President Finalists Speak on Campus

The five finalists to become the 12th president of Cypress College were on campus today to engage with students, faculty, staff and members of the surrounding community.

The NOCCCD Board of Trustees will interview the candidates tomorrow, Friday, March 31.

To provide feedback for Board consideration, fill out this survey. Surveys are due by 8 p.m. tonight (March 30) to be compiled and provided to the Board.

Here are some highlights from each candidate:

Gregory Peterson

Vice President of Student Services, Long Beach City College

  • Peterson was a first-generation community college student and has served as vice president of student services at two Hispanic Serving Institutions.
  • Said “building flexibility” within the system can help students achieve further.
  • Talking about being student-centered, said we must look at questions like “What’s in the best interest of students?”; “What will have the greatest impact on students?”; “What’s the most we can do to move the needle for student success?”
  • Said getting more students involved in governance and engaging with students in conversation about the things that will impact them is important in the decision-making processes.
  • Said Cypress is a “very strong institution that has flown under the radar in many ways…I see this as an opportunity to support what exists, to help move forward, to gain…more visibility” for the work done at the College.

Omid Pourzanjani

Vice President of Academic Affairs, Golden West College

  • Pourzanjani taught at multiple SoCal higher education institutions while also in leadership positions in private sector tech companies.
  • Said creating an environment where students feel comfortable learning is contingent on creating an environment where students feel safe.
  • Said he recognizes that there are two major barriers to student success: financial stability and student health and engagement.
  • When asked a question about the role of classified staff, says they are the glue that keeps colleges running. He further emphasized, “We are all here to help students succeed.”
  • Our goal is to help students get through the system, achieve educational goals, and help them go, transfer, get a job, he said. Having the right student services is absolutely critical.
  • Closed his Q&A listing his skills and expertise. He also reiterated that he was also once a community college student and understands the challenges many students face, saying he will work to correct and address those issues.

JoAnna Schilling

Interim Vice President of Academic Affairs, Rio Hondo College

  • In addition to her position at Rio Hondo, Schilling was also vp of academic affairs and asst. superintendent at Cerritos College.
  • Started her opening remarks saying “we change lives” when we empower students, believe in them and let them know we’re invested.
  • One of her passion projects is lowering textbook costs for college students.
  • Addressing the College’s Measure J construction projects, pressed the importance of communicating broadly and being very visible and transparent with all parties who might have an interest in the projects.
  • Said if she were the next Cypress president, it would be her job to fight for resources the campus needs to make sure the College is sound.
  • Said it’s important to celebrate the great work we do, but also look forward and ask, “How do we get to that next level?”

Arvid Spor

Vice President of Academic Affairs, Citrus College

  • Spor has worked in higher ed for 20+ yrs at CSULB, El Camino College, and Citrus College. He was also an adjunct at Cypress in the mid-90s.
  • Said he always asks, “What are we doing for students,” when thinking of current and future needs of colleges.
  • Said everything we do needs to be about the students. We have to make students feel they’re wanted and like they belong at the college.
  • Said it’s critical to look at what the business community wants and making certain we’re providing services that help students find employment.
  • Said it’s important to celebrate cultural awareness and diversity, and expressed support for programs like Puente and Legacy. He was a mentor for both.
  • Addressing the College’s B.S. Funeral Science starting in the fall as part of a statewide pilot, he said while it makes sense for community colleges to offer bachelors degrees, he wants to make sure that if it’s done, it’s done right and with careful consideration.
  • Has a broad range of educational experience from working as a professor, in student services, as an administrator, handling accreditation and enrollment management.

Gregory Anderson

Vice President of Instruction, Cañada College

  • Over the years, Anderson has taught and directed at all levels of education around the world.
  • “I want to be the type of president that’s seen as accessible,” he said.
  • Talking about the Measure J construction, said his job is to ensure clear processes are working, be upfront about expectations from the beginning, and have transparency in documentation. We must “design buildings that enhance student learning.”
  • Said cohort programs like Puente are important because they show students we care about them.
  • When asked about the Cypress College-SCE connection, he said he sees an opportunity to continue doing what we do well, and then possibly go further and expand that. The focus should be on the students in the programs and why they are where they are.
  • In his closing, encouraged all to continue asking him questions, and thanked the college community for the opportunity.
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