STORY BY PIXIE IWATA, CO-EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
CRYSTAL CORTEZ, STAFF WRITER
BELLA GARCIA, STAFF WRITER
GABI GARCIA, STAFF WRITER
PHOTOS BY: IMAGES OF LISA COOPER WILKINS AND MICHAEL ODU ARE BY PIXIE IWATA, CO-EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
IMAGES OF OSSCAR LEE DOUGLASS JR., PAUL DE DIOS, JENNIFER KALFSBEEK-GOETZ ARE ALL OBTAINED FROM THE LIVE BROADCAST ON THE CYPRESS COLLEGE YOUTUBE
Following the announcement of President JoAnna Schilling’s retirement, Cypress College has been searching for its 13th president. In their search for a new president, Cypress College hosted a public forum for the five finalists on Mar. 29.
The finalists include:
- Oscar Lee Douglas Jr., Ed.D, Vice President of Academic Affairs at Long Beach City College
- Paul de Dios, Ed.D, Vice President of Student Services at Cypress College
- Lisa Cooper Wilkins, Ed.D, Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs at City College of San Francisco
- Michael Odu, PhD, Vice President of Instruction at San Diego Miramar College
- Jennifer Kalfsbeek-Goetz, PhD., Vice President of Academic Affairs at Ventura College
These finalists were recommended by the search committee for the Chancellor’s consideration due to each of their senior level administrative experience in the community college system.
The commentators who led this forum were Fullerton College’s President, Cynthia Olivo Ph.D., and Vice Chancellor of Ed Services and Technology, Cherry Li-Bugg, Ph.D. Before each candidate presented, Li-Bugg and Olive would take turns stating the structure of how their time would be. Each finalist had 30-45 minutes to introduce themselves, answer questions both structured and submitted to the board, and give a two minute conclusion.
The first candidate to speak was LBCC’s current Vice President of Academic Affairs, Oscar Lee Douglas Jr., Ed.D. Douglas was a first generation student from Compton who now has over 30 years of experience as an educator and transformational leader. This experience has helped him lead efforts in student equity, participatory governance, and dismantling systemic structural barriers.
Douglas holds his doctorate degree in Community College Leadership at National American University, master’s degree in Education at California State University, Dominguez Hills, and bachelor’s degree in Communication at Pepperdine University.
In what he said was an untraditional approach to an introduction, Douglas addressed two questions: why he left Cypress College and why he’s coming back. He established that the reason why he left was due to an opportunity at LBCC where he had “unfinished business” and that there were no negatives toward Cypress College when he left.
“The Chargers spirit is real. I felt it. I feel it, and I have been attached to Cypress College for a long time. […] I have had a chance to do some great work with many of you here in this space,” Douglas said, “and I would be humbled and honored to have the opportunity to return.”
Douglas hopes to build new structures for both students and faculty at Cypress College, hoping to have everyone feel “valued, seen, and heard.” He would like to implement a more strategic enrollment plan to the college “to make sure we have a sustainable future.”
In the next five to ten years he envisions for Cypress College to be an Aspen prize winning college, a destination college, and he wishes to further investigate our equity, making sure we are living up to the college’s mission.
In his conclusion, Douglas said, “I don’t want to be a college president […] I want to be your president, I want to be the president at Cypress College. […] I want to be here at Cypress College and continue the work that we started.”
During Douglas’s speech the fire alarm went off, forcing the room to evacuate for about six minutes. Once everyone returned, Douglas was able to finish his questioning and received the full time afterwards.
After a short break, the next finalist, Paul de Dios, Ed.D. introduced himself. De Dios is a first generation immigrant who holds the position of the current Vice President of Student Services at Cypress College. He has over 23 years of experience in the California community college system and has worked for Cypress since 2007.
De Dios holds his doctorate in Education Leadership at California State University, Long Beach, master’s degree in Counseling-Student Development in Higher Education at CSULB, bachelor’s degree in Sociology at University of California, Irvine, and associate’s degree in Sociology at Cerritos College.
In the next five to ten years, de Dios says he must look to see how flexible Cypress College is to keep up with the time and be able to compete with other colleges. After being asked how he’s going to be able to foster a positive and inclusive culture, he said that the main thing is to meet with both students and faculty to see what their needs are.
Paul de Dios, EdD., hopes to continue to bring Cypress College together by being transparent, building relationships, and to “reimagine the way we do business at Cypress College.” He wants to further bring the college to new heights where there’s no going back to how things were pre pandemic.
“We’ve gone through the pandemic, we’ve gone through the racial reckoning, we’ve gone through all the violence. We were facing adversity…” de Dios said, “… right now we need to start finding joy. […] We’re not going to go back to how we used to be […] It’s my job as president to help find option Bs in collaboration with faculties, management, and staff. Because we deserve finding joy.”
After de Dios concluded, there was a break before the next candidate took the podium.
Lisa Cooper Wilkins, Ed.D, currently serves as the Vice Chancellor of Affairs at City College of San Francisco. She has nearly 30 years of experience in higher education working to increase student success, access, diversity, and inclusion among communities.
Wilkins holds her doctoral degree in Higher Education Administration from George Washington University; Master of Arts in Services from Marymount University; Master of Science in Counseling and Human Relations from Villanova University; and Bachelor of Arts in History and International Relations from Goucher College.
Having a single mother who championed and pushed her journey in education, Wilkins shares the importance of employees feeling valued and in turn increasing the support of student success at Cypress.
“How well can we distinguish ourselves by providing even more training to our faculty, to our staff…,” Wilkins said, “…so that we are really creating truly engaging environments for students where students can be successful.”
Within the next five to ten years, Wilkins’ vision for Cypress College includes distinguishing how to get students to find their own path and meet goals on their own time, determining the intentionality of online education, and ensuring that employees feel valued.
Michael Odu, Ph.D, an additional finalist, has served in the community college system for over 30 years. As a first generation college student himself, Odu has dedicated his career to participating in student engagement.
Odu approaches into what attracted him to Cypress College he says, “the combination of your history, your mission, and your goals.”
Michael Odu was asked what the biggest challenge community colleges are facing and how he would address that challenge as the President. He followed with a passionate response by saying that the biggest challenge is being a “student-ready college,” and how we must work to live up to the college’s mission statement; “We are in this together.”
Odu signifies that his first steps would follow as taking a retreat with the leadership team at Cypress College and gratifying any visions faculty holds. He said, “I want to be sure that we are fully in this together.”
Odu is currently the Vice President of Instruction at San Diego Miramar College where he leads the effort toward changes in institutional structures and cultures by reconceiving the students’ experience and journey. A mission statement that he stands by is catering the needs of all students and employees from different ways of life. Indicating that Cypress College must transform to be ready to embrace individuality and diversity.
Odu said, “As we humanize the work we do that means every one of us walks together. Like Cypress says we are in this together. After all it takes a village to raise a child, including those who don’t look like you.”
Vice President of Academic Affairs at Ventura College, Jennifer Kalfsbeek-Goetz, PhD., closes the event by providing insight on how she plans to help improve Cypress College for students, staff, and faculty. She has worked in higher education as a professor, dean, and classified faculty member for over 27 years. During her presentation, Kalfsbeek mentioned how she wants to make Cypress College a “student-ready” campus and believes that the way to do that is to be presentwithin the campus.
Kalfsbeek earned her Ph.D. in Higher Education Administration from Capella University, her M.A. in Sociology from the University of Maryland, and her B.A.S. in Psychology from the University of Minnesota.
When asked about her goals and plans for Cypress College, Kalfsbeek emphasized that she wants to be out in the community connecting with students and families. On the topic of online curriculum and the increase of hybrid work environments, she tied it back to one of her main points, “We need to be physically available for students.” Being present on campus is how she plans to make an impact on students and believes that while online work is a great way to create connections it’s also important to remain physically connected.
Kalfsbeek took the time to address the success she’s had at Ventura College with creating grants for students, and the importance of seeing students not as a percentage but as humans. During her concluding statement she made it clear that, “…where I go next, my family and I also intend to stay for as long as […] you’ll have us.”
The NOCCCD Board of Trustees and Chancellor will make their decision on Saturday, Apr. 1 making one of these five finalists the 13th President of Cypress College.
To read more about each candidate visit: https://nocccd.edu/ccpresidentfinalists.
Keep up with the Cypress Chronicle as the elections continue.