Renée Cavor Willis, PhD
Renée Cavor Willis, PhD currently serves as a full-time Visiting Assistant Professor at Cleveland State University in the College of Education’s Department of Curriculum and Foundations. This appointment is very special to Dr. Willis, as she received her Doctorate in Urban Education from CSU in 2012. Her career in education spans over two decades. She has served the public K-12 arena as a middle and high school math teacher, a middle and high school principal, a central office senior level administrator and as an independent consultant. Her heart’s work has been centered on minority student achievement and closing the achievement gaps, particularly with African American males. Her dissertation was a mixed methods study on a dropout prevention program for African American males in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District.
Having spent 17 years in the Cleveland Heights-University Heights City Schools, Dr. Willis has been lauded for her leadership of Monticello Middle School which was declared a National School to Watch for two consecutive years during her tenure. Her proven success with improving the male academic achievement there, through her Mighty Males of Monticello (M3) academic support group, gave her the inspiration for her dissertation. Upon leaving the CH-UH district, Renee took the challenge of being the Deputy Chief of PreK-8 Education with the Cleveland Metropolitan School District. During her tenure, the CMSD achieved “Continuous Improvement” and the elementary schools, under her leadership received two consecutive years of an “Above Value Added” rating by the Ohio Department of Education. Her role at CMSD expanded during the initial Transformation Plan, to one of Chief Transformation Officer. As the Chief Transformation Officer, Renee was honored by Crain’s Business Week as a “Woman of Note” Finalist, and by the AASA as an Outstanding Woman in School Leadership. She is a member of Pi Lambda Theta, International Honor Society for educators, and was the Woman of the Year for the National Association of Professional Women for her entrepreneurial success at starting her own educational consulting company.
Dr. Willis has earned a number of degrees and certifications relating to education, strategy development and executive leadership. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics from Spelman College in Atlanta, GA; a Master of Arts in Education Administration from Baldwin-Wallace University in Berea, OH; and a Doctorate of Philosophy in Urban Education from Cleveland State University in Cleveland, OH. In the summer of 2012, Dr. Willis traveled to China with the Confucius Institute to do a comparative analysis between the two countries educational systems. Her academic degrees are complemented by advanced certifications in Executive Leadership from Harvard University and Strategic Management from Cornell University. Dr. Willis is currently licensed in Ohio to serve as a superintendent, middle and high school principal, supervisor, and math teacher for grades 7 through 12.
Dr. Willis uses her knowledge of education systems and her 22+ years of experience to impact achievement for students, whether at the K-12 level or at the graduate level. Her current work at CSU is helping to prepare the teachers for the next generation of global learners in a diverse and pluralistic society. She is a proud native of Cleveland, and a product of the local school system. She is the mother of one daughter who is currently pursuing a Master’s in Criminal Justice. Dr. Willis also serves on several non-profit boards in the city, as well as is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., a national public service sorority. She believes in the old adage - “Service is the price you pay for the space you occupy.”