Tynisha D. Willingham will be Eastern Mennonite University's next provost and vice president of academic affairs. She starts July 3, 2023, and succeeds Fred Kniss, who retires in June after 14 years as the university’s top academic leader. (Courtesy photo)

EMU names new provost

Eastern Mennonite University announces the appointment of Tynisha D. Willingham as provost and vice president of academic affairs. She starts July 3, 2023. She will succeed Fred Kniss, who retires in June after 14 years as the university’s top academic leader.

Willingham, who holds a doctorate in curriculum and instruction, brings significant experience and accomplishments. She has served as vice president of academic affairs and dean at small liberal arts colleges with a proven record of success in key areas including collaborative mission-centric leadership, faculty engagement, resource management, and the creation of an inclusive campus environment where students thrive.  

Willingham is currently vice president of academic affairs, chief academic officer and professor of education at Mary Baldwin University in Staunton, Virginia. Previously, she served in several administrative roles, including as assistant vice president of academic affairs, associate academic dean and assistant academic dean, at St. Norbert College in De Pere, Wisconsin. She began her career as an elementary teacher in La Joya Independent School District in South Texas and also taught in Baltimore City Public Schools. She is the recipient of several teaching, leadership and service awards. 

President Susan Schultz Huxman cited Willingham’s relational qualities, her demonstrable successes in faculty recruitment and retention, and her past successes in launching innovative academic programs and partnerships as among sterling credentials to lead EMU.

“At a significant moment in these post-pandemic times, and like other nimble, enterprising colleges, we must attend in new ways and with maximum responsiveness to what students need for continued successful outcomes,” said Huxman. “Dr. Willingham is well-equipped to provide that kind of adaptive and imaginative academic leadership.”

Willingham was “one of four exceptional finalists” brought to campus by the provost search committee, composed of faculty, staff, students and chaired by the president, Huxman said.

“She was received enthusiastically by the campus community for her academic vision, success in supporting faculty and overcoming challenges in small colleges, passion for connecting with students, and her deep appreciation for our Anabaptist-infused education that highlights peace and justice, community building, service and Christian discipleship,” Huxman added.

“I am grateful and honored to join the EMU community, a faith-based campus where the academics are grounded in the liberal arts tradition,” Willingham said. “The mission of EMU is what drew me to apply and when I arrived on campus, I learned quickly that the mission was lived out and palpable.” 

She was further drawn to EMU’s commitment to restorative justice, to the holistic perspective of student development in the spirit of Micah 6:8, and to the opportunity to join a leadership team that promotes academic excellence, innovation and inclusivity. Self-described as “a teacher-scholar-leader,” Willingham is a “firm believer of the sacred dignity of all persons.” She characterizes her leadership as collaborative and informed by years in an elementary classroom in under-resourced communities. 

Willingham received her PhD in Curriculum and Instruction: Language and Literacy Education in 2009 from the Pennsylvania State University; a Master of Education degree in 2004 in elementary education and a teacher certification from the University of Texas, Pan-American; and a Bachelor of Science degree in 2002 in Spanish and African American studies from Pennsylvania State University.