affordable and accessible education

 In News, Partners Magazine
Dr. Karin Edwards has an impressive history of leadership, closing achievement gaps, working in equity, building partnerships 


On February 21, 2020, Clark College marked a milestone when the board of trustees announced that Dr. Karin Edwards was the college’s next president, the 15th leader in Clark’s 87-year history.

Dr. Karin Edwards is Clark College’s 15th leader.

Dr. Karin Edwards is Clark College’s 15th leader. She starts her new job this summer. Photo by Portland Community College

Edwards comes to Clark with a long list of achievements during her 36-year career in higher education. She currently serves as the campus president at Portland Community College Cascade.

“I have a full heart and grateful heart—excited to begin a new chapter as president of Clark College and thankful for everyone at Portland Community College who have walked with me these past six years,” said Edwards. “We have a great deal to be proud of; developing programs and support services that help our students succeed.”

Clark Trustee Paul Speer, chair of the search advisory committee, said, “Dr. Edwards is an exceptional leader. Her ability to help close achievement gaps between student populations, her work in equity, her work in partnerships in workforce development, and her previous experience in a presidential role were certainly very influential in the board’s decision. When you look at her track record and the information we gained during the course of this process, what you’ll find is an individual who is clearly aligned with our stated values and the needs of our college over the coming decade.”

Edwards is looking forward to stepping into her new leadership role. “I have been received warmly and welcomed by members of the college community. As we develop these important relationships, I’m confident we’ll form a collaborative trust that helps us lean into the work and make gains that benefit our students.”

She starts her new role at Clark during the summer.

Rigorous search process

The hiring of Edwards is the culmination of a rigorous search process that began last summer following the retirement of President Robert Knight. Working with a national search firm, the board attracted 65 applications from across the country. A search advisory committee consisting of college employees, community members and other stakeholders reviewed the applications. The committee narrowed the field to a limited number of finalists. Finally, three finalists visited the college for interviews and open forums, and trustees visited their respective campuses.

The trustees made their final decision based on the profile of the position, personal interviews and a review of the data and recommendations gathered from the committee, and student and community forums with each candidate.

Introducing Edwards to Clark’s regional community will be a critical step. Eric Merrill, chair of Clark College Foundation’s Board of Directors, explains how the foundation will help.

“Clark College Foundation has assisted Clark College with philanthropy for nearly five decades, helping the college align with the needs of Southwest Washington’s businesses and organizations while making college possible for those who face barriers to higher education. We are committed to working with the new president and introducing her to vital community partners to sustain Clark College’s future.”

Edwards said, “I’m excited about the opportunities to partner with businesses. We are responsible to provide education that is relevant, affordable, and accessible and leads to good jobs.”

Interim President Dr. Sandra Fowler-Hill will continue in her role until Edwards joins the college and will help with the onboarding process.

Advanced manufacturing leadership

Edwards’ three decades of community college experience spans roles from admissions counselor to leadership. She’s been the president at Portland Community College’s Cascade Campus since July 2014, supervising advanced manufacturing programs at PCC’s Swan Island Trades Center. The center is a 20,000-square-foot facility that houses the college’s Apprenticeship and Trades department, and PCC’s Maritime Welding Training Center.

She also serves on the board of directors of Portland Community Reinvestment Initiatives and the advisory board of the Oregon Association of Minority Entrepreneurs and is an active member with the Partners in Diversity Leadership Council and the Oregon Presidents Council of the Oregon Community College Association.

Edwards earned a bachelor’s in psychology and master’s in higher education administration at State University of New York at Albany; and a doctorate in educational leadership at Johnson and Wales University in Providence, R.I.


Story by Kelly Love, Clark College’s chief communication officer.

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