CSM Newsroom

CSM Celebrates Formal Installation of the Institution's Sixth President: Dr. Yolanda Wilson

March 29, 2024

A host of elected officials, college presidents and leaders, community partners, faculty, staff and students gathered at the College of Southern Maryland (CSM) Thursday, March 28 to formally install Dr. Yolanda Wilson as the college’s president and mark her first year of tenure. Wilson became CSM president Jan. 3, 2023.

The festive program celebrated Wilson’s homecoming back to Maryland, her commitment to community, collaboration, and culture, and her first year of working tirelessly to set CSM and the entire region on a path of 'going far, going together.' She was lauded repeatedly during the ceremony for her deep commitment to making education accessible and inclusive; to creating a student-centered college culture; to building community partnerships; and for her commitment to civic engagement and servant leadership. 

“At a community college, I can see my core values reflected in its open-access mission – welcoming all through its doors – with the premise and understanding that a higher education is a fundamental right, not just for a select few, but for everyone,” Wilson confirmed in her keynote speech.

“It’s for everyday people,”  she emphasized, referring to the words literally, and in reference to the Sly & The Family Stone song that she selected to play during her ceremonial processional.

Wilson spoke proudly about the many successes of CSM's faculty, staff, and students. She then explained CSM’s pledge to expand access to college; maintain resources and needed supports for student success while at the college; and secure social and economic mobility for students by creating pathways from college to additional training, school, or employment.

“Anchoring the institution in a student-first culture means that we place what is best for our students at the core of our decisions and we dig deeper to understand the stories behind our students – because that is how a greater awareness of – and more meaningful connections to – our students must begin,” she said, adding that being student-ready also means the institutional culture must always be reflective and accountable, “embracing a spirit of belonging that believes that our very best comes from unleashing the innovative, creative ideas in everyone.”

“[It] is only through recognizing and honoring the strengths that exist in each of us that we can fully meet the complex challenges that lie before all of us, and it will require the intersectionality of diverse groups coming together to solve the complex issues of our time and the future,” she said.

“At CSM, we have learned that celebrating our diverse gifts and collective voices does not detract from our mission of open access, transfer and workforce development; indeed, it is the bedrock of the solid foundation upon which it has always soared!” she added. “We are honored to be the community’s college, and our future growth and sustainability as an institution and region is predicated upon our continued engagement with— and support from — all of you.”

Ceremony Highlights 3-28-13.jpg

 Leadership Southern Maryland Executive Director Sybol Anderson served as ceremony host and led the more 500 in attendance at the La Plata Campus Physical Education Center through 18 speakers as well as two stirring choral arrangements: the National Anthem performed by Wilson’s alma mater Elizabeth Seton High School Choir, and a hymn that brought the audience to its feet several times – To God Be the Glory sung by CSM Associate Vice President of Organizational Development, Talent and Equity Dr. Trenace Richardson.

braxton.jpg“My name is Braxton Wilson and my amazing mom is President Wilson,” began Wilson’s son, pictured left. Braxton escorted his mother to the stage during the processional and offered the morning’s invocation.

“I’m the youngest son of Dale and Yolanda Wilson and I am a freshman at St. Mary’s Ryken High School," he continued. "Along with my dad and my two older brothers Bryan and Brandon, we are so proud of my mom, and we know that she loves being here at CSM.”

“Many of you have shared your excitement about Dr. Wilson after meeting, engaging, and working with her over this past year at CSM, and we couldn’t agree more,” said CSM Board of Trustee Chair Shawn Coates. “Dr. Wilson is humanistic, perceptive, compassionate, and intuitive. As we have seen over these past months, she has a heart for service, and she is fully committed to servant leadership.”

Coates thanked Wilson for returning ‘home’ as a native of Prince George’s County and a two-time graduate of the University of Maryland, College Park. “With her wonderful family, she has settled here in Southern Maryland, and as we have seen during the full week of inauguration activities, Dr. Wilson has demonstrated her intent to “give back to the community that has so richly given to her.” 

image-2024-03-28t142523.926.jpgCoates also told the audience during the official installation – where he was joined by former CSM President Dr. Maureen Murphy, who placed the presidential stole on Wilson – that he felt like he was standing on the shoulders of giants as he recognized current and former board of trustees.

“This moment means so much me,” he said, “It is the number one moment of my personal and professional career.”

Coates also paid homage to his grandmother. “I have to give a special shout out to my iconic mentor, my grandmother who served on the [CSM] board of trustees from 1976 to 1993 – the late, great, Veronica Coates. She is rejoicing up above and looking down!”

Legislative Partners

The legislative partners who brought greetings and honors to Wilson included U.S. Congressman Steny Hoyer, Maryland Delegate Jeffrie Long on behalf of House Speaker Adrienne Jones and the Southern Maryland Delegation, Charles County Commissioner President Reuben Collins, Jr. and Vice President Ralph Patterson, St. Mary's County Commissioner President Randy Guy, Calvert County Commissioner President Earl "Buddy" Hance and Maryland Higher Education Secretary Dr. Sanjay Rai.

3-28-20.jpg“If we are going to be a vibrant, strong society, it will be because we educate everybody to extent of their talent and their willingness to work,” offered Hoyer. “And that is why we take great care in choosing our leaders. Because our leaders are our inspiration. Our leaders are those who set down the vision of where we want to go. Our leaders, are those who show themselves excellence; demonstrate and demand excellence.”

Hoyer praised Wilson as a person of “estimable work, experience and knowledge of us.”

“She is one of us,” he explained referencing her P.G. County heritage. “So, we have chosen one of our best to do one of the most important things any society does. I tell people all over the country wherever I speak that the most important people in any society are its teachers. Because without our teachers, we will not succeed ... I celebrate not only your leader Dr. Wilson, but I celebrate all of you who are [this] college in this magnificent and critically important effort we call education.”

Long said Wilson’s career stood as a testament to her leadership and as a fighter for positive change.

“Her focus on students – the strength of their character, the barriers they face, and the success they strive for – demonstrates an individual who cares about what truly makes a higher education institution great: The quality of the individuals it produces,” he said. “Her impressive list of accomplishments, both academically and professionally, speaks to a person who is driven by a desire to learn and to personify leadership and selflessness.”

Collins commented on CSM’s and the commissioner’s collective commitment to the future of higher education in the community and praised Wilson as a champion of diversity and inclusion – calling it her “most admirable quality.”

“Dr. Wilson, you exemplify the power and spirit of unity and shared purpose,” he said. “Your dedication to students is unapparelled. Your tenure thus far, has been nothing short of transformative. You understand education is equally about academic achievement and nurturing the holistic development of individuals ... And your impact extends far beyond the confines of college campus.”

Before Patterson read from the commissioner’s proclamation, he echoed Collins to tell Wilson and the audience that “all of the Charles County commissioners’ [will] 100 percent” support her.   

3-28-31.jpgGuy, pictured left, shared that his presence on the stage was a very personal one – as his wife and son are both CSM alums and both went on to achieve successful careers. After praising Dr. Wilson as “both compassionate and strategic” he referred to CSM as the region’s economic engine and highlighted the importance of CSM’s Regional Hughesville Campus and its Center for Trades and Energy Training.  

Hance shared that his children also attended the College of Southern. He said it was “heartwarming to see someone who grew up in Southern Maryland come back to Southern Maryland and give back, because we all know Southern Maryland is a very special place and the College of Southern Maryland is certainly a part of that.” 

“Dr. Wilson, we look forward to your vision and the imprint that you are going to put on CSM to improve it and make it an even better institution than it is today,” Hance shared.

Rai brought greetings from Maryland Governor Wes Moore and Lt. Governor Aruna Miller and called the College of Southern Maryland “a shining example of higher education in Maryland and the boundless opportunities through education.” 

“President Wilson has been incredibly successful throughout her years in higher education,” Rai shared, before crediting her with providing a vision for the region that “serves rural areas by bolstering educational opportunities, strengthening small business creation and creating entrepreneurs.”

CSM Hawk Community

Offering remarks to celebrate Dr. Wilson’s style and leadership from CSM were Faculty Senate President George Bedell, Leonardtown and Prince Frederick Campus Operations Coordinator Hannah Cooksey, Student Government Association President, President of the Leonardtown Campus Association and nursing student Gensis Ingal, and CSM Foundation Chair and alumni Randall Williams. 

“I have had the privilege of working alongside Dr. Wilson, who listens intently and works tirelessly to ensure that CSM is a welcoming place for all - be it students, employees, or those in the Southern Maryland community,” shared Bedell, who said Wilson’s core strength was her compassion. “Her dedication and commitment to solving challenges with our students’ best interests in mind is a constant reminder of who we are and why we do the work we do.”

“This past year, under Dr. Wilson’s leadership, I’ve felt like my words have meaning, and I’ve seen positive change,” shared Cooksey. “I’ve felt encouraged, empowered, supported, and I feel that my light shines brighter because of her leadership. I feel heard and understood.”

3-28-33.jpgIngal, pictured left, said that Wilson is like a mother to all students and that she always finds time to engage with them.

“She also encourages us to not only be a part of student and college life, but also to be a part of our community and learn the value of civic engagement,” he shared. “She approved a CSM Volunteer Squad to go into the community and help whenever, and wherever we can. We have packed food for pantries; we have petted animals at the shelters; we have provided testimony to our legislators about issues important to all community colleges; and we have read to elementary school children during “Read Across America.” 

“I must say, over the past 15 months, I have been inspired by Dr. Wilson’s energy and passion, not only for the community college and our students, but especially with her enthusiastic engagement with our partners and her powerful sense of collaboration,” offered Williams. “It took her no time at all to become a part of our community. She is available and engaged, stretching and challenging us to think bigger and greater.”

Academic Partners

“Dr. Wilson’s heart is closely aligned with the mission of community colleges, and among the academic partners bringing greetings this morning are ones with whom Dr. Wilson has collaborated with along her leadership journey and who echo the values that she too holds high,” shared Anderson before introducing four academic partners who traveled from across the country to offer Wilson congratulations.

Those partners included Maryland Association of Community Colleges (MACC) Executive Director Dr. Brad Phillips, Aspen Institute Managing Director Pascale Charlot, Achieving the Dream Leadership Coach Susan Mayer, and Dr. Scheherazade Forman who worked with Wilson on the National Region 2 board of the American Association of Women in Community College (AAWCC).

“Today, as we welcome Dr. Wilson, we do so with a sense of optimism and unity, recognizing the potential for collaboration, innovation, and positive change that lies ahead,” said Phillips. “Together, we embark on a journey guided by the principles of excellence, integrity, service, and opportunity with Dr. Wilson leading the way forward.”

3-28-5.jpg“I don’t need to repeat her accolades,” quipped Charlot, pictured left at the podium. “You know what she has done and how good she is…this is why you made the smart decision to hire her!”

She cited Wilson for having a rare combination of head and heart that “can inspire faith in a world that has lost hope” and called her an award-winning president. 

Charlot also brought the audience to their feet and received resounding applause when she asked those in the room to make a commitment to Wilson.

“Are you willing to create the conditions for her to excel?” prompted Charlot. “When the ceremony is over, when the money starts to run dry, when hard decisions have to be made that center students, and centers the community … will you stand with Yolanda when she needs you to have that deep commitment to student success? Please stand if you do! When we are trying to get jobs for people in the community and we’re trying to get resources … will you stand with Yolanda when it’s time to lead transformational change to take this college to the next level? Give Yolanda your love!”

Mayer quoted Anatole France, sharing “to accomplish great things, we must not only act, but also dream, not only plan, but also believe,” and added that Wilson makes “the choice-every single day-to exemplify the truth, the respect and the grace that we wish for this world.”  

“'Going far, going together' exemplifies the inclusive leadership excellence that President Wilson brings to each day,” said Forman. “The national board of AAWCC is made better by her presence and membership as she inspires us to go far together. We are quite sure she will impact all of you the same way.”

’I am honored and humbled to be the 6th President of the College of Southern Maryland, locking arms with all of you, to transform the lives of our students,” concluded Wilson. “I am filled with an abundance of hope for what the future holds at CSM, and I look forward to the accomplishments I know we will achieve together.”

To view the live stream of the ceremony, please visit the CSM Inauguration webpage at https://www.csmd.edu/inauguration.

You are invited to enjoy photos from the week of inaugural events, by visiting CSM’s online photo gallery at https://csmphoto.zenfolio.com/. Full photo coverage of the March 28 ceremony will be available in the photo gallery by April 2.

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