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Student Profile: Wanda Billingsly, Ed.D. in Leadership Candidate
Written by Grace Jackson
Wanda Billingsly, a CityU graduate of the Executive Leadership program, was recently hired as the Assistant Superintendent of the Tukwila School District. Wanda holds a Washington State Superintendent Certificate from CityU and is due to complete her doctoral degree in Educational Leadership within the year.
Her mission as an educator for the past twenty-eight years has been to “close the achievement gap” existing in education. She hopes to provide better services and access to students who are typically under-served and disenfranchised.
Wanda serves on numerous committees, shaping educational policy and addressing issues of social justice and equity across the state. Washington State Governor Christine Gregoire appointed Wanda to serve on the Achievement Gap Oversight Committee during the 2009-10 legislative session. She was also appointed to serve on the Higher Education and K-12 Partnership Committee by Governor Gregoire, both distinguished honors.
Wanda’s path to educational reform began when her family moved to Seattle’s Central District in the mid-1960s, a period of racial, social, civil and political upheaval. Growing up during those years were formative for her. She learned that a person’s environment does not define their capabilities; success can still be achieved despite poverty or prejudice. She wrote:
I consider myself a ‘super kid’, a product of poverty and the child of a single working parent who raised eight children alone. My life would be completely different if my mother had not instilled in me the importance and value of an education. My grandmother, who lived to be 100 years old, dropped out of school after the third grade. Yet she also reinforced the importance of an education to me.
Wanda has been an elementary school teacher, a university faculty member, an assistant principal, a principal, an associate dean, and a central office administrator. She is now transitioning to her role as an assistant superintendent. As a doctoral student at CityU, Wanda has learned specific skills that will inform her new role. Her first task will be to assist in the implementation of the Tukwila Strategic Plan, ensuring alignment, focus, and clarity as it relates to their collective vision. She reflected, “The organizational leadership course work at CityU has been the foundation for me as a professional. Being immersed in the latest research has been invaluable.”
Working as a student in an online environment was difficult initially for Wanda, who prefers learning and meeting people face to face. It became easier as time progressed, she said, and now she enjoys the freedom and convenience of not having to be at a specific location. She reflected, “It’s not easy, but it is well worth the investment”. Wanda admires leaders who exhibit courage, strength, tenacity and perseverance. Her mentors include Vera Risdon, Dr. John Armenia, and Dr. Mike Riley. She is also inspired by other women of color who have “defied the odds, dispelled myths and through hard work and fortitude, have reached their goals”.
Of Wanda’s contributions to the CityU community, Dr. Kelly Flores, director of the Division of Doctoral Studies, wrote:
Wanda was one of our original doctoral students who courageously took the risk in beginning the Ed.D. in Leadership program even before it was accredited. She persevered through the ‘bumps and bruises’ of the beginnings of the doctoral program and has been a consistent source of constructive feedback for improving the program every step of the way. With her diverse experiences in K-12 and higher education, Wanda enriched the conversations in the classroom, provided coaching for her peers, and demonstrated continuous growth as a scholar, practitioner, and leader. We wish Wanda the very best in her new endeavor as the Assistant Superintendent of the Tukwila School District.
A message Wanda gives to up and coming doctoral students:
Work hard, never give up on your dreams, be a risk taker!
Grace Jackson is the administrative assistant in the Division of Doctoral Studies as well as an avid chess player and a skilled writer.