Topics: Administrative, Inclusive Excellence

July 29, 2022

Dr. Rashida Willard

Dr. Rashida Willard will join Ball State University as associate vice president of Inclusive Excellence, effective Sept. 19, Dr. Charlene Alexander, chief strategy officer, announced. 

Dr. Willard, who has more than 20 years of experience in risk mitigation—including more than seven years in higher education at one of the largest community colleges in the Pacific Northwest—will be providing strategic leadership for and overall management of Ball State’s Office of Inclusive Excellence. The unit is dedicated to the recruitment, retention, and celebration of diverse faculty, staff, and students who possess a variety of worldviews, identities, and experiences. It also assists Ball State’s colleges in integrating diversity, equity, and educational quality efforts into their missions and institutional operations. 

“We are excited to welcome Dr. Willard, whose compassion and enthusiasm make her an excellent fit to lead our Office of Inclusive Excellence,” Dr. Alexander said. “Inclusiveness is one of the enduring values that guides our University to a bright future, and with Dr. Willard’s leadership, we will continue the hard work necessary to overcome barriers in diversity, equity, and inclusion, and to nurture a community that respects all people.” 

Throughout her career, Dr. Willard has developed and led initiatives that help promote diversity, equity, and inclusion. In past positions, she identified and launched programs for new employees of color, developed strategies to retain qualified employees, and worked to create an effective networking channel strategically aligned to the organization’s diversity and inclusion goals. 

Dr. Willard started her career in 1999 at The Standard Insurance Company in Portland, Oregon, where she served as an underwriter for employee benefits. In 2015, she began her service in higher education as operations manager in administrative services at Clark College in Vancouver, Washington. She eventually ascended to director of operations & risk management before being named the institution’s vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion in 2018. 

In her most recent role, Dr. Willard provided strategic direction for the college’s equity and social justice goals and developed, aligned, and integrated a range of new and existing initiatives, policies, and procedures into a cohesive platform to foster a more inclusive, welcoming, supportive, and diverse college community. 

“I am grateful for the opportunity to support Ball State’s inclusive excellence initiatives and to continue being an advocate for historically underserved populations,” Dr. Willard said. “I have always prided myself on being a passionate champion in fostering a culture of respect and inclusion for all, and I am inspired by Ball State’s recognition of inclusive excellence as an integral endeavor to fulfill the University’s mission and strategic plan.” 

A first-generation college student, Dr. Willard holds associate’s (Organizational Dynamics) and bachelor’s (Business Administration) degrees from Warner Pacific University in Portland, Oregon, and a Master of Business Administration from Concordia University, also in Portland. In 2021, she completed her Doctor of Education, Leadership, Inquiry, and Continuous Improvement from Concordia University in Mequon, Wisconsin. 

In addition to announcing Dr. Willard’s hiring, Dr. Alexander thanked Dr. Melinda Messineo, professor of Sociology, for her service as interim associate vice president for inclusive excellence.