Okwonna, Knight named San Jacinto College provosts

Jun 24, 2020Amanda Fenwick

PASADENA, Texas — Dr. Alexander Okwonna and Dr. Aaron Knight have been named provosts of the San Jacinto College North and South Campuses, respectively. Their tenure in these positions will begin in July.

Okwonna will assume the provost position at the San Jacinto College North Campus on July 6. Dr. William Raffetto, who is currently provost, is retiring after more than 35 years of service to San Jacinto College. At this time, Okwonna serves as the dean of health and natural science at the South Campus, a position he has held for the last seven years. His primary responsibilities lie in curriculum and instruction strategy and execution, and he oversees the operation of five science and six allied health programs.

Okwonna has been in higher education for more than 15 years. During his tenure at San Jacinto College, he has served as pharmacy technology professor, program director, and department chair. Okwonna is also a registered pharmacist and has served in the U.S. Army.

Okwonna has extensive experience in curriculum and program development, accreditation, budget management, grant development, and community outreach. He developed and implemented three new educational programs at San Jacinto College, including engineering, occupational therapy assistant, and the Associate of Applied Science in health sciences degree. He has also contributed to the development of the College's first bachelor's degree program, the Bachelor of Science in Nursing. Okwonna is active in many professional organizations and serves on several boards. In addition, he has received numerous awards, including the League for Innovation in Community College's Excellence Award.

"I am excited about being selected for the position of provost and look forward to serving and supporting the faculty, staff, and students of the North Campus," said Okwonna. "As a proud community college graduate, my educational journey mirrors that of many of our students. I understand many of their challenges both inside and outside the classroom. As I interact with our students, I see a piece of my personal story in each one of them, and this drives my commitment and passion for eliminating barriers to student success."

Okwonna holds an Associate of Science degree from Houston Community College as well as a Doctorate in Pharmacy from Texas Southern University.

Dr. Aaron Knight will begin as the South Campus provost on July 20. Dr. Brenda Jones is also retiring from the College after nearly 20 years.

Knight has been in higher education for more than 25 years. He began his career as an assistant professor of political science at Texas A&M International University and has spent the last 20 years at Houston Community College. During his tenure at HCC, he has served as government instructor, program coordinator, department chair, and interim dean of academics at the Northeast College. For the past five years he held the system-wide position of social and behavioral sciences dean.

Knight is a recipient of the National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development Excellence Award for teaching and has demonstrated a commitment to building pathways to advance students success. He has extensive experience in curriculum development, fostering partnerships between instructional leaders and advisors, dual credit, and championing the use of open educational resources.

"San Jacinto College has an excellent reputation in higher education and deservedly so," said Knight. "The one College mindset has allowed the district to be innovative while providing a consistent standard of quality instruction across the board. San Jacinto College is a leader in the region and the nation when it comes to helping students work toward program completion. That means a lot to me. When you help students obtain their educational goals, you strengthen our region's economy, and more importantly, you improve their quality of life. I want to be a part of that and help in any way I can."

Knight holds master's and bachelor's degrees from Sam Houston State University as well as a doctorate in political science from Texas A&M University at College Station.

"We are thrilled to welcome Dr. Okwonna and Dr. Knight to San Jacinto College as provosts," said Chancellor Dr. Brenda Hellyer. "Both leaders were selected after a national search that included months of interviews and several forums with San Jacinto College employees. Dr. Okwonna and Dr. Knight exemplify the core values at San Jacinto College and will be excellent leaders as we transition on the North and South Campuses. I look forward to working with them as we continue to support our students along their higher education pathway."

About San Jacinto College

Surrounded by monuments of history, evolving industries, maritime enterprises of today, and the space age of tomorrow, San Jacinto College has served the citizens of East Harris County, Texas, since 1961. San Jacinto College is among the top 10 community colleges in the nation as designated by the Aspen Institute for Community College Excellence, and was named an Achieving the Dream Leader College of Distinction in 2020. The College serves approximately 45,000 credit and non-credit students annually, and offers more than 200 degrees and certificates across eight major areas of study that put students on a path to transfer to four-year institutions or enter the workforce. San Jacinto College's impact on the region totals $1.3 billion in added income, which supports 13,044 jobs. The College is fiscally sound, holding bond ratings of AA and Aa2 by Standard & Poor's and Moody's.

For more information about San Jacinto College call 281-998-6150, visit sanjac.edu or join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter.