While handling two other major life changes, the new leader of Mt. Hood Community College will step into her new job on July 23.

Lisa Skari, from Des Moines, Washington, just south of Seattle, will succeed five-year President Debbie Derr, who is retiring.

Before working in education, Skari was a manager and trainer for Lamonts department stores, according the Gresham Outlook newspaper. She attended Washington State University in Pullman and received a doctorate in education. She also earned a masters of business administration degree from Pacific Lutheran University, near Tacoma.

Skari served as a vice president at Highline College in Des Moines for 17 years. She also served as Executive Director of the college’s foundation.

Before she worked at Highline, the public community college was unpopular with the surrounding community, and mostly white, she said. During her tenure, that imbalance was turned around. Skari said that bringing more diversity into an educational institution is “a wonderful opportunity” rather than a troubling issue because “the full learning process is about experiencing and thinking through things that are different.”

She continued, “Highline is diverse because of our community, not because of anything we did.” The demographics of the college changed because the college responded to the needs of the community, she explained.

Beyond her new job at Mt. Hood, Skari will be going through a few challenges: She will get married on July 7, and she and her spouse will move to Oregon.

“We had the wedding day (already) picked out, so we decided to go forward with it, not knowing all this excitement was going to transpire,” she said.

During her first few weeks as president of MHCC, Skari expects to spend time getting acquainted with the Gresham-Portland community and learning people’s names.

So far, she said that the people at Mt. Hood Community College “have been amazing. I am blown away by the number of people that have reached out, that have sent positive messages. I’ve never felt so welcomed before.”

Skari said she is a participatory leader.

“With my team, my door is open, people come in all the time. It’s an environment you set up,” she said. “Being available and being accessible makes it easy to talk through things and to address issues or items, or just even understand.”

She described her main leadership role as one of removing obstacles. “Or, how to get (employees or students) the resources and support to get them to do what they want to do,” she said.

Skari said she doesn’t want to constrain people to their job descriptions, but encourages them to follow their passions. She described how one Highline employee who was a program assistant in the outreach program transcended the job description. That person attended a conference and connected with a community based organization, and using her language skills, connected the organization with the college.

“Now they’re planning partnerships to serve the Hispanic community,” said Skari.

Outside of time at work, Skari likes to be outdoors. “I find nature calming,” she said. Skari plans to explore Multnomah Falls and other attractions in the region. “I am anxious to explore the area. I like being outside.”

The next time Skari plans a visit to Mt. Hood is much sooner: She will be at the annual MHCC Foundation Dinner & Auction, scheduled for April 21.

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