Michigan provost to lead Columbia Basin College

Tri-City Herald file

A 20-year college administrator was chosen Monday morning to head Columbia Basin College in the Tri-Cities.

The board of trustees picked Rebekah Woods as the sixth president of the college, and the first woman to assume the role in its 62-year history.

She will take over for interim President Lee Thornton in November. Her annual salary will be $220,000.

Woods is the provost at Jackson College in Jackson, Mich. A trained attorney, she began her higher education career at a Virginia law school. She moved onto community colleges in 2004 when she became the director of student success at Lansing Community College in Michigan.

CBC’s trustees were looking for someone who could build on the achievements of former President Rich Cummins, said board Chairman Kedrich Jackson. Cummins left the position in March to become chancellor of Western Governors University — Washington.

Woods’ leadership at the Jackson College shows she is committed to student success and possesses the ability to motivate staff and faculty, he said. The board’s opinions was cemented during a trip to the Michigan campus.

“We’re really excited. She is a great hire,” he said. “We, as a board and as a college, feel that we’re lucky to have her.”


In many ways, Woods appears prepared to continue the trajectory set by Cummins.

The 7,500-student Jackson College recently opened its third residence hall and is in the third-year of an international program that attracted 60 foreign students to the campus.

Columbia Basin College, with campuses in Pasco and Richland, is in the early stages of both of these programs. Students recently moved into Sunhawk Hall, the result of a public and private partnership aimed at renting apartments to the college’s students.

And before he left, Cummins began exploring starting an international program.

“There are a lot of similarities. That was one of the things that drew me,” she said.

I am also encouraged by the diverse student population (the college) serves and the way it provides education opportunities for many individuals who would otherwise not have them.

Rebekah Woods, president Columbia Basin College

Woods said she also was interested in CBC because of its commitment to student success.

“I am also encouraged by the diverse student population (the college) serves and the way it provides education opportunities for many individuals who would otherwise not have them,” she said in a statement released by the college.

Her move from the Michigan college is part of a planned career transition. When she went to Jackson College, she wanted to become a community college president.

Roughly a year ago, she began the search. While she has been named a finalist several times, Columbia Basin College was one of two colleges where she felt like she would be a good fit.

She is committed to staying at the school. She noted research from the Aspen Institute showing one of the factors leading to the success of a community college is long-term presidents.

Woods plans to work with students, faculty, staff and the community to develop a continuing plan for the school.

“I am humbled and honored that I have been selected for this position and I am looking forward to getting to Pasco and getting started,” she said.

Woods is married. Her husband, Robert, is a communications professor at Spring Arbor University in Michigan.

Cameron Probert: 509-582-1402, @cameroncprobert