STORY AND PHOTO BY GABI GARCIA, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
An open forum was held for the finalists of the presidential search on Thursday, Oct. 26, at Cypress College in the Cypress College Complex building, room 414.
The forum’s purpose was for the finalists to pitch their ideas and themselves to all who attended. The panel was open to all and anyone who was unable to attend can now view the recording of it on the Cypress College Youtube channel, made available at 1:30 p.m.
In spring 2023, a different set of finalists presented at another forum; those candidates were covered by the Chronicle in a previous article. As the search continues, the Chancellor’s office chose these new finalists to present themselves to faculty, staff, and students.
The finalists include: Dr. Marsha Gable, Vice President of Student Services, Grossmont College, Dr. Don Miller, Vice President of Academic Affairs, Rio Hondo College, Dr. Scott Thayer, Vice President of Student Services, San Bernardino Valley College, and Dr. Sonya Williams, Former Chancellor, Eastern Iowa Community College.
Fullerton College President, Cynthia Olivo Ph.D. was the moderator at this forum. She introduced the forum to the audience and explained the structure. Each candidate was given 45 minutes, which included an opening statement, two structured questions, submitted questions, and lastly a closing statement. All questions asked were the same for each candidate, subject to change only due to timeliness of their responses.
Olivo went on to introduce the first finalist, Dr. Don Miller, the Vice President of Academic Affairs and President of California Community Colleges Chief Instructional Officers at Rio Hondo College, who has a heavy background in education.
Prior to his work at RHC, Miller also spent 8 years as chair of large multicultural and multilingual departments of modern and classical languages at California State University, Chico and the University of St. Thomas.
After his opening statement, Miller shared his plan to improve student learning and institutional effectiveness as president. He said, “Empathy and heart, willingness to listen, willingness to collaborate and cooperate…to help build the college’s future together.”
Addressing how he will solve the challenges facing Cypress College as president he said, “I would think of a few things to begin with, first is digging into the building of facilities on campus.” He then explained how the update of facilities is important for faculty, staff, and students. Secondly, he said he would address the issue of enrollment and retention of students who are enrolled and recruitment as well.
The second finalist was Vice President of Student Services at San Bernardino Valley College, Dr. Scott Thayer. Thayer has served as an administrator in the California Community Colleges for 24 years.
He is also a large part of the community, he is a founding member of two non-profit organizations: Have Faith, Be Strong (HFBS) and the African American Male Education Network and Development (A²MEND).
After the opening statement Thayer discussed how he will help improve student learning and institutional effectiveness, “…making sure there are clear pathways for students, that they understand the process from first point of contact through completion.” He also mentioned the barriers of students who are struggling with basic needs and how it is necessary to have programs that support them so they can succeed in college.
Thayer’s ideas to solve the challenges facing Cypress College include, “Enrollment is really at the center of the work we need to do right now; why is it so important? Enrollment is tied to our funding… The easiest student to recruit is the one we already have so we want to put our energy into retention.”
The third finalist was Vice President of Student Services at Grossmont College, Dr. Marsha Gable. Her career has surpassed two decades of work in education, holding different administrative positions at a variety of community colleges and universities.
According to her biography, Gable has been recognized numerous times, most recently as one of 35 leaders from around the country for the Aspen Rising Presidents Fellowship.
After being introduced and giving her opening statement, Gable presented how her attributes will improve student learning and institutional effectiveness with the audience. “I know inside of the classroom and outside of the classroom, my values align with Cypress College values. I have focussed my whole career on ensuring student learning, and success and ensuring that our faculty, staff, and other administrators are successful.”
Gable’s plan to solve the challenge of enrollment, which is what she said Cypress is struggling with the most, is, “We want to make sure that we are over 10,000 full time students because we don’t want to lose the income that comes with being a medium sized college.”
The last finalist was former Chancellor of Eastern Iowa Community College, Dr. Sonya Williams. In her time as an administrator Williams has been Vice President of Education and Chief Academic Officer at the College of Lake County. She has also served as a dean, department chair, faculty member and research associate.
She has approximately 25 years of experience in academics and education, and is a veteran of the United States Air Force. She served just before attending graduate school.
Proceeding her opening statement, Williams’ gave her plan to improve Cypress’ student learning and institutional effectiveness. “We do it as a shared governance. You think about who can do the work, it’s not going to take just one president, it’s going to take everyone.”
She said that the biggest challenge Cypress is facing is the workforce, “Thinking about what students want, students want to know that when they join an institution that they’re going to get not only the resources to be successful but also a job.”
At the end of the forum, Olivo concluded with a closing statement, thanking all the candidates and the people in attendance. The NOCCCD Board of Trustees and Chancellor will be working to finalize the process and provide a decision shortly.