International African American Museum names Dr. Matthews as new CEO

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – The International African American Museum (IAAM) has officially named the new CEO for the massive global project.

Just after breaking ground 17 months ago, the board of directors has selected Dr. Tonya Matthews as their CEO.

Dr. Matthews is an experienced executive, leader, educator, and great benefit to the community. She is the founder of The STEMinista Project, a national initiative that inspires middle-school girls to consider tools and careers in STEM.

Her most recent position was Associate Provost of Inclusive Workforce Development and Director of the STEM Innovation Learning Center at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan.

“The International African American Museum is poised to be a critical global treasure,” said Matthews, 46. “I am both humbled and compelled to step into the role of CEO of this incredible institution that is so necessary for these incredible times – and beyond.

Matthews said she is already proud of her new home.

“I am excited to stand with the people of Charleston as we steward this sacred site and the often-silenced stories of American history – both the horrific and the victorious – that continue to challenge our efforts to create a more perfect union,” she said. “This is a national story with global impact, and we look forward to engaging the critical partnerships and support that are needed to help us sustain this work.”

Former Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr., who has called the museum “his life’s most important work,” said he was thrilled.

“We are overjoyed. We have someone of great talent and ability who is just right for this challenging and wonderful job and wonderful opportunity. We had a lengthy search process and so it took a good while, but we’ve come up with a great CEO. We’ve attracted a world-class, experienced museum executive to run the museum. Somebody was saying yesterday ‘We’ve got all the pieces in place.’ We raised the money. We have had really world-class architects and landscapers who designed a beautiful building… but we haven’t had a permanent leader for a while. Now we do.”

After founding The STEMinista Project 2015 and working in science and engineering, she turned her attention to diversity and inclusion, directing the national initiative to diversify museum boards across the country. She then focused on collegiate connections, becoming Associate Provost of Inclusive Workforce Development and Director of the STEM Innovation Learning Center at Wayne State University.

Dr. Matthews’ story and her successful effort to connect communities and celebrate history have defined her entire life.