Portland Community College selects next Vice President of Academic Affairs

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Portland Community College announced that it has chosen Dr. Jennifer Ernst as its new Vice President of Academic Affairs (VPAA), effective Sept. 1. Dr. Ernst is currently the Vice President of Instruction and Student Services at Yakima Valley College.

As the college’s VPAA, Dr. Ernst will serve as the Chief Academic Officer and Accreditation Liaison Officer for PCC. She will provide strategic leadership for the development and implementation of educational programs, curriculum planning, including online learning, workforce development and continuing education. She will also oversee instructional support across PCC’s multi-campus system. The VP of Academic Affairs leads the comprehensive assessment program to ensure alignment with the college’s mission, values, and strategic plan, and serves as the Accreditation Liaison Officer with the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. 

Dr. Ernst replaces Dr. Katy Ho, who has become PCC’s Executive Vice President.

Jennifer Ernst head

Dr. Ernst.

“I am delighted to join the team that is guiding Portland Community College through its 21st Century transformation,” said Dr. Ernst. “I look forward to building amazing learning opportunities for our Portland community in collaboration with our K-12 and industry partners and focusing on equitable student success for all PCC students.”

Dr. Ernst brings over 20 years of experience in teaching and leadership in higher education, coupled with a commitment to student empowerment. Her career began as an adjunct instructor at various institutions before she joined the tenure track at Henry Ford College. There, she served as a union leader on the AFT local executive board, department chair for English and Speech, and eventually became the inaugural Dean of the School of Liberal Arts following a major college reorganization.

At Yakima Valley College, Dr. Ernst has been instrumental in leading the Guided Pathways transformation, as well as overseeing strategic enrollment management, and equity, diversity, and inclusion initiatives. Her work has focused on fostering equitable student success through inclusive pedagogy and a pathways-based care team approach. She has successfully expanded partnerships with K-12 districts, local employers, and higher education institutions.

Notably, she facilitated a groundbreaking articulation agreement with Pacific Northwest University School of Dental Medicine, enabling students to enter the dental school with an associate’s degree without needing a bachelor’s degree. Her efforts have also secured millions of dollars in state and federal grants to support student success.

Dr. Ernst serves on the Instruction Commission for the Washington State Board of Community and Technical Colleges and was recently elected as a Steering Team member for the commission. She is also a representative on the review team for state bachelor’s program authorization and Strategic Technology Advisory Committee.

A first-generation college student, Dr. Ernst completed her transfer studies at Glendale Community College in Arizona, earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Pittsburgh, her graduate degree from Duquesne University, and her Doctorate of Education in Community College Leadership from Ferris State University.

About James Hill

James G. Hill, an award-winning journalist and public relations writer, is the Director of Public Relations at Portland Community College. A graduate of Portland State University, James has worked as a section editor for the Newberg Graphic... more »