JSU alum named seventh president, second woman, of Huston-Tillotson University

JACKSON, Miss. – Jackson State University (JSU) alumna Melva Williams, Ph.D., was recently appointed seventh president and chief executive officer of Huston-Tillotson University (HT) , becoming only the second woman to serve in this capacity since the university’s inception in 1875.

“I am honored and energized to serve as HT’s second female president,” Williams said. “The trust of the Board of Trustees and the HT Presidential Search Committee is very much appreciated, and I look forward to advancing an aggressive agenda that will ensure HT’s continued success.” 

Williams boasts nearly 20 years in higher education with numerous accolades, including being named Top Professional of the Year by the Shreveport Chamber of Commerce and receiving the 2018 ATHENA  award. Williams is also a graduate of JSU’s Executive Ph.D. Program. 

“Through its mission, the EPhD program at Jackson State University enjoys a rich history of  preparing  current and future female leaders for senior-level administrative positions in higher education institutions,” says Walter Brown, Ph.D., executive director of the executive Ph.D. program, “Dr. Williams is a glowing example of our mission, and we wish her much success as the President/CEO of Huston-Tillotson University.

William’s commitment to higher education appears to have left a sizable impact as she is also the co-founder of the Higher Education Leadership Foundation (HELF). The foundation touts that it provides bold, engaging, and innovative learning and mentoring opportunities for current and aspiring leaders of HBCUs. The vision of this program developed in 2006 while Williams was enrolled at JSU, and with the assistance of two other classmates, they established HELF with the goal of creating transformational leadership vs. transactional. To date, the foundation has trained over 400 HBCU leaders across the country.

Prior to her arrival at HT, Williams served in several leadership capacities within higher education, including her most recent tenure as Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management at Southern University. While at Southern Shreveport, Williams achieved record-breaking enrollment rates, increased retention, and assisted with curating and developing three new campus buildings.

In a press conference following the appointment, Williams outlined her strategic goals for the university, which included creating community streamlines between the administration and the HT community to create a plan that encompasses all needs and expectations of the people, building partnerships with local industries, creating pipeline access to STEM programs and resources, as well as expanding fundraising initiatives, so the campus has enough resources to support students, staff and faculty.

“My goal is to really connect with the faculty, with the staff, with the students to create a shared vision that will be our vision going forward,” Williams said. “I didn’t come here to place a vision on top of HT and to put a round peg into a square hole.”