June 28, 2016
As I prepare for the next chapter in my life, I wanted to say thank you to the Southwestern College community for allowing me the opportunity to make some lasting changes here.
It seems like just yesterday that I walked onto a campus that had been seriously shaken by political and financial scandals. I am proud to say that not only did we overcome these challenges together, we have become a stronger institution as a result. We have gone from precipice to prosperity, and our students and community are the winners.
With an emphasis on “Students First,” we have marshalled our financial, social and academic resources to provide extraordinary opportunities for our students. As a college community, we studied researched-proven strategies to improve student success and access. Then we began pilot programs—such as the First-Year Experience, embedded tutoring, Summer Readiness Program and math and reading boot camps—and grew them to the successful programs they are today. We now have the largest embedded tutoring program in the country. Our First-Year Experience has tripled in size and this spring the retention rate was 91%.
We made it through the worst recession in the nation’s history, worked together to pass Proposition 30, restored summer classes and began a winter session this year. We created programs to help our most vulnerable students—foster youth—and opened a Veterans’ Resource Center to give our veterans a place to call home while on campus.
Our financial aid department has been innovative in removing the biggest barrier to education for our students—money. Students are getting their financial aid more quickly, and they’re getting more aid. Southwestern College distributed $45 million in state aid—the largest distribution of financial aid of any community college in Region X. Through the Chancellor’s Associate Scholars Program at UC San Diego, 50 students have received two years of free tuition upon transfer. And our partnership with the Consul General of Mexico in San Diego has provided $50,000 in scholarships over the last three years for our AB 540 students.
Building relationships across the educational spectrum and within our community has been very important for me. We have reached into Mexico to form partnerships with CETYS, UTT and UABC to give students on both sides of the border the chance for binational, bilingual degrees. That is work that I hope will continue with my successor. We partnered with Point Loma Nazarene University to offer four-year degrees in four majors on the Chula Vista campus and strengthened our existing partnership with Sacramento State University. Of course, a great source of pride is Southwestern College’s ranking as a top 10 High Performing College for our increase in the number of students transferring to the California State University system through the Associate Degree for Transfer program. Opening access to a variety of four-year options, and the possibilities that existed here, were major attractions for me, and I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished.
Our connections to the larger college community have also been renewed during the last 4.5 years. We hosted an economic summit with the Chancellor’s Office and the South County Economic Development Council when I arrived in 2012 and built upon those key industry sectors throughout my tenure. And just last week we were informed that we will participate in a new Second Chance Pell pilot to provide Pell grants to students in our program at the Richard J. Donovan state prison. As the Governing Board looks to place a new general obligation bond on the ballot in November, the seeds I have sown in community and City Council presentations need continued nurturing.
The work we have accomplished in equity, diversity and inclusivity—while far from achieving our goals— continues to make a significant difference. In fact, we are considered the benchmark for colleges in our region. All hiring committees undergo anti-bias training, all contract employees are required to undergo diversity training a minimum of twice each year and the speakers and workshops offered through Professional Development have increased awareness throughout the college. We have made a conscientious effort to build more equity among part-time faculty by offering office hours and eight hours of paid professional development. Our actions demonstrate a commitment to doing the difficult work.
Perhaps one of the most visible accomplishments is what has been achieved through Proposition R. The corner lot that lay vacant for more than 50 years is under development. I can’t tell you how many times community members have told me how excited they are to see trucks moving dirt here and at the Higher Education Center in National City. This summer, the 1000 building on the Chula Vista campus will be torn down to make way for a magnificent Math, Science and Engineering complex that will put science on display. This phase of Proposition R will change the face of our college while still honoring the Mayan architecture. I share the community’s excitement and celebrate the progress.
All these achievements could not have become a reality if it wasn’t for a college community that cared about students. While my time has ended with Southwestern College, my memories are with me forever. Thank you for the privilege of serving as your Superintendent/President.