Dr. Marisa Pierce
Media Contact: Alex Lyda;
For immediate release — Aug. 23, 2022
(DALLAS) — Dr. Marisa Pierce has been named one of 31 leaders selected nationally for this year’s class of the Aspen Rising Presidents Fellowship program, a highly competitive leadership program that prepares potential community college presidents to achieve higher and more equitable levels of student success at their respective institutions.
In order to meet the growing need for a diverse new generation of leaders among community colleges, Dr. Pierce and each of her Rising President peers will embark on the prestigious 10-month fellowship beginning this fall.
While the traditional pathway to a college presidency has often excluded women and people of color, the incoming class of Aspen Rising Presidents this year is 70% female and 54% people of color. The institutions they represent are also diverse, located in 16 states, from small rural colleges to large urban campuses.
Dr. Pierce, whose 26 years of experience in education encompass secondary and postsecondary roles at various educational institutions across Texas, currently serves as Dallas College’s associate vice chancellor of enrollment management. In her present role, she leads cross-functional teams in the development and implementation of comprehensive, strategic enrollment management plans at Dallas College, while overseeing the recruitment and retention of a student body that totals 125,000 credit and continuing education students annually.
“I’m just elated at the opportunity to have been selected and to serve in this capacity,” Dr. Pierce said of her selection. “While I have the opportunity to represent Dallas College, I’ll also have an opportunity to grow with others beyond the college, and the opportunity to embrace the learnings and teachings of leaders who have done this work, and done it well. The fact that they are willing to share their knowledge and expertise — the good, the bad, the indifferent — that’s invaluable to those of us who are continuing to build our toolkits because we can always learn.”
The fellows, selected through a competitive process, will work closely with highly accomplished community college presidents, Aspen leaders and Stanford University faculty to learn from field-leading research, define and assess student success at their colleges, and clarify their visions for excellent and equitable outcomes for students while in college and after they graduate.
In reflecting on her selection, Dr. Pierce credits others for inspiring her to apply and reach beyond herself: “I really did not think I would apply for Aspen. I think a lot of my motivation has come from the encouragement of others, and the belief that others had in me and from hearing, ‘Hey, this is something you might want to consider.’ For me, that’s priceless to have colleagues who encourage us and an institution like Dallas College that also invests in us,” she said.
An advocate for access, equity and inclusion, Dr. Pierce began her journey into higher education with her role as a project director for El Paso Community College’s Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP). Through her leadership, the program established strong academic partnerships with El Paso County rural school districts and successfully increased college-going rates in each of the participating schools.
Dr. Pierce has additionally served on various local, state and national projects, programs, committees and professional affiliations, with service contributions to the U.S. Department of Education and the Eli Broad Foundation National Scholarship Review Board. She holds a doctorate in educational leadership and foundations as well as master’s and bachelor’s degrees in reading education and speech communication, all from the University of Texas at El Paso.
Upon completion of her Aspen Fellowship, Dr. Pierce will join a network of over 300 forward-thinking peers — 122 of whom are sitting college presidents — who are applying grounded and innovative strategies to meet student success challenges in their colleges.
“Once I have an opportunity to go through the program, not only can I say that I’ve joined some stellar colleagues who have come before me, but I will also continue to pay it forward with lessons learned and experience that I can grow from and pass along to others,” Dr. Pierce added.
Aspen Rising Presidents Fellowship is made possible by the generous support of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies, College Futures Foundation, the Joyce Foundation and JPMorgan Chase.
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