PCC interviewed Dean of Instruction at Kennedy-King College Shandria Holmes to share about her experience as a woman of color in a leadership role in higher education. Read her full Q&A below.

Name:  Shandria Holmes, Dean of Instruction Kennedy King College. Dean Holmes holds an MA in American History (United States) and a MA in Geography and Economic Development from Chicago State University; and a BS in Food Science and Technology from the College of Communication Arts and Sciences, Michigan State University.

Title/Role: Professional with 19+ years of experience in higher education and involved in building and leading industry relationships, program accreditation programs, grants, curriculum planning, and program development. Passionate about promoting student success and growing communities with better access to education.

What does it mean to be a leader, a woman leader and/or a woman leader of color in higher education today?
Good leaders possess self-awareness, and credibility, focus on relationship-building, have a bias for action, exhibit humility, empower others, stay authentic, become role models, and are fully present. After 19 years, I’ve learned many lessons, but the most important to me is that opportunities don’t just happen; you need to create them. I’ve found that building relationships before I needed them was so invaluable to my future opportunities. I also found that I wasn’t afraid to say when I didn’t know something. I validated a time that would work for everyone to return an answer. This also tied back into an opportunity to leverage my network and relationships that I previously built and tap into their knowledge to help me solve what I was looking for.

What advice would you give to a future leader who wants to ascend to your role someday?

Don’t be afraid to lean into responsibility and take on tasks or projects that might challenge you, even if they may not fall into your official job description. We, as humans, learn and grow through problem-solving, so we can enrich our skillset and feel accomplished when we overcome obstacles. There is no secret to success. It is sheer hard work and investment of your most valuable resource: Your time. I believe that moving out of your comfort zone and overcoming your fears by first accepting and then solving them helps you stand strong and move forward in your career.