executive Director of academic success
Dr. Pérez joined UNH in January 2018 as the Executive Director of Academic Success, bringing together many of the university’s high impact programs under one division, inclusive of the University Advising Center, June Orientation and First Year Programs, CONNECT and CONNECT STEM programs, the Center for Academic Resources (CFAR), TRIO- Student Support Services, Civic & Community Engagement, PrOVES, and Study Away USA. Dawna grew up in North Andover, MA and spent most of her working career in Lawrence, MA, the “Immigrant City”, managing nonprofit organizations and growing her skills in leadership and organizational development. She has a BA in Spanish and Sociology from Colby College and spent a year at the University of Salamanca, Spain. She obtained an MBA in Human Services from the Heller School at Brandeis University while coordinating an “I Have a Dream” project that supported a cohort of inner-city youth from sixth grade through high school graduation and into college. She earned her doctorate in Organizational Systems from Saybrook University, writing her dissertation on “The Experience of Designing a Multisectoral Community Partnership for Literacy”, an endeavor that united educators with economic and workforce development agents, social services, nonprofits, local public officials and private industry in the quest to improve literacy in Lawrence, Massachusetts.
Dawna’s passion for education and serving historically under-represented populations eventually brought her to higher education. She spent eleven years at Northern Essex Community College as a dean, overseeing student success initiatives, Starfish Early Alert, two Title V Hispanic Serving Institution capacity building grants resulting in a nationally awarded Student Success Center, and spearheading efforts to create a truly integrated student experience at the college. Her experience spanned three strategic planning cycles where she led strategic goal teams around student learning and achievement as well as improved career preparation for students. A certified Appreciative Inquiry Facilitator, Dawna believes in strengths-based approaches for all. A bridge builder and highly collaborative leader, Dawna is excited to be a part of UNH’s future!
Music, art, writing and travel are endeavors Dawna longs to have more time for, but for now, she and her husband focus on their four sons, LOTS of soccer games, and caring for their ‘senior’ yellow lab Ginger, and felines Mochi and Boba.